Salut de Paris!

by Michael Benda

Greetings from Paris!
Well, actually we’re already back from the trip, but really guys, we thought about you all the time. Today I would like to tell you the story of how we received a good amount of feedback by one of the biggest studios in the world, to make Schein even better – for you.
Maybe you remember, last year in December we won the German Developer Award in the Newcomer Category. Apart from receiving the heavy metal trophy, the first prize was a personal workshop at Ubisoft headquarters in France. So – that’s where we went…

Paris
Fully motivated my colleague Philipp here and I hopped onto the plane directly to Paris.

Paris
At the airport in Paris we met the first of many friendly faces: Denis from Ubisoft Blue Byte in Düsseldorf, who was responsible for the coordination of the workshop and who accompanied us during our stay in Paris. Thank you once more for your effort – and for the great dinner on the first evening!

Paris
In the morning of the new day we finally arrived at the Ubisoft Headquarters. In regard to their importance in the worldwide gaming industry I thought I would see a huge Ubisoft logo held up by gigantic versions of Rayman and Ezio. Well – reality seems to have a knack for minimalism – who can spot the entrance?

Paris
Well, at least someone printed an Assassins Creed logo to make it a bit clearer to the geeks: Here, big things are done.
I wish I had a group picture to introduce to you Michael and all the other cool people we met, but unfortunately I didn’t take even a single photo. Seems like I was too distracted by presentations, feedback sessions, and Q&A. The workshop lasted the whole day and Schein profited a lot from it. The sessions encouraged some of our plans for the next months, while others were put into the right direction. All in all the day was a huge benefit for us. And wait – I found a good picture after all:

Paris
The people we met were as sweet as their desserts ;)

Paris
After the workshop Philipp and I had much to think and even more to talk about – and the best way to do so…

Paris
… was during a chess game and some glasses of French red wine in a cozy Parisian tavern.
The trip was planned to extend over two days, so on the second day we had time to explore Paris on our own.

Paris
We started off just as we had ended the day before – with a glass of French beverage.

Paris
From then on we took pictures of everything – just as proper tourists do:

Paris
Pictures of big churches.

Paris
Pictures of luxurious cars.

Paris
Pictures of celebrities.

Paris
Pictures of ourselves.

Paris
And pictures of strangely shaped buildings.

Paris
And all the time we were accompanied by our two friends here: Two boxes in black plastic bags.

Paris
I am sure one or two French people might have wondered what it was that we carried around through their city all day.

Paris
Well actually it was Ubisoft‘s parting present.

Paris
Luckily a friendly barmaid gave us those bags…

Paris
…otherwise we would have had to carry them around openly…

Paris
…attracting the attention of all the gamers in Paris.

Paris
Thanks again to Michael and the whole team at Ubisoft for the effort and for your support. We had a great and educating time over at Ubisoft and I hope we’ll meet again soon.

Paris

Like 5 Years in One

by Michael Benda

Now it’s my turn to wish you all a happy New Year! I know it’s already mid-January but while performing tweaking– and polishing-tasks on the game we hardly get the opportunity to talk to you guys. So I’m just going to jump at the chance to share a quick flashback of the last year with you — 2013 one of the most eventful years of our young life so far.
Honestly, when I look back to January 2013, it kind of feels like 5 years ago. The year started off with elaborate preparations to show the world that we really meant it: The founding of the company behind the project Schein. After weeks of online research and personal consulting we finally made it through the densely entwined jungle of bureaucracy and in April Zeppelin Studio saw the light of day.

Researching
Power-researching


Bureaucracy
Daring dive into bureaucracy


Zeppelin Studio
Finally we had it officially on paper: Zeppelin Studio was founded


Visionary
The visionary pictures were obligatory


Advertisement
And it didn’t take much time until our mailbox was bursting with advertisement


Armed with our newly founded Start Up we moved on and prepared for our first real step into publicity. With great ideas and huge goals we aimed for establishing our presence on Steam Greenlight and starting a Crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo at the same time.

Crowdfunding Video
The making of the title video: We really took it seriously – even make-up was involved


Filming
And our setup was close to professional


Eager to achieve our financial and business goals we spent the whole month of May pestering family and friends for support, updating the profiles like crazy and simultaneously publishing as much content as in any way possible. Furthermore we were invited to participate at the GameStage – a great gaming event in Linz, Upper Austria. We made good use of it to further propagate our crowdfunding campaign.

Gamestage
Someone had to test the game – really.


New Friends
It was the first time we got in touch with the games community in Linz. There were many new faces to remember but all were worth the trip!


Unfortunately, we didn’t make it through our fixed funding campaign. The reasons for that were diverse, the main one being our lack of public experience. But this was about to change.

The Subotron Live Pitch 2013 in June was a perfect chance to work on our publicity skills. We were nominated for the second time in a row – this time however in the “Business Category”. We presented our game and got valuable feedback which we could make good use of surprisingly soon.

Subotron
I completely blocked out that we were dressed in matching clothes


… in July the bells sounded for the breakthrough of Schein. We made it into the finals of the Microsoft Imagine Cup 2013 – and if nothing else, at least we had won a free trip to St. Petersburg in Russia. But as always, our goals went higher, so, as most of you may have already witnessed: We won the first place in the Games Category of the worldwide finals!

Imagine Cup
It’s hard to spot the difference, but we were really in Russia


Imagine Cup
We even met some celebrities


Imagine Cup
Especially it was a huge pleasure to get to know Alexej, the inventor of Tetris


Imagine Cup
We met so many friendly people from all over the world, some of us even forgot whom to cheer for


Imagine Cup
Did we ever tell? We had our own special secret dinner


Imagine Cup
Bulky, but worth it


This success paved our way to even more publicity. In September we received the opportunity to present Schein at the Game City in Vienna – the biggest Austrian games festival. I am still amazed about the number of people who played our game and found it worth their precious time. Again we received awesome feedback and the feeling that we were creating something really great.

Game City
I find it especially cute, that the poster reminded pupils not to miss school


Game City
We put a lot of preparation into the event


Game City
And we were very pedantic in doing everything right


Game City
So finally everyone could enjoy the magic of Schein


And the icing on the cake: We received an offer to be featured on Austrian national TV ORF – again enhancing our reach, strengthening our publicity and … having a lot of fun ;)

ORF
We never had as many people working at our office as that day. I mean actually working.


In October, as an interlude, we were able to present our game and the company at The Open Days of the University of Applied Sciences Technikum Vienna to show what it meant to be a good student (which I never was).

Open Days
Bernie’s love to Schein is easily spotted


The same week we got invited to give a keynote speech at the Microsoft Education Conference 2013 in Vienna, which was very exciting for us. We were used to speeches, but the phrase “keynote speech” really makes it sound special.

Microsoft Education Conference
It was a little bit weird to see pictures of oneself during the presentation all the time


To top it off, the year ended with another meaningful success for Schein. We got awarded the prestigious German Game Developer Award in the Newcomer Category.

Game Developer Award
While standing on the stage you REALLY can’t see anything – it was like talking to a radiant spirit of light and fog


After so many events somehow we were happy to see the year finally end. The team took some time off over the Christmas holidays to regain strength. Well and now – fully motivated we are about to tackle another ambitious and hopefully highly successful year. 2014 beware, here we come!

Luck & Love
Good luck, and love to you all.

Times for Speeches

by Michael Benda

As Tiare wrote in her previous post, the last days were filled with presentations and speeches. We started off on Friday at the Open Days of the University of Applied Sciences Technikum Vienna, and had a successful finish yesterday featuring Philipp’s tech-talk at the Microsoft Education and Innovation Conference.
But first things first: The flight to Vienna. We were amused and delighted to see the preparations our carrier made for Christmas.

Air Berlin
The next morning Schein invaded the Technikum. This is the place where the development of Schein started – the University of Applied Sciences Technikum Vienna. We took advantage of the Open Days, where interested students could freely roam the building, and took hold of the Game Lab.

FH Open Days
The whole day we spoke about how we started our career in these halls and every visitor could peek into the world of Schein.

FH Open Days
Admittedly, a day of standing and talking is somewhat tiring, so we enjoyed the quiet weekend that followed. Still preparations had to be made, so soon we found ourselves in a Viennese café — assembling, preparing and tweaking our presentation.

Viennese Cafe
Tuesday dawned and so did the Microsoft Education and Innovation Conference in Vienna, where we were invited as Keynote speakers. Proud as we were, not even the snowstorm that threatened to embrace us on the way could impede our motivation.

Winter in Vienna
Anthony Salcito – vice president of education at Microsoft – gave a visionary speech about the transformation of education due to technical advances. The talk was given in a big conference hall full of aspiring teachers coming from Austrian schools and universities…

Education & Innovation Conference
… and I am glad (and kind of satisfied – I have to admit) that although they sometimes won’t show it: teachers are humans too :)

Education & Innovation Conference
Following this, our Keynote presentation took place. Unfortunately, while talking, none of us had a free hand to take pictures therefore I try to make up for it with this picture of my breakfast:

Education & Innovation Conference
To top it off, the day had a perfectly fitting end: Vienna-Game-Dev Meeting at Café Stein. New and old faces and one or two sips of Austrian beer.

Game-Dev-Cafe
The next day brought a bright blue sky, huge buffets at the conference and Philipp’s speech about using game development as a starting point for programming beginners. Hereby he went into the advantages of targeting Windows Phone (which actually seems to be much easier to tackle than Android or even iOS).
So for the first time we were at a conference not as part of the audience, but as active participants in the program, which is a great thing. Thank you to those at Microsoft who have madet this possible and cheers to all of you pushing us forward to new heights.

Education & Innovation Conference

A city hall full of games

by Michael Benda

It is now over a week since we presented Schein publicly in the Vienna City Hall. The last days were all busy with debriefing the event and planning our next steps accordingly. Now, after we got back to daily business, I want to share some of our impressions of the biggest gaming-event in Austria: The Game-City.
If you didn’t get the chance to visit our booth, this is your opportunity to make up for it. I welcome you to our cosy alcove right between the Gaming Room and the FROG Conference Rooms. We wanted to create a booth that is comfortable and feels like home but still retains a certain degree of elegance. So we did the perfectly right thing to meet this goal: We salvaged our own living rooms.

Game City

Our artist supplied us with table and carpet, the seats now again reside in the flat of our marketing manager and the TV and plants came from my own humble abode. Only the banners were freshly printed and specially purchased for the event … as were the pots for the plants …

Game City

Dear marketing manager, this is a great picture. Don’t you dare to take it out of this post ;)

Game City

Construction was executed very seriously and accurately …

Game City

… still, one couldn’t resist to play the Demo for the thousandth time …

Game City

… while others were busily constructing and, more importantly, taking pictures
And I can’t stress the fact enough how important a decent roll of paper towels is.

Game City

Our audience grew quickly as people stopped to get a glimpse of Schein and, if they got lucky, to give it a go right away on the big screen.

Game City

Although we are actively targeting gamers of older age, I was impressed about the impact Schein had on the younger audience. They too were intrigued by our unique gameplay and showed considerable skills in puzzle solving.

Game City

Myself, I had little time to wander through the marvellous halls of the Vienna City Hall filled with the newest advancements the game market had to offer.

Game City

However I managed to get my hands on (or rather my head into) an Occulus Rift featuring a neat demo by Richard Kogelnig from Beltfed Interactive. It combines virtual reality with cutting edge input systems, but see for yourselves.

Closing, I really want so say, thank you! Thank you, to the whole Game City team for organizing it all, as well as to those who made it possible for Schein to be part of this great event. Thanks to the Schein team for sparing a huge part of their free time for our presence at the event. Thank you to all the people who played our demo, struggled at the most difficult parts and enjoyed the experience of Schein. Thank you for all your feedback and encouragement!

Game City

Gamescom 2013

by Michael Benda

Gamescom

This is the second time that Schein visits the huge games convention Gamescom in Cologne, but this time it’s different. This year we tackle the trading business with far more focus. Instead of spending the whole week presenting Schein at a booth in the business area and waiting for people to approach us, we don’t have a booth at all and spend only two days in Cologne. By doing so we can approach the people we wish to meet directly and in a concentrated fashion. And indeed it was a great success.

These are some impressions of our trip to the Gamescom 2013:

A balanced breakfast for a balanced mind.
Gamescom

Every time at the Gamescom I am excited to see the liveliness of the game’s community.
Gamescom

Meeting our handsome sound crew Leed:Audio.
Gamescom

You cannot walk through the entertainment area without noticing Titanfall.
Gamescom

On the final evening we rediscovered this bar, which we came across last year already. It just seems perfect, doesn’t it?
Gamescom

I really did my best to put all happenings on Twitter – and I am glad to have Tiare as PR Manager to take the job off me back home.

A Globetrotter’s Aches

by Michael Benda

Who would have thought that it’s really not easy to get into Russia. This is a story of international bureaucracy.
Premise: Russian embassy in Vienna is open to the public every Monday, Tuesday and Friday from 9 am to 12 noon. The processing of the visa application usually takes 10 weekdays. The costs come to 35€.

Russian Embassy Vienna

Philipp Schäfer was the first to try his luck. Arriving at the embassy at 8.50am he was greeted by a sign on the door proclaiming the existence of Russia Day (День России), a national holiday celebrating the declaration of Russian sovereignty from the USSR in 1990. We should have consulted Wikipedia prior to trying our luck straight at the embassy. But yet the day wasn’t lost. Right next to the embassy there is an artfully placed sign with big friendly letters guiding lost visa applicants to visum.at – a visa application service center specially designed for these situations. The procedure at the center was surprisingly straight forward and soon Philipp had applied for his visa and paid 111,50€. “Wait,” you say, “why so much?” Well that’s what we asked them when we came to pick up the finished visa. Reluctantly they informed us about the involved logistical processes. Visum.at sends the application to VHS (visa handling service), which is ANOTHER visa service center. VHS forwards the documents to the Russian embassy and after the visa is ready, it goes the same way back – embassy, VHS and finally visum.at. This even explains the four additional days needed for the process. Fun fact: visum.at, VHS and the embassy are all situated within 10 minutes walking distance.

Result: Success!
Duration of the whole procedure: 14 Days
Costs: 111,50 €.

visum.at

Our artist Philipp Schürz was the first to actually enjoy Russian hospitality at the entrance door of the embassy. At 8.55 am there was a decent queue at the sidewalk waiting patiently for entrance and at 9 o’clock sharp proceedings started. Not quite an hour later ten applications were already processed and Philipp pictured himself being finished in the course of the next hour. And truly everything could have been fine, weren’t there something called “day’s quota”. At 10 o’clock the doorman stepped out and stated in perfectly fluent Russian that today’s limit of visa applications had been reached. Everyone who was still waiting was humbly asked to try their luck at the visa handling service VHS, situated practically around the corner. After some Russian speaking Austrians managed to translate the message and directions to Philipp, he soon joined the other applicants standing in line again. In comparison to the time spent waiting, the procedure at the service counter was a rather short-lived one: The official translation in Russian of Microsoft’s invitation letter featured the wrong birthday. Since the English version didn’t count, there was only the way back home and another email to Microsoft. Some days later Philipp received the corrected translation, brought it directly to VHS and 10 days later…

Result: Success!
Duration of the whole procedure: 18 Days
Costs: 60 €.

VHS

Tiare Feuchtner encountered different problems. Currently studying in Germany she needed to go to the Russian embassy situated in Berlin. Unfortunately on the exact day she wanted to apply for her visa, the embassy changed its policy. There are no opening hours anymore – only strict appointments. Since the soonest appointment was not until the week after that, Tiare tried her luck at another visa application service center (VHS). But again to no avail: The invitation letter, although featuring all the correct data, was “really good, but not quite good enough”. The visa center wouldn’t accept an invitation signed by the Senior HR Manager of the Russian Microsoft branch – they wanted a signature by the CEO himself – or maybe by Bill Gates would do? So another email was sent to Microsoft, revealing that apparently the personnel of the VHS have no clue of what they’re doing. Since this process took up most of a week she decided to take advantage of the appointment at the embassy. And indeed – Tiare’s visit at the embassy was extraordinarily victorious and after three days the visa was ready to collect. Appointments at the embassy are a marvel!

Result: Success!
Duration of the whole procedure: 10 Days
Costs: 35 €.

Russian Embassy Berlin

I myself thought to learn from my predecessors – I was about to arrive at the embassy in Vienna already half an hour before the opening hours started. Having checked Wikipedia for potential holidays I felt perfectly prepared. The problem wasn’t me. It was all the other people who had the same idea. For two hours I stood in the line just to see the door slam shut right in front of my nose. Being among the fools who get turned down is disappointing but being the first of them is mentally devastating. After another hour of sulking and sobbing at the door I set out to VHS.
Result: Success!
Duration of the whole procedure: 10 Days
Costs: 60 €.

Russian Visa

Conclusion: Become friends with some high officials in Russia. It may ease future pains.

Schein is going to Russia!

by Michael Benda

We just received the amazing news that we are going to Russia in July! Schein competed against hundreds of entries from all around the world and we made it to the Worldwide Finals of the Microsoft Imagine Cup 2013.

Imagine Cup

We want to share this special moment with you and have decided to create a special perk on Indiegogo in celebration of this occasion. Inspired by the year 2013, we are giving away 20 copies of Schein for only €13!
And that’s not all. Have you ever received a postcard from Russia? This is your chance — Claim your perk and once we’re in St. Petersburg, we will buy a postcard, write a message on it, sign it, and mail it to you!

Release Date v 0.2

by Michael Benda

Postponing the expected release date is something rather common in the game industry. But while most of the game companies stay quiet about the game’s progress and the cause of the delay (probably for good reason – creating suspense, anticipation and speculative talk), we want you to be part of Schein’s development. We want to show you our progress, we want you to see the changes, adaptations and improvements we make, and we want your feedback.

In the last few Months we got more positive and constructive feedback than we ever hoped for. For this reason we think, you deserve to receive just as much feedback in return. What are our plans, what will we change and why the hell does the release date get delayed?

release delay
So here’s the fact – we’re postponing Schein’s release date from Q1 to Q2. The basic reason for this is that we want to deliver a high-quality product. Since we have the skills needed to compete against the “big indie developers” out there, we will do everything necessary to create a game achieving this goal.
Exactly in time for New Years’ resolutions, our team agreed on a number of changes to be made in Schein. These affect three parts of the game:

  1. New art style. As noted in the previous blog entry, the mood and visuals of the game are becoming more mature. Now, after the drafting process is over, this change requires a lot of work on our models, textures and graphics.
    Furthermore we received a big pile of comments about our current protagonist. After perusing the pros and cons we acknowledged that his current looks don’t fit the newly designed environment. So again, we are in the midst of a huge improvement.
  2. Schein Engine. Developing an own base-program has its advantages and disadvantages. Independence and flexibility surely are some of the former. The latter would mainly consist of us being responsible for any bugs and failures. Releasing the Dev-Demo allowed us to receive feedback not only for our game but for the engine as well. Right now we are improving the program to smoothly support as many PC configurations as possible.
  3. The Story. Since we got many enquiries about the background story, we doubled our effort to slip in even more info into the final version of the game. During the game, lost artifacts can be found, which speak of long forgotten tales.

These are the reasons that urge us to put even more work into the game, than was initially planned. We don’t merely want to meet your expectations, we want to exceed them — therefore we’re scheduling the release date to good ol’ Q2 2013.

Geographical Divergence

by Michael Benda

By all means, we’re not making life easy. Our core team consists of 7 people plus the outsourced three-person sound team. With such a small staff it’s already not easy to produce a marketable product. In addition, we’re all currently in between study and work and we’re either drawing from the last money-reserves of former jobs, or we already have part time jobs to keep our toilet flush running.

Small team, little time and a big project to handle – in fact, that sounds like any common project that wants to survive in economic reality. But there is another small thing: I lovingly call it “geographical divergence”. The good times are over, when we were all in Vienna and sat together working hard for the next release. It’s as if a bowling ball had rolled through our ranks, scattering our team members across hundreds of kilometers. Graz (distance to Vienna: 199km), Hagenberg (dtV.: 180km), Berlin (dtV.: 681km) and Leipzig (dtV.: 585km) are the additional cities we’re stationed at now. It’s truly a joy for project management. Daily meetings, regular exchange of opinions, and last but not least the common celebration of successfully accomplished milestones – all this is impeded and makes team work immensely difficult. A solution is needed!

Communication
Right now we’re in the process to revive many of the dynamics. Instead of general office hours, online hours have been introduced: At fixed times each individual is required to be online. This results in lively interaction via chat and/or online phone calls. Furthermore, we get inspiration from agile project management: There are several mandatory weekly half-hour meetings. Following the idea of daily scrums, they bring all team members up to date and help them to phrase and present their own tasks. For longer-term discussions the forum indieans.at is accessible to all team members. An internal part of the forum is used to post messages, lead discussions and start polls. All of these ways to improve communication have revealed to be useful and have become an integral part of our interaction. And to celebrate the end of the work day, we sometimes start one or two rounds of some multiplayer game.

Although a real physical office would be the ideal place to achieve success as a small start-up company, we are slowly edging closer to our goal, despite the great distances.

The Beginning Of Schein.. or something similar

by Michael Benda

We started our first brainstorming sessions in March 2011. From back then, we had a long way to go, but finally we got to the present event: We finished our university project — with A grades! We are happy – never before have we put as much effort into a simple students’ project as we have done with Schein. We are partying – Our own idea, our own engine, our own graphics.. we even won the Award of Excellence! We are relaxing – The last days couple of days before the presentation were, simply put, harsh. No wonder that we slept pretty tight the nights after the presentation. But even though we were tired of the hard work, not a day passed without thinking about the project, the past year and the future.

New Beginning

Now here we are – I am writing right after the team meeting regarding the project’s further steps. And we are all of one mind: The days of relaxing are over! Fine grades are not enough. The product must be finished and released – it is too awesome to be hidden from public. The following months will be full of hard work – stronger team structures, greater responsibilities, and a clear goal: the game shall be launched as soon as possible! Although the game is near its completion, it won’t be an easy job. We don’t delude ourselves in any way about the effort we need to put into testing, polishing and, last but not least, big bad marketing. Developing a working program is one thing – making it market-ready is another, and this will be our focus for the next months.
In the same way as this is an end – the end of a the project earning us grades and the end of our life as students (though the master thesis is yet to be written), it is also a beginning of something great, something beautiful – can you see the butterfly, unfolding its wings out of the sheltering cocoon and flying towards the sunrise – towards a new future, new galaxies and new life? I hope, it won’t burn its wings…