A book with more Japanese developer interviews than any other; a wealth of untold anecdotes from Japan's video game history in English Read more
This project was successfully funded on June 30, 2013.
More potential interviewees!
Time for a (long) report.
It's both amazing and heart warming the amount of support I've received since launching this Kickstarter. Thank you all.
I also want to share some developments, and describe the everyday routine of contacting developers. I say "everyday routine", because I've followed comments across the internet, and to some the act of contacting developers appears like a kind of arcane magic. It's not, really. The difficulty is not contacting developers, it's the language barrier - hence this Kickstarter. Game developers are talented people who make nice things - the mythos of them being held within impenetrable fortresses is a result of Public Relations keeping fans at a distance, and the language barrier. In truth, they enjoy talking about their work and are happy to share recollections.
This morning I received an email from someone on my guaranteed list of interviewees. He recommended that I email nine (9) colleagues/friends of his, listing them out, specifying that I introduce myself as receiving their details via him. Basically it was a personal introduction. The contacts ranged from interesting figures at Enix and Hudson, to freelancers with a diverse history. It would be bad etiquette to list them when I've only just made contact, but many developers I've spoken with have promised introductions. There's a sincere eagerness to discuss things.
As shown on the front page there's a growing list of definite interviewees.
The danger is not that I'll arrive in Japan and have no one to speak with. Rather it's that even before the Kickstarter ends I will have a surplus of interested parties. My biggest fear is that if this doesn't succeed, I'll have to turn down all of those already on my list.
Other methods for contacting are equally as easy. Many companies are still around and have phone numbers, postal addresses and emails. A nicely worded email with perfect keigo will do wonders. Given that game developers are tech savvy, quite a few have personal blogs and websites with contact details. Most are also on social media.
Sometimes though, you have to do whatever you can, MacGuyver style.
We're not entirely sure who made the original Castlevania (Akumajou Dracula on Famicom). Wikipedia says Akihiko Nagata, but he actually worked on Vampire Killer in the MSX division at Konami, and VK actually came out after CV. There are no proper credits for the original CV either (that I've seen). Speaking with someone at Konami, he suggested I track down a Mr Hitoshi Akamatsu, credited on Mobygame as H. Akamatsu. This was especially interesting since he was part of the Snake's Revenge team, a personal favourite game of mine, and the game which inspired Hideo Kojima to create Metal Gear 2 on MSX2. Said team also developed CV2 and CV3, which corroborated a statement from another Konami employee I spoke with who said he remembers the same team working on all three Famicom releases. Fairly confident now who to speak with - how do you find someone who seems to have disappeared during the 1990s? My fellow HG101 writer, Sam Derboo, did some digging, and found an old patent issued to H. Akamatsu, also listing his home address in Japan. It's from 1984, but hey, we could get lucky. Unfortunately it was missing the postal code. A quick Google revealed that his part of town actually had five separate areas, each with its own incremental postal code. Now, I could have sent it without one, and the building details should have been distinct enough. But I didn't want to take the risk of the post office getting annoyed and sending it back, and it seemed like a fun idea to send five individual letters with the code from each area. If the guy had moved on, and a new owner received five different letters, perhaps they'd assume it was serious and would try to pass it on.
Overkill? There's no such thing in this business. The letters were sent a few days ago - fingers crossed for a reply.
One of the more interesting track-downs was Professor Hiroshi Ishikawa. There are a few people with the same name, so we had to identify him via his faculty photo at the University where he worked.
The Tecnosoft gentlemen in my list were found via Twitter. I actually interviewed Yuichi Toyama about his work on a very early survival horror, for an article that was never published. If I interview him in person, I intend to expand on the survival horror game, plus his involvement with Herzog and other work from Tecnosoft.
Often you'll get in touch with someone via direct means, whereas at other times you'll succeed in the most unexpected of ways. There's a lot of mysteries still to solve.
I've had several messages asking if I can track down Miyazaki Tomoyoshi and Hashimoto Masaya. They were heavily involved with Falcom, and also formed Quintet, which produced some popular RPGs for the SNES. Actually, despite the claim the company was founded in 1989, they were already credited in the Famicom release of Dragon Slayer IV from 1987. Someone on Wikipedia even cited me as a source, from an article I wrote on Falcom's Ancient Ys series. I tried hard to track them down for the article, asking people I knew. Although I was unable to find them, I was given this nice snippet from Ys 1&2 programmer, Hiromasa Iwasaki: "I don't know where they've gone, but after I had finished Ys Books 1&2, Masaya-san and Tomoyoshi-san were invited to Hudson in Tokyo, to get a sneak preview of Ys 1&2 before it went on sale. Sitting beside them, I heard them say that 'this is what we want to create.'" And then they went off and made SNES RPGs... That's a really fun article by the way, if you can find scans of issue 111 of GamesTM - lots of nice developer recollections from the early Hudson/Falcom years.
Anyway, the two gentlemen have been on my radar for some time. If at all possible, I will try to find them.
Some other stuff happened today, but I'll save those for later updates.
Right now we're doing well. We're almost at 20%! The important thing is to tell others. I'm contacting news websites and magazines, but if your friends share an interest in this subject, tell them about it. I've organised my interpreters, I have long lists of interviewees, the final piece of the puzzle is the readership. And I'm convinced it's out there.