About this project
All reward tiers have had their items sent out, the Kickstarter has been fulfilled. For non-backers, copies of the book can now be bought on Amazon.
US Amazon - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0992926009/
UK Amazon - http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0992926009/
Many thanks to all the backers who funded this project and made it possible.
ALL TIERS ALREADY INCLUDE INTERNATIONAL POSTAGE
Platinum tier available
Over 40 developers already on board! Please check updates for the latest!
Intended structure of the book.
Likely content in the book (DVD details too)
Please scroll down for full ENGLISH description
* Retro Gamer, GamesTM、Game Developer Magazineなど、20を超えるアメリカおよびイギリスの雑誌・ゲームサイトに記事を掲載。特にゲームの歴史に関わる記事を多く手がける。
There have been many books on video games, alongside an ocean of interview material. Steven Kent's Ultimate History of Video Games is an excellent example. There are, however, few which are in English and focus on Japan. Chris Kohler's Power-Up is one of the best, while David Sheff's Game Over is another. The only other option is a lifetime subscription to multiple video game magazines.
Given the global impact of Japanese video games, and the country's rich history which is seldom documented in English, I feel this needs remedying. While there are plenty of books produced in Japan, seldom are they made available in English. Famicom History 1983-1994 is one example, and featured eight extremely candid interviews, in both languages. But there needs to be more. There are so many Japanese developers from over the decades who have fascinating stories, but they don't have the opportunity to communicate with English speaking audiences. Even sadder, renowned developers continue to pass away, preventing further discussion: Fukio Mitsuji (Bubble Bobble), Shinya Nishigaki (Climax Entertainment), Kenji Eno (WARP) to name three.
My proposal: enact a solution akin to an ocean-bound icebreaker.
Fly to Japan in September, hire the best Japanese/English interpreters money can find, and then - using my extensive list of contacts - make stuff happen. Interview as many developers as possible in less than three months, with a focus on undocumented information and developers who have never been interviewed before. Transcribe the English interpretation, then edit, design and create the most extensive, most comprehensive, most ambitious book about video games ever envisioned. This epic tome will contain trivia and stories of Japanese video game history never documented anywhere else in English.
This year marks the 30th Anniversary of Nintendo's Famicom and the MSX home computer - now is the time to create such a book.
This book will not be a nostalgia trip. I am determined to have every page contain at least one previously unknown fact, anecdote or piece of trivia. My passion has always been the undocumented side of games, and regardless of who I speak with, my intention will always be to ask them something no one else ever has. This would truly document The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers.
In addition, I will include a travel log of the adventure, detailing what it's like tracking down developers, and the challenges involved. I will be taking a digital video camera with, so that every aspect of the journey will be recorded.
Japanese developers already on board
I've interviewed over 100 people in the last 9 years. The list of publications I've written for is extensive, my work extremely popular - one of my articles on The Escapist was Slashdotted. Those who frequently read Retro Gamer or Hardcore Gaming 101 will know my work, and the passion that goes into it. I also have the determination and - most importantly - the industry contacts.
Before even launching this Kickstarter several
Japanese developers expressed an interest in being interviewed.
Such as Resident Evil scenario writer and Einhander planner Kenichi Iwao. While Ryuichi Nishizawa, of Wonderboy / Monster World has introduced me to Strider and Cannon Dancer developer Yotsui Koichi, plus Michitaka Tsuruta, the man behind Bombjack and Solomon's Key. I contacted Naosuke Arai, who from its beginning had been at Tecnosoft, the company behind Thunder Force. He was happy to be interviewed and put me in touch with others, telling me that he prayed for the success of my book project. I was put in touch with Aziz Hinoshita, responsible for co-translating FFX - he'd started out doing spritework at Athena, the company behind 2D shooter Biometal on the SNES, and the shooter-maker series Dezaemon. He shared fascinating trivia about the company, such as why they produced so many Mahjong games alongside their 2D shooters. I also contacted Shibao Hidenori, who started as a manga writer, moved into journalism during the golden Famicom era, and worked on a wide range of fascinating games. Not only can he provide a perspective on both the history of games journalism and development in Japan, but he's promised to introduce me to his friends from over the years - all of whom you will recognise. I was very moved by an email from Yutaka Isokawa, where he invited me to his home, happy to discuss his work, and promising to introduce me to colleagues from over the years. Likewise I was contacted by Mikito Ichikawa, who expressed a strong interest in the project. Roy Ozaki is now also on board! So is Takashi Tokita! And Yoshiro Kimura! And Yuzo Koshiro!
The emails from Japanese developers, journalists and archivists all expressing their support have been tremendously heart-warming. As I confirm more developers, I will add their names. Please check the updates section.
I have also started contacting companies in Japan, such as Fuji TV. In this instance I made contact with producer Shoichiro Seino, who is in charge of the retro game-themed TV show Game Center CX. He's open to the possibility of me interviewing Shinya Arino - he's asked for more details on my plans, and would then make inquiries. I've also been contacted by Arino's agent, Shogo Nagaoka, who says it should not be a problem to look into this.
We're only just getting started and already I have a dossier of fascinating and keen interviewees - with more on the way, including some prominent figures in Japan's IT sector. Plus since launching there's been an outpouring of assistance from my fellow writers, including Florent Gorges (Pix'n Love). There's too many to list them all.
Some of my other Japan-based contacts:
Jeremy Blaustein (Snatcher, MGS, Silent Hill 2) / Hiromasa Iwasaki (formerly Hudson) / Agness Kaku (MGS2, Katamari Damacy) / George Kamitani (Vanillaware) / Mitsuru Kamiyama (Final Fantasy, Square-Enix) / Toshihiro Kondo (Falcom president) / Kazuma Kujo (R-Type, Metal Slug) / Masaaki Kukino (Konami) / Takeshi Maruyama (MZ700 archivist) / Rica Matsumura (Code of Princess) / Masamoto Morita (Sega) / Shinta Nojiri (Konami) / Toshinari Oka (Metal Gear 2 - MSX2) / Tomonori Otsuka (Metal Gear - MSX2) / Alexander O. Smith (Square) / Hidetaka Suehiro (SWERY65) / Akira Takiguchi (ASAHI Net co-founder) / Yuichi Toyama (formerly Tecnosoft) / Masahiro Ueno (Metal Gear, Castlevania IV) / Shuichi Yano (Devil Dice)
As support for this project grows, we'll secure more and more developers. We just need to show them that we're interested in hearing their recollections. From a purely personal perspective, I will not be satisfied unless I can also secure Rieko Kodama (Phantasy Star, Skies of Arcadia), Yoichi Erikawa (early Koei), plus Hiroshi and Yuji Kudo (Hudson founders). It would also be nice to chat with someone at TOSE, CAP, and Ikegami Tsushinki (the company that developed the original Donkey Kong arcade game). We just need to reach beyond the language barrier.
Non-Japanese contacts I have:
(SECTION REMOVED FOR SPACE. PLEASE SEE UPDATES TAB FOR LIST)
*** *** *** *** ***
Kurt Kalata of Hardcore Gaming 101 self-published two books. For the first I was a contributor, covering important Japanese adventure games like Portopia, and assistant copy editor. I implemented a strict organisational system to ensure proper work flow. For the second I was Managing Editor, keeping Kurt organised and ensuring a high level of production. At IPC Media in the UK I was sub-editor for three years. Efficiency and accuracy are my specialities. I intend to keep the design of the book simple, but I've also been offered help from known designer and artist Wil Overton.
I've studied Japanese and have an understanding of the etiquette required. I lack fluency though, which is why we need the best interpreter possible. That's why the goal is high. Flying to Japan and living there for less than three months is not costly - I would use an agency such as Sakura House, to arrange a cheap apartment. The essential piece of the puzzle - which cannot be substituted or scrimped on - is professional and highly skilled Japanese/English interpreters, who can provide consecutive interpretation to an impeccable standard.
I've spoken with professional localisers Jeremy Blaustein, Agness Kaku and Alexander O. Smith, all of whom have put me in touch with experienced and skilled interpreters. I'm in touch with several co-ordinators, and have been given
dossiers on suitable people. The scope of this project requires a
group of interpreters, so that individuals can be assigned to specific
interviews on specific days. They are all highly qualified with between 5 to 10+ years of experience doing consecutive interpretation, thereby guaranteeing my conversation with developers is unhindered.
I've got an A-list team of people ready to assist if this Kickstarter is successfully funded.
Since the goal is high, I've created this pie chart to show how costs break down. Under the assumption that most people will want a print copy, the biggest portion of budget goes to printing, international postage, and any conversion fees I have to pay. The book will be published via CreateSpace, which was used for both HG101 books.
The more you pledge, the more pages can be printed: If you're buying a Digital version rather than Print, please don't be concerned that you're subsidising the printing and postage of the print backers. The more people who buy Digital, and also the more who pay above the basic price for a print copy, the more pages the book can have. If this Kickstarter is successful, 35% of the overall revenue will be set aside and divided by the number requiring a printed copy - if this number in correlation to the funds received is less than expected (because people have paid extra or backed higher tiers), then the number of pages can be increased accordingly. Everyone will benefit from increased content.
INTERPRETERS: set at 32% to guarantee a minimum of between 20 and 30 working days during the project. This also includes emergency overtime fees, and transport costs for the interpreter. To keep costs low, my co-ordinators will arrange local interpreters in each city I work in, be it Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka.
A skilled interpreter with around 5 to 10+ years of experience in Consecutive Interpretation costs between ¥65,000 and ¥100,000 per 8 hour day (with breaks during the day). According to XE.com, the current conversion is very roughly:
¥100,000 = £650 / $1,000
¥65,000 = £425 / $650
The biggest expenditure on this project is dissolving the language barrier. I have a wide range of potential interpreters to suit every possible situation.
The Japan budget is self explanatory. This is air flight tickets, a cheap apartment, instant ramen three times a day, and transport while there. To save money I will be purchasing a Japan Rail Pass.
The Kickstarter fees can be misleading. While Kickstarter charges 5% for the overall amount, each pledge itself receives a processing charge between 3-5% individually, on top of a 2% VAT fee based on the previous fees. So it's actually about 10% total.
Finally is the post-Japan budget. As a full-time freelancer, if I'm working on the book I cannot be writing for magazines or websites, and there are utility bills to pay. Additionally, as a British Citizen, I am subject to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs. Basically the taxman is going to want a slice of what I receive (and unfortunately I do not know how to pull a Starbucks).
Stretch goals? I want to avoid traditional stretch goals. I could cut the interpreters down, shave the pages until it's a booklet, and promise more as the funds go up. I wouldn't want to buy it though, and I would not expect you to either. If this project goes ahead, it's going to be big, it's going to be comprehensive, and it's going to be mind blowing. The goal right now is the lowest that I think this project could feasibly be done on, without compromising the final book. The Kickstarter and printing fees are fixed at 35% and roughly 10%, but after this, every single extra pound received that is above the minimum goal will go into the interpreter budget. I cannot emphasise how important this is. Each day or half-day that I have access to my interpreters, means more interviews.
You will eventually be able to buy this book on Amazon, but supporting it now means that the end product will be so much better.
The entire project is a one man show. Although I will be hiring professionals to assist with the language and cover art, and have been offered assistance with design, all other aspects will be done by me. Transcribing, writing, editing, designing, uploading, posting copies, and so on. I'm aiming for at least 30 interviews with a variety of interesting people involved in Japanese games from over the years, covering at least 300 pages. The likelihood is we will have considerably more.
YOUR NAME: If you can't make it for a digital or physical copy, you can still help by donating £5 and having your name and location listed in a special thank you section. Having your name in this section will not be available for the higher tiers.
DIGITAL: A digital copy of the book, for you to read on suitable devices. Once the book is finished and made available in print via places such as Amazon, there will not be a digital version. This is exclusive to the Kickstarter campaign. Many have asked about formats. I can create a PDF version easily, and I have some experiencing creating Kindle PRC files. However, this is my promise to you: once I have the master file for the book, I will try to convert it into as many suitable formats as possible. For example Epub. Assuming the tools are freely available and easy enough to learn, I will create a selection of formats and put them together into a single ZIP file. Hopefully this does not create too large a file. There will not be any DRM, since not only do I not know how to implement it, but you're only ruining it for yourself and others if you pirate the file.
SILVER EDITION PRINT: A physical copy of the book. Imagine the adventure book I worked on for HG101 and you'll have a good idea. A clean, simple design, photos of the interviewees, some screenshots of their games, hopefully design materials and office layout sketches when available. But mainly it will be the words of those who made the games. Also, a travel log detailing the adventure. In the event of excess interview material, the travel log may be cut down.
PRINT and DIGITAL: If you want a print copy for your book shelf, and a digital copy to take around with you.
GOLD EDITION PRINT: Now we're talking! There will be a limited edition book with a specially designed front-and-back double cover, by Wil Overton and Jonathan "Persona" Kim. Each artist will be given their own side to create something astounding and unique.
Wil created the covers for Super Play and N64 magazine back in the day, Nintendo Gamer, and recently has produced some of the best covers on Retro Gamer magazine. He is also a former artist from video game developer RARE.
Jonathan produced the cover for the Sega Arcade Classics book, and he's also senior animator on the video game Skullgirls, and previously was animator on Scott Pilgrim vs the World: The Game - he is both a skilled artist and a professional.
Although the specifics of the cover are to be finalised, if you like Wil's and Jonathan's portfolios of work, this limited Gold Edition with special double cover is the way to go. They will (probably) be similar in style to the Sega Arcade Classics cover, rich and detailed, and are exclusive to the Kickstarter campaign.
SPECIAL PRINT and DIGITAL: This is the above Special Edition version with specially made front-and-back double cover by Wil Overton and Jonathan "Persona" Kim, plus the Digital version.
VIDEO DVD: Along with the Gold Edition plus Digital, you'll receive a specially made DVD of video footage related to the trip. A high quality camera will be purchased specifically for this. However, I am not a professional cameraman or video producer. This reward is supplementary to the main product - the book. I'm a writer by profession, so assuming there's enough demand for this video DVD, I will have someone skilled at the process edit it for me. I will, as much as possible and to the degree that interviewees allow it, film content which is directly related to the project and the work of those being interviewed. Design materials, the developers playing the game, and so on. Whatever is possible on the day.
SUBMIT A QUESTION: Have you ever wanted to interview your favourite developer? Do you read interviews in the hope that some burning question about some forgotten obscure fact is raised? Now is your chance to dig up that buried information! In addition to receiving TWO copies of the Gold Edition and a Digital version of the book, you can pose (almost) any question for anyone on my secured list by the time I depart in September. This tier is subject to availability - due to time available, some popular interviewees may have a limit on the number of reader questions. In the chapter with the interview it will be printed as being YOUR question, and you will be featured in the contributor's section. Questions will require my final approval - nothing offensive, please - but we can talk it over until you're happy with what will be said. In the event two backers (or more) each submit the same question for the same interviewee, the later person(s) to do so will be allowed to redo their question. You must be available to contact closer to the trip to provide your question.
GUEST EDITOR: THREE copies of the Gold Edition and a Digital version, plus your own dedicated section in the book (minimum 4 pages), plus your photo in the contributor section. You can pick any game/series/subject, whether it's Super Mario Bros. or Super Monkey Daibouken. Alternatively it could be a company, or a theme - perhaps something like the Satellaview system. This is your chance to guide some of the content, to be what you want to read. A book of this magnitude will likely never be attempted again, so it's worth us trying to maximise what it accomplishes. Your chosen topic is subject to availability. I can't have everyone requesting a section on Super Monkey Daibouken. For interviews with those involved, you can contribute three questions to ask them. If a topic is chosen and I am unable to secure someone directly involved with it, I will ask other interviewees how that topic influenced them. Richer topics will yield longer sections, but what you choose is up to you. Once I've returned and begin producing the book, I will keep you involved with your section - you'll be able to read it early, make suggestions, request changes, and guide its direction. Or you can tell me what you like and I'll cater it to your tastes. The level of involvement is your decision. You must be available to contact closer to the trip to provide your questions, and you must be available afterwards.
SIGNATURE BOOK: If you want to own a rare piece of history, then you're invited to pledge for the one-of-a-kind signature book. At every place visited I will request signatures of everyone there, not just the interviewees. I'll also throw in a copy of the Gold Edition and Digital version. The signature book itself will be a high quality, hard-cover book - possibly a blank art book. Everyone who signs will also jot down their position in the industry, with their name neatly printed alongside.
HANG OUT - FREE: If you're in one of the cities I visit while in Japan and want to get an early preview of the project, you're quite welcome to. As long as there's some down time during that day when I'm not interviewing, we can meet up.
I've looked at the cost of other books, and I've seen double my asking price being paid for copies of Chris Kohler's excellent Power-Up. A copy of my book at £25, which includes the international postage, will provide dozens of unique interviews. It will be a valuable resource for the rest of time. At £25 per copy, we only need about 2,000 backers. Given that GamesMaster, EDGE and GamesTM magazines collectively sell 48,000 copies every month (according to ABC figures), this should be easy. The price of the book is roughly equivalent to only five issues of your average games magazine today, but it will contain more historical knowledge than an entire year's subscription to them all.
If you like the idea of this book, please share it - 2,000 potential readers is not a lot. Many of my articles on HG101 pull in three times as much. We just need to get the word out there, and make history. The more backers, the bigger this project can be!
Let's make this happen - let's spread the word.
"It's clear from my contact with him that John genuinely cares about
shining a light on the obscure corners of the game industry, which is
something we definitely need more of—before whatever's hiding there
fades away for good. "
- Christian Nutt, Features Director, Gamasutra
"John is one of the finest freelancers I've ever had the pleasure to work with. His knowledge for the obscure and attention to detail is second to none and you can read his passion in every word he writes. He has turned in some exceptional articles for Retro Gamer over the years, so I'm greatly looking forward to this exciting new project."
- Darran Jones, Editor, Retro Gamer
"Charting the untold history of Japanese game developers is an insanely
ambitious idea but that's alright because John is one of the most insane
and ambitious games journalists I've had the pleasure of working with.
If anyone can get under the soil of gaming history and dig out the
stories no one else has heard then it's him. I've always looked forward
to reading his work and this book is no exception."
- Ashley Day, former deputy editor of gamesTM, Retro Gamer contributor
"John has an incredible knowledge and passion on a number of topics which
are all too often overlooked in video game history. He also has an
extraordinarily meticulous nature and work ethic that has helped turn
HG101, both in website and print format, into what it is today."
- Kurt Kalata, Founder, Hardcore Gaming 101
"There are 3 main things, for me, that separates John, from most others
in his field. Firstly, he is a gifted writer able to express himself in a
way that is both entertaining and enlightening. Secondly, he has a
depth and breadth of knowledge about video game history that is truly
extraordinary. Thirdly, he is the Sam Spade of the video game world, able to tirelessly track down leads and uncover secret information
hidden from plain sight. These three attributes should combine for a
truly groundbreaking work of historic importance in the world of gaming
history. I will most certainly back this one!"
- Jeremy Blaustein, Localiser (MGS, Silent Hill 2, et al)
"If anyone can see this plan through to the end successfully, it's John. Passion like his is a rare thing, indeed, and knowledge like his even more so. Beyond these, he genuinely cares about the medium, and realized that forging ahead with the future means keeping in touch with the past. His Xenoblade review for GameFan was one of the most celebrated in the magazine's short history, and it exposed me to his high level professionalism and work ethic. Not only should he do this, but I truly believe he's the only one who can."
- James Bacon, Editor in Chief, Double Plus Good Games (former Managing Editor, GameFan Magazine)
"Over the many years that I worked with John he wrote some of the most gutsy and groundbreaking pieces that I published. His talent for finding and interviewing the perfect people to fit his subject matter is impeccable. His understanding of the history of videogames, as well as the minutiae of many niche markets, is a boon to his writing prowess. I am truly excited to see this project come to fruition, and I plan on pledging my support as quickly as possible."
- Matthew Williamson, Creator and Editor in Chief of The Gamer's Quarter, Editor for (now defunct) Play Magazine Online
"John's passion for games is utterly infectious and is combined with a flair for writing incredibly informative pieces. His attention to detail is stunning and each article is thoroughly researched. John always manages to draw out the best bits about each game he covers. He explains why obscure and under appreciated games should be enjoyed and played. This love combined with the exacting standards he holds game creators to will create insightful and deeply informative interviews. This book will shine a light on the most exciting Japanese game creators and the development of games that shaped an industry."
- Oli Clarke Smith - Game Designer
Risks and challenges
* What if the value of the Yen fluctuates?
It's already fluctuated during the production of this page, from ¥144 up to ¥153 for £1. Assuming the worst case scenario though, even if the Yen increases in strength between now and September by a large amount, it should not reduce the number of interpreter days by more than a few. If we exceed the goal considerably, it won't be a factor at all.
* What if an artist is unavailable for the cover?
There will be at least 6 months for them to produce the cover. In the unlikely event they cannot, I will commission a substitute of equal creativity to fill in. The special Gold Edition is what will be on my own coffee table, so rest assured it will look fantastic.
* What if the interpreter can't make it that day?
This is why I'll be working with highly skilled professionals - they will always honour arrangements. In a worst case scenario or illness, they will arrange a replacement from their own network of colleagues, so no interview is wasted.
* What if an interviewee doesn't want to talk?
It's true I can't force anyone to do an interview, but I already have over 20 willing interviewees, before even launching the Kickstarter. As support grows more will join. I can promise that there will be interviews with people who worked on some fantastic games - my portfolio of work should attest to this already. Japanese developers want to talk. What I can't promise is that I can secure all the big names, like Shigeru Miyamoto and Hideo Kojima. But you have my word I will try.
* What if an interviewee promises to talk, but cancels?
This is always a possibility, but that's why you cast a wide net. My prediction is there will be a surplus of material, forcing me either to trim down the interviews (as usually happens with magazine articles), or possibly even omit certain interviewees. This though would only be a last resort.
* What if you record an interview and lose the data afterwards?
That would be tragic. That's why I'll be using a digital voice recorder, backing the files up to my electronic notebook, and to a USB flashdrive, and probably emailing myself copies, in addition to periodically burning files to disc. There is very little chance of losing all the data.
* What if you run out of budget for the interpreter or the printing costs?
This can't happen - which is why the goal is set high. I'm not doing this on a shoestring budget which would risk sinking the entire project. Other writers might be willing to play Russian roulette with backer money, but I've budgeted to guarantee there is liquidity. If the project starts, the project will finish. Prior to departing, the required funds for printing will be set aside to guarantee everyone receives their copy.
* Will you be able to transcribe, design and edit the entire book in just a few months?
I have been offered help with the design, and I know a lot of skilled writers/colleagues who would beg for the chance to preview the book and point out errors. As for transcription, I've done it many times - it's also the most time consuming thing when writing articles. My rule of thumb is 1 hour conversation = 3.5 hours transcription. What I have on my side is time. Instead of writing freelance articles, I will be focusing on producing this book. That's why I've allocated some post-Japan living budget from the total amount. I want to dedicate all my time to this book.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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