From Game Developer Research Institute
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Bits and Pieces: Customer Service
- Real-life would-be Bomberman arrested for threatening Hudson Soft.
- Yes, Virginia, there is a Japanese Atari Jaguar fansite.
- I found someone on Mixi who probably worked at Now Production. They had a vague list of titles in their profile.
- Matt Harmon talks to Brandon Cobb on Sega-16.com and reveals more to him than he did me.
- Dean Sitton, formerly of Sega and Foley Hi-Tech Systems, has been posting on Sonic Retro.
- Nintendo Customer Service Training Video from 1991:
Bits and Pieces: Shaking Things Up
- One good thing to come out of the shake-ups at 1up.com earlier this month is the increased content on its Retro Gaming Blog.
- Speaking of shake-ups, two long-time industry players experienced their own recently, to put it lightly. Jaleco, Ltd., the game division of Jaleco Holding, was sold to online game company Game Yarou for ¥1, with Game Yarou also assuming ¥700 million of Jaleco Holding's outstanding debts. Seta, which had been a subsidiary of Aruze as of late, closed altogether. Since this is GDRI, let us not only salute them, but also the developers that made some of their games like Aicom, C.P. Brain, Tose, Jorudan, Affect, and Winky Soft.
- Why was there no Lunar 3?
- At Digital Press' YouTube channel, watch game journalism pioneer Bill Kunkel answer questions and find out what ten 2600 games are worse than E.T.
- I posted on the SMS Power forums about someone on Japanese social networking site Mixi saying that Bubble Bobble designer Fukio Mitsuji had passed away last month. Still no official confirmation, but I'll write up a proper tribute post soon.
Outsourcing game development to places like China is not uncommon these days, but were the Japanese partaking in it back in the early 1990s? It sure looks that way. After all, Tose started a subsidiary in Shanghai in November 1993. But since it's unclear what they were doing then, here are a couple other examples.
The first is 1992's Ninja Ryukenden (Ninja Gaiden) for the PC Engine from Hudson, which I've known about for a while. Take a look at these decidedly non-Japanese names from the credits:
PROGRAM DESIGN Ricky Sun Sammy Hau GRAPHIC DESIGN Matthew Yau David Tang Carlton Wong Siu Wai MESSAGE Geshu Cho K. L. Sutherland Loretta Hieh Wendy Liu
What really compelled me to write this post were these credits I found only hours earlier from 1990's World Beach Volley for the PC Engine, released by IGS. At first, everything seems normal, but then come the programmers:
Programmer Zhou Wei Jianchun Cheng Yitong Zhang Yimin Hu Li Jiang Shi Jun Changjun Tang Aiming Chen Hongwei Luo
So were Hudson and IGS outsourcing to China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, or elsewhere? Or perhaps this is some kind of inside joke and these are all fake names.
See What SIMS is Doing Today!
SIMS is currently working on a WiiWare game called Derby Dog. It's a dog racing game! Yes, you race dogs! It comes out later this year, but you can follow the progress on SIMS' Derby Dog website. The text is in Japanese, but there are pictures and even a video. I'll let those speak for themselves.
You Can't Hug Your Children with Mechanic Arms
Signs suggest that mystery developer GDRI-008 (click link for game list) has some connection with developer Mechanic Arms, which has mostly worked on Nintendo DS games in recent years.
1) Some people who turn up on GDRI-008 games later turn up on Mechanic Arms games - namely Kazuhiko Inoue, Ichirou Imamura, Toshiharu Tagami, and Manabu Sakai. 
2) In reality, there is no corporate entity called Mechanic Arms. Mechanic Arms is a brand name for Kounan Denki Seisakusho's Tokyo branch office (presumably where game development takes place), which was established July 1, 1997 (the Mechanic Arms works list only goes back to 1997). 
3) Kazuhiko Inoue is the supervisor or manager of the Tokyo branch office. Four of the five people on the Kounan Denki Seisakusho company board are named Inoue, so this is probably a family business. And FYI, Kounan Denki Seisakusho was established on April 2, 1949. 
4) Spiel (who I suspect did contract development "back in the day," but now seems to deal with eroge games) lists Kounan Denki Seisakusho as a client. Kouji Miyoshi, who heads up Spiel, is an advisor on Coryoon. 
The big question is, was Kounan Denki Seisakusho involved with game development prior to 1997? I suppose some e-mails are in order.
Would You Like a Hertz Donut?
I am currently talking to someone who worked at Hertz (not the person linked to on that page). I think I have permission to post most of what this person has said, but it needs to be translated into English, so it'll probably be on hold for a little while like the Mikito Ichikawa interview. It may be a tall order to fill, but I would like to have more than one person aboard who can translate Japanese so as to speed up the process. If you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth and would like to help, please contact me ASAP.
Tales from Home Shopping
Maboshi's Coming to America
Mindware's Maboshi's Arcade (WiiWare) is set for a North American release today, so go check it out!
That brings us to the subject of our much-delayed interview with Mindware president Mikito Ichikawa. For various reasons (on our end), it has pretty much stalled. It's become a rather unorganized mess (again, our fault), so I have no idea when we will have the rest up. My sincerest apologies to all of you and to all the people at Mindware for our egregious unprofessionalism. We would like to thank Ichikawa-san and Rumiko Hoshino for their time and patience.
Have a Very SIMS-y Christmas
I came across a most fascinating (Japanese) blog post early this Christmas morning. Apparently, the magazine Beep! Mega Drive included a special supplement with its April 1993 issue called "SIMS Eight," covering some of the latest titles from the GDRI favorite. The poster took pictures of the front and back covers and the inside pages. Among the titles featured are Out Run 2019 (MD), Shin Megami Tensei (MCD), and Vay (MCD). The most interesting game, however, is the Megami Tensei-inspired Devil Buster for the Mega Drive, which was never released. There are lots of screenshots to ogle. It looks like it was pretty far along in development, if not mostly finished. You will also see single screenshots of Polygon Golf (which I had not heard of before) and Ookami Hei (Wolf Soldier) for the Mega CD, both of which were also not released, and an interview with then-SIMS president Mamoru Shigeta.
Anyways, happy holidays and have a happy new year. I can only hope 2009 will be an even better year for game developer researching.
Talkin' Aicom and NowPro
- I recently found a man who worked at Aicom (sub programmer on A.B. Cop [AC], planner/sub programmer on Viewpoint [NG]). I asked him a bunch of questions, but he opted to not really answer them. He may write about some of what I asked him on his website (which has a lot of interesting stuff; he seems to be a bit of a retro game fan) in the future. I will be waiting anxiously until then.
- Travis Fahs (aka Frogacuda) recently wrote an article for IGN Retro about Now Production. Since much of the information was obviously derived from GDRI, it was nice to see a small mention and link at the end. Now what we need to see is some sort of exposé like what we've seen with Tose.