NekoCon V; November 8-10, 2003
NekoCon V (for victory, or five) returned this year to the Holiday Inn Executive Center in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The site is a sentimental favorite with some fans, being the original site of both NekoCon and Katsucon. While Katsucon has become far too large to ever return to its birthplace, NekoCon is still quite the cozy convention in its home hotel.
According to NekoCon's website, this hotel has hosted more anime conventions than any other east of the Mississippi River. That would explain how the hotel staff accommodate the idiosyncrasies of anime fans so professionally. On Saturday night, one of the uniformed law enforcement officers providing hotel security was even spotted wearing fuzzy cat ears!
Again this year, hard news was in short supply, as the large studios tend to save their announcements for much larger conventions. Instead of the usual big-convention slew of video release dates, licensing deals, and world premiers, ANN interviewed Alex Tambascia of Mecha Software, LLC about their new projects, and listened in as Toshifumi Yoshida of Viz Communications, Inc. told his life's story.
Mecha Software LLC interview
(Anime News Network interviewed Alex Tambascia, game designer for Mecha Software, LLC. Mecha Software introduced a demo of their new game, “Fred Perry's Gold Digger” at NekoCon V, and gave away free 3” CD-ROM copies of the demo to convention attendees.)
Alex Tambascia: My name is Alex Tambascia, I work for Mecha Software, LLC. We work very closely with anime and game artists to make high-quality games. Our first game is Fred Perry's Gold Digger game, a puzzle game, which is scheduled for full retail release in January 2003.
Anime News Network: Why after Christmas?
AT: Mainly to deal with Right Stuf International, who is going to be our distributor. Their policy is that for a Christmas release you have to start five months prior to Christmas, and due to production delays we just couldn't do it. But our next game that we're coming out with, Mechanoid, will make a Christmas release.
We're giving out free demos at the con, and we made our announcement at this con, because this con is where we first met Fred Perry. We wanted to give NekoCon attendees the first demo.
(At this point in the interview while listening to Mr. Tambascia, the ANN reporter slotted the demo CD into her PowerBook.)
AT: I don't think it'll work right now – we haven't yet ported to Macintosh.
ANN: Oh. But you are?
AT: It's on our to-do board. Right now we're having problems with Macintosh and getting a license for porting.
ANN: If you do go (to Macintosh), will it be a Classic application, or an OSX application?
AT: Whatever we can get the licensing permission to do.
ANN: That makes sense. Considering it's Apple, they'll probably want it to be on OSX.
AT: We do work on Linux, we program on Linux and run this on Linux in Lindows.
(The interview then moved away from computer operating systems and back to the games themselves.)
AT: Some licenses we're not allowed to disclose, until the licenses are granted to us. Right now we have a few titles we can talk about.
ANN: And you are pursuing other licenses at this time?
AT: We are. In fact, we've got a few possibilities here.
ANN: Aside from the puzzle fighter, what other genres are you looking at?
AT: We're looking at fighter, action RPG, all-action, real-time strategy; we're doing a whole realm. Basically we take the anime and we see what would make the best game the fans want, and then we ask the artists and the creators and say “listen, would you feel comfortable with us making your game into an action RPG?”
For example, Fred Perry said to us “I don't want an RPG, I want action.” Fine, we will pull back, re-do it, give him what he wants. By our taking what he has and putting in his vision, it's really what the fans want to see. We're not bastardizing a great work, we're enhancing it.
ANN: Are you doing all of your coding in-house?
AT: We are all in-house.
ANN: You must have a lot of talent on hand then.
AT: I have to give all credit to my lead programmer, Gary Schneider. His alter-ego is Dark Schneider. He is the brains. As a game designer, I'm the vision. I'm the one that give the blueprint, but he's the one who builds the house. We couldn't do anything without him. He really deserves about 75% of the credit. All I did was do the design, but he the hard work.
We have a great and talented team. Joy Tambascia, our lead artist, she took the work Fred Perry gave us, scanned it in and fixed it up.
We're looking to get some more titles out, we're going to come back here next year and support NekoCon alone, and give out free copies of our next game to NekoCon attendees. We're making it a tradition that at NekoCon we'll make our game announcements and give free copies to the NekoCon attendees.
ANN: So you're going to make this your primary convention?
AT: In fact, it's the only con that's actually invited us. We've never had another con invite us, but we've been invited here twice, and out first videogame started here, so we have a special attachment here. As long as they keep inviting us we're going to come and do that for attendees. If other cons invite us, we'll do the same for them, but NekoCon is really a special place. If we were to get the Boston con, if we have a new release, we're still going to make the announcement here, because this is our home.
Toshifumi Yoshida (Viz Communications, Inc.)
Mr. Yoshida appeared at NekoCon on his own time, not to officially represent Viz, and as such had no official announcements from Viz, but he did provide an entertaining discussion of how difficult it is now to get started in the anime industry, and how he got to where he is today.
“People do ask me all the time 'how do you get into your line of work?' and I have to say 'start fifteen years ago,' when the industry was really small.”
He described his own fifteen-year odyssey from the beginning in 1986, when he worked on the new anime quarterly Animag, to October 2002, when he looked down at Times Square in New York City while at Anime Expo New York, and wondered how the heck he got here.
“So,” he summed up, “People do come up to me and say 'how can you get into it?' What can you do that I can't already do, or get someone else that I already know can do, so it's pretty hard to get into the industry.”
He then reiterated the oft-repeated advice for would-be voice actors: move to where the studios are, make a good (and short!) demo tape or CD, have a large range of voices, and get radio experience.
[Nova Politte is an avid writer and anime fan who swears that she will someday combine these two traits and get a job in the industry. And if that doesn't work, she'll teach English.]