It’s the beginning of a new year so it’s a good time to give a summary on the assorted projects we’ve been working here at HG101!
2017 in Brief
We published four books in 2017 – Contra and Other Konami Classics, Retro Game Super Translation Selection, The Complete Guide to the Famicom Disk System, and The Guide to Retro Indie Games Vol. 1, plus helped edited Verb/ose, a book on classic adventure games. We also launched a brand new site, which has made updating much easier, though has caused a bunch of other recurring headaches. However, there have been a few new features launched, including Trivia Tidbits, and we’ll be resurrecting our old Inventories series too.
We started this crowdfunding campaign at the end of the summer, and while it’s done fairly well – it’s about 38% funded – it’s not quite at the level where it can be published. So, the publisher will be eventually going to Kickstarter to crowdfund the remaining funds. If you’ve already pledged, you don’t need to do anything – it’s still registered, the Kickstarter would be for the rest of the money needed, which at this point, is about $18,000. Kickstarter has a much larger audience than Unbound, so hopefully this will help finish up the funding! We haven’t agreed on a set date that this will start, just enough time after the damage from the holidays have subsided. Since a good chunk of the book is already written, I’ll be posting some more samples from it over the next few months, to generate some more interest.
NES Cult Classics
There was originally going to be a fifth book published last year, but it had to be pushed back until 2018 for various reasons (mostly, working on the Japanese Obscurities book as well as concentrating on the site redesign/conversion). This was the NES Cult Classics book, focusing primarily on titles beyond the usual big name developers and publishers. These include works by Sunsoft (Journey to Silius, Gimmick), Natsume (Shadow of the Ninja, Shatterhand), KID (Low-G-Man, KickMaster), Atlus (Xexyz, Rockin’ Kats) and many others, including a bunch of Japan-only titles. Work has resumed on this project and should be out sometime in the first half of 2018. Here’s an inked sketch of the cover, drawn by Thor Thorvaldson, which was based on the Capcom Design Works book. You can get an idea of some of the other games that will be included too, plus you can check out the NES Cult Classic tag.
Wrestling with Pixels
I don’t really have much of an update for this one, beyond the fact that we’re continuing to work with the author to complete this as soon as we can. There are a few small pieces that I’ll be looking to commission to help flesh things out, to keep an eye on the submissions page for what will be needed.
A few years ago, I started publishing HG101 books in a “digest” format, which would be something more like a magazine – one or two single topics, then a bunch of other features. This way they could be published more regularly. It never quite worked out like that though, since the last one that was published was the Taito one back in early 2015. (The Data East book, published later in 2015, was originally supposed to be part of the “digest” series, but eventually expanded into a full size book since I couldn’t decide which titles to whittle down.) Anyway, I’d like to resurrect this format going forward. There are two big ones I’d like to focus on for 2018. One will feature some of the lesser known Namco arcade games – stuff like Bravoman, Wonder Momo, The Outfoxies, Legend of Valkyrie, and others – with the cover story focusing on Mappy and Dig Dug, two of my favorites of the era, especially considering that the company themselves places greater emphasis on games like Pac-Man and Galaga. The other is the first in the line of Nintendo-themed digests, with the initial one featuring Star Fox and F-Zero. Here’s a sketch of that by Rusty Shackles:
I also pitched a few more digest ideas to Rusty, and he came back with some quick sketches too: one focusing on Tecmo games (particularly Dead or Alive, Ninja Gaiden and Deception) and the other on retro horror-themed games (like Splatterhouse, Ghosts n’ Goblins, and Zombies Ate My Neighbors).
Other ideas I’d floated around are Metroid/Kid Icarus, and Fire Emblem/Advance Wars, though those definitely wouldn’t be until far in the future.
One of the site’s first big articles is for Falcom’s Ys series, which I still love, and has thankfully become more well known outside of Japan. HG101 has been one of the few English language resources for many of their Japan-only titles, so it’s been a long running project to cover the company as extensively as possible. For the past few years, I’ve been silently going back to older articles and fleshing them out a little, so much of the work is already complete. The biggest obstacle has been finding writers to cover the extensive Legend of Heroes / Trails of series, since it’s a huge, potentially overwhelming set of games that’s difficult to cover, particularly the ones that haven’t been localized. However, we’ve recently contacted some members of the Falcom fan community to start the wheels to get this completed. No guarantees it’ll get done this year, but it’s been farther along than it’s ever been.
Shin Megami Tensei
This was another one of the first large articles on the site, originally started back in 2004. While the Ys and Falcom articles have been slowly updated over the years, this one has languished, as I believe the last game we covered was Strange Journey back in 2009. Plus, many of the early entries are fairly short, owing to the focus on capsule reviews back when the site first started, and aren’t really up the site’s current standards. So, I’ve been wanting to entirely rewrite everything and make it the focus of a whole book, covering the mainline SMT series, Persona, and all of its many spin-offs.
This has been in the works on-and-off for approximately five years, the biggest issue just being burn out. It’s a great series, but there are so many of them and they’re so long, that I’d find myself playing two or three games in a row and then never wanting to touch another one for a long time. Still, even over that long period of time, there’s been a lot of work done that hasn’t really been published yet (excluding a preview we gave in the Patreon-only Holiday Special book back in 2014). We’ve gotten to the point that most of the games we’ve either covered, or have writers in place to cover. There are still some gaps to fill, and again, keep an eye on the submissions page for more details! Again, no promises this will be out in 2018, but we’ll definitely be working on it. And I’ll also be posting all of the articles we have done for the core series (MT 1-2, SMT 1-4, If and Apocalypse, and Strange Journey) in the next couple months on the site as well, just so you all can see the progress we’ve made!
The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers
Although this isn’t directly an HG101 project, we’ve been helping with this book series, both in production and promotion. The author is in the final stages of completing the third and final volume, which should be ready sometime in the next few months. I’ve seen some of the interviews in here and they’re very cool – stuff from Konami, Compile, and Sega staff – and some of interviews the author supplied to us have helped us with a few articles (like some of the tidbits featured in The Guardian Legend review).
Back in October, we launched the new HG101 site that you’re reading now. It’s been a troublesome process, partially because the site designer basically abandoned the project for several months without telling us, and partially because there’s so much content that needs to be manually ported over. It’s also been a huge learning curve for me, since I’m trying to learn this fancy pants modern web design on my own in between all of the other duties. There are definitely things people have criticized and requested, and that I agree with and would like to fix, but can’t because I literally don’t know how.
With what I can do, I’ve been making some tweaks here and there over the past few months, the biggest one being the return of the screenshot column. It’s a little small and the images are squished, but you can still view the full size by clicking on them. It definitely makes the articles feel less barren, plus none of the media is lost in the conversion. I’m also questioning whether we need the right sidebar, but the stuff that’s currently there (ads, site news) needs to go somewhere, it’s just a matter of where.
The tag function is also a work in progress. By default in WordPress, when you click on a tag, it brings up associated articles in reverse chronological order. That’s completely useless for a site like this, so we’ve redirected each tag to go custom pages. The problem is, of course, that these need to be custom built for each tag, and while that’s pretty easy to do, with as many tags as we have, there are still many broken ones.
A few other changes have been made – that gigantic carousel on the front page was removed, because it took up so much space and didn’t really seem all that useful. (Plus, retro screenshots blown up to that size with modern text against it just doesn’t look right.) Some of the font sizes have been tweaked so everything’s not as large or as spread out.
In the background, we’ve been spending a lot of time converting the old articles. When we launched, I think we had about 800 articles. Now we have about 1,300 (including all of the new ones we’ve posted since then), which is a significant increase – you may have noticed with the larger amount of related articles at the bottom of each articles, or the random articles on the sidebar. I’m comfortable with saying that at least half of the content has been ported over, though there’s still a long ways to go. There’s also a lot of stuff that has been updated and a lot of articles that were previously found only in the books that have been added to the site. There’s too many to list comprehensively (plus I’ve lost track of them myself), but if you browse around, you’ll probably find something you haven’t seen before.
The conversion has given me the opportunity to review some of the older articles to see if they meet the site’s current standards, and while not all of them have been revised to the extent that I’d like them to be, I think you’ll find many of them are significant improvements over the ones on the old site. There are a few that are so outdated that they’ll need to be largely revised or completely rewritten before being featured on the new site (like the ancient Phoenix Wright and Guilty Gear articles), that I’ll probably be commissioning sometime in the future.
There’s also a Discord now too. Check it out!
With the launch of the new site, I closed off submissions, mostly because we had a gigantic backlog and it was sometimes taking several months, if not longer, for articles to be budgeted, formatted, and posted. The formatting part is a LOT easier thanks to our redesign, but I’d still like to cut the amount of time it takes to post submitted articles. I’ll be re-opening submissions very shortly, though there’s a specific list of games (or topics) I want covered. If you’re interested in contributing, please keep an eye open! These are requested articles for both the site and for upcoming books (and, as usual, are paid work).
Beyond the books and the associated articles mentioned above, there are a few other articles series I’m planning for the next few months. One of the standards of HG101 was to cover an entire series, rather than individual games. In the long run, though, this has become a problem, because it reduced the stuff we could write about it. “We can’t just review this one game, we’d need to cover the whole series!” I often used to tell contributors, which ended up nixing the whole thing in cases where the series was huge. I’m loosening these restrictions going forward, as you can see with a few articles we posted last year. In these cases, they covered a specific subseries (Command and Conquer Generals) or a particular type of game in a series (the 2D Metroid games).
In the next few months, we’ll be posting some articles on the classic Sonic the Hedgehog games, mostly spurred on by the (excellent) Sonic Mania. Exactly how expansive this will be, I’m not entirely sure – we’ll definitely be covering the core games (1-3 & K, CD, 4 and Mania) and a few spin-offs – basically, it’ll be until we get tired of doing them. The other main series I wanted to do was Final Fantasy Tactics, focusing just on those three games. There are a few articles that I’ve been sitting on for a number of years, and my New Years resolution is to complete them – Lunar, Mappy, and Star Control, in particular!
In 2017, we changed the $5 tier to include PDF/Kindle MOBI copies of our three most recent books. For 2018, this has changed to include PDF/Kindle MOBI copies of our five most recent books, plus the 200 Best Games of All Time book, so it’s even better value. For $10, you can get PDFs/MOBIs of everything we’ve published, including a few exclusives and previously unpublished. If you continue to subscribe, you’ll also get previews and first looks of upcoming books, unavailable anywhere else, plus first access to the Top 47,858 Games of All Time podcast and exclusive segments just for Patreon donors.
Unfortunately, the site redesign had another downside, in that it negatively affected our ad revenue by a significant amount. I’m not entirely sure why – maybe it’s because a good chunk of our old site is still kinda floating in limbo, or there’s something wrong with the placement on the new site. It’s not a gigantic problem since a vast majority of the site funding comes from Patreon anyway, but we’ve also incurred some extra site expenses – particularly, we cover our own hosting costs now, plus paying for the hired work to convert articles, beyond what I do myself. If you enjoy the site, anything you could donate to our Patreon, even if it’s just a dollar or two a month, would be greatly appreciated! Buying our books helps out too, or even something that doesn’t cost anything, like retweeting our articles or posting about us on forums, or giving (hopefully positive) reviews for our books on Amazon. These are all great helps!
This ended up being pretty long because we’re working on a whole lot of stuff! So I’ll finish off with the usual “please look forward to it”!