Day 2 was about more gaming, especially checking out Blaz Blue, a very colorful and evocative fighting game from the creators of Guilty Gear X. I haven't really played either game, but it is hard not to admire the greatness of the 2D sprite work and brilliant backgrounds! Oh, and the gameplay looks fun too...
I first went to the panel on the ShinRA Electric Company, expecting a lot of Final Fantasy VII fanservice. It was kind of like that, with some well-designed cosplayers representing most of the ShinRA board as well as Kadaj and the rest of the trio. There was a lot of amusing antics from Hojo, who everyone hated and blamed for everything. The best part was that Miles Edgeworth and Phoenix Wright jumped from the audience to defend the respective groups in a mock trial. I didn't end up staying too long, as the jokes just kept repeating themselves. I understand that this panel is a Connecticon tradition, so I'll need to give it more time next year.
The Voice Acting panel was a fun time with Christina Yee, Michele Knotz and Carlos Ferro once again. Being more about the industry, this was an opportunity to ask the tough questions about salary disparity versus game revenues and suchlike. The three had interesting stories to tell about the nature of their work, and were good sports when dealing with my most aggressive questions.
Carlos Ferro even gave me a wink, because he knew where I was coming from on the salary question, even though I could have worded it better. Ultimately, Carlos and the others felt that the industry is in its infancy, and that they do well relatively. I still maintain that when a game like GTA IV earns 710 million dollars in 2008 and Michael Hollick earns 100,000 dollars for the 15 months of work spent defining his complex character with no possibility of royalties, something is VERY wrong.
Mr. Ferro also made mention of Comedy Central's resurrection of Futurama and the intention to recast the voice actors. Several people wanted him to come in and audition for the role of Bender, who John DiMaggio had previously worked on. I'm thinking that the execs wanted Carlos because he knew John, but Mr. Ferro was having none of it, being a strong believer in the VA as essential for the original character vision. Carlos told John that he wasn't going to do it, and CC settled back to Billy West and the other originals within 5 days. All right! A BIG part of the fun of Futurama is the skill of the VA's. If the execs were successful in recasting, I would have email bombed them with Prof. Farnsworth: "Tell them I hate them!" dozens of times!
Some other highlights include learning that Japanese producers want sexy to be a high-pitched voice. In America, we think of low and slow voices as sultry. Christina kept doing such a voice, only to have a JPN producer prompt her again and again for SEXAY! SEXAY! Guess they really like those schoolgirls in Japan, in every way...
Now for some key quotes: Christina Vee likes video game voicing most of all because the timing is easier. Michele is tired by her work in gaming (sounds like she has had some tough recent roles) and Carlos digs it all, but wishes that his first love, theatre, was better paid. He went into voice acting with no regrets, but one still has to play the bills.
Carlos mused about his work in Uncharted 2 and how he had to make the jumping sound for the mocap actors over and over again. But the 5th or 6th time the "Ngh!" and "Uhh!" made it obvious that it didn't SOUND like jumping at all! Whatever could he have meant?
Christina Vee also told a story about lack of support from her uninterested parents. While Michele's mom supports her in everything even if she doesn't understand the work, Christina's folks view her work as "better than prostitution". They apparently see that as a compliment when it clearly isn't one! Another one lead to a lot of surprise: A lot of Voice Acting work is NON-UNION! We all rail against Wal-Mart and their predatory capitalism throughout the world, but when non-union work can still exist throughout the art world, it seems to be a matter of hoping not too many people find out about it, and if they do, hoping that they don't care about it...
There is a lot of controversy over the union situation in the voice-acting medium. The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) handles video game and TV roles, while TV ads and commercials are considered other work. This is especially bad when it comes to licensing deals, as the actors do not earn any royalties when their voices are reused for commercials or suchlike. This kind of information really makes me upset at the whole business and how it often fails to be about anything but money.
I went back to the game room to try to get out the Saturn, replacing it with a Wii that wasn't being used. Unfortunately no one was interested in playing the 2D greats of the Sega Saturn or no one was around. I played a bit by myself then went to the Hentai panel. I can't help but think that a dedicated gaming room would have increased the Saturn's visibility.
The hentai panel was naturally packed and it was a standard bawdy good time, most designed to unwind and maybe even learn a few things! Free stuff and a QA panel made this panel more engaging than similar ones I've been to. Highlights include the Demotivational Poster Montage at the beginning and some of the inspired questions. The best part was the host's defense of anime as a medium and not a genre. Due to this fact, people really should not be so surprised that animated porn is as popular as it is, or even that it exists. This ends convention-related coverage of Day 2. On to Day 3!
The final days of conventions are usually quiet with some attendees actually leaving in the morning. There is a general feeling of emptiness in the air. This wasn't the case with Connecticon. The gaming room was still packed for more Street Fighter IV goodness. I also got to play some King of Fighters XII was some dedicated fans, who shared my overall disappointment with the game. It's still a very good fighting game, but more time in development could have put it among the greatest in the series.
The last panel I attended was a discussion about the practical applications of science fiction and how a lot of the technology is closer to reality than thought possible. The host was tired from lack of sleep as well as hosting four panels, but he did manage to keep the small crowd entertained with his thoughts on the creepiness of nanotechnology, even with its potential to overcome humanity's worst diseases. I asked questions about black holes and the prospects of folding space for farther than light travel. The host has always disliked hearing how time travel and light speed are impossible because our current scientific understanding says so. That's just being lazy... and arrogant to dismiss such a possibility forever just because we don't have the technology at this time.
I was going to go back to the gaming room for the rest of the day, but I met a Stephen Comeau of Windsor, CT during the panel and we proceeded to discuss the panel and other things for the next 2 hours. Luckily for us, a cute girl named Sharon, also an artist, was sitting nearby conducting a Mensa panel and chimed in. We discussed everything from her webcomic to the Nightmare Before Christmas and its more subtle themes to voice actors. Too bad she was too young for me, as we had a real rapport going. Nah, it was a good discussion but I could tell Stephen was a bit disappointed to find THAT out.
The coolest thing that I did with Stephen was trying Pocky for the first time. I think it is a bit overrated, being essentially a dessert. The thought of people eating nothing but Pocky at a con (which I've been told happens...) is a bit disturbing to me. I am interested in trying the other varieties of this biscuit from Japan, but the ingredients made me suspect that they might be Japanese in name only these days. Kind of like Chinese food being actually from the United States.
Stephen shared my disappointment with the game room setup and was very interested in my criticism of the rave. Well, that makes two of us. Hopefully more people will read this review and demand a better setup next year. The saddest thing attributed to the lack of a dedicated gaming room was the lack of Steel Battalion, one of the coolest video games ever made. They had 3 of them at Connecticon 2008 and even people not familiar with the $200 game loved the massive controller with its 40 buttons, two huge joysticks, and buttons for windshield wipers and an eject button. This game by Capcom is not just a technical marvel but clear evidence that for Capcom, making games isn't always about making a profit. There are times in which creativity and vision champions all else.
Stephen told me that there were huge lines last year, even going so far as to have time limits for each play, so you know that it was a popular attraction that really should be back next year. Having Steel Battalion is reason enough for me to return for Connecticon 2010 and bring as many friends as possible. Please bring it next year!
In summation, Connecticon 2009 was a great time that I recommend to fans of video games, anime, and webcomics in New England! Even though I didn't get to go to many of the webcomic tables (finding out too late than they were mostly only in the dealer's room) I still saw plenty of the attractions that made me want to come in the first place. The few niggling weaknesses: the rave and game room setup were not enough to prevent me having a good time. Here's hoping this report will be taken into consideration into making next year's Connecticon that much better! Thanks for reading!