Microforum tells us about the company, and their latest WiiWare title.
There have been quite a few bizarre games on the WiiWare service, but perhaps one of the strangest is Microforum's Enjoy Your Massage! With such a unique premise, we caught up with Giovanni Simotti from Microforum to give us some details.
Nintendo World Report: Briefly describe how Microforum came into existence.
Giovanni Simotti: Microforum was founded in Toronto during 1984 – at first it was focused on floppy disk replication, but after a few years the focus shifted on multimedia product development like PC games. In 2002, the company started to develop mobile games, producing over 60 games that have been sold all over the world by many telephone operators. Now in 2010 our game development effort is all about console products, starting now with Enjoy Your Massage! on the WiiWare platform.
NWR: How many people is your staff composed of?
GS: On this game, a staff of five people.
NWR: What was your inspiration for Enjoy Your Massage?
GS: I always had a liking for rhythm games, so even if Enjoy Your Massage is not really a rhythm game it has a lot in common to them.
NWR: Enjoy Your Massage's press release states that you worked with psychologists to create some of the game's animations and sound design. Would you mind elaborating how this additional detail "relaxes the player" and "enhances his emotional involvement", as the press release suggests?
GS: We have tried a lot of subtle mechanisms to involve the player - for example by alternating in a few seconds of relaxing phases with tensing phases. When you see the sequence onscreen you hear pleasant sounds, the time is stopped, and the squares are slowly lighting up. But then immediately follows the tense phase, with the time quickly decreasing, and the view zooming in and out as you perform the massage.
NWR: Zoonami's Bonsai Barber, a Hair Stylist simulation for WiiWare, gave players new customer appointments and story as time progressed in the real world, as if the game characters were making real-time appointments with the player. What do you think the potential for a Massage Parlor simulator is in that vein?
GS: I really like gameplay related real-time mechanics, like the ones implemented inside Animal Crossing or in World of Warcraft. However, I think that they are very "exigent" - you ask a player to play that game on a certain day of their life, what a request! If I'm addicted and the game is very deep, it will be a pleasure to do so, but I don't think this fits simple games like Enjoy Your Massage, which just hopes to entertain and relax the player every now and then. You run it, you play it for 5-10 minutes, and then enjoy the feelings it gives you. Something like when you play games like Rez or Ikaruga - you want to play them even for a short game session because of the feelings they can induct!
NWR: Enjoy Your Massage is rated E10+ by the ESRB, but it appears to be based on the much more "adult" Emmanuelle games from Microforum. What, and how much did you change in the process of bringing that gameplay to WiiWare?
GS: With Enjoy Your Massage, we wanted to have a "clean" game, that could be played by everyone. Because of that all the sexy elements have been scrapped away and remade, and some simple cut-scenes have been added before and after the massage sequences to deploy some story background for the clinic - nothing too demanding of course, this is not an RPG!
NWR: Enjoy Your Massage appears to have a slightly manga-inspired visual style, but the game it's based on was more realistically drawn. What precipitated this change?
GS: The drawings were made realistic because of the sexy focus of the game. After removing this we thought that a more "manga" style would appeal to a broader audience, which now also includes younger players.
NWR: Microforum has released many games in many genres on mobile phone platforms. What was it that made you decide to select your "Emanuelle" line of games for your first foray into WiiWare?
GS: We choose this game for a lot of reasons - it has a base concept which is associated to our common experience (you don't have to be a gamer to know what a massage is, right?) and intuitive, you move your hand (which holds the controller) to the direction where you want to move your virtual hands, simple and immersive. Furthermore the picture with the woman laying down with the squares on the back is immediately recognizable, and this is a plus when you deal with downloadable games where you need to "catch" the attention of the customer inside the virtual shop.
NWR: Do you have plans to bring Enjoy Your Massage to DSiWare? How about any other games in your portfolio?
GS: We don't have yet any plans to port Enjoy Your Massage to other platforms, even if I think that it would definitely fit the DSi well. At the moment it would be probably wiser for us waiting for the next-gen 3DS - it is going to be another hit, the right console at the right time.
WR: What can we expect from Microforum in the coming months? Can we expect continued WiiWare support?
GS: We want to continue working on WiiWare, its line-up includes both "innovative and wide-appealing products" and more "traditional" games - this is a chance other console manufacturers are missing, on their shops games tend to always give a deja-vu sensation. Downloadable games with their lower development costs have a duty to experiment, there are a lot of innovative concepts that should come out of the indie game scene, they deserve to be played by everyone.
WR: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say to our readers?
GS: I hope you'll enjoy our product, and please continue supporting us.
Thank you to Microforum for making this interview possible!