Recently, Pig-Min did an e-mail interview of Naomi Clark, who was Producer - Writer of [Miss Management].

Korean version of this Interview.

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Title screen of [Miss Management].

1. [Miss Management] uses 'Time Management' concept, which was made for [Diner Dash]. But [Miss Management] is totally different game from [Diner Dash], especially for 'Managing Whom'. For [Diner Dash], player must handle 'Customers'. But for [Miss Management], player must handle 'fellow workers'. Very different & brilliant idea it is. How come to think about such a excellent thing?

At Gamelab we always try to come up with something new that we haven't done before. Sometimes this is a completely new style of game, sometimes it is an evolution from a previous idea. Miss Management is a time management game, and hopefully a good evolution of Diner Dash!

The funny thing is, originally this game was not like Diner Dash at all. The first versions were made to look like project-management software -- as if the character of Denise was sitting at a computer looking at software on the screen that let her give tasks to various employees. There was no picture of the office rooms, or walking around the office, just lots of tasks and power-ups and employees with different abilities. It felt kind of like playing a RPG like Final Fantasy -- except only the combat part, with tasks as "monsters," and no exciting graphics.

So we decided that was not exciting enough, then we came up with the idea of having Denise walk around the office -- and we realized, hey this could work kind of like Diner Dash! So we combined our idea of an office, many employees, and tasks, with our
previous ideas from Diner Dash to make a new game.

2. For [Miss Management], player must use 'Female' character, and also for [Diner Dash]. Of course, there are only 2 gender for human, so 'female' is half of them & not very special. But you might have some reason to pick up 'female' character for the player. Please share your thoughts about that.

You're right, females are half of everyone! But somehow, half of game characters are not females! And when many games do have female characters, they are made to be sexy, for the benefit of male players, instead of realistic. We like to do things a little bit differently, for many reasons. One is that we just don't want to do games that have already been made, we want to explore new ideas. There are very few games that are set in an office, in regular modern settings -- no guns, no spaceships, no swordfights!

Also, a lot of people who play our games are women, sometimes more than half! Since there are few games where women can identify with a realistic female character, instead of a female who's just there to be sexy, we want to provide this experience for them. At the same time, we also think our male gamers can enjoy a game with these characters; we try to make Flo and Denise the kind of characters that anyone can
identify with, just like famous characters such as Mario or Link. The player might not be a fat little Italian plumber with a big mustache, but still it's easy to "step into the shoes" of Mario and play with him. We think the same thing can be done with female characters too!

For similar reasons, we wanted to put characters from many different racial backgrounds in the game, so we have some Asian characters, an Indian character, some black characters, etc. This is also rarely seen in games, especially in a modern setting where the characters talk about race!

3. [Miss Management] is superior to [Diner Dash], for characters. For [Diner Dash], there was only 1 fixed character 'Flo', and others are 'visiting customers'. But for [Miss Management], all the characters are alive & have their own personality & dialogues. It's very hard to make all the characters different. Could you please let us know, how you made such a living characters? (Especially for 'Tara'. When she get angry, she's cute.)

We had both game designers (who write the story as well as design the game) and visual artists work on these characters together. First, two game designers (myself and Nick Fortugno) come up with ideas for characters, many of them were based on people that we know and have worked with. Some of the characters in Miss Management are very much like my own bosses and coworkers from past jobs! Then we asked our character illustrator, Carolina Moya, to draw them. The pictures of the characters looking excited, unhappy, stressed out, really brought them to life and gave us a lot more ideas on who they are, what they're like. We tried to come up with every kind of "office character" we could -- bosses and employees, nervous people and people who don't like working.

We also created the characters to fit the game, so their variety explores the whole game system: good at different kinds of things, stressed by different things, etc. Some are specialists, others can do anything. These parts of the game also influenced the personality and dialogue of the characters.

It all fits together: game + visual + writing.

Tara is one of my favorite characters, especially because she loves anime so much. She is partly based on one of our artists here.

4. 'Miss' of [Miss Management]. It means 'honor title of lady', but it also has meaning of 'mistake', so [Miss Management] might have 'duplicate meaning'. Did you intend it?

Yes, I'm glad you understood the double meaning!

We spelled it "Miss" because Denise is a young lady (we use "Miss" for women who are not married). And "Management" because that is Denise's job. However, there is another word "mismanagement" which means "badly done management." It means when those in charge make poor decisions about running an organization. Of course, a lot of the story is about "mismanagement" in this way too, for instance the way Duncan acts in episodes 13-18 is a classic case of "mismanagement," same with Pearl and Brooke later on.

5. You have somewhat different career for 'Game Producer', as you have done 'Content & Community Manager'. Especially for 'Community Manager', it might be very different work from 'Game Producer'. But it's perfect for making [Miss Managment], because this game deals with 'community of fellow workers'. What do you think about that?

Definitely! That's a good connection.

The "community" part of my job usually comes after a game is finished, in talking with players and especially for multiplayer games. It's all about how people interact with each other around the game. At gamelab many of us do many different jobs at once, since we are not a huge company. For Miss Management, I did project management, writing, and game design too. So my title explains some of what my skills are (specializing in content and community) but not exactly what I do. Actually, my job is not that much different from what I did as a game producer! Just a different name.

6. Do you have some future plan, to make 'Sequel' or 'Different Skin' version of [Miss Management]? For example, [Diner Dash] had 2 sequels & Spongebob version. How about making 'Game Company' version of [Miss Management]? Will have too-inside-story of Gamelab? (grin.)

We are really excited that Miss Management is turning out to be popular. The future of the game has lots of possibilities, and it could work in many different settings -- I guess it depends on if someone is interested in working with us, like Nickelodeon did for Diner Dash. As for "Game Company" version, some people have already said that Miss Management offices look too much like our offices already! =) The employees in Miss Management are mostly young, some of them are artists and writers, and they work in open spaces without lots of walls and cubicles -- much more like Gamelab than most offices!

7. How's selling for [Miss Management]? It might hit the Casual Game market in US, because it's very unique & fun game to do. But marketing is very different from entertainment itself, so curious about that.

So far Miss Management is selling very well! We have distribution partners like Big Fish Games and iWin here in the United States, as well as on our own site, which has just launched, so we don't have a lot of data for it, but we are excited to see how many people are downloading it, and a lot of those people have purchased it! On the larger sites, Miss Management is in the top #10 downloads still, and we hope to see it stay there! Because we developed and published Miss Management ourselves, we are also doing marketing. For now that mostly means talking to websites -- like Pig-Min! And also some magazines, newspapers, etc.

8. You used framework for Mind Control Software, which made [Oasis]. How about using that framework?

We really love the Orbital framework from Mind Control Software. The developers there are our friends, but also, out of all the software frameworks we have worked with, we like the way Orbital is built the best. It lets us build games more quickly and in some cases, re-use code. We also write additional code that builds on Mind Control's work, then we give it back to them, which helps grow the framework. It's a valuable partnership for us.

9. Please recommend other good 5 Indie Games & 5 Major Games, and the reason why.

Indie Games

1. Knytt is a beautiful little game, so simple but with such a great feeling of exploring and solving puzzles. It really captures the heart of adventure gaming.

 2. I really like playing Urban Dead, which is a massively multiplayer zombie game. It's all made by one guy, and has some very basic rules, but a whole zombie society has grown out of it!

3. Everyday Shooter is one of the most beautiful games around, it's almost like poetry. Hard to get a copy to play, though! I just heard it might no longer be an indie game, and will be on Playstation Network, so maybe it's not indie anymore!

4. Puzzle Pirates is one of my big inspirations for multiplayer games, it is obviously a work of love by the crew at Three Rings, who are also friends of mine.

 5. The indie game I have probably played the most of is Slay, which is another beautifully simple game that is insanely addictive, I can play it over and over.

Major Games.

 1. World of Warcraft. Simply put, it is the most well-designed, polished multiplayer game anyone has ever made! I'm constantly impressed by how Blizzard has been able to "steer the ship" when the ship is so large and complex!

2. Okami. I am half Japanese and grew up with lots of stories from Japanese mythology, and I was so happy to see this game, which also play and looks beautiful, the calligraphic graphics are amazing.

3. Guitar Hero. I love musical games, I always buy them and have hours of fun. Guitar Hero was really a new breakthrough because it does such a good job of simulating how to "rock out." I'm pretty good and got second place in a local tournament here last year!

4. Planescape: Torment. This is a old role-playing game for PC, set in a Dungeons & Dragons world. It's always on my list of top games because it has such good writing, and the conversations and plots in the game are so amazingly complex. I recommend anyone who likes game stories, fantasy, or RPGs to try and get a copy!

5. Final Fantasy Tactics. I love this series and I'm looking forward to the PSP version coming out later this year! I like tactics games better than usual RPGs, the game system is very interesting and deep.

10. Did you try some Korean games, or even heard or experienced about them? If so, please share your thoughts about that.

Is Starcraft a Korean game? =D I think it is by now!

I have also played Ragnarok Online, Lineage, and recently Ragnarok Online 2 -- big
Korean multiplayer games. I'm interested in the differences between how game companies here made big multiplayer games like Everquest and World of Warcraft, and how different they are from Korean games. I think it tells you a lot about the history of gaming in different places!

I really enjoy more "casual" Korean multiplayer games like Kartrider -- the style of "pay for items and upgrades" that Korean games have invented is going to be very influential across the world. I've played more of these, but I don't know names for all of them since I can't read hangul! Some others I liked are Freestyle Street Basketball and Gunbound.

11. Please leave some message for Pig-Min readers.

Thank you very much for trying our games! I think that a good game can reach across languages and cultures, and be a global phenomenon! We have lots of good examples, from Tetris to Starcraft to World of Warcraft, too! Let's make an international culture of all sorts of games. There is a lot of writing in Miss Management, hopefully it's good for practicing English! And I hope it's still funny and entertaining, on both sides of the Pacific!

Thank you!

Where to play : Gamelab homepage

Korean version of this Interview.
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