Monaco: Monaco! Monaco! Monaco!

By Jim Rossignol on September 30th, 2010 at 3:30 pm.


There are certain games which, when their names are uttered three times into a mirror, cause Peter Molyneux to appear. Following serious testing, we can confirm that Monaco is not one of them. And that’s not all we know about Monaco, the game by Pocketwatch Games, aka Andy Schatz. We – all five – gentleman thieves of RPS recently played the IGF-winning four-player steal ‘em up (John and I had to sit out by turns) in an special group contrivance. It was a fun time, a giddy time, like the south of France on a balmy night. Monaco!

This was the recent PAX build of the still as-yet-unreleased game, with four entire levels, and – for some reason – there’s actually a video of us tackling one of them posted below. I’ve also penned some thoughts about the experience, which I previously looted from my brain, and those of my fellow conspirators.

Monaco is a top-down, multiplayer heist game. Set across a series of multi-part levels (usually the different floors of a building) the idea is to get in, grab the loot, and get out again. The open-endedness of the levels means that this could potentially be a mad smash and grab (which was how we played it, in our inexperience) but could also be something far more subtle. It reminded us, in that way, of the Hitman games, where there could be a number of ways to complete each heist, if only we had taken the time to find it.

Everybody gets to choose from a number of character, each with one innate ability and one which is unlocked when he’s managed to loot five diamonds from the level. The Muscle, for example, is incredibly tough, and can take being shot repeatedly by guards, but when he has the five diamonds he also gets some C4, which can be used to blast through walls. The embarrassingly-named Prowler gets a limited “radar” to peek through walls, and if he gets his diamonds he gains a smoke bomb. They all follow this kind of pattern, unlocking abilities to knock out guards and guard dogs, and so on. All the characters can pull a wounded character to his feet, but death occurs after about a minute if they are allowed to stay stricken.

The need to collect diamonds lead to a group competition between us to unlock our abilities, of course, but I suspect with some practice it will be possible to know which powers are needed and when. For example, breaching a wall to get into a building might get you access to a shortcut, and remove substantial security-scamming problems, but you’ll need to get it right. Screw up by placing the bomb on the other side of a well-guarded room and the alarms will go off, and the armed marksmen will come running.


The presentation of Monaco has leapt forward since I first saw it, both in terms of general graphics – which have followed the the bright, abstract blockiness of the original idea, but amplified it to new levels of indie charmingness – but also in how some of the fundamentals appear on screen. The most obvious of these is the view-cones, which sweep around the level like searchlights, clearing away the dark spaces as you characters get line of sight across the level, and then letting them disappear into the fog of war burglary. This includes peering in through windows, which led to a beautiful moment where we were stacked up, watching a guard through a window, and noting that he’d moved an alerted state. “Wait, how can he see us in here, it’s like we’re looking…. through… transparent…” Yes. The slow cogs of the RPS intellect clicked into place.

And I think that slow-clunk-to-comprehension was true of the game as a whole. Since we were playing a demo build for a game convention, and had no developer leaning over us to explain things, there was a cascade of trial and error, but it was nevertheless riotous fun. The top down scale and the fiddliness of the maps is initially baffling, but this bafflement does not and will not last long. We were horribly murdered by the guards (who yell in French as they get excited by your interloping) the first time out, but that was okay, because it began to reveal that this is one of those games that has a broad scope of possible solutions. Hiding in bushes, creating diversions, hacking security cameras, chloroforming guards, hiding in the toilet, running for your life. On the one hand it feels a bit like Commandos, with the prescribed roles for the various characters, but on the other it felt fluid and flexible, because its rules and tools deliver scope for experimentation and improvisation: emergent situations will abound.

The lowdown is this: Monaco totally deserved its IGF win. It is pacey, thrilling, and has that sense of precarious crisis-horror that games which are about sneaky and surviving, rather than shooting, do so well. While Schatz has talked in interviews about how he enjoys playing the game alone with his fiancee, whether or not it will hold up for the lone player isn’t clear – while you could play alone if you wanted, you’d be working at a hugely reduced effectiveness, though I am sure it’s beatable by ninja determination. But that’s almost irrelevant: this is an exciting, vibrant game, and one of those inspired designs that also evidence the sheer hard work that has been poured into into it. Nice work, Mr Schatz. We look forward to the full release. Not aware of a date for that, but soon, hopefully.

Similar production values to the podcast:

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76 Comments »

  1. Jakkar says:

    Now thiiiis is worthy, yes.

    You see, unlike that Notch fella, Andy is truly a nice guy, accessible and friendly nomatter how busy he gets with all this dashed ‘popularity’.

    Good call, Rockypappyshotty.

    • Lim-Dul says:

      Yep, I’m actually a Minecraft Server admin and am part of the custom server community and while sometimes Notch is nice and awesome he sometimes is an extreme asshole.

      For example two of my buddies were hired to code the new site for Minecraft.net and optimize the DB and stuff like that and Notch has dropped them TWICE without paying them and AFTER they spent weeks working for him.

      He also never ever gave anybody any money, not even to the guys running the Minecraft Wiki or the official Minecraft Forums, even though they have been running into monetary problems and are basically doing all the support work and documentation for Notch… Covering their server expenses is the least he could do with his millions of Euros… :-\

    • mechtroid says:

      Are there indie game hipsters now? Are we really being reduced to accusing someone of “selling out”? I mean, where are you getting this idea that Notch is a bastard?

    • Skurmedel says:

      Having a lot to do makes you inaccessible, random internet people gets lower priority. Welcome to life.

    • Jakkar says:

      @mechtroid – by talking to him, back when the game was relatively new. Aloof and arrogant, but at the same time horribly ignorant. Without intending this as a reason for his nature, a way to describe him is ‘nasty austistic’. Socially dysfunctional, bizarre blindness to basic courtesy or logical game design, but with a wilfully mean edge. Unpleasant guy.

      @Lim-Dul – Glad I’m not the only one.. He can have an okay sense of humour at times, but when it cuts to anything serious, he can simply be a -surprisingly- mean little guy. I think I’m going to develop a reputation for railing against him, but it just drives me crazy to see RPS and the gaming world at large worship a man who is.. Well, without going overboard, let’s just say ‘not nice :(‘. Really not nice. And the game’s great qualities are not anything to do with design intuition or his specific involvement.. It’s all down to the amazing community, their ingenuity and contributions in the form of mods, tools, servers and information. Notch has given very little but an engine, followed by a series of gimmicks and toys. And it has taken him years! No mistake, I’ll still play when he gets full survival working in MP.. But I am very glad I didn’t pay for the game, and was fortunate enough to receive it as a gift. I’m not sure i could live with myself ;p

    • stahlwerk says:

      PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE, THE WORLD MUST KNOW!!

      “And the game’s great qualities are not anything to do with design intuition or his specific involvement.. It’s all down to the amazing community, their ingenuity and contributions in the form of mods, tools, servers and information. Notch has given very little but an engine, followed by a series of gimmicks and toys. And it has taken him years! No mistake, I’ll still play when he gets full survival working in MP.. But I am very glad I didn’t pay for the game, and was fortunate enough to receive it as a gift. I’m not sure i could live with myself ;p”

      This paragraph lowered my opinion of you faster than any of your diffuse railings against Notch could lower my opinion of him.

      Seriously, why the hard feelings?

    • Lim-Dul says:

      Uuuhm – and here come the Notch fanboys. ;-)
      All people get to see is Minecraft and some tweets or Blog posts from Notch. A lot of you don’t have the “behind the scenes info” to build an accurate picture of Notch. And no, it’s not about him being busy or “selling out” – it’s just how he goes around doing business.

    • Alec Meer says:

      This is a post about Monaco. If you want to argue about whether someone entirely unrelated is a goodie or baddie, take it to the forums or something. Cheers.

    • boab says:

      where are these minecraft mods and tools? i’ve just been playing the standard gimmicky one.

      personally i don’t really care what the dev is like if the game is good.

    • stahlwerk says:

      You’re right Alec.

      Took it to the forums or something

      So about this Monaco game, looks pretty sweet, huh?

    • Snall says:

      How can anyone NOT like Nachos? Er…wait, maybe I’m confused…

  2. Turin Turambar says:

    Ohh nice. I had the idea (but not the talent to do it, which is more important :P) of making a heist game for a number of years. It baffled my mind how no one has made a heist game, something between JA, Silent Storm, Hitman, Deus Ex, Thief and Commandos in style. I mean, everyone like heist movies! And their typical progression (having to recruit the crew, do the strategic planning, then the execution with a bit more of action… or stealth) is very easily translated to the videogame medium.

    Like in tactical games like JA or Xcom, you would buy the equipment and hire a crew with your limited funds, perhaps buying intel (like in the last Hitman game), all in menus, that would be the economy and management aspect. After you would have the other half of the game, the mission itself, like in Xcom; where you use could stealth, action, or whatever method, Hitman or Deus ex style. The more emergent gameplay could be added (destruction of walls with explosives, dynamic ai patrols, realistic behaviour for civilians, etc) the better.

    That would be the basis of the game, but keeping the theme of the typical heist movie, perhaps there should be a hidden chance of a crew member to be a traitorous scumbag.

    So yeah, i am interested in this game, even if it seems much more coop focused than mi idea.
    Subversion is also another game i am following.

  3. Ian says:

    “On the one hand it feels a bit like Commandos”

    I totally want more Commandos. :(

    This looks good, though. I look forward to hopefully forging a ragtag group of RPSers and giving it a bash. Dibs on being The Incompetent One!

  4. Fumarole says:

    A co-op heist game sounds lovely.

  5. stahlwerk says:

    Nice chairs!

  6. Mike says:

    Did you get a chance to see the level editor? It looks really accessible.

  7. Thingus says:

    Gotta say, I love that piano music. Was that the game?

  8. SpinalJack says:

    why are there various lawn chairs in a living room?

  9. Wilson says:

    I can’t wait to get some better quality footage of this game in action. I’m very interested in how it will turn out. Also, whether it’ll be well designed enough to allow people of different skill levels to play with each other without either side getting frustrated. Though I’d understand if it can’t pull that off.

  10. Risingson says:

    Verrry interrested.

  11. Robmonster says:

    I wonder if there will be an option to unlock a Derren Brown-esque character who can just mind-wipe people into stealing the stuff for him.

  12. Harmen says:

    So I’ll need to buy 4 controllers and 3 friends to play?

    • Andy Schatz says:

      The game is one-to-four players, meaning you can play it single player or up to four players co-op. It plays differently with one player: more stealthy, less chaotic, but just as much fun :)

    • Andy Schatz says:

      Oh, and you can play on the keyboard (though I think it’s more fun on a controller)

    • laikapants says:

      @Mr. Schatz: That’s the best news I’ve heard all day! Everytime Monaco gets mentioned I always got a little sad in thinking I would forever need 3 other people to play, but knowing there will be a competent single player mode alongside delights me to no end.

    • asdfaerg says:

      Will there not be any internet/LAN play, then?

  13. KingCathcart says:

    Nothing makes grown men look like more teenage boy than having them huddled round a TV on outdoor chairs playing a computer game together.

    That aside, this does look interesting. Lets us know when it gets a release date.

  14. Lambchops says:

    Will this game actually make me venture into the world of co op gaming. As much as it looks fantastic probably not. Which is actually quite far removed from my normal definitely not. Really looks like a fun time.

  15. JB says:

    “Similar production values to the podcast”

    LIES! That was MUCH better quality than the podcast.

    Liking the look of Monaco, good work Andy. I look forward to the release.

  16. LintMan says:

    So – who’s who in that video?

  17. Alexander Norris says:

    I watched the video to try to catch a whiff of how terrible the guards’ French is, but then I didn’t actually hear any of it. Curses!

  18. jarvoll says:

    Totally wanted you all to turn around and say hi – it’s fun watching familiar voices come out of relatively unfamiliar faces.

  19. Andy Schatz says:

    I got a couple of French Canadian friends of mine to do the guard voices. So… wrong accent, but they speak REAL French :)

    • Alexander Norris says:

      I guess you’ll be about as bad as Iron Man 2, then (all the people in the Monaco section bar one were from Québec, which was hilarious). Still, I’m glad to hear you made the effort to get people who actually speak French. :D

  20. jeremypeel says:

    I’ve been following this for ages, absolutely cannot wait.

    Spill the beans Schatz, tell us when the release date is or Kieron’ll blow a hole in your wall! He’s got a taste for it now that must be sated…

    (P.S. Love you for making this game. Please shack up with Chris ‘Spy Party’ Hecker once you’re done and make a mash-up spy indie masterpiece PLEASE).

  21. Unaco says:

    Really interested in this… sounds like it has a lot of potential and could be oodles of fun.

    The video, I wasn’t quite as taken with. Rather than a video of you guys playing the game, I figured it would be a video of the game being played by you guys. Oh well… At least it’s confirming the idea that this is going to be one of those gather-four-people-round-the-same-screen-and-just-have-fun sort of deals… like Bomberman, or Worms, or Golden Eye.

  22. Torgen says:

    Seems that this would be a shoo-in for a console release. Perhaps you should port this over to Unity for cross-platform support?

  23. Boris says:

    Bleep, bloop and blocky graphics. No wonder all the twentysomethingplus game journos the world over are having such a boner over this game.

    • Lilliput King says:

      Yeah man, fuck the unique concept and setting. It’s the blocks that get them off, right?

      Am I right? Journos, eh.

  24. Gabbo says:

    Not usually a co-op inclined guy, but this game may just be selling me on it.
    Being able to have kb/m and controller play will make that much easier, since I absolutely hate controllers for anything but sport or platforming.

  25. Julian says:

    I demoed this at PAX and absolutely fell in love. Our handler (that makes us sound like hardened spies, right?) suggested I blow a hole in the side of the building instead of going through the front and I obliged. And what was on the other side of that hole but a bathroom stall and a toilet blocking the way! Baffled but not discouraged I tried to walk through the toilet… and instead started peeing. With a little timer like you’d get for picking a lock or hacking a computer. “Well, now I need to know what happens when I empty my bladder,” I think to myself and keep at it. Just as I’m zipping up I realize the the toilet is nowhere to be found. It’s disappeared, leaving us a one-tile-wide entryway through the restroom. SUCCESS!

    Little did I know, the toilet wasn’t GONE gone, just temporarily gone. So after we snatch the loot and make a dash back to the restroom – guards trailing behind us like so much tissue stuck to your shoe – we run into a dead end. Well, not completely dead, as all three of us were frantically running into the toilet, urinating in unison. We managed to pee our way through the toilet before the guards caught up with us, and we made a clean break! HUZZAH! I mean, in what other game can you literally pee your way out of a building? Day 1 purch.

  26. joe balls says:

    So I’m imagining me and three mates, round at mine. One on the decent pc, a couple on my two years old laptops and one on my netbook. Any chance of it playing on those Andy? They’re sat round the dining table, I’m in another room. On my own. They’re having a real laugh with all the eye to eye contact, general shrieking, beer and pizza. I’m on my own. They’re bonding. I’m on my own. They’ve drunk all the beer and eaten all the pizza. I’m on my own. I fall out with them for drinking all the beer and eating all the pizza. I really am on my own. Actually, forget I asked.

  27. EthZee says:

    Ooh! Ooh! May it be ask the creator time now, please?

    What system requirements will there be for this game? This looks fun but I have no illusions that I am anything other than the bottom of the system heap (5-year-old dell laptop). I don’t imagine it will run on mine but it would be interesting to know what you play it on and how fast it runs…

  28. DJ Phantoon says:

    WHEN CAN WE BUY THIS GAME ANDY

    WHEN ANDY

    WHEN WILL IT BE FOR SALE

    ANDY

  29. Andy Schatz says:

    I developed the whole thing on my 3 year old laptop, and it runs at 30 fps. You should definitely be able to run it, though don’t let the tile-based world fool you, it’s doing some pretty fancy stuff under the hood.

  30. Andy Schatz says:

    Hehe, Chris did stay at my place during Comicon, and we DID share a booth at PAX. It’s always possible Chris is carrying my child and hasn’t told me. :)

  31. NAJoe says:

    Hey this game sounds cool, now would you kindly go to hell with the news stories about how all the cool games press and indie devs get to play it while us sad, sorry morons have to sit here imagining the glory of Monaco! MONACO! Oh what a creation! It will bring enlightenment to all who gaze upon its sprite-ly form!

  32. sexyresults says:

    So excited for this, I hope there is a 4 pack type deal (easier to convince my non-indie-gaming mates into getting it)

  33. Iggy says:

    Judging by the backs of their heads, Quinns is the cutest.

  34. kevin says:

    is he the baldy?

  35. Andy Schatz says:

    I just put up my submission video from the Indie Games Challenege. It’s got some clean footage in it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISKiCRo7PgY

  36. Jeremy says:

    Nachos was a bit before my time, but OS/161 was alright. Wait, what?

  37. Hodge says:

    2011, then? Looks like it will be worth the wait.

  38. mcnubbins says:

    Well this game sure sounds like it’s pretty awesome, but I can’t see nothing because you guys are blocking the screen which, by the way, is really too far away from the cameraman in the first place.

    Anyway, nice write-up, I am deffo hyped for this o_o

  39. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    The game’s worth its existence for the video, right there.

  40. Grandstone says:

    Will this game work on OSX? Are you planning a port? Or should I partition my drive?

  41. ron says:

    played this at the fantastic fest arcade with my sister and two other friends, it was tons of fun. hurry up and release it!

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