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IGF Factor 2010: Monaco

Part of you wants to be upset with Pocketwatch Games. Why haven’t they given us 2009’s Unknown Pleasure Venture Dinosauria yet? That part is soon quashed when you see what Andy Schatz is working on. Monaco is a four-player co-op stealth game that’s been shortlisted for both the Design and the Seumas McNally Grand Prize. Minimalist graphics. Exciting theme. Stealth. This one has RPS written all over it. Our interview with Andy, and footage of Monaco follows…

RPS: Firstly, a brief intro to those who may not know you. Who are you? What’s your background? Why get into games? Why get into indie games?

Andy Schatz: I’d like to say it’s because my father beat me, but really I just like making games. I’ve been making games since I was 7. I’m 31 now. I worked in the AAA world from 1998-2004 and got sick of political corporate bullshit and working for managers and publishers that didn’t know how to design games but insisted on trying.

But it’s entirely possible that I make games because I’m repressing memories of viscous beatings that I drowned in frantic sessions of Decathlon. Boy could I wiggle that joystick!

RPS: And… the game. Tell us about it. What was its origins? What are you trying to do with it? What are you most pleased about it? What nags?

Andy Schatz: Monaco is a 4-player cooperative thief game. It’s shown from a top-down perspective, so it’s kind of like Gauntlet crossed with Hitman.

The style of Monaco is inspired by the classic crime caper movies, in particular, heist movies like Heat and Rififi. I’ve always liked the idea of teams of brilliant people doing naughty things. The original Mission Impossible TV show was one of my favorites when I was a kid.

It’s actually amazing to me that no one has made this game before. I mean, all the elements exist in other formats, and it’s clearly a theme that has commercial potential. And with the recent success of cooperative games, Monaco was just screaming to be made.

RPS: What’s your feelings on the IGF this year. Pleased to be nominated? Have particular love, bemusement or hate for any of the other entries? Is there anything you think is missing?

Andy Schatz: I know Tommy from Team Meat pretty well, and the more I learn about him, the less I like. He’s really kind of a dick. Count me as one person who will not be buying Super Meat Boy, especially since it’s such a ripoff of Passage. I think it’s important for people of high moral caliber to confront people that are just plain dicks. And don’t even get me started on Edmund. Next time I see him I’m gonna ask for the 5 dollars I sent for his surgery back.

Other than that, I think all the games in the IGF are fantastic. I’m particularly excited to try out that 4-d puzzle game with the unpronounceable name. And every year the student entries nearly outshine the main finalists, so I’m really excited to give them a go at the IGF pavilion.

RPS: How do you feel about the indie scene generally this year? People have been relatively downbeat about 2009, after 2008 being so obviously incendiary. What are the themes, in your eyes? What are people missing?

Andy Schatz: The themes, as they seem to be every year, are that indie games are too expensive, too cheap, too artsy, too unoriginal, and it’s mostly Tale of Tales’ fault.

Indie games are about to have a banner year… the console platforms have matured, the PC is very much a viable platform (thanks Steam, Facebook, and Kongregate!). The gold rush on the iPhone is over, thank god. We’ve got a ton of mature, viable platforms, we still have the attention of the press, and the community of indies is stronger than ever.

It used to be that you could sum up the state of the indie scene in a fairly succinct way, but these days there’s just too much going on, the games, developers, and platforms are too diverse to encapsulate it all. The pioneering days are past us… we’ve got a healthy, vibrant, self-sustaining ecosystem.

RPS: And how does the future look for you? What are you working on now and the foreseeable future.

Andy Schatz: The future is so bright, I have to wear shades. Seriously, future, stop that shit, you’re hurting my eyes. I’m trying to work on Monaco for the next 10 months or so and if you blind me, a lot of people, 143 to be exact, will be very upset. If you have a problem with that, why don’t you go whine about it on the Monaco facebook page. That’s what it’s there for, ya know?

RPS: Thanks for your time.

You can follow Monaco’s development at Pocketwatch Games’ site. And we should have a preview of Monaco next week, assuming Jim and John can hook up for a caper.

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Kieron Gillen

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Kieron Gillen is robo-crazy.

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