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Monaco, Monaco, Wherefore Art Thou Monaco?
by Andy Schatz on 02/11/10 07:20:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

This is the story of how Monaco came to be.  Monaco is a 4 player cooperative stealth game that was nominated for the Grand Prize and Excellence in Design in the 2010 IGF.  Read more about the game on Facebook or Follow Progress on Twitter. 

Monaco, Monaco, Wherefore Art Thou Monaco?

Common misperception: wherefore doesn't mean "where", it means "why". When Juliet asked that famous question, she wasn't saying "Where are you Romeo?", she was saying "Why the hell do I have to fall in love with ROMEO, of all people?!?!"

Where is Monaco? Irrelevant. (it's a small country on the mediterranean. It's being developed by an indie dev in San Diego, CA)

Why is it Monaco? Better question.

I started Pocketwatch Games in 2004. I was early on the "indie" game development scene, back in the day when the smart business move was to focus on the emerging casual gaming trend. I decided that my first game was going to be a casualized version of Zoo Tycoon, with a unique twist. The game was Wildlife Tycoon: Venture Africa.

The decision was a good one. The game did well both critically and commercially, being an IGF nominee in 2006 and selling close to 100,000 units online and in stores.

The next few decisions were not as good. I decided to follow that one up by working on the bigger budget spiritual sequel, Venture Arctic. But the game wasn't as fun as the first, and the retail market had collapsed. The game flopped.

A little while later, I decided to suck in my gut again and start on the third in the series called Venture Dinosauria. I again decided to go relatively big-budget and spent the next year working feverishly on the game. This time around, however, I was determined not to release the game until I knew it would be a success. The problem was, I just couldn't find the "fun" in this particular game design.

No matter what I did, the game didn't seem to be fun. I took breaks from working on the game. I worked on other concepts. Board games, web games, personal writing. I made a game about bowerbirds, a board game about the great migration in Africa, I worked on a concept about monkey intelligence. All of which fit the Pocketwatch brand. "Hand made games about animals and the environment". Family friendly, Discovery Channel stuff. I love this stuff.

But every time I returned to Venture Dinosauria I ended up back in the same spot I was in before.

It was on my last such break, when I was thinking of canning the project altogether, that I decided to work on something outside of the Pocketwatch "brand". Thus, Monaco was born.

The idea for a cooperative thief game came to me 8 years ago, actually. I percolated on it, even pitched it to a studio I worked for. It was something I would have liked to have made while at Pocketwatch, but didn't fit the brand.

But at this point I was frustrated and close to broke. So I prototyped the idea. In a week it was fun. In two it was REALLY fun. In 4 it was polished. In 6 it was my IGF entry. In 12 weeks it was nominated for the Grand Prize and Excellence in Design.

So I guess my next game is Monaco. I love this game. It's a blast. And totally destroying the family-friendly, green brand of Pocketwatch Games.

Monaco, Monaco, wherefore art thou Monaco?

Ah, who cares? This game is AWESOME. :)

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