GDC 11: Monaco Creator Andy Schatz Describes Designing a Winner
The 13th annual Independent Games Festival is one of the big attractions at this year’s GDC. Just as all musicians love independent music, all developers love independent developers, and the convention is well populated with panels dedicated to the business of creating and marketing independent titles.
Similarly to the Oscars, winning an IGF Award gives you special privileges the next year. Developer Andy Schatz won the big prize at GDC 2010 (the “Excellence in Design” award), and he took over a sizeable conference hall on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the process of making his award-winning title Monaco.
Framed, amusingly enough, by the Facebook updates he was posting during development, Schatz took the audience step-by-step through the situations and design decisions that resulted in his endearingly cartoonish 4-played heist game. Having experienced success with two kid-targeted nature titles, Venture: Africa and Venture: Arctic, Schatz was poised to take the company he founded, Pocketwatch Games, to the next level, only to discover that the follow-up he was working on, Venture: Dinosauria, was entirely underwhelming. Hoping to take a break to recharge his batteries and cure his rapidly increasing despondance, the developer instead found himself caught up in a whirlwind of frenzied programming that resulted in a playable version of Monaco in less than a week.
Taking an idea that had been in his head for years, Schatz created a simple, tile-based gameworld and set to work on a number of knotty mechanic hurdles, many of which he explained in detail for a rapt audience of would-be award winners. What started as a hobbyist’s project quickly gained momentum, and even though he submitted a unfinished product to the IGF, Schatz spent nearly a year working on the game.
While he provided little in the way of practical advice, the award-winning speaker certainly provided an inspiring example for those who might want to follow in his footsteps. It was also interesting to see the design process of a game narrated by its designer, starting at the moment the idea germinated in his mind. After taking questions, an effervescent Schatz called for volunteers from the audience, setting them loose on a level of Monaco. They were quickly shot to death by the alert, Francophone guards. You can check out the video of the audience participation below.