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Monaco's Schatz On Building An IGF Grand Prize Winner In One Month

At GDC China, Andy Schatz shares the inspiring story behind his 2010 IGF Grand Prize-winning Monaco -- which he built on his own in four months, and submitted just one month after starting.
In an Indie Games Summit talk at GDC China earlier this week, Andy Schatz discussed his 2010 IGF Grand Prize-winning Monaco -- which he built on his own up to IGF-winning status in four months, and submitted just one month after starting. The multiplayer co-op heist title, which captured the attention of the event's judges, was originally inspired partly by Io Interactive's Hitman, where Schatz notes "the [2D HUD] mini-map itself is much more informative than the world itself." However, the title was named and themed after a Schatz-created board game, itself based on a 'triple A' concept also called Monaco that he concepted at an old company 8 years ago. The new iteration of Monaco was started in September 2010, when the indie/casual gaming veteran was very dispirited over his in-development title Venture Dinosauria, a much more complex 3D title that wasn't going so well. Schatz said: "I was this close to packing it in… and giving up on my dreams of making it with my own company", and so he started with the XNA framework and his jewel heist concept, building it swiftly from scratch. He particularly noted: "If I'd started with an engine, I would have spent a lot of that first day fiddling with the [pre-existing 3D] world", but by building all the game's features from scratch, the title felt immediately less generic. As he noted: "The more custom it is, the more likely it is that people are going to notice your game." At every point in the game's short development, Schatz believed he might release the game in the next week or two, since it was just a short project. He noted that this "was a very healthy thing for me", because he was working on something interesting every day, and "I could never leave the game in a state where it wasn't fun". In fact, a major takeaway from Schatz's talk was to keep the game fresh, and don't fall into the trap of building a 3 or 4 week system "that isn't just that fun or you don't get bang for buck with players with." Overall, Schatz believes that the key to his success was in doing a stripped-down game from scratch in C#, finding an interesting Roguelike visibility algorithm to underpin it, and working with a "clean code set" at all times. At the same time, the Monaco creator noted: "I had people playing the game all the time", with playtesters working almost every day starting with the 5th day of development on the innovative co-op indie title, which is still in development. Above all else, what's the key to making an IGF award-winning title? Schatz said it's simple enough - "make a freaking awesome game", and while you can do all kinds of tweaking, "if you're worried about some little button on your website, you're probably worried about the wrong thing."

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