Mile Marker 24: Monaco

Tired of stodgy corporate games made by The Man and his minions? We're playing the 31 best indie games for a change of pace —- and so we can judge them. Today, Monaco!

In A Sentence
Think top-down Gauntlet gameplay, except you and possibly three other players are not wizards and axe-men but clever pixelated crooks pulling a heist, using your varied abilities to get in and get out of opulent edifices with as much money and as few scrapes with security guards as possible.

State Of Completion
The version of Monaco available to judges of the upcoming Independent Game Festival includes four player-types and several levels, playable through XNA on the Xbox 360. Designer Andy Schatz has been talking about doing a lot more development on it and estimates the game will be finished in about a year.

Thoughts
I share Monaco designer Andy Schatz's wonderment that this game wasn't already made by someone else, years ago. It's top-down, 2D and illustrated with blocky pixels that are each at least a centimeter high on my HD TV. So the tech has been there. It's all about pulling great heists, and borrows from the four-player co-op of a Gauntlet and the class-based distinctions of that and other games, like Team Fortress. As a Hacker, a player can disable security systems faster and see through walls, while, say, the Cleaner can knock out guards and chloroform them.

When the deathmatches of other games get tiring, when the fight against the Locust hordes wearies, who wouldn't want to head to a pixelated Europe with three friends and burglarize a mansion while the party guests are distracted — and then hop in the getaway car? With jolly piano music in the background, of course.

Answers We Demanded
Kotaku: What was the inspiration behind your game?

Andy Schatz: Teams of smart people doing naughty things have always fascinated me. The A-Team, Mission Impossible (the TV show), Robin Hood, the classic heist and crime caper movies, I love them all. They always have such a light take on crime, and the criminals always made the perfect heroes for a kid that grew up with the nerd version of me-against-the-world-syndrome.

Kotaku:Who or what are your greatest influences when creating a game?

Schatz: Considering that I've worked on nature-themed sim games, viral advertising, AAA shooters and brawlers, a Star Trek adventure game, a virtual world, a game-show-themed arena combat game, and a variety of board games, it's hard to pin down a single element that runs through all of them. But Monaco definitely has some clear influences.

Heist movies often draw visual inspiration from the design and pop art of the 60's, or if you go back even farther, the De Stijl movement of the 1910-1920's. Look at the art of Ocean's 11, or the stylish animation preceding the Pink Panther movies, and you'll see Andy Warhol and Piet Mondrian.

As for the gameplay, I borrowed elements from Left 4 Dead, Hitman, Gauntlet, and Thief. It's actually pretty amazing that no one has made this game before. It's such an obvious and, frankly, awesome concept for a game.

Kotaku: What do you do for a living now? What do you hope to do?

Schatz: I've been an indie game developer for five years now. I'm really hoping to either be named King Indie or at least get a Career Achievement award. I'm also hoping to sell a boat load of salad dressing.

Seriously, why does every interview include a question that implies indie developers would rather be doing something else? I don't know a single indie that "dreams of working on a AAA game". Being indie isn't easy, we wouldn't do it if we didn't love it.

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Make sure to check out the rest of the Independent Games Festival finalists as we head toward the March awards show.