MONACO: WHAT'S YOURS IS MINE
, originally released in April 2013, is Pocketwatch Games'
love-letter to the heist film genre, projected into a real-time stealth, co-op multiplayer game. Assemble a crack team of thieves and execute the perfect crime. Choose them from a familiar list of archetypes, including The Pickpocket, The Cleaner, and The Lookout. Exploit their individual skills, and the spoils are yours. Monaco boasts a colorful and unique retro-style, a throwback to a romanticized time; much like the films to which it pays homage.
Recently, the community confirmed that Monaco would be coming to Linux at some point soon, and spread the good word on Reddit. As luck would have it, studio founder (and indie rock star) Andy Schatz
took notice of our Reddit activity, and took the time to reply to our questions in detail.
GOL: What experience, personally, do you have with Linux?
Schatz: Literally none. I'm afraid I'm a complete n00b when it comes to Linux. Closest I've come is UNIX in my operating systems design course in college.
I'm not a fan of either Windows 8 or OS X though, and I'm a believer in Android as a mobile platform, so I'm kinda looking forward to cutting my teeth on Linux, and I'm hoping the industry moves towards it.
GOL: What put Linux on your radar, with respect to gaming?
Schatz: The Humble Bundle folks are definitely the biggest drivers of the move to port to Linux, for me. Thanks John, Jeff, Will, and other HB folks!
GOL: What effect, if any, have the following had on your thoughts of Linux as a gaming platform; Humble Bundle Inc., Valve's Steam client, Kickstarter.
Schatz: Humble Bundle and the constant looming shadow of a Linux-powered Steam box are the two big drivers for me. Since I pretty much do all my work in the cloud at this point (and using open source software like GIMP), making the switch to linux would be pretty easy.
GOL: You've stated previously that while the Mac port went really well, it didn't sell as well as expected. What made you choose to port to Mac? While we're not Mac users at GOL, it's still disappointing to hear another port not working out so well; a successful second desktop OS, in my opinion, lends creedence to the concept of a third desktop OS choice.
Schatz: The Mac port has done just fine, and while it hasn't sold through the roof, it has helped our overall visibility. I'm still very happy we did it, if only because my primary goal is to have as many people playing Monaco as possible!
GOL: What specifically convinced you greenlight a Linux port of Monaco?
Schatz: Humble Bundle! Those guys are heroes
Also, if Steam ever launches their Steambox, I want to make sure Monaco is available on day 1!
GOL: Is there a rough target number of units to move which would break even on the port?
Schatz: My guess is that I will need to sell $15,000 worth to break even. Units are generally a bad measurement since you tend to sell so many units during discounts, but at a lower price. In general, this means that I need to sell over 1000 units at full price on Linux.
GOL: Going forward, what platform(s) are you planning to develop for?
Schatz: It's not clear yet! In general I like to decide on the best platform for the game. For Monaco, it made sense to develop for XBLA, since that is such a great couch experience.
GOL: What strategies will you employ to minimize the impact of those additional platforms during future development? Bringing a porting engineer into the team, doing simultaneous cross-platform development, increasing your beta pool, considerations in tools/engine selection criteria, and so forth?
Schatz: In the future, if I am developing for PC, I'll be developing cross-platform from the beginning. Porting is not something any developer ever wants to do!
That's enough bizdev stuff! Linux geeks tend to have a tinkerer/engineer mentality. We like to self-support, and we file good bug reports. So, there is a natural interest in our community for technical matters! Let's talk about the tech in Monaco.
GOL: Monaco is a multi-player game; any comments, observations, or considerations you wish to share on design of solid cross-platform netcode?
Schatz: I used Steamworks for the network layer on PC (and Lidgren for the LAN code). Most of that was cross-platform code.
GOL: What technical feature are you most proud of? AI, NPC schedules, shader effects, etc... just whatever you fancy from your game. Feel free to geek out at length!
Schatz: Definitely the lighting/visibility system! Monaco is capable of displaying hundreds of dynamic lights with real time line of sight built in. It's what makes Monaco look unique, but it also pushes the system requirements a little higher than what you would expect for an old school top-down game. I wrote up a post about the basic process a while ago (with pictures).
Part 1: https://www.facebook.com/notes/monaco/vector-lighting-explained/395139091995
Part 2: https://www.facebook.com/notes/monaco/edits-to-the-vector-lighting-algorithm/397637671995
Part 3: https://www.facebook.com/notes/monaco/line-of-sight-in-a-tile-based-world/411301481995
GOL: What design feature are you most proud of? Examples could include balance, level design, PC classes, narrative pacing, etc. Whatever "a ha!" moment made you feel like a complete badass at the time.
Schatz: The character designs were a huge challenge to come up with, since each character has such a unique but simple skill (all skills require no buttons). Each was built from a heist character archetype, and each had to provide a unique role on the team.
The Gentleman, for instance, is a master of disguise. The "a ha!" moment with his design is when I was thinking about Halo, and how the shield doesn't regenerate until you are out of combat. So I realized that I could use that same concept, except instead of a shield that absorbed damage, it could absorb "aggro". Until the aggro shield (his disguise) was gone, enemies wouldn't react to him. And if he hides himself, and doesn't absorb any aggro for a short period of time, the disguise "recharges". Works really well, is pretty intuitive, and fits with his theme. As the player, you have to take things a little slower with the gent, but you can just waltz right in front of guards and feel like the smoothest motherf-er in the room.
GOL: What tech do you plan on employing in future development, considering your new platforms and next gen consoles? Stick with XNA? Transition to MonoGame or Unity3D? Home grown engine and/or tools? Something else?
Schatz: I'm currently kicking around with Unity. Unity makes a lot of sense for
cross-platform 3D single-player games. For a single platform (or just PC/Mac/Linux), and for 2D games, MonoGame or an extension of the Monaco engine might make sense. It'll depend on how I decide to proceed with the next game!
GOL: Assuming that Pocketwatch Games is in this for the long-haul, what ideas are you bouncing around for a next title? Certainly you have your secrets, but with your new Linux port coming, you're growing a new fan-base around your studio, and we'd love to have a "next thing" to get excited about!
Schatz: Can't talk about it yet! But I do have something brewing!
Well, there you have it, from the developer himself. As suspected, both Humble Bundle Inc., and Valve, are relevant in helping to change the development mindset. Also, as speculated here on GOL, Valve's clout is strong, but plays a secondary role to HB, and in particular, credit goes to individual members of the HB team.
The porting cost is interesting as well. A healthy thousand-strong (at least) Monaco Linux community will help ensure the long-term health of the port, as well helping Pocketwatch Games feel good about continuing to support us. If his port is really well-done, it would seem prudent to spread the word and help it reach all the success it deserves.
Personally, what I find most striking is Andy's commitment to Linux (and Mac) in the face of potential monetary loss, due to a measure of shared ideology. This seems quite a rare trait in PC game developers, and more so those focusing on XBLA. The community would do well to take note of this, and keep an eye on Andy in the future; he may turn out to be a strong ally.
Unless, of course, he is
The Gentleman, and we're all marks in his long-con... we'll simply have to wait and see.
Original Reddit interview by s_d: http://www.reddit.com/r/linux_gaming/comments/1iwm4u/thanks_to_you_guys_monaco_is_now_coming_to_linux/cbeyclj
All images courtesy of the Monaco press-kit.
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