I played Andy Schatz's latest project Monaco recently (as part of my IGF judging duties), and found that it was a surprisingly fun top-down co-operative game - a complete departure from anything that Pocketwatch Games (known for their Venture Tycoon series) had produced in the past.

Since a trailer for Monaco was released just today, we thought it'd be a good idea to contact Andy and find out more about this new 'venture' of his.

Hi Andy, can you give us a bit of background about Pocketwatch Games? And are you still actively working on Dinosauria?

I started Pocketwatch Games at the end of 2004 and have had two major releases since then, Wildlife Tycoon: Venture Africa and Venture Arctic. After Venture Arctic I started working on Venture Dinosauria, and I'm currently taking a break from that game to work on a game of a totally different nature called Monaco, which is a 4 player co-op stealth game where each player has a specific role in an operation. I taught myself C# (not that that's particularly hard), and XNA, and the thing was fun after a week of work.

I said to myself, well, if this is fun, maybe I can put out a quick Xbox Live Community Game in 3 weeks or so, so I kept working on it. After two weeks, I started to see that this game was far more fun than Venture Africa, Arctic, or Dinosauria had ever been, so I kept working on it. It's now been 7 and a half weeks and the thing is really far along... I'm considering at this point what I would have to do to try to get the game into the XBLA or Playstation network catalogs. Obviously a lot more would have to be done to go those routes, but the game has huge amounts of potential, so I'm dreaming big.

Can you tell us more about Monaco then?

Monaco is basically a top-down stealth/thief game. You can choose between 4 different characters, like the Prowler, who stays hidden when standing still or the Cleaner, who can knock out guards from behind with Chloroform. Each mission requires you to get some goal item and find your escape route as fast as you can without dying. You can get trophies for collecting as much loot as possible and compete with your friends to get perfect runs and fast times.

The game is called Monaco because it's all set in the tiny country of Monaco on the Mediterranean. The plot and characters are inpired by heist films. It's a winding plot that involves some real life events dealing with scandals involving the prince of Monaco, interwoven with a conspiracy that is inspired by the American who escaped from the Monaco prison after killing the billionaire banker, Edmond Safka.

Much of the plot hasn't actually been implemented yet, but it's all written and waiting for simple intro cut scenes. The game is actually tile-based and currently LOOKS really simple. But the simple appearance of the game belies the fact that the engine I've built has a full visibility system, a fairly complex lighting system, AI for the guards, tons of audio, and lots of little graphical details.

XNA has been a dream to work with, after my first 2 days of getting acclimated to it I don't think I've spent more than 2 hours on any single feature: it's that fast. Oh, the game also has a full-featured editor so you can make your own levels, and being that it's tile based, you'll be able to play your home made levels with people across the network as well, when I get that far.

It's also probably worth noting that I haven't spent a dime on it. The music and sound are all attribution-only, royalty free, and I've made the graphics myself (you can probably tell).

Since Monaco is a 4 player game, you must have had people playtest it. How was their feedback for the game?

Nowadays I'm running 2-4 player tests with friends and people are laughing, and hooting and hollering the way people do when they play a game like Castle Crashers, so I know that's a good sign. Dan Paladin and I were actually playing a couple nights ago, and he gave me some incredibly good feedback on the game, much of which I was able to implement in the last two days.

At this point in my testing (about 5 weeks of development) I started to discover how truly fun the co-op gameplay was. It really outshined the single player, though I still think the single player is fun as hell. That's what got me to start thinking about a bigger version of the title, with networked co-op as well as same screen.

Incidentally, the game currently is PC/Xbox, and allows for two players to use a single keyboard. If I ended up actually releasing for PC, that is!

Do you have any plans for release dates or platforms for Monaco at the moment?

I actually don't know. I would like the game to be in either the PlayStation Network or XBLA, but I haven't even started pitching yet. So I have no idea if that's even a possibility. If not then I'll go PC (Steam, etc.) and XBLIG.