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Monaco developer talks heist cinema, next gen and Microsoft's indie strategy

Pocketwatch's Andy Schatz reflects on his XBLA hit

Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine hit Xbox Live Arcade on Friday, after a week's delay, and if you don't own the game already you're clearly not the being of taste and erudition we took you for. It's a brilliant top-down heist 'em up in which up to four safe-breakers take on a world of locked doors, traps and security guards - utterly frantic, particularly when you have a full complement of players involved, but very clever.

Read our review if you haven't already, then check out the below chat with Andy Schatz, CEO of Pocketwatch Games, for insights on the game's art style, classes that didn't make the cut, making indie games for console and wrangling with publishers.

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Between the blocky characters in the game, and the human figures in the box art, was there a radical change in design direction at some point?

The human figures in the box art were actually just done as a re-imagining of Monaco as a movie poster. It was never really meant to be representative of in-game art, it was just intended to be merch (and something for the development team to hang on our walls. But people responded really well to it and we felt like it would be a good fit for the Xbox audience, so we ran with it.

The game is fizzingly colourful, sometimes at the expense of visual clarity. Was that a line you were conscious of walking?

Fizzingly colourful! I like it. I do agree that one of the weaknesses of the game is that it can sometimes be hard to interpret the visuals. But the colorfulness does serve a purpose. Originally it was a little difficult to quickly distinguish between areas you could see and areas you couldn't see, particularly if you were in some of the darker areas of the game. So we used hue and value and help with that subconscious distinguishing. The "visual clutter" issue remains unsolved, but given the mechanic, I'm not sure it's an entirely solvable problem.

I never felt nagged to try the MP, which is odd, because SP is Monaco at its least interesting. Are you worried people might not realise how good it can be?

Ha! Not really. People will play it how they want to play it. While it's certainly a minority that feel this way, some people prefer the single player. Of course it's always a struggle as an indie to get the word-of-mouth out there, but once it's out there it's not my game anymore. People will play it how they want to play it!

I read about your dealings with Square Enix over the use of "What's yours is mine", which is also the catchphrase for Thief. Was it really all as reasonable and amicable as it seemed?

The conclusion was! I was certainly tense when the issue first came to my attention, but the last thing I wanted was to get embroiled in a legal battle or to harm their development or marketing plans.

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Heists are always popular, but this feels more like a classical romp than Ocean's 11. What were your inspirations?

While I'm not a big fan of the Ocean's 11 remakes (they are cluttered, chemistryless exercises in starf**king IMO) that series certainly provided a lot of inspiration, given that they are the most well-known, hewing closest to the heist trope formula movies out there. But I wanted to condense the emotional arc of a typical heist movie such that you go through those moments of planning to sneaking to chase to daring, clever escape several times over the course of a level. Maybe even once every 60 seconds! So the density of that experience probably makes it feel more hectic, but it is definitely inspired by a wide range of heist movies.

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