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Lurkers, Griefers And Ponies: Monaco's Experimental Fling With Crowd Sourcing

Step one, create a public Google Doc. Step two, send out the link. Step three, madness.

"I like Mondays! I don't know why everyone complains about it. By Monday, I'm super psyched to get back to work again--if I haven't been working all weekend, that is."

Bubbly, excited, passionate, and honest. That's basically Andy Schatz, the designer of Monaco, the 2010 Grand Prize IGF winner that he describes as a cross between Pac-Man and Hitman. We recently chatted over Skype to discuss a crazy experiment from last week, where he turned something on Monaco's to-do list into a crowd sourced design collaboration.

This gives you a pretty good idea of how our entire conversation went over Skype.

Monaco's been in development for several years now at Pocketwatch Games. In 2009, Schatz was about to give up on independent game development. His indie run started at the end of 2004, after working as a programmer and engineer at various studios. He'd experienced his fair share of ups and downs during that time. Schatz was running out of both money and patience, however, and was prepared to throw in the towel.

"Just on a whim [I] tried to work on some random stuff and it was really fun immediately," he said, "and I was like 'Oh, god, I have to just pour everything that I have left into this to see if I can make it.'"

That was the start of Monaco.

The build submitted to the IGF had been built in just 15 weeks. It took home the Seumas McNally Grand Prize and Excellence in Design, which propelled Monaco towards both attention and funding.

I'm a judge for the IGF and have fond memories of playing that early build of Monaco. The game's come a long way since then, but the foundations for the game's potential had been laid out clearly in those 15 weeks.

Since the IGF win, Schatz and his six-person team have been polishing and iterating on that foundation. At the end of this month, the plan is for offline to be feature complete. Next month, online's feature complete. That's the hope, anyway.

Schatz had four items on his to-do list on September 12, but one would quickly overwhelm his day: adding an easter egg to the hacking component of the game. You don't press buttons to interact with the environment in Monaco--just press up against something, anything usable and a countdown timer appears. If your class has an applicable skill set, that timer will count down faster, allowing you to hack a computer or unlock a door faster than if you were playing as another class.

"When you hack a computer, a long time ago, just for lulz, I made it so it actually types out little fake hacking text instead of having the timer fill up," he said. "That's the only thing in the entire world that acts differently, and it's just a visual difference."

Rather than having the text be the same lines over and over, Schatz wanted fake, joke-laden code for variety's sake. He asked for help on Monaco's Facebook page, prompting someone to float the idea of a collaborative Google document. Shcatz opened up a new document, noticed Google Docs allows documents to be publicly listed and a light bulb turned on.

Schatz provided some basic guidelines for his collaborators, but basically allowed them to run wild.

He sent the link to Facebook, Twitter and Reddit. Soon, the document had been overwhelmed with curious lurkers and possible contributors, quickly hitting Google Doc's 80 collaborator maximum.

"It was freakin' awesome having 80 people all concurrently making this document of fake hacking Linux command line stuff and putting in their little jokes and reorganizing it and editing it," he said.

If you want to view the document yourself, click here.

As things unfolded in real-time, Schatz noticed three types of people who started entering the document. Well, documents, as he was forced to create multiple versions of the document so that more people could jump in and play around.

One, lurkers.

Players adopt different classes in Monaco, each with a different strategy plausible for success.

"The people that had just heard about it and were like 'What the fuck is going on' and went to go watch it," he said, "which I'd say was probably 70% of the people in the doc at a time."

Two, the staple of the Internet: griefers. There were actually two waves of griefers over the course of the day. They started by being dicks.

"The first wave just deleted the whole doc and typed 'What the fuck do you think you're doing?'" he said. "Luckily, Google Docs has revision history, so I just backed up and went to the last revision, so we [lost] 30 seconds of work or something. He deleted again, and I'd put it back again, and then he got bored and he went away. If you feed 'em, they keep coming back for more."

The second wave of griefers were...stranger. By stranger, of course, I mean loading into the document with a strict anti-pony agenda and no will for compromise. For whatever reason, the 25 or so editors who were actually interested in producing the material Schatz was looking for were dumping in pony photos. It was all in fun, but these guys would have none of it.

"The griefers came in and decided that they didn't like ponies whatsoever, so the pony images that had been put into the doc made them really, really mad," he cracked. "They started defacing the doc after that, and basically, at that point, I locked the document for a second and wrote in the doc and I said 'We give in, we will not add anymore ponies. We give into your demands. The terrorists win.' We took the ponies out and unlocked the document again and the griefers pretty much went away at that point."

Lastly, there were the actual, you know, collaborators, who were great. Schatz didn't have a grand plan for this idea; he was hoping for 30 and 60 lines of code--and ended up with way more. But he had tons of fun in the process, and besides crossing something off his to-do list, the experiment provided two tangible benefits for Schatz and Monaco.

Schatz isn't a fan of developers selling creative freedom through places like Kickstarter, ala allowing people to have characters named after them for chipping in money. The collaborators on this document won't find themselves in the credits for Monaco, but they'll all know they kicked in a something cool for a game they've been looking forward to. Schatz believes that's enough.

The more important takeaway will eventually impact Monaco itself. Schatz was light on details, but after Monaco is released, there will be an update that introduces collaborative level design to the game.

Schatz has been showing off Monaco at various trade shows, and may hit up PAX East next year.

"I really can't talk about it because it's the sort of thing that it's definitely a rabbits hole and I don't know how far down we're going to end up going, so I don't want to make any promises," he said, choosing words carefully. "These are plans I've actually had for a long time before this and this was a really neat way to gain a better understanding of human behavior with regards to collaborating online. I think it gave me a lot of insights into the way you need to empower the collaborators."

Minecraft came up, and how only a sliver of people actually create cool content for Minecraft. Everyone else (myself included) simply loads up YouTube or Reddit and laughs along. Part of the issue, he argued, was in the game's technical limitations of how many people can participate.

"Imagine if you could do that on a much grander scale!" he said. "I think that's worth trying."

Cryptic...but interesting.

There's no concrete release date or even a release window for Monaco. Schatz would only say the game would not be released this year and he may show up with an updated build at PAX East, but you can bet I'll be keeping an eye on it.

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Posted by patrickklepek

"I like Mondays! I don't know why everyone complains about it. By Monday, I'm super psyched to get back to work again--if I haven't been working all weekend, that is."

Bubbly, excited, passionate, and honest. That's basically Andy Schatz, the designer of Monaco, the 2010 Grand Prize IGF winner that he describes as a cross between Pac-Man and Hitman. We recently chatted over Skype to discuss a crazy experiment from last week, where he turned something on Monaco's to-do list into a crowd sourced design collaboration.

This gives you a pretty good idea of how our entire conversation went over Skype.

Monaco's been in development for several years now at Pocketwatch Games. In 2009, Schatz was about to give up on independent game development. His indie run started at the end of 2004, after working as a programmer and engineer at various studios. He'd experienced his fair share of ups and downs during that time. Schatz was running out of both money and patience, however, and was prepared to throw in the towel.

"Just on a whim [I] tried to work on some random stuff and it was really fun immediately," he said, "and I was like 'Oh, god, I have to just pour everything that I have left into this to see if I can make it.'"

That was the start of Monaco.

The build submitted to the IGF had been built in just 15 weeks. It took home the Seumas McNally Grand Prize and Excellence in Design, which propelled Monaco towards both attention and funding.

I'm a judge for the IGF and have fond memories of playing that early build of Monaco. The game's come a long way since then, but the foundations for the game's potential had been laid out clearly in those 15 weeks.

Since the IGF win, Schatz and his six-person team have been polishing and iterating on that foundation. At the end of this month, the plan is for offline to be feature complete. Next month, online's feature complete. That's the hope, anyway.

Schatz had four items on his to-do list on September 12, but one would quickly overwhelm his day: adding an easter egg to the hacking component of the game. You don't press buttons to interact with the environment in Monaco--just press up against something, anything usable and a countdown timer appears. If your class has an applicable skill set, that timer will count down faster, allowing you to hack a computer or unlock a door faster than if you were playing as another class.

"When you hack a computer, a long time ago, just for lulz, I made it so it actually types out little fake hacking text instead of having the timer fill up," he said. "That's the only thing in the entire world that acts differently, and it's just a visual difference."

Rather than having the text be the same lines over and over, Schatz wanted fake, joke-laden code for variety's sake. He asked for help on Monaco's Facebook page, prompting someone to float the idea of a collaborative Google document. Shcatz opened up a new document, noticed Google Docs allows documents to be publicly listed and a light bulb turned on.

Schatz provided some basic guidelines for his collaborators, but basically allowed them to run wild.

He sent the link to Facebook, Twitter and Reddit. Soon, the document had been overwhelmed with curious lurkers and possible contributors, quickly hitting Google Doc's 80 collaborator maximum.

"It was freakin' awesome having 80 people all concurrently making this document of fake hacking Linux command line stuff and putting in their little jokes and reorganizing it and editing it," he said.

If you want to view the document yourself, click here.

As things unfolded in real-time, Schatz noticed three types of people who started entering the document. Well, documents, as he was forced to create multiple versions of the document so that more people could jump in and play around.

One, lurkers.

Players adopt different classes in Monaco, each with a different strategy plausible for success.

"The people that had just heard about it and were like 'What the fuck is going on' and went to go watch it," he said, "which I'd say was probably 70% of the people in the doc at a time."

Two, the staple of the Internet: griefers. There were actually two waves of griefers over the course of the day. They started by being dicks.

"The first wave just deleted the whole doc and typed 'What the fuck do you think you're doing?'" he said. "Luckily, Google Docs has revision history, so I just backed up and went to the last revision, so we [lost] 30 seconds of work or something. He deleted again, and I'd put it back again, and then he got bored and he went away. If you feed 'em, they keep coming back for more."

The second wave of griefers were...stranger. By stranger, of course, I mean loading into the document with a strict anti-pony agenda and no will for compromise. For whatever reason, the 25 or so editors who were actually interested in producing the material Schatz was looking for were dumping in pony photos. It was all in fun, but these guys would have none of it.

"The griefers came in and decided that they didn't like ponies whatsoever, so the pony images that had been put into the doc made them really, really mad," he cracked. "They started defacing the doc after that, and basically, at that point, I locked the document for a second and wrote in the doc and I said 'We give in, we will not add anymore ponies. We give into your demands. The terrorists win.' We took the ponies out and unlocked the document again and the griefers pretty much went away at that point."

Lastly, there were the actual, you know, collaborators, who were great. Schatz didn't have a grand plan for this idea; he was hoping for 30 and 60 lines of code--and ended up with way more. But he had tons of fun in the process, and besides crossing something off his to-do list, the experiment provided two tangible benefits for Schatz and Monaco.

Schatz isn't a fan of developers selling creative freedom through places like Kickstarter, ala allowing people to have characters named after them for chipping in money. The collaborators on this document won't find themselves in the credits for Monaco, but they'll all know they kicked in a something cool for a game they've been looking forward to. Schatz believes that's enough.

The more important takeaway will eventually impact Monaco itself. Schatz was light on details, but after Monaco is released, there will be an update that introduces collaborative level design to the game.

Schatz has been showing off Monaco at various trade shows, and may hit up PAX East next year.

"I really can't talk about it because it's the sort of thing that it's definitely a rabbits hole and I don't know how far down we're going to end up going, so I don't want to make any promises," he said, choosing words carefully. "These are plans I've actually had for a long time before this and this was a really neat way to gain a better understanding of human behavior with regards to collaborating online. I think it gave me a lot of insights into the way you need to empower the collaborators."

Minecraft came up, and how only a sliver of people actually create cool content for Minecraft. Everyone else (myself included) simply loads up YouTube or Reddit and laughs along. Part of the issue, he argued, was in the game's technical limitations of how many people can participate.

"Imagine if you could do that on a much grander scale!" he said. "I think that's worth trying."

Cryptic...but interesting.

There's no concrete release date or even a release window for Monaco. Schatz would only say the game would not be released this year and he may show up with an updated build at PAX East, but you can bet I'll be keeping an eye on it.

Posted by Carousel

I'll have to check it out.

Edited by Chop

Every time I see Patrick he looks younger than before. Lookin' bout 16 in that picture D:

Anyways, cool idea and Monaco sounds like the perfect game for me. I'm a stealth whore, I'll play anything in the genre.

Posted by DizzyMedal

Bronies truly are everywhere I guess. And the anti-bronies somehow find them.

And I always want to create cool stuff for Minecraft, but I have basically zero talent.

Posted by Son_of_Nun

This is great, Patrick. Keep finding the stories behind game development. Somehow you know exactly the type of news I want to read about...

Posted by KillyDarko

Did I hear stealth? I'm game ^^

Posted by S0ndor

Does this pony-hate have any basis in internet culture?

Posted by TeflonBilly

He gave in to the pony-haters? For shame!

Posted by Depth

Ugh, i hate bronies.

Posted by selbie

The ponies will have their revenge.

Posted by MattyFTM

Anti-pony griefers... The internet is a weird place.

Moderator
Posted by bhhawks78

No idea if I would enjoy it but unique enough to take a look for sure.

Loving the stories on here that I had no idea about.

No offense but pre patrick I rarely even checked anything not named video page.

Posted by Ronald

There is a strange anti-pony contingent on the Internet. They scare me.

Posted by Beforet

Wait, if they contributed then shouldn't they at least be on the credits page? At the very least as part of the "special thanks."

Posted by Ghostin

  

  
Posted by prestonhedges

Was it some My Little Ponies bullshit? Because in that case I sympathize with the 'griefers'.

Posted by SSully

PacMan meets hitman? Count me in.

Also that sounds pretty cool how him and the community contributed to the game like that.

Posted by MooseyMcMan

Damn ponies.

Moderator
Posted by strangeling

!

Posted by Swoxx

That is crazy cool!

Posted by Rolyatkcinmai

I participated in this. It was absolutely awesome. So glad you got around to writing this, Patrick. I had talked to you about it on Google+ and was anxiously awaiting your story.

Posted by Video_Game_King

Would it ever be viable to see this concept applied to a larger scale? Like the entire Internet making a game on Google Docs? Internet: The Game?

Posted by mortface

@Son_of_Nun: I totally agree. These sorts of stories are fascinating.

Posted by eccentrix

I wonder what the game is.

Posted by imallinson

This was really cool. One of the most fun things I've done in a while, even if I did stay awake till 5 am editing it. Crowd sourcing bits of game design is a really interesting idea. Also makes something fun out of what would probably be rather dull if done my one person.

Posted by Crash_Happy

@S0ndor: Yeah but like most jokes gone wrong it stopped being funny about five minutes before it started.

Posted by RadioactiveGazz

This is merely an echo by this far down in the comments, but I have to say, I love stuff like this. It is articles about stuff like this that bring me to Giant Bomb constantly, keep it up. Also, appear on the bombcast whenever you can! This game looks like one to watch for certain.

Posted by I_smell

This man's appreciation for Mondays has sucked me right in to this article.

Posted by patrickklepek

@RadioactiveGazz said:

This is merely an echo by this far down in the comments, but I have to say, I love stuff like this. It is articles about stuff like this that bring me to Giant Bomb constantly, keep it up. Also, appear on the bombcast whenever you can! This game looks like one to watch for certain.

We may get our hands on a build in the near future to show it off--fingers crossed!

Posted by AndySchatz

Hey all, if you are interested in following the game's progress, follow on the facebook page or twitter! I'm pretty active on there:

www.facebook.com/MonacoIsMine

www.twitter.com/MonacoIsMine

I had an absolutely blast working on this with the collaborators... thanks to those of you in the comments that contributed. I probably misspoke a bit wrt to crediting people that helped. I'd be happy to credit people that helped, I just tend to be opposed to changed things in the design/story for people that pay money, and many projects do on Kickstarter. I probably wont put much effort into tracking down the individual contributors in order to credit them, as there were a TON of people who contributed a lot to it, and I think most of us were just doing it for fun!

Anyways, I was shocked at the raging pony war. I had no idea the war even existed. I'm out of touch. :)

Posted by lead_farmer

I am intrigued. The way that game looks is great.

Posted by m2cks

Dude, no matter what, you should always add moar ponies. Cool story.

Posted by abdo

Oh man, I can't believe I missed this. I've been following this game for a long time and would have loved to contribute.

Also, this whole pony thing is damn creepy.

Posted by Even

> telnet wmedia.auth

login: pklepek

Password: myha1rissh1ny

last login: Wed Sep 21 08:00:06 from 127.0.0.1

> chgrp -R pklepek /var/gaming/news/*

> ^D

Posted by TehFlan

@Depth said:

Ugh, i hate bronies.

Word.

Posted by laxbro

neatooooo

Posted by patrickklepek

@Even said:

> telnet wmedia.auth

login: pklepek

Password: myha1rissh1ny

last login: Wed Sep 21 08:00:06 from 127.0.0.1

> chgrp -R pklepek /var/gaming/news/*

> ^D

CHAMPION.

Posted by IamTerics

Man I've been excited for this game ever since it won at the IGF. So glad there's an article about it.

Edited by AxleBro

ok... you guys are going to hate me buuut.... the shitstorm was going so i started posting the pony pictures... on the bottom... but yea.... that was me.... sorry? ... nah.

EDIT: not to say i wasn't contributing, i was adding jokes, 1 or 2 pony ones with a friend on steam also posting nonsense, then i was like.... yo.... i can post pictures.... and clicked the button and started posting some pony stuff, it was at the bottom and it wasn't anything that would piss of brony haters too much. but then suddenly anons were like "moar" so i posted more... then suddenly the doc is cleared by like the same 4 anons and they post in chat "NO MORE PONIES" and i'm like.... oh look shitstorm .... cya. i wonder if my jokes will be in there. i wasn't sober so i don't remember what i posted, it might have been... inappropriate. who knows.

Posted by Depth

@Axleisbored: Hahaha, holy shit, you sure are something.

Posted by tourgen

sounds like this dude has some interesting ideas.

Posted by PoisonJam7

Reminds me of Exit for some reason.

Posted by Ravenlight

A Pac-Man and Hitman crossover you say? Man-Man?

Posted by Levio

I don't understand why he'd use Google Docs, of course it's gonna get trolled.

It's funny though that the anti-pony trolls seem to get hurt worse than the people they are trolling. They rage over the images, and by the time anything is done the pony-posters have already left to post somewhere else.

Posted by Nomin

Patrick, next time just post the Skype video instead.

Posted by leejunfan83

Patrick really brings a whole new level of journalism to this site a great addition to the team

Posted by Chango

Very cool.

Posted by nihilisticmonkey

Nice article, and good to see Monaco getting more coverage lately (in general, not on GB). Love the look of this since i saw coverage on tigsource about it at the IGF.

Posted by BisonHero

@Ronald said:

There is a strange anti-pony contingent on the Internet. They scare me.

The pro-pony contingent is far scarier.

Posted by ch3burashka

A couple years ago, there was a game called Monaco submitted to XBLIG. It was a simple arcade racing game. That's what I constantly think about when I hear about this Monaco. It's been a hard transition. Also, having not seen any footage, I still don't really know what it's about.

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