Andy Schatz

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Andy Schatz
Andy Schatz Two Awards Independent Games Festival 2010.jpg
Andy Schatz at the Independent Games Festival in 2010
Born March 9, 1978
San Diego, California
Occupation Video game designer
CEO of Pocketwatch Games
Known for Pocketwatch Games
Notable work Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine, Tooth and Tail
Spouse(s) Tierney Schatz

Andy Schatz (/ʃɑːts/;[1] born March 9, 1978) is a video game designer based in San Diego. He began developing video games at a young age and contributed to the California State Science Fair in 1995. He graduated from Amherst College. After graduation he worked for various video game development companies, including TKO Software, before founding his own independent video game development studio Pocketwatch Games in 2004. Schatz has released four video games: Wildlife Tycoon: Venture Africa, Venture Arctic, Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine, and Tooth and Tail with Pocketwatch Games.

Early life[edit]

Andy Schatz was born in San Diego. His father was a geophysicist , his mother a philosophy professor. At the age of four, Schatz received a Commodore 64, which sparked his desire to create video games. By the age of seven, he had designed maze games and applied BASIC scripts to make them work. When he was in seventh grade, he had coded a game he called Servants of Darkness, a "Warlords-esque game" for the Commodore 64.[2] His work on game development led to an invitation to the 1995 California State Science Fair. He later enrolled at Amherst College,[2] where he graduated with a degree in Computer Science and Fine Arts.[3]

Career[edit]

Schatz' first job after college was at the viral marketing firm e-tractions, where he helped create a virtual Christmas snowglobe.[4] His introduction to the video game industry was at Netplay, an online gaming portal in 1995. He then worked on his first commercial release at Presto Studios where he helped develop Star Trek: Hidden Evil (1999).[5] He left Presto Studios temporarily to work for e-tractions[6] only to return later to help with the AI on the Xbox Live version of Whacked! (2002).[7] After leaving Presto Studios, Schatz moved to Santa Cruz to work for TKO Software, and in the early 2000s helped develop Medal of Honor: Allied Assault Breakthrough, (2003) and GoldenEye: Rogue Agent (2004), among other games. During a time when the development team had nothing to work on, Schatz proposed a prototype of a game he had been working on described as "a house-robbing game" where players would build a home and defend it, then attempt to break into other players' homes. He sent this prototype to Microsoft, but it did not interest them.[2]

Logo for Pocketwatch Games, Schatz' independent video game studio

Schatz founded Pocketwatch Games, an independent video game development studio as a sole proprietorship in December 2004, before TKO shut down in 2005.[2] The first game Schatz developed and released was Wildlife Tycoon: Venture Africa (2005), a tycoon game designed to appeal to the same audience as Zoo Tycoon (2001). Set in the African wilderness, the game focused on a number of themes including balancing the ecosystem, species' relationships and weather cycles. It was a success and became an Independent Games Festival (IGF) finalist helping Schatz' secure the budget for the sequel: Venture Arctic (2007). Venture Arctic had the same premise as Venture Africa. While some critics praised it, and it won Gametunnel's simulation game of the year in 2007,[8][9] it had complications that players did not enjoy. As a result it was a commercial failure compared to Venture Africa.[2] Schatz was then hired by Jim Safka, co-founder of Match.com, to develop a flash game for Green.com. This contract slowly waned, and Schatz began to work on Venture Dinosauria.[8] It was cancelled before its 2009 release date.[8] Looking back Schatz said he had failed to find "a way to make it both fun and open-ended, but also a small, self-contained experience at the same time".[10] Throughout this period Schatz wanted to in expand Pocketwatch Games from being a studio to a business and applied for enrollment in various business schools. He was never accepted, something he now considers "the biggest blessing of [his] entire career".[11]

Andy Schatz and previous Seumas McNally Grand Prize winners Petri Purho and Erik Svedang pictured after Schatz' award in 2010

In 2009, Schatz, feeling despondent after the failure of Venture Dinosauria, began learning Microsoft XNA (XNA) to enable him to develop games for both PC and Xbox 360.[2] Having been rejected by business schools, he slowly discarded that idea and focused on making "whatever game [I'm] passionate about in the moment". In 2009, he was low on cash and gave himself one last chance before getting "a corporate job".[2] He began to code a game inspired by Hitman and other games[12] that resembled Pac-Man without the ghosts. This was the foundation of Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine (2013) and within a week Schatz had added enemies, ambience, and abilities. Shortly after, he began to look over design documents he made years earlier. After fifteen weeks of development, he had a prototype that won two Independent Games Festival (IGF) 2010 awards—the Seumas McNally Grand Prize and the Excellence in Design award. With the game still unfinished, these awards allowed Schatz to continue to work on what became Polygon described as "a magnificent return to the four-player couch madness of '90s console games".[2] Schatz originally planned to release the game on the Xbox Live Indie Games (XBLIG) marketplace. Having received these awards, however, he changed his mind, describing XBLIG as being "a roll of the dice".[2]

Screenshot of Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine

Soon after, Valve Corporation (the company behind Steam) and Schatz began discussing the idea of selling the game on Steam. Before this he had contacted Microsoft to discuss selling the game on the Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA). Schatz's idea was rejected by Microsoft for its lack of marketability. Microsoft gave him another chance, and with a "no-risk loan" of $100,000 from the Indie Fund, he continued to work on the game.[2] In 2011, Microsoft rejected the game again. Around the same time, hackers had compromised the PlayStation Network databases ending Schatz' plans to port it to PlayStation 3. Despite these issues, he persisted with the idea of getting the game on consoles. It was around this time he met San Diego-born Andy Nguyen. Nguyen took an interest in Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine thanks to the accolades it had received and sent Schatz a cold call e-mail asking if he needed "a beta tester within walking distance".[2] Because Schatz was becoming increasingly desperate for more feedback, he hired Nguyen, whose input reaffirmed his desire to work on Monaco. He later partnered with Majesco Entertainment to get the game released on XBLA.[2]

Schatz met composer Austin Wintory during Monaco's development. Initially, Schatz was using licensed music with an "old timey, silent era piano style". He contacted Wintory and proposed replacing some of the licensed music with original music. They began to discuss it in more depth as Schatz knew of Wintory's work on Flow and Journey. Wintory eventually persuaded Schatz to use a soundtrack throughout the game. Wintory explained in an interview with IndieGames.com that Schatz was the one who created the premise for each part of Monaco's soundtrack. Schatz would present Wintory with an idea and he would compose for it. He recalled thinking: "When else am I ever going to be asked to write anything remotely like this?"[13] This process was unlike the one he had while working with Thatgamecompany. There he would make a suggestion and it would be discussed formally.[13]

Screenshot of Tooth and Tail

Having released the final content pack for Monaco,[14] development of Tooth and Tail (2017) began in March 2014. The premise was loosely based on a design Schatz, and college roommate Tom Wexler, had developed called Dino Drop.[4][15] The game was originally codenamed Armada and was initially designed to be gamepad friendly as Schatz believed there had been no "good" real-time strategy (RTS) games that utilized them.[16] During development Schatz noted he wanted Armada to act in a similar fashion as Monaco. He did this by taking the control system and "constraining [it] in order to make the actual, physical interaction easy to pick up without limiting the complexity of the game itself".[17] At the Game Developers Conference, Schatz asked several people for their opinions and received positive feedback.[17] Nothing was definite at this point including the title and theme.[17]

The title was later changed to Lead to Fire.[18][19] During this stage of its development, the game took inspiration from Hearthstone, an online collectible card game. Around the same time, the game's development began being broadcast on Twitch.tv. Schatz called it a "miniature PAX (gaming festival)", a way to discuss the development with fans.[20] The developers were unhappy with the title Lead to Fire and changed it to Tooth and Tail about a year later.[21] The official title is a reference to the tooth-to-tail ratio.[note 1] The finalized art style was also announced around the same time, with some comparing it to a modernized version of 1990's pixel art. Schatz wrote that like the development of the art for SpyParty, "the game should look utterly shitty until it’s absolutely amazing".[21] Wintory also composed the soundtrack for Tooth and Tail.[22]

Personal life[edit]

Schatz lives with his wife, Tierney Schatz, in San Diego.[2]

Design philosophy[edit]

Tooth and Tail's controls, an example of how Schatz' desire to make games with semi-simplistic controls

When designing video games, Schatz prefers to take inspiration from non-game concepts, such as films and real-life events. From this point, he uses gaming themes to translate it into a playable video game. This trope was used heavily during Monaco's development[23] as it was substantially influenced by the 1960 heist film Ocean's 11.[24] This is also seen in the plot of Tooth and Tail, given it is set during the Russian Revolution.[25] Schatz also tries to make the controls of each video game intuitive to allow the player to become more immersed in the gameplay. He mentioned Geometry Wars as being one of the games that inspired this design philosophy, saying he has "never played a game with better controls". The controls of both Monaco and Tooth and Tail are "directly inspired by the simplicity" of those of Geometry Wars.[26] Schatz designs games that look "simple on their face but are driven by complex machinery".[27]

Games developed[edit]

Game Release date Platform Refs
Wildlife Tycoon: Venture Africa October 2005 Microsoft Windows, macOS [10]
Venture Arctic 2007 Microsoft Windows, macOS [2]
Venture Dinosauria
Cancelled
[10]
Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine 2013 Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, Xbox 360
Tooth and Tail September 12, 2017 Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, PlayStation 4 [28]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The tooth-to-tail ratio refers to the number of military support personnel ("tail") required to support one combat soldier ("tooth").

References[edit]

  1. ^ Carey, Sean (October 8, 2010). "An extended interview with Monaco's Andy Schatz". Destructoid. Archived from the original on January 23, 2018. Retrieved January 23, 2018. Everyone pronounces it wrong. I don’t mind, but, it’s pronounced “shots”. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Machkovech, Sam (April 18, 2013). "The Long Con: High in the Wild with Monaco". Polygon. Vox Media. Archived from the original on January 23, 2018. Retrieved January 22, 2018. 
  3. ^ "Author Biography: Andy Schatz". Gamasutra. UBM TechWeb. Archived from the original on June 30, 2017. Retrieved January 23, 2018. 
  4. ^ a b Schatz, Andy (February 18, 2009). "Autonomous AI and the First Dinosauria". Gamasutra. UBM TechWeb. Archived from the original on January 25, 2018. Retrieved January 25, 2018. 
  5. ^ Saladino, Michael (November 19, 1999). "Postmortem: Presto Studios' Star Trek: Hidden Evil". Gamasutra. UBM TechWeb. p. 4. Archived from the original on March 24, 2016. Retrieved January 25, 2018. 
  6. ^ "About - Bfoot Studios". Bfoot Studios. Archived from the original on January 26, 2018. Retrieved January 26, 2018. 
  7. ^ Wallis, Alistair (December 4, 2006). "Road To The IGF: Venture Arctic's Andy Schatz". Gamasutra. UBM TechWeb. Archived from the original on August 17, 2014. Retrieved January 23, 2018. 
  8. ^ a b c Gillen, Kieron (January 8, 2009). "Unknown Pleasures 2009: Venture Dinosauria". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Archived from the original on May 3, 2016. Retrieved January 23, 2018. 
  9. ^ Moon, Brad (July 28, 2009). "Review: Venture Arctic - Can a Video Game Be Green?". Wired. Condé Nast. Archived from the original on January 24, 2018. Retrieved January 24, 2018. 
  10. ^ a b c Rose, Mike (April 18, 2013). "A Journey to Monaco: Andy Schatz Looks Back". Gamasutra. UBM TechWeb. pp. 1–3. Archived from the original on March 4, 2017. Retrieved January 23, 2018. 
  11. ^ "Pocketwatch Games: From business school reject to indie game veteran". VentureBeat. Archived from the original on October 30, 2017. Retrieved January 23, 2018. 
  12. ^ Hutchinson, Lee (December 13, 2012). "The Prince of Monaco: Andy Schatz talks up his indie "heist simulator"". Ars Technica. Condé Nast. Archived from the original on October 9, 2016. Retrieved January 25, 2018. 
  13. ^ a b "Austin Wintory - IndieGames Podcast (12/23/11)". Vimeo. IndieGames. December 22, 2011. Archived from the original on January 25, 2018. Retrieved July 24, 2016. 
    Timestamps:
    • Andy Schatz originally wanting to use licensed music: 0:50.
    • Quote of "when else am I ever going to be asked to write anything remotely like this?": 2:56.
  14. ^ Devore, Jordan (April 7, 2014). "Pocketwatch wraps up Monaco with one final chapter". Destructoid. Archived from the original on January 15, 2018. Retrieved February 7, 2018. 
  15. ^ Rossignol, Jim (March 12, 2014). "Monaco Developer Announces "First Great Gamepad RTS"". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Archived from the original on January 1, 2018. Retrieved February 15, 2018. 
  16. ^ Savage, Phil (March 13, 2014). "Monaco creators announce [ARMADA], a controller friendly RTS". PC Gamer. Future plc. Archived from the original on January 5, 2018. Retrieved January 23, 2018. 
  17. ^ a b c Conditt, Jessica (March 20, 2014). "The early (early) concept of Monaco dev's RTSMOBA in Valhalla". Engadget. AOL. Archived from the original on January 5, 2018. Retrieved February 7, 2018. 
  18. ^ Gera, Emily (August 17, 2015). "Monaco Devs Reveal Arcade RTS Tooth And Tail". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Archived from the original on January 1, 2018. Retrieved January 23, 2018. 
  19. ^ "LEADtoFIRE is Pocketwatch's next game, previously called [ARMADA]". Pocketwatch Games. August 8, 2014. Archived from the original on August 10, 2014. Retrieved January 23, 2017. 
  20. ^ Hall, Charlie (November 6, 2014). "Real time strategy with a single button? Lead to Fire could show us how". Polygon. Vox Media. Archived from the original on January 5, 2018. Retrieved February 7, 2018. 
  21. ^ a b Chalk, Andy (August 13, 2015). "Armada becomes Tooth and Tail, first "real" screen released". PC Gamer. Future plc. Archived from the original on January 5, 2018. Retrieved February 7, 2018. 
  22. ^ Hancock, Patrick (September 12, 2017). "Review: Tooth and Tail". Destructoid. Archived from the original on January 5, 2018. Retrieved February 7, 2018. 
  23. ^ "Trade Secrets: Andy Schatz". Sneaky Bastards. March 26, 2012. Archived from the original on August 25, 2017. Retrieved January 25, 2018. 
  24. ^ Holmes, Jonathan (March 27, 2013). "GDC, Monaco, Oceans 11, and porn games with Andy Schatz". Destructoid. Archived from the original on April 2, 2016. Retrieved January 25, 2018. 
  25. ^ Hall, Charlie (November 6, 2014). "Real time strategy with a single button? Lead to Fire could show us how". Polygon. Vox Media. Archived from the original on January 5, 2018. Retrieved January 25, 2018. 
  26. ^ Schatz, Andy (September 14, 2017). "Which games should all well-rounded game developers be familiar with?". Quora. Quora Inc. Retrieved January 25, 2018. 
  27. ^ "Andy Schatz on Tooth and Tail". Gamereactor. Gamez Publishing A/S. December 22, 2015. Archived from the original on January 1, 2018. Retrieved January 25, 2018. 
  28. ^ Matulef, Jeffrey (July 17, 2017). "Monaco dev's minimalist RTS Tooth and Tail sets September release date". Eurogamer. Gamer Network. Archived from the original on January 5, 2018. Retrieved January 23, 2018. 

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