Monkube Interview

Let’s start off by getting a little background on Monkube and how this development studio started. Monkube already has two projects in active development (that we’re aware of!) in addition to the recently released 6th Planet, so this begs the question: did Monkube form around the 6th Planet project specifically, or would you say the team formed around a general creative vision, and 6th Planet happened to be the first of several ideas completed?

The short answer would be that Monkube formed around 6th Planet, but that would be cutting short on a lot of juicy details. I was aware of the interesting possibilities in the App Store market for some time, but the project originated from an acquaintance who wanted to make an iPhone game and asked me to come up with an idea for it. When I told him I had some ideas, he informed me that he had stuff of his own and didn’t need my help anymore. So I was left behind, with the ideas still inside my head. Shortly thereafter I asked my friend Jonas if he wanted to help me in making a game of our own. And that idea grew into a company with four… by the time you read this, maybe even six games in production.

Help our readers sift through the impressive array of collaborating studios brought on board for 6th Planet. Of course there’s the Oscar-nominated Vivi Film, along with Newrosoft, Glass House Graphics and Ape Entertainment. What role did each of these play in the development of 6th Planet?

With a design doc in place and looking for a company to handle programming, we shopped around for quotes on the Internet. Newrosoft won us over because they have a great producer who used to work on Gameloft’s NOVA until it was halfway into production. He proved to be an amazing guy, which helped 6th Planet get to the level of quality it is. The other companies on your list were actually a domino effect that started in my local gym. I visit that every weekend and am often joined by a friend who’s also an investor in 6th Planet. While there, we talked about our game a lot. When discussing the fact that we were looking for people to partner with for the story part, we were interrupted by a young guy whose mother is the boss of Vivi Film. We traded phone numbers, set up a meeting, and a few months later we had an amazing partner who had led us to artist agency Glass House Graphics and comic book publisher Ape Entertainment. And yes, I know, you only get that lucky a few times in a lifetime.

Recently there’s been something of a debate in the wider videogame industry concerning whether storytelling “matters” in this medium. One could approach the question from either a cultural perspective (i.e., does a storyline enrich the player’s experience or just insert a barrier between the player and the game?) or from the perspective of the developer’s bottom line. The amount of story to be found in 6th Planet probably makes it obvious already, but where do you and Monkube stand in this debate?

Well, to me, story is a big deal in any type of media. I like music with well written lyrics, I like movies and series with multi-layered characters and believable stories and so on. And my point of view is nothing new. Jack Warner, founding member and once president of Warner Brothers once said: “The most important person in the motion picture process is the writer, and we must do everything in our power to prevent them from ever realizing it.” A funny quote, but in all seriousness, this might as well point out the biggest flaw in the entertainment industry today.

To get the best entertainment, writers should be the ones in charge of any project, be it motion picture, game or TV series. But in reality, you get a bunch of suits running the show who screw up about 80% of all things produced. I’m an ex-videogame journalist, so that opinion is based on experience. This whole point of view was explained to me by Evan Wells, President of Naughty Dog (the guys doing the Uncharted series on PS3), when I interviewed him before the first Uncharted game got released. Through his game, he proved to me he was right, so his opinion stuck with me and had a decisive impact when we made the blueprint for 6th Planet.

You can look at 6th Planet as a test, as the game idea was already in production when the story got created. I think we did a pretty good job of making game and story fit, but you can expect a big leap forward in our next projects.

Speaking of comics, should we keep an eye out for Darius’ exploits in standalone comic book form soon? What’s the release plan for that, and will the content expand on 6th Planet’s universe or otherwise take advantage of opportunities present in the comic book medium that don’t carry over as well to videogames?

The release of 6th Planet, the comic book, should be no longer that four weeks away. And yes, having the freedom of doing full page lay-out makes it all a lot prettier. The true sequel to this story will be included in 6th Planet II: Mission Earth, but we are also looking into the possibility of building upon this franchise with comic book exclusive content. Apart from that, don’t forget that there’s also an iPad only version of 6th Planet coming, and it will feature lay-out like the printed or digital comic.