Nerd Monkeys Indie Dev Interview

In October Paula reviewed Nerd Monkeys game Detective Case and Clown Bot in: Murder in The Hotel Lisbon, an adventure, puzzle game set in the ’80s. She questioned the humour in the game as you can read here in the review.

After the review was published a link to the review was emailed to Nerd Monkeys. Shortly after Paula received an email back from Diogo at Nerd Monkeys. This began a friendly back and forth of emails while Diogo gave Nerd Monkeys ideas and thoughts on basing the game in the 1980’s and on the humour in the game which reflects that time.

This then lead to us asking Nerd Monkeys if they would kindly take part in an interview for LadiesGamers and they graciously said Yes. Read their often hilarious comments! 

Tell us about yourselves and Nerd Monkey studio!

We are a very approachable band of apes. I (Diogo) am the head of this clan, but my right and left arms are Mafalda and Alexandre. Or maybe it’s more like a three-headed beast, like Cerebrus, but think of a mighty gorilla instead of a rabid dog. We also have a few teams in charge of different projects, but they have to get through us if they want their hard earned bananas at the end of the day. 

Nerd Monkeys was summoned through alchemy in 2013 with the launch of Detective Case and Clown Bot in: Murder in The Hotel Lisbon. Since then, me and my partner nurtured it with breast milk into what we believed was the right path, the honorable path… At the age of 7, it already goes to school and we cannot help but shed a prideful tear as we see it maturing into a true classic. 

Detective Case and Clown Bot in: Murder in The Hotel Lisbon LadiesGamers

We did many and different projects but, as the years passed, our goals mutated and evolved. Nerd Monkeys is a studio, but it’s also a home, but it can also be a vehicle, and sometimes it’s just a concept, but it’s the real thing. 

What’s behind the name of your studio?

White background, but sometimes it’s an image or even, dare I say, a black background! *Gasp* ~ play Dance Monkey in the background ~

But now in all seriousness, the name and logo look was intended to show that we can both be silly and serious. Just like this answer!

How did you start out as game developers?

This is a really hard question to answer, so hard I can’t even do a silly joke around it because my face is so crunched up while thinking what to say. I know, I know, it probably should be an easy one. The best I can say from my personal perspective is this: there isn’t a moment in my life without games and I’m constantly having a flood of weird and quirky ideas, so with the combination of both I guess it was unavoidable. 

What was the inspiration for the Detective Case and Clown Bot games?

My personal inspiration differs a bit from the writer’s inspiration, but in the end I think it leads to one common aesthetic. I know writer Filipe Duarte Pina was heavily inspired by 80’s sitcoms and books from that era, because he lived right through it and many other eras before that, but in my mind I’ve always seen this game as an opportunity to point a mirror at the Portuguese culture and show both the pretty and the ugly, so my main personal inspiration is my country and its charismatic people.

Detective Case and Clown Bot in: Murder in The Hotel Lisbon LadiesGamers

Tell us something special about this game. (Or, what sets this game apart from others in the genre?)

Who said games can’t be a cultural postcard? Who said that?! Show yourself! Detective Case and Clown Bot is both a satire and an homage to the capital city of Portugal (Lisbon), echoing a fado song in the street while surrounded by the colors and life, which I believe is a bit special, don’t you? 

What kind of research did you do as regards the humour in Detective Case?  

Most of it came more intuitively from the consumption of a lot of Portuguese and US 80’s comedy than actual serious science studying, I would hardly call it research, but sure let’s call it that, it makes me feel smarter!

Detective Case and Clown Bot in: Murder in The Hotel Lisbon LadiesGamers

What kind of cool game(s) would you love to make in the future?

Honestly any game that makes me want to play it. I know it’s a very broad answer but that’s the truth because I started this sentence with the word honestly, so it must be. When we launched Detective Case and Clown Bot most people didn’t think we would go anywhere. A point and Click game in 2013? Were we crazy? Well, we’re still here and getting ready for the bleak future that awaits us.

Can you tell us what your next game is about? (If it’s under wraps from the world, feel free to skip this question)

We are working on some projects, where to begin? Hmm…

Let’s start with “Monkey Split”, we’re trying something different from what we have done until now. Monkey Split is a game about monkeys erm… splitting? But literally, they have to run away from the possessed monkey! Anyone can take part in the development process because the game is being done out in the open, so the prototypes are playable and the creative process is often shared and discussed on our Discord, so feel free to join us! 

More recently we just published a game on the Nintendo Switch eShop called Traffix, a game developed by Infinity Games, and it’s a game about traffic! But literally! Yes, you manage car traffic, exciting stuff! Hopefully it will get GOTY. 

There’s also this game codenamed Subway and it’s not about Subways! *gasps* 

And don’t get me started on Flooded Village… the name says it all!

Oh! Almost forgot about it, we are also working on a game called Out of Line, it’s really neat and we just launched a really cool trailer about it, please wishlist it on our Steam Page.

What is the biggest challenge in making a game? How do you overcome it?

The biggest challenge is a very relative issue from game to game. Usually team management ends up being on the top 3, so I’ll go with that. We have monkeys from different parts of the world, so preventing the workflow from turning into a jungle and making sure everyone is on the same page is indeed complicated. These things drive me bananas, you know? 

In what ways do you try to maintain work-life balance at your studio?

I don’t have a life, but I wish I had one… that and friends! But one can only dream.

The juggling game isn’t as hard to do when you are surrounded by people that can lighten up the mood at any given time. It’s important to work, but also important to leave space for creativity to flow, and that means it’s generally a bit messy to tell exactly where the line stands between having a magnanimous brainstorming session or just goofing around with our friends, and it’s mostly the second one at Nerd Monkeys.

What advice would you offer aspiring developers working alone or in a tiny team?

Run for your life, run, RUN! Not that running is a bad thing. Unless you are being chased by a furious mob with torches! Which again, may not be a bad thing. For those not big on metaphors, what this means is that any activity, no matter how strenuous it is, if it’s done with burning passion it will leave you with a sense of accomplishment. 

In a more practical advice, don’t be afraid to show up at events (digital ones for now) and pitch your game. You will fail, it will go wrong, but you have to do it over and over again to improve on it slowly and steadily, until one day it’s just right. Don’t quit, you can do this. =)


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