How Monument Valley’s ‘lucky’ success saved the company behind it

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Dexerto talks Ustwo games about Monument Valley and its legacy ahead of a PC release in 2022.

Monument Valley, one of the most iconic mobile games available today, will finally come to PC this year. Along with its sequel, Monument Valley: Panoramic Collection will introduce the puzzle adventure to a whole new audience, starring protagonist Ida and her MC Escher-inspired world.

To celebrate the upcoming release on July 12, 2022Dexerto spoke with Peter Pashley, Director of Development at Ustwo Games, the team behind the franchise, to find out where it came from and how it changed their lives.

Creation of Monument Valley

“The original vision [for Monument Valley]was about a game where the architecture was the star, filling the screen with a wandering little character,” Pashley recalls.

“Making isometric concept art immediately showed that it was quite difficult not to add “impossibility” à la MC Escher to these buildings.

This “impossibility” became one of Monument Valley’s defining characteristics, but it wasn’t until testing that it was clear that the concept would be fun to execute. This was before an entire level was even built.

“It wasn’t until we made the first prototype, in which players could interact with an impossible structure, that we really started paying attention to the concept.”

Ustwo Games

Monument Valley’s pastel aesthetic has become a defining feature.

“The ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the testers of this very simple demo gave us the confidence to continue with it – even when the next step (to build our first full level) was difficult, we could fall back on that confidence of “We know we have something good here, we just have to do it justice.”

Do it justice Ustwo did too, catching the eye of tech giant Apple and featuring prominently on App Store and iPhone hardware ads.

“I think for most people, Monument Valley came out of nowhere; we had a good reaction to the announcement trailer, but we were really lucky that Apple chose to feature it as a game of the week at launch, which lit up the blue touch paper and it got just took off beyond our wildest expectations,” Pashley explains.

“One of the mainstays of the development was ‘every screen is good enough to print’ and so it’s a really good choice for people wanting to show off their latest devices.”

“There was definitely more pressure the second time around. [with Monument Valley’s 2017 sequel]especially since it was quite a different team that needed to be up to it but not all of them had the confidence gained from being there the first time around.

“When Apple told us they wanted to use MV2 to kick off their App Store update and keep it a secret to reveal at WWDC, it was a completely different level of pressure than the first game.

“We had to keep the game super secret, it had to not only live up to the pressures of a sequel, but also have to be the poster child for a new service!”

House of Cards and the “luck” of Monument Valley

The game was even featured prominently in Netflix’s House of Cards, opening up the world of Monument Valley to a whole new audience.

“When the producers of House of Cards contacted us to ask us to present Monument Valley, we thought it was a prank,” Pashley reveals.

“The game was part of creating a particular gaming aesthetic, like a zen puzzle game, and we could never have predicted that.”

“Someone who joined the company recently told me he was used as an example in one of his film school classes; this weekend I met an 8 year old who loves it and wasn’t even born when it launched.

Between the two Monument Valley titles, the Ustwo team is humble in their response to the question of how the franchise has changed the studio and the lives of its employees.

Screenshot of Monument Valley Panoramic Collection showing water
Ustwo Games

Ida’s world has become much bigger.

“It’s safe to say that the company and all of our jobs probably wouldn’t exist without the success of Monument Valley,” says Pashley.

“I would like to say that we are all so talented that we would have found something else incredible, but any success like this involves so much luck. We were lucky to have a good idea, to being the right team to make it happen and having the right ecosystem to launch it.

“You couldn’t expect to have this level of success with a premium short game in today’s mobile ecosystem.”

The future of franchising

Either way, Ustwo assured us that Monument Valley 3 “glitters tantalizingly on the horizon,” making a PC port an ideal way to bring the franchise to new audiences before it arrives.

“We thought about doing it for a long time, but we always said we wouldn’t do it just for fun, we had to do a really good job, not just to develop the canvas of the game, but also to make sure that playing with a mouse is just as enjoyable as the original touchscreen.

“There’s so much subtlety in the design of the game that we couldn’t ask anyone else to do it, and it’s only recently that we’ve had the people and the time to make it happen. It’s been a lot work, but also a real pleasure to revisit both games and turn them into something slightly different for a new audience.

“The first time I played the game with an extended canvas I felt great – it adds so much atmosphere and immersion to the experience. Monument Valley has always been a game experience that draws people in, that grabs their attention, but having it take up your entire field of vision is almost like playing it in virtual reality. It really felt like I was seeing Monument Valley for the first time.”

Monument Valley: Panoramic Collection will be released on July 12 on PC.

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