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SpyParty: A Game in Which I Kill My Husband

IndieMonth | 419d ago
User blog

By Cat

Chris Hecker gets paid to watch me kill my husband over and over again.

Well, he gets paid for his magnificent creation, SpyParty, with which I, through a combination of sheer luck and such skill it defies human limitations, kill my husband*. Over and over again.

SpyParty is an espionage game with two players where you play as Spy or Sniper. More than a competitive multiplayer title, it's a game about behavior. A game, as Hecker says, about "making consequential decisions based on partial information". Unlike Clue, SpyParty is not fully deductive, and unless the Spy player gaffes you will never be completely sure. Actually, even when the Spy gaffes there’s a persistent feeling of uncertainty - the result of partial information and one shot with guaranteed accuracy.

As the Spy you undertake a set of missions to be completed at a cocktail party within a given amount of time. You must complete these missions in a way that makes it difficult - ideally, impossible - for the Sniper to detect you among a party of NPCs. Your view is of the party, that is your playing field. Meanwhile, the Sniper player is positioned on a building outside the party and must observe goings-on through the scope of their rifle trying to detect tells, noticeably human behavior, amidst the AI.

A Sniper's-eye view of the party, a suspect (this is the old character art)

It has been a few years since I first fell in love with the alpha build of SpyParty and it has moved into paid beta. My luck may have diminished - but then SpyParty is a learning game. Strictly speaking you don't level up, you don't unlock perks, but the evolution of the game is based on the constant accumulation of player skill. For the Spy, this is a game about playing smoothly and strategically; for the Sniper, it’s a game of information management. Victory not only carries with it the "a-ha!" of defeating a foe, it is a deeply personal victory of mastering the role of Spy or Sniper over a single enemy - because Spy and Sniper aren't even seeing the same things, in some ways aren’t even playing the same game. You win and you want to know if the Sniper suspected you, you lose and you want to know which mission did you in. And you immediately want to try again. In this way it’s helpful for players to be of roughly the same skill level, or be keen to learn. Each round increases your proficiency so dramatically at first that a brand new player playing someone with even only a half-dozen rounds under their belt is going up against tough odds. It may sound daunting, but the SpyParty community is made up of some seriously friendly and helpful gamers - they want you to be a good player, so when you get picked off it really is just a case of tough love.

Time to party like an NPC (old art)

Set in a mansion there are currently more than a half-dozen maps available, and a couple more planned. Each map has challenges and advantages for Spy and Sniper: a busy party in an open space provides the Spy with cover but a good view for the Sniper, while a limited view challenges the Sniper, and fewer partygoers in a smaller space makes for less information flooding the scope. According to Hecker, the maps themselves are relatively easy to make, making the game pretty easy to expand, and they will be among the first moddable things - how many rooms are implausible in a mansion, anyway?

Somebody's being sneaky in there...

Within this, the Spy can have a varied number of missions, like contact the double agent, swap the statues, collect the microfilm, and bug the Ambassador - and with more missions comes uncertainty for the Sniper. Without the Sniper knowing what exactly you're out to do, there is an advantage. When playing as Spy with the newly added Seduction mission among my objectives, I chose to play as a male character with all-male NPCs. The simple fact that in this round my husband - er, arch-nemesis - didn't know that there could be gay seduction targets netted me a win.

Across 20 playable characters, each with their own story, their own behavior - and their own tells - the Seduce Target mission, where players are not locked in to gender roles or pre-scripted identities, is just one example of the diversity Hecker is building into his game. Diversity is important to Hecker, so even though each character has its own preferences, those preferences are deliberately chosen to reflect as wide a range of options as possible - and as feasible for this mysterious cocktail party. Gender, age, body mass and appearance are all represented with variety, but class isn’t a changeable factor. Unless you assume the Spy is essentially blue collar and scored the invite through espionage. Which is… possible. Hecker may have altruistic reasons for including this much diversity, but from the perspective of the Spy it’s all strategy. It behooves you to do the unexpected.

But it's so simple. All I have to do is divine from what I know of you: are you the sort of man who would put the poison into his own goblet or his enemy's? - Vizzini, The Princess Bride

The ten new character models, showing off their prettiness

The thing to remember about the behavior of the NPCs is that the player can mimic them all, which means the Sniper will have to detect high-level behavioral tells - if Mr. G “the General” is getting sauced on a martini instead of a beer (yes, beer is his drink of choice), that’s a tell. And what about that old lady with her little purse dog? With an articulated head doggie is going to be reacting to goings-on around it and yap-yap-yapping away. Are you really a dog person anymore when little Tinkerbell could be pooping on stolen microfilm? Remember, as the Sniper you always shoot to kill - so will you shoot Grandma?

The new Mr. G raises a glass to the old Mr. G

A game simultaneously in development and in paid beta, SpyParty will release when Hecker is satisfied the game is done, and he’s “guessing two years from now, given the rate at which we're getting the new art characters done.” The fact remains that from the very beginning I and many others have been willing to give Hecker our money for a title even when it was in its most alpha of forms. While Hecker continues to credit the success of Minecraft as playing a large role in the players’ comfort with paying for what in 2011 he called “essentially paying for a demo”, I think he’s at best only partly right - SpyParty has always been something special. Hecker has removed a barrier that you didn't know existed, something between your reality and the game, and it’s all SpyParty.

*Adam was not seriously injured in the testing of this game and we remain happily married

Day 9 | Chris Hecker

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BiggCMan  +   419d ago
I think the graphics could be a little better at least, but otherwise seems like a hilarious game!
Cat  +   419d ago
Of the images above there are two "old art" - alpha build stuff. The 10 new character models and the new environments are beautiful, but most of what you'll play in early access is old art.

Trust me when I say that the game is awesome even when ugly.
BiggCMan  +   419d ago
Cool! Hope to try it out soon!
gaffyh  +   418d ago
They've been trying for years to get the game mechanics down and ensure its going to be fun. Art is always the last pass on experimental games.
Hector535  +   419d ago
For an indie game i think the graphics are good enough and it's a simple game so there is no need to excel on the visual part.
MrxDeath  +   419d ago
indie games FTW !!
the idea of the game is really really cool
randomass171  +   419d ago
Hot dang... d'ose new models d'oe! :D
Caffo01   418d ago | Spam
oasdada  +   418d ago
are those actual gfx or WIP
Cat  +   418d ago
I noted beneath two which are the "old art" (alpha art). You can read more about the importance of art design in a game about behavior is in the interview :) http://n4g.com/user/blogpos...

And while most of the new art is not in the Beta, some is! You can check out the new stuff in action here: http://www.spyparty.com/ima...
grashopper  +   418d ago
People really need to start reading these things a little.
So how many times did you pop the wrong person at the party? Also ... have you shot grandma you horrible person?
Cat  +   417d ago
I'll shoot grandma in a heartbeat if I see her swap a statue :) <--protip: don't pick the swap statue mission when you play me, I memorize them lickity split
beepbopadoobop  +   418d ago
This game reminds me of a quest in elder scrolls oblivion where you have to sneak around a house and kill everyone in there without anyone knowing its you. Loved that quest so much so this game is my kinda thing!!
SpeedDemon  +   418d ago
I'll prob pick it up when it's out of beta.
dictionary  +   418d ago
Honestly graphics are terrible... we're in 2014. Anyway interested in the game
checker  +   418d ago
Scroll down. :)
eckleberg  +   418d ago
Nice to see a visual upgrade from the prototype - a strong art style seems vital for indie games if they want to suceed
LukeFair  +   418d ago
I have to add this game to my wishlist right now! Thanks to indie months I am discovering a lot of new interesting games I didn't know before
Mokastro  +   418d ago
I hope the AI is human enough, or at least Human will move like AI. In most games, its pretty easy to tell a human player from a Bot from the movements.
checker  +   418d ago
Yeah, the cool thing about SpyParty's design is that it reverses the usual, so I don't have to make the AI perfectly human, because they humans will emulate the imperfect AI. I just need make sure it's always possible to emulate, and then I can improve the quality of the NPCs as I can, but it's not game breaking if I can't.
Mokastro  +   418d ago
I can imagine the difficulty for spy players trying to mimic Bot movement. XD
Can imagine it will be more challenging & tense playing the Spy.
Priestwithgun  +   418d ago
looking fwd to beta key :D,game sounds interesting
Derekvinyard13  +   418d ago
Dam those new models are a big upgrade
Pele  +   418d ago
Huh, colour me intrigued. Cool art style and graphics upgrade is realy noticeable.
rambi80  +   418d ago
Hmmm....with a few tweaks, i think i could use this as a "stalker Simulator"
Disagree  +   418d ago
another 2 years? well keep up the work guys because its looking really good so far.
checker  +   418d ago
Sorry! It takes a long time to make something perfect. We have 10 more new characters to make (really 12 because the new art waiter and security guard), and then we have to beautify all the maps and make more. Not to mention all the new features. Yikes.
Disagree  +   418d ago
No worries guys! rather you take your time and put out something you guys are really proud of and is 100% finish than rushing it. I know its going to be great!
bauer007  +   418d ago
I wanna play this game so bad!
checker  +   418d ago
You can, it's in early-access open paid beta: http://spyparty.com (or maybe you'll win a copy here!)
XtraTrstrL  +   418d ago
It's nice to hear they plan on welcoming the modding community from early on.
checker  +   418d ago
Yeah, it's going to be hard to mod the missions and characters, but making new maps will be relatively easy.
TreFord  +   418d ago
So is like a spy and kill game
randomass171  +   418d ago
Yup. People are likening it to Guess Who and Clue. Only you get to kill the perp once you spot him. :P
HonestDragon  +   418d ago
I would love to go up against my friends with this game. Seems like a great addition for my strategy game collection. Also, I can mess with my friends like this in the video. XD

mydyingparadiselost  +   418d ago
"*Adam was not seriously injured in the testing of this game and we remain happily married"
Killing your spouse online=happy marriage
randomass171  +   418d ago
Funniest line in the blog. XD
Carib  +   418d ago
Look like a "different" and cool game.
Virtua_Awesome  +   418d ago
That's quite a title for an article :D Thanks, it was a good read. It's really cool that each character has their own tells and preferences. I'm definitely gonna follow this game's development now (I didn't even know about it before Indie Month!).
coolbeans  +   418d ago
"SpyParty: A Game in Which I Kill My Husband"

My initial reaction: http://divvyhq.com/wp-conte...

"*Adam was not seriously injured in the testing of this game and we remain happily married"

That's a relief. Had the phone in my hand from your title there, missy!

The system of tells could be very deep. I've honestly been hesitant of ever putting money into Early Access games, Kickstarter, etc., but this has me tempted of saying "first time for everything," even if I'm drawn as one of the lotto winners. Even with being ~2 years away, it doesn't seem like this'll be a jump ship effort like Towns or other popular ones that met that same end.
checker  +   418d ago
As I said in another comment, Early-Access is not for everybody, but you can watch some streams and see how solid and nice the community is, and how deep the game is already, and that might tip you over the edge. Even if I never updated it again, there are hundreds of hours of gameplay in there already, if you take a liking to the core mechanics.
MYDEATH21  +   418d ago
Can't wait to see some gameplay with the new models
Cat  +   418d ago
randomass171  +   418d ago
That footage is nothing short of awesome.
Darklurkr23  +   418d ago
I see this going to Ouya
FogLight  +   418d ago
This could be a fun game to just kill a friend multiple times as he/she tries to hide from my majestic eye <3
gobluesamg  +   418d ago
Just the ideas this game brings to the table are awesome. We need some fresh ideas in the large studio games.
MightyNoX  +   418d ago
Poor little sniper, always looking in and never gets invited to the party.
randomass171  +   418d ago
Gives him more incentive to shoot someone. XD
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