Prospective Spies: Please RTFM

Edit: check out the latest manual here.

Okay, here is the slightly infamous Four Page Instruction Manual for playing SpyParty at PAX.  I felt like I had to print this because of the one downside of the Depth-first, Accessibility-later development methodology I’m following.

My goal with printing up this document is to save my voice for actually new and interesting conversation.  I’m 100% confident I will lose my voice every day, but I’d like it to be from talking to fans about the gameplay, not repeating what the A button does over and over again.  I really have no idea whether anyone will read it at all.  I’ll report back on Friday.

I’m sorry I didn’t get this up yesterday, not only because it deprived you, the wonderful fans, of a day of plumbing its mysteries, but also because I literally finished it and hit send today, 11 minutes after the absolute latest deadline the printer gave me.  I didn’t even have time to read the whole thing.  I hope it’s not completely opaque. If I’d put it up yesterday I could have taken feedback and made it better, but as Donald Rumsfeld always said, “You go to PAX with the Four Page Instruction Manual you printed.”

Here is the print-ready PDF, which assumes you can print two-sided, and then you fold it in half to get the four-page booklet.

This document represents a fairly accurate beginner’s view of the state of SpyParty right now.  After you play a few times, you start to get to even more depth that I couldn’t fit on here (as if it’s not way too dense already!).   Let me know what you think in comments, or if parts are confusing, or if it makes sense.

Here’s a teaser of our booth while under construction this evening:

Monaco & SpyParty PAX Booth #3004, WIP

I’m having the two players face each other, and the big HDTV is duplicating the small HDTV closest to me taking the picture.  I’m counting on good sportsmanship from the other player by assuming he or she will not turn around!  And, hopefully the crowd won’t yell out spoilers.


  1. Jason Bakker says:

    To be honest, I think you could have laid out the information a lot more succinctly – I doubt people will want to read a four page manual before trying your game.

    After having showed off a pretty complex game to a pretty casual audience recently, I’d definitely recommend being right next to the player and talking them through it, encouraging them to ask you questions. It’s probably going to destroy your voice way faster, but I noticed that people really dug it when we personally were acting as the tutorial and helping them learn how to play the game, because in that way they feel like they’re getting a unique insight into how the game works from its creator.

    I’d also recommend having a practice round when it’s a player’s first turn with the game. Walk them through how the game works by getting them to play a round non-competitively, with each party acting out the gameplay (“then he sees you screw up, and if he’s sure of it he shoots”, etc). After that, they get to play “for real.”

    G’luck dude, wish I could be there – the game sounds sweet!

    • checker says:

      > you could have laid out the information a lot more succinctly

      This is undoubtedly true, I just plain ran out of time!  At the end, I was simply trying to get the information onto the page so I could print something at all, without even thinking about the flow.  Not my finest moment, but hey, it’s done.  :)

      As for the booth, yeah, I’ll definitely be right there the whole time.  I actually meant to put “do a practice game” in there, because that’s how I do it at playtests, but it was a casualty of the deadline, I guess.  :)

  2. Matt says:

    Good luck with PAX, wish I could be there.

  3. jordy says:

    This makes the game feel so (unrealistically) close!

    >Managing attention as a resource

    That sentence especially caught my attention, since, believe it or not, I picked up a book with an overview about psychology because of SpyParty.
    On of the most promising leads I found in that book was the studies of attention and perception, as well as memory.
    What you perceive is partly changed by your brain, in correlation to your expectations and past experiences. Your memory is also changed in somewhat the same way I believe, and we mostly tend to remember the meaning, or our interpretation of something, then the exact settings.
    These seem to be interesting things to learn and know about and I hope it will be able to use them in SpyParty in some form or the other.
    It would be perhaps one of the first videogames to which people apply science to play on a highly skilled level?!

    I even thought about picking up a book about manipulation, to change the snipers of spies attention or expectations, but with that subject you touch on the meta-game question of what is ethical I think..^^
    In any case, I consider further research on the phenomena of attention fair ground!;p
    And I’m considering to create a group called the “the Knowledgeable Spy Club” to translate scientific findings into skillfully playing the upcoming SpyParty!!

    But maybe that’s too much daydreaming, more back to earth, my only slight point of doubt is the current laser gameplay.
    Most (good) games get extra depth by players exploiting “bugs” or “tricks” which add another level of depth. But, sometimes I find some of these things obligatory, so that they only translate in knowing more about the game = you get an advantage. I can see why you fancy that, but if there is no trade-off or otherwise interesting game play involved I would reconsider the option of hiding your laser, or add something to it.
    Ofcourse, I don’t know how this really plays out, so let me simplify and rephrase myself.

    If it’s always a good thing for the sniper to hide his laser, and if it’s always a good thing for the spy to change his camera to look for the hided laser when he can, I find that both actions cancel each other out and only add unnecessary burden on the gameplay.

    Well, in any case Thanks for the update and manual, I loved to read it, and this is really shaping out to be Great! and goodluck at PAX!

    • Ron says:

      I don’t think hiding the laser at all times is a good thing. It can be used as misdirection, which can implement a lot of strategy into the mental aspect of it.

    • checker says:

      >  “the Knowledgeable Spy Club”

      You can start the first SpyParty clan!  :)

      As for the laser, yeah, it works on a few levels.  You can use it to poke at the party to see if somebody changes behavior, and it has to come into the world to highlight/lowlight things, and like Ron says, you can misdirect with it a bit.  Still a work in progress, but it’s got some pretty rich gameplay associated with it already.

  4. Ron says:

    I loved RTFM. There was a lot of subtle detail in there that let us know more how the game is to be played.

    I’ll get you the vector soon. Work got crazy.

    • Ron says:

      Oh and even though I couldn’t make it, I directed a couple groups I’m a part of to come see you.
      If you see the Totally Rad Show or possibly the guys from What the Christ? I tried to send them both your way.

    • Ron says:

      Crap. I forgot to say for anyone reading this. What the Christ is NSFW.

    • jordy says:

      Agreed, the RTFM, (read the fucking manual I assume^^, yes and not safe for work) he or otherwise called manual was great! You can draw a more complete picture of the game out of it.
      Maybe you’re right about the laser, and you can use it to (mis-) guide the spy in what he will do, I can clearly see that aspect, but then I don’t think he should be able to tilt the camera and see outside of the building (not sure if that’s the case), but ofcourse he could look up to the ceiling (will this be an animation?).

      About the timer, I think it’s a good idea, cause it will add another puzzle-piece to the gameplay, and I would love to pull of a win by doing the whole game nothing, then go to the window and wait for someone else to join me, then look at my watch, at the same time with the other guy, or when the sniper isn’t looking, so that the sniper will suspect the other guy by lack of a better estimation instead of me^^, such ideas just make my whole day happy, let alone if I can pull them off! But, I do think it’s a fine line between what is gimmicked and what is an integral part of the core gameplay.
      What I know of boardgame designing is that a lot of people find it hard to take rules and components away from there games, because each rule seems to add more to the game, but this a nasty trap, although videogames suffer less from this phenomena, cause it’s simpler to add more without adding too much complexness.

    • Ron says:

      All that’s good. What my comment had been was actually a comment awaiting moderation. Basically here’s the text of it.

      Oh and even though I couldn’t make it, I directed a couple groups I’m a part of to come see you.
      If you see the Totally Rad Show or possibly the guys from What the Christ? I tried to send them both your way.

    • checker says:

      >  and I would love to pull of a win by doing the whole game nothing,

      A playtester did this the other day, and two of us were watching.  The game starts out with the Spy character under AI control, and you have to push the A button to take control yourself.  This guy just left the Spy under AI control the whole game.  The Sniper was totally panicking as the clock ran down, and the Spy was having to use all his willpower to push the A button and  do something.  It was a totally tense game, and yet one player literally did not touch the controller!

      That time, the Sniper was careful and didn’t shoot anybody because he had no suspects, so leaving the Spy as an AI turned out to be a bad strategy against that Sniper player.  Howeer, often the Sniper will panic and shoot somebody, so usually it works!  It’s really cool that it’s a viable strategy if you know your opponent’s playstyle, and that it’s still interesting even though you’re not doing anything at all except waiting for the clock to run down.

  5. Nice set of docs, but my experience tells me that you’ll hardly find anyone who will read them. But its a good marketing tool even if that is true!

    I’d love to see some footage of people playing though, especially with a side-by-side of the two viewpoints so that we can understand the interplay. Might be too revealing though.

    Anyway, good luck with the event! Hope you and Andy both have a good show.

  6. Squishy says:

    That’s a great introduction to the game. It might be hard for people who know nothing about the game to process on the spot but it is very clearly written. Anyone who has heard about the game (or is reading this site) would find it a perfect blend of teaching the controls and also teaching how to play.

    I was especially interested in some of the tips for starting players as this had not really come across in previous write-ups or blog posts. It was good to finally learn some of the techniques for eliminating suspects.

    Good luck at PAX. I hope it helps raise the profile of your game. Any chance that you will be able to record some of the play test footage for us to see?

    • checker says:

      > footage

      I’m trying to figure out the best way to do this, but I’m definitely going to start putting video up soon. Phil’s idea of side by side is kind interesting as well…

    • jordy says:

      Side by side sounds ok, but I can imagine for it to be quite some work, personally I would prefer 2 different videos after each other, first sniper (to see if you can spot soy yourself) then spy. And that times 100 ;D.

      Just noticed by looking closer at the controls that the sniper really is managing the “information-flow” recording and paying attention to all the signals he receives, it’s cool that you have the possibility as a sniper to highlight suspects and books, and I think this really is a great gameplay feature that you should try to extend, of course you’ll have to find a balance between visual recording in the game itself (i.e. highlighting and stuff) and what the sniper has to record for himself in his brain, but that way the sniper really paints a picture for himself of how he thinks things are^^.
      Btw, did the cctv get into this playtest? Since I didn’t read about it in the manual, but I can remember reading about it on RPS?

  7. Anonymous says:

    The document finally made me understand Spy Party thanks to a detailed description of nuances of it. I would have gladly read it at PAX before playing. Best of luck with the game, and thanks a lot for sharing the document which bumped this to the top of my “most anticipated” list.

  8. Jonathan Fulton says:

    I had only an inkling of how deep and thick this game is gonna be, and when I RTFM, I literally dookied a shooter and started looking for airline tickets to PAX.
    I cannot wait for this game. If it releases on a platform/system I don’t currently own, I will buy that system to play this game.
    This is a new chapter in game development you’ve started here, and I…. oisdncoisbudvidbkxjzvi;uebcl;ivesu! <== trying to express how excited about it I am.
    The very best of luck –

  9. Ben Gronfors says:

    I read through it all, but that’s normal for me… anytime I am waiting to play a game, I’ll read the manual to pass time :)
    That’s honestly the only way I can see people reading it, while waiting their turn to play.

    What about making a tutorial video in the future? (since it’s too late now) It’d be a lot more work, but I’m sure you could get the free help from your fans here :)
    Maybe I’ll make one this weekend… just for fun :)

    Keep of the good work! Can’t wait to be able to try it :/

  10. jordy says:

    3 out of 3 comments I’ve read so far:

    “SpyParty is my favourite thing at PAX, the dudes running the booth are awesome and the game is hilarious and I love it.

    My friends are back there playing for the third time while I had to come back to rest my feet.”

    “I didn’t get to play Spy Party today (there was a hell of a line!) but got to watch a few games. I totally love it and cannot WAIT to try it myself. It just hits all the right notes.”

    “I played this today, it was really fun even though I sucked at it (lost both times, lol.) I will definitely try to play it again before PAX is over — it’s the best game I’ve played here so far .”


    It sounds like SpyParty is/was an absolute success! Congrats!

  11. Michael says:

    I think that the manual’s length is just fine. This is an entirely new genre, and therefore, you need to read a few paragraphs to understand all the concepts. This is the simplest task in the world if you compare it to the learning curve of Dwarf Fortress.

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