A Deathtrap and a Walk in the Park

One of the new things I’m doing for the GDC build is adding two additional maps.  Up until now, everybody who’s played SpyParty has played in the Ballroom, a box with 12 or so characters in it and windows on two sides.  The Ballroom is carefully tuned to be fair for both Sniper and Spy at all skill levels (well, at least from total newb to 10 hour elite hardcore, the current limit of my playtest depth).  All the screenshots you’ve seen of the game are of this map, although for pictures I often increase the number of characters walking around.  Here’s a typical view from the Sniper’s perspective of the Ballroom with the correct number of characters at the party:

The first new map I’m adding is called Balcony.  I haven’t playtested it yet, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a deathtrap for the Spy.  There are only 7 or 8 characters, and the space is tiny.  The Spy has to either bug the ambassador, or contact the double agent.  Neither is going to be easy, since a reasonable Sniper can trivially watch everybody simultaneously.  I dunno, maybe the Spy can hide behind that plant:

On the flip side, the Veranda level should be a Spy’s dream mission.  There are 22 characters walking around, and the Sniper can’t see the whole level from any single position.  The statues are spaced very far apart, as are the bookshelves, and there are conversations going on everywhere:

Here’s a bird’s eye view from a debug camera:

I can’t wait to playtest these.  When you’re tuning a game, it’s sometimes useful to slam the knobs to either extreme, so I’m interested to see how these maps feel to play.  Is the Balcony hopeless, or does it feel like a fun little diversion?  Does the Veranda feel like a hard Sniper challenge, or simply impossible?  What happens if you have two Snipers watching the Veranda simultaneously?

I’ll report back when I’ve got some data!


  1. Sarah says:

    Boolshelves on a veranda?

    I’m hoping there will be a few more open levels like a park/fountain or a train station, stuff you’d see in movies. :)

    • checker says:

      Yeah, the bookshelves are questionable, but I need to code more missions! Poison Drink is next, and that should fictionally work fine on a veranda (as long as you’re always poisoning a mint julep :). I’m definitely going to have all sorts of different places in the final game, totally. I was just thinking about a cocktail party out by the pool, and someone could get pushed in to make a distraction!

    • Pe-ads says:

      A mission by a pool would be awesome. Perhaps even toy with/have a bonus level where you are actually in the pool and you have to do missions :D That would be even more awesome!

      Though about pushing people in: wouldn’t that be pretty darn obvious it was you? I guess tripping someone up would work, but then wouldn’t you be giving your position away, as you’d be the only person to trip people up. I guess they could trip themselves up, sometimes…

    • jordy says:

      May I have satellites in my version of SpyParty?

    • checker says:

      They will be available for a small extra fee.

    • jordy says:

      DCL, Yoepiee!!! xD

      Captcha now going black/white ^^

    • Kamil says:

      well then you only do it when there’s a nice crown covering you & you can see the snipers laser somewhere in the distance.

      Also, maybe we can get a mission where the spy is on the ground as well & has to knife the target. or a spot in a tree on a small map, but only 1 perspective.

      I also like the poisoning mission for the Spy.

  2. Pe-ads says:

    Looking awesome! From the title, I thought you were actually going to have missions called Deathtrap and A Walk in the Park :-P I think a level in the grounds of a big house would be good. In fact, you could even have a level for each house in the Clue (Cluedo to all the Brits, like me!) mansion :D I mean, you already have a ballroom, and I think a conservatory and a library would make great missions.


    • checker says:

      Yeah, I’m hoping to have a whole mansion as an advanced “multiple-snipers vs multiple-spies” map.

    • jordy says:

      It would be really cool if you could find some way that forces snipers and spies to interact together and share informations and plans.

    • checker says:

      Totally.  Certainly for team play, but I hope to also have more ways for the Spy and the Sniper to interact even 1v1.

    • beleester says:

      The stakes are really high, so it would have serious griefing potential. A sniper shouldn’t be able to end the game for all his teammates in 5 seconds by shooting at random. Perhaps only the sniper who shot is out of the game, but then you have the bizarre situation of a party continuing as normal while one of the guests is dead in the middle of the ballroom. Maybe “arresting” rather than killing would make more sense in this context?

    • checker says:

      Yeah, there’s going to be an arrest mode anyway since my 8 year old doesn’t like to kill people :), so it makes sense to use it in multiple places.  The new modes will require a lot of testing to get balanced, hence the focus on 1v1 for the initial beta.

    • Pe-ads says:

      Haha, so your 8 year old will try to arrest you whilst you seduce a partyer… :-P

  3. Squishy says:

    This is a great addition and I will be interested in how it works in testing. It also gives a good insight into how you will be able to scale levels up in difficulty with blind spots. Will this build also be the first public try out for the ‘active reload’?

    One thing that spies could try on the balcony is using the people for cover. With it being so crowded it might be harder for the sniper to take a shot. Otherwise, do you have plans to allow the spy to make distractions? For example to trip up a waiter or suggest to another guest to check out a statue. Anything to help draw the sniper’s eye.

    As always any videos of gameplay would be appreciated for those of us who haven’t yet had a chance to play :)

    • checker says:

      (Hmm, I replied to this once, wordpress ate it.)

      Yeah, GDC will be the first place for people to playtest the action test stuff. It’s not exactly public, but it’s pretty easy to get an expo pass to get into where the IGF kiosks will be. I’m also trying to figure out PAX East, but it’s currently looking > 50% likely that I’ll be there.

      And yes on the distractions: spilling drinks, tipping the waiter’s tray, knocking over a statue, spilling a drink into the radio so it starts smoking, and having the double agent do all these things too.

      More videos coming soon!

  4. Dude says:

    Would it be an idea to have a level with multiple rooms (So the sniper and Spy could change rooms)
    Each room could even has it’s own objective.
    Or would this get too easy for the spy?

    • checker says:

      I don’t know if it’ll be too easy, but I’m definitely going to prototype multiple rooms this year!  A friend had the idea for a room where the blinds are drawn, so you can only see the silhouettes of the characters in the room!

  5. Danny says:

    Yeah it does look like those two new maps are too small and too big. You could always just keep it ballroom size and change the layout, or add two snipers on the larger maps.

    • checker says:

      There are lots of knobs.  Maybe more missions on the big map, or riskier more obvious missions, etc.  Lots of variables to play with, but I definitely wanted to do some big changes and see how they playtest.

  6. ♣TadMod♣ says:

    I think Balcony is a good idea, but, as you say, it’s too small.

    I think it would be better to have a 2 level balcony with stairs. The sniper would still be able to see everyone at once, but the spy would at least have a lot more space to sneak around in.

    Just my 2 cents. :)

  7. jordy says:

    I think it’ll be doable, but you’ll probably have to remember who’s getting in and out of a zone you’re clearly watching. Maybe figure out a high-lighting system for that.

  8. CJackson says:

    Just curious, are you going to release the game first, and then add more levels/modes etc over time? I’d hate to see Spy Party become one of -those- games that take bloody forever to get to 1.0.  I’d rather see content added as free or paid expansions. Sure, 3 levels or something would be great at release, but levels with multiple rooms, 2v1, 2v2 etc would add so much complexity and therefore development time.

    • checker says:

      Everyone is telling me to ship early and iterate, which kind of goes against my perfectionist nature, but I’m thinking about it.  I’ll ponder it more seriously after GDC.

    • CJackson says:

      Well limiting the content or the scope somewhat actually means you can be more of a perfectionist about what you do have. If you’ve got a smaller chunk of gameplay to have to work on, you can polish it to a mirror finish, rather than either having more content that’s not as good (which if you’re a perfectionist is clearly not going to happen), or taking a lot longer to get it all up to scratch (much more likely).

      I guess it’s: Quality, Quantity, Timeliness- choose 2. IMO quality and timeliness are best, and leave the extra quantity for the next release.

      But hey, it’s your game, and you’ve done pretty damn well without the infinite wisdom of people who’ve never worked in games before, so go with your gut!

  9. jordy says:

    I really love how you’re such a perfectionist about this game, and I truly believe this game and it’s potential should be developed to the fullest. But, although I don’t know how you’re finances are, I do think an earl(ier)y release would be the way to go. Not only for my own selfish reasons, which I don’t have o_O, but also because it will both give you more income to work further on the game and hire more people perhaps, and player-base will start to grow overtime due to mouth-of-mouth advertising, articles etc. in-short you allow for a community to be developed. Some examples coming to mind, minecraft (I hope you match or succeed this record!) and Frozen Synapse, which comes closer to what you’re doing, I constantly see new people coming in there and there probably will be quite a lot of press at there eventual release.

    I think making a big splash title and hit the market it with it is mostly successful for big companies and big games, some smaller games have open beta’s which do seem to work at times, but I think indie games can be really successful with prolonged exposure and a strong community base.

    Possibly down-side could be, people give up on this game to early due to a too early built…. BUT, let’s be honest.. That’s not going to happen is it!!

  10. Shaun says:

    I really like the idea of variable sizes in maps. I guess you’ll see whether these are TOO hard or not, but I think that it’s a great way to provide challenges to more advanced players as well as give newer players the opportunity to learn the tricks and improve (Balcony being good for a new sniper and an expert spy and vice versa). And, it’s easy to just tweak the area size to make it more balanced.

    Here is an idea: if you were to have teams of snipers, they could communicate via voicechat, and perhaps spies could do it when close enough to have a conversation and confirming that they are speaking to a fellow spy, but the spy would need to make sure he’s talking to the right person or it would give him away!

    • checker says:

      I like the proximity Spy chat idea, I’ll have to think about that more!

    • Shaun says:

      Cool! The teams’ use of voice chat would be very different, too – snipers would communicate via their headsets about who in the party is doing what, suspects, etc, while spies would come up with game plans for distractions and goal accomplishing. Plus, when working together, voice chat always makes it more fun and feel more cooperative.

    • checker says:

      Someone was telling me that one of the Rainbox Six games opened a chat channel when you grabbed somebody from behind, right before you cut their throat, which I thought was another interesting use of proximity for chat.  Lots of cool stuff to explore in this area.

    • Shaun says:

      Oh man that’s awesome

  11. Ron says:

    Hey Hecker,
    I’ve been away for a while now, and had a bunch of reading to do to catch up. Great reads.
    I have some thoughts, suggestions, comments, and more. So enticing, right? (I’m going to use some HTML in my post, even though I have no idea if you have it enabled. So if it works: great; if it doesn’t: ignore things between )

    First let’s comment on my experience with the “competition”. I kind of went over this in another comment, but here is a more general analysis. I played through several games while dealing with complex family situations (I don’t need to get into).
    Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood had elements of stealth and blending, but never really focused on it. I got really good at the game, but that was more through experimentation and learning what rewarded you most. It really didn’t have much to learn in regards to subtlety. Through leveling up, you acquired new abilities to both kill and hide, new characters and costumes, and perks to help modify the gameplay. Some abilities rewarded those who played subtly, but there were far more incentives to play rashly for the average player. If you attempted stealth in both kills and defense, you would either win fabulously or fail miserably. This was largely contingent on skill, but if you played quick and brash, even with no skill you could often accrue a substantial reward. This is what I saw many players resort to in killing due the skill gap. I however, really took the time to go stealth. For example: one of my favorite skills that I unlocked to kill with was poison. This action had no “tell” to the victim, but had the risk that another team-mate could take the kill before your victim died from the poison. This had great reward, but required you to maintain stealth for the duration of the event in order to not arouse suspicion.

    The new maps have very interesting elements to them. I do like the idea of the location itself providing more or less challenge. The balcony is very cramped. Not really sure that’s a bad thing. As long as the missions are tailored to the location, it could work by using much more subtle missions or it could just be a balls to the walls, I’m giving myself more of a challenge. The larger map will be awesome as well with multiple snipers. Just out of curiosity, what is the maximum load you think of your current engine? (How many players in a single session?) If SpyParty can handle it, the large map could be expanded upon by creating a much larger yet, (think mansion, train station, etc.), and having a 4vs4.

    A quick suggestion on non-gameplay elements. I know I’m not alone in this, but I know it’s not crucial to a game either, but I love unlocking things. You could use this the leveling mechanic as an easy system for achievements, matchmaking, and unlockables. Unlockables could be new modes, maps, costumes, or even missions.

    • jordy says:

      Unlocking things is a great idea, it’s addicting (yay!), makes you happy when you unlock something, players get introduced to the game softly and like Ron says could sever as a measurement for matchmaking.

      Drawbacks I think are, it’s kinda cheesy, commercial and is addicting.

    • checker says:

      Welcome back, and I hope the family stuff went okay!  I’m going to write up a post about AC:B and The Ship, now that I’ve played both a fair amount. Hopefully in the next week or so. Good point about the poison, I haven’t unlocked that yet, but maybe I’ll play until I do.  I think I’m level 21 or so now, and it looks like it’s at level 29.

      The “engine”, such as it is, supports a fair number of characters, maybe 30 or 40 right now?  Computers are fast, but I haven’t started working on the rendering at all yet, so I’m pretty sure I won’t have a problem with the number of characters rendered.  Famous last words.

      I’ll probably have some unlockable stuff, but I’m probably going to stay away from the way AC:B does it, in the sense that playing more gives you better gadgets that let you do better, simply because I want it to be a completely level playing field for all players.  Or, maybe I’ll have a “pure” mode for ranked matches where it’s just player-skill, and then a campaign mode where you get gadgets as you play.  Not sure yet.  Also, as Jordy says, I’m pretty cautious around the reward psychology stuff.

  12. Coderro says:

    You gonna have a sniper race mode where multiple snipers try to be the first to peg the spy? Spy still tries to complete all missions without getting caught, of course.

    • checker says:

      Yep, and the Snipers will then be hiding their laser sights from both the Spy and the other Snipers!  :)

    • Pe-ads says:

      Just thought of something epicly weird and strange at the same time. Sniper trying to snipe each other?!

      Or even better, have rival spies and snipers at a party, and have the spies being able to kill the other spy. Oo-hoo!

  13. EDJ says:

    Hi, Ive followed this game for quite some months and it looks awesome!
    But Ive got some questions, in all playtesting ive seen xboxes. Is this temporarily and will it also be released for pc , etc or xbox-only.
    And will you make this a free or a paid game.
    Thanks in advance and good luck with updating this. these blo post are also very nice to read.

    • Ron says:

      It’s been mentioned elsewhere, but the current plans are Steam, PSN, and XBLA.

    • Ron says:

      Strike that, here’s more: “hopefully xbla, psn, steam, wii hd, ipad, 3ds, your car’s navigation system, etc.”

  14. Ron says:

    I saw that you had briefly mentioned it, but how excited are you for the player integration between PSN and steam?

    • checker says:

      “Very excited”  :)  I’m hoping to at least do xbla<->pc and psn<->pc.  I would do xbla<->psn in a millisecond if the platform holders would let me, which they won’t, sadly.  :)  With multiplayer games, you need to always keep a critical mass playing so people can always find a game, and that’s way harder with indie games, so being able to double or triple the number of people available to play will be a big help.

  15. Atticus says:

    Finally, a game not based solely on reflexes, I want this game now xD
    And an idea I thought of, might to be overpowering to the sniper, maybe not. The sniper can have a npc under their control more or less. If he engages the spy or the spy engages him in a conversation a bar will pop up like you were completing an objective and if the spy doesn’t do it correctly he’s do a “tell” or something, and maybe the spy gets bonus points for poisoning him or poisoning him causes him to leave the party, thus rendering him useless. The sniper can select a character and then the snipers “Helper”? will go to that person and it cause the timer bar effect if that’s the spy. And a clever spy can find out who the helper is and every time he sees him talk to a npc, can go for an objective knowing the snipers looking at his helper for the tell. God there’s so much you can do with this!! Just release and update it over time, don’t starve he world of the first video game that crosses over board game thinking into the video game realm D:

    • checker says:

      Yeah, the plan is to have the Sniper give the Security Guard commands to interrogate people, which can muck with the Spy in a bunch of ways, but I like the idea of the Sniper’s helper being unknown to the Spy, that might be even better!

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