SpyParty at PAX West 2011 – Going for Depth

Beta, what beta?  Let’s talk about PAX West 2011,1 which is now only slightly more than one week away.  Yikes!

Once again, SpyParty has a booth, but as evidenced by my previous two PAXes, apparently I have to do it differently each time.  So, here’s the deal this time around…

SpyParty has its own booth this year, #3002.  It’s an awesome booth, and I’m really excited I was able to nab it during the crazy-sold-out-PAX-booth-registration-period.  I know it is awesome because it was the booth next door to ours last year, and it’s just perfectly positioned and sized for a single indie game.  I admit to ogling it on occasion during PAX last year, and fantasizing about it during those long, cold winter months.

Here’s a detail of the floorplan of 3002 and the surrounding booths.  You can see The Behemoth, Twisted Pixel, and Uber Entertainment are SpyParty’s next door neighbors.2

PAX West 2011 Floorplan Detail

Uber is in the booth Monaco and I were in last year, so my playtest table was set up just about where the number “3004” is on that image.  You might recall Dust-Off was in 3002 last year, and if not, here’s a picture I took the first day of PAX West 2010 looking in that direction.

No, I will not have a tent. Sadly.

Booth #3002 is so awesome because it’s a 10′ x 10′ island, which means it only has a wall behind it, and no immediate neighbors.  This means people can gather around three sides, and I can fit more stuff in the booth without it feeling too cramped.3  It’s also right next to the entrance.

Enough about the location, what about the contents of the booth?

The goal for this year’s booth is to give people a better taste of SpyParty’s depth and subtlety.  I’ve been incredibly fortunate to always have a long line whenever I set up at a convention, but the downside to having a line is I have to kick people off the game after they’ve played one game each of Spy and Sniper.  Your first game of SpyParty bears almost no resemblance to your 10th game of SpyParty, so I set about trying to figure out how to give people a taste of the real gameplay.  Some dedicated fans would get back in line multiple times, but when the line is an hour or more long, this is really asking a lot of people when there’s so much other cool stuff to see at PAX.  I think I’ve come up with a solution.

I’m going to set up three 1v1 SpyParty stations in #3002, so a total of 6 computers and monitors.  These three stations will be allocated as follows:

  1. The first station will be exactly like previous playtests at GDC and PAX East, where you can sit down, play a quick tutorial, and then play once as both Spy and Sniper on the Beginner Ballroom map.  That’s if there’s a line.  If there’s no line, feel free to play as long as you want, but if there is a line, you get one game as each role and then you have to get up so the next two people can play.
  2. The second station is for people who have played at least once before.  When you sit down at this station, you don’t have to play the tutorial if you don’t want to, and you and your partner can jump straight into playing.  You can play any map you want, and any missions.4  On this station, you can play two matches, so two Spy and two Sniper games each.  Now we’re starting to get past the initial “Why am I walking into a wall?” and into the “I’d better cool it in this conversation for 12 seconds before bugging the Ambassador”.  Still, once you’ve played a couple matches, you get the boot and you have to get back in line if you need another fix.
  3. The third station is where I’m conducting a bit of an experiment on the PAX attendees…this station has no time limit for players.  This means that if you show up right at the show floor opening, and are first in line, you can play all day and no one is allowed to bother you.  If you get in line for this station, you might not get to play at all; the line might not move.  Sorry, but that’s how it goes when you’re trying to make a deep game and let people experience it.  There are some rules:  only one of the two players can’t stay, both have to get up or stay.  I’ll probably let small groups alternate amongst themselves, so three or four people can rotate in and out, but I’ll have to see how that goes.  My goal with this station is not to get lots of people through it, it’s to get a few people to experience the advanced game.

It’s going to look something like this:

Cramped? Nah, let's use the word 'cozy'.

I have no idea if the third station is going to work, or cause fist fights.  Like last year, I’m going to have an HDTV up on a stand, and I’m thinking I’m going to mirror one of the third station monitors, because those are going to be the most interesting games in terms of advanced play.  Will there be peer pressure to get up and give others a turn?  Will there be ad hoc player organized tournaments?  Will somebody play long enough to start beating Ian and Paul?  I can’t wait to find out.

Secret Guest Games

The other wacky thing I’m doing this year is I’m going to have two guest indie games that will take over the booth for the first hour of the day on Saturday and Sunday mornings.  I’ll announce those games in another post very soon.

See you at booth #3002 in 7 days!


  1. Yes, I know they call it PAX Prime, but that’s silly, it should be PAX West to complement PAX East, and so that’s what I’ll call it. []
  2. The official maps are here and here. []
  3. …he declares, optimistically. []
  4. You might want to play the tutorial for the new missions if you haven’t played them yet. []

8 Comments

  1. tim says:

    Wish I could be there :)

  2. Jordy says:

    It’s nice of you to help your fellow indie-devs and give them some attention. As for the third table, I know I would be pretty pressured to stand up if I see all these poor people around me waiting, you might want to introduce a 5 games minimal things or something xD.

  3. Ryan says:

    Congrats Chris on getting your own booth. I hope you’ll get your own space for PAX East next year. Would be nice to have multiple stations next time :)

  4. Soupnazi says:

    Aaaagh, I wish I could go to PAX… I cannot wait for the beta. I just can’t.

  5. Ron says:

    Next year, I swear I’ll be saving up for a ticket.

  6. Carson says:

    I have no idea what to expect for that third booth, but it will be interesting to see what happens. But the one thing I do know is that I WILL try nab a seat there so I can play all of the stuff added since last year’s PAX. Until I feel really guilty for being there too long that is. But what if my partner is done? who will be my partner? What if the line for it grows to 20 people? The concept is interesting, but a bit scary. This is one of the few booths I plan to visit, so with any luck I’ll be able to take advantage of this.

    I’ll be there, and be dressed as Team Fortress 2’s spy! :D

    • checker says:

      Awesome, we had a TF2 Spy at PAX East. Check that page for some pics, and a comment from her too!

      And yeah, I have no idea what’s going to happen with the 3rd station. It will surely end in tears.

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