The First Beta Playtest

Late Sunday night, I was looking at the lobby server logs, and saw a login from “rachel” but no logout.  Uh oh, I thought, this must be a bug, since with only 9 people invited into the Early-Access Beta so far, the chance of actually finding another person in the lobby without making a pre-arranged date to play was basically zero.

I don’t have great tools for inspecting the running lobby yet, so I started up a local copy of SpyParty and logged on to poke around.  Hey look, it wasn’t a bug, it was actually my friend Rachel Reynolds, the real live beta tester!  She’d started up the game after registering, and was just checking things out.  She invited me to a game, and away we went!

According to the stats, we were in the match for 1 hour, 30 minutes, and 17 seconds, and we played 10 games for a total of 44 minutes and 31 seconds of playtime.  We spent a lot of time testing the new chat system and finding bugs and things that need cleaning up.  We also spent a lot of time re-learning how to play because neither of us had played since last summer!

Here’s the punch list we came up with from this official First Early-Access Beta Playtest:

  • chat
    • make local echo look like remote print, no /say
      • actually, echo command and print message
    • help on cursor line feels weird
    • put “hit ‘y’ to chat, page up/down to scroll history” at bottom
      • at least until person has done it a couple times?
      • nah, just in small text, want to encourage it
      • hmm, this is just going to be annoying if it’s always there…
    • mask keys from game when chatting!!!
      • sniper camera
      • spy movement!
    • don’t fade messages if app is background
    • do a “checker is typing” meta message?
      • can only do this out-of-game or it’s a tell
    • word wrap text to screen
    • uh, where do I cap the length of the chat message?!
      • no where…need to do it in HandleKey, and have help?
      • need to scroll the chat line too, including the help!
        • or word wrap it? yikes
  • statue in hand anim bug
    • repro: grabbing statue on veranda in overlap area?
  • fix statues to use the pad instead of radius
  • character/level chooser mouse tip for select versus next/prev
  • laser event still sending on sniper finished screen
  • add back 3 of 4 known missions on ballroom
    • have another menu mission state to pick available known missions
      • pick 4 of 6 that will be the available
      • then pick 3 of 4 to accomplish
      • make sure this journals
    • need to store some way of telling which map and game mode in db!
      • a single dword?
  • document action test is same button?
    • put small icon next to it?
  • remove briefcase verbs? or ignore them?

Not bad for an hour and half’s “work”!

However, for me personally, the biggest (re)discovery of the playtest was that I really like playing my game!  That probably sounds odd, but in the seemingly endless months of getting the beta ready, losing myself in server code that is necessary but feels very far away from making a work of art and entertainment for other humans to experience and enjoy, I’d actually forgotten how much I love just plain playing SpyParty, and it was great to be reminded of that.

Also, goddamn this game is stressful to play!

2012-03-02 13:59:07 – Just checked off the statue bugs.  Nobody is reading this old entry anymore, though, are they?

31 Comments

  1. dangerskew says:

    Awesome to hear; it’s sounding like the game is finally starting to take shape and get into motion with this beta! I can’t even imagine all the hard work it must have taken to get to this point, and I both envy and applaud your determination and persistance to make something truly great.

    Also, I’d be glad to take some of that stress off by playing the game for you! ;)

  2. Keith says:

    10 games eh? In under an hour? 8 hours a day will likely bring me to about 100 games a day. The life of a pro gamer, i might be able to do that.

    • jordy says:

      I’ll be there with you ;)

      It sounds like you haven’t really hit any major bugs and are just shaving/polishing the game some more at this point? And spread the fun soon PLEASE!!! ;)

    • Craig M says:

      “[no] major bugs” – I guess it depends on what you mean by “major bugs.”  I’d think that “mask keys from game when chatting!!!” is a pretty big deal – you don’t want to be moving as the spy while trying to type a chat message.

    • jordy says:

      Sure, but I mean more, in terms of added work, I dunno how hard it will be to fix but, at the very least the game is playable :).
      Please don’t get TOO much into the nitty gritty of things until you have invited some more people in!! :p

    • checker says:

      Don’t worry, I’m just going to try to fix all the fruit that’s hanging so low beta testers are tripping on it!

  3. Wessel Stoop says:

    If Chris is considering a “checker is typing”-message in-game, that means in-game chat is possible! Interesting, because I would definitely use that as a strategy. For example, I could type something without sending it, and then send it directly after doing a mission. The sniper will probably think I won’t do a mission and type at the same time, which makes all characters at the book cases and the statues etc a little bit less suspicious. Or I could send a long message just before I do mission, to distract the sniper (since he’s probably curious what his opponent is saying). And what is even more interesting, more experienced snipers of course know about this strategy, which causes the strategy to have the opposite effect. But then again, the spy knows the sniper knows this, thus… this is what’s called yomi, right?

    On the other hand, these kind of strategies add a verbal behavior side to the game (besides the physical behavior side), and that’s maybe not what we want. Well, I guess the beta will tell whether chat strategies ruin the experience or not :-).

    • jordy says:

      Nice thinking, I definitely think chatting in-game can be an extra dimension, though problem is how you balance it right, so that it doesn’t favor the spy more then the sniper, seeing how the sniper has to perceive 24/7 and the spy has only to deceive a couple of times.

      But I can certainly see some nice game-play come out of this, especially if you know an opponent better.

    • checker says:

      Yeah, I like the potential meta-gameplay with chat, but I need to tread lightly, it gets complicated really fast, and I don’t want the meta stuff to swamp the core stuff.  For starters, I think I won’t do a “checker is typing” meta-message, at least during play.  It would be useful in the match menu because it means you wouldn’t hang up on the other person while they were typing as much.

    • Mike says:

      Or when you’re about to shoot someone (or maybe even if you’re not) you could send them a message saying you’re about to take your shot. If your target moves then it could be them. If they stay still to try and bluff you then they’ll be crapping their pants.

    • keith says:

      looks like ill have to come up with some kind of ‘prayer’ to say before I squeeze the trigger.

  4. Jason R says:

    I can’t wait!

  5. Cory C says:

    I was wondering if you already have concept of the art style of the finished Graphics.
    Do you have art already drawn?

    or what’s the style your thinking of at least?
    Are there other games with similar style?

    I’m also really excited to play the beta!
    Thanks a lot

    • checker says:

      I haven’t decided yet, but I’m stewing on it.  I posted this long ago, which has some great images:  http://www.spyparty.com/2009/09/09/spies-are-cool/

      Just the fact that SpyParty doesn’t have dudes in armor carrying swords and machine guns means it will look very different from other games! :)

    • Spencer says:

      I’m a huge fan of MAD Magazine, so I’m partial to the Spy Vs. Spy look. ;) But literally anything would look great for this game. … Even dudes in armor. :P

    • Jason R says:

      I sense a few mods for this game coming on…if they’re allowed. 

  6. Phil says:

    It’s nice to see you’re still showing strikethroughs of the tasks you’ve completed! Something for the more obsessed fans who visit every single day… not that I’d do that or anything.

  7. maarch says:

    The chat bug made me think about messaging in game. To avoid the whole ” player X is typing “. Maybe it could be an option in the futur, to also have voice chat ingame ?. I know it wouldn’t be for the beta, but maybe for the full release. 

  8. Nocturna says:

    Just out of curiosity, would I be able to hook up an xbox controller to my pc and play it like that? Because I’ve seen videos where people did that while playing spyparty, so I assume that’s some sort of feature.

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