I Should Not Be Posting About This Beta Playtest

I really should be working on my GDC1 talks. Instead, I am writing up yet another beta playtest, so I will make this quick!

On Friday my friends and awesome game artists Luis Antonio and John Cimino playtested.  They were only supposed to play 4 or 6 games, but kept playing for an hour, which is a good sign.  Of course, I took a bunch of notes, so here are the tasks from that:

  • don’t get that click on guy selects during cast characters
  • mouse overrides cursor keys in menus if over item…don’t override if key change but no mouse change
  • have box with ? on side for casting characters – progress status and neat
  • why is volume not working on last 30 seconds timer on sniper machine?
  • sniper review tells on waiting screens
    • chooser through animations playing on loop!
    • require sniper okay to continue
  • detailed stats stay on mouseover and off…good?
    • mode on chooser that says if mouse moves off, and not keyboard select, then help goes away?
  • pgup->PageUp
  • ambassador was doing tapdance again…is it always the ambassador? I think so…!2
  • microfilm get animation is same as put, so you get it out of your pocket, which makes no sense

I need to consolidate the recent punch lists so you folks can see what I’m working on.  I occasionally check items off the older lists in the older posts, which is kind of silly.  Sadly, the tasks on this list aren’t going to get checked off for a while due to the conference this week.

The best anecdote from the playtest was when John shot Luis and then said, “I lowlighted all of the men at the start because you’ve only ever picked women as the Spy.”   Luis realized his meta-mistake, and had to consciously start randomizing his character choices more. That is exactly the kind of know-your-opponent yomi gameplay I want to encourage!

If you notice the laptop to the left in the picture below, John is actually chatting with us using Google Talk.  Luis and John didn’t notice because they haven’t played that much yet and I didn’t want to point it out, but I could clearly hear the Spy’s mouse clicks through the connection, and they are huge tells, so I’m going to have to figure out what to do about that before I enable voice chat as a feature.

SpyParty causes bad posture.

All the auto-update, crash dump, and login stuff seems to be working really well, so I’m super happy about that.

Now, back to my talks!

  1. The interview with Notch is supposed to be live-streamed on Gamespot, no link as of yet. []
  2. I’ve been seeing this rare bug where one of the characters would slide across the floor, jittering.  I noticed it again during this playtest and realized I always see it on the Ambassador, which is a huge help in debugging it! []


  1. Quirken says:

    I love it when “obvious” design choices are so obvious they’re overlooked at first (like the mouse overriding keyboard one)

    I remember reading about controller joystick clicks being a giveaway. Honestly, I think that’s a plus. I still think the best ‘solution’ is to allow people to send clicks that don’t mean anything. I.e. clicking on something (or pressing a key) to send a sound to the opponent, without a corresponding action occuring.

    A ‘bluff’ button, if you will.

    • checker says:

      I’ll think about the bluff button idea, I remember you mentioning that a while ago when I told the story of one tester slamming the camera stick around to fake out his opponent.  I should figure out if that’s something to codify in the UI or not.

  2. Craig M says:

    What about push to talk voice chat? That would probably solve the clicks being heard through the voice chat. If the spy doesn’t want clicks to be heard, they wouldn’t voice chat while clicking…

    • checker says:

      Ah, right, duh, I should have thought about that.  Push to talk totally solves the problem, and even turns it into gameplay!

    • Keith says:

      Yes! PTT please! I have grown a small “eww” feeling for games that force continuous transmission.

    • Wessel Stoop says:

      Good idea, but that will only solve the problem partially, right? Because ptt would still mean that the spy can’t click (at least not without being heard) while talking, which could be a tell. Perhaps the ideas of Quirken en Craig could be combined by having two ‘talk modes’: a normal mode and a bluff mode that deactivates the mouse temporarily. Players who don’t want to use this bluff mode can simply use the other one all the time. Thanks for the update!

    • checker says:

      Yeah, it’s going to require testing, but the Spy could choose not to talk, and that’s a very subtle tell.  Also, the Spy could have a mouse with no button click, or use a 360 controller held far enough away from the mic.

      Hah, just found this!


    • Wessel Stoop says:

      True. Haha, I could see myself sitting in very awkward positions to avoid my mouse clicks being recorded ;-).

    • Quirken says:

      Spy party or not, that mouse would drive me insane. I need that click feedback.

    • checker says:

      I may get one to check it out.  I can do a promo with them, the official mouse of people who don’t want to get shot!

    • AVB says:

      Another way to avoid this problem could be with a sound overlay of a ticking clock.  Also adds tension.  There are ways for the sniper to work around this: hear an extra click or look for a guest changing direction on each second.

    • Keith says:

      I think going along with this idea you can perhaps use a heart beat instead of a ticking clock. As time runs out, it can slowly fade in. Not sure how you want to tackle time being added though.

    • Quirken says:

      A heartbeat that fades in could be cool, but it might end up being obnoxious. I do like the idea of trying to time direction changes with the heartbeat, but man, that’d be a nightmare. Think about how just a little lag could throw your timing off and make it obvious, and it’d be completely out of your control.

    • keith says:

      Yeah. That’d be tough. But what if you just had the heartbeat play when the scope was up. I mean, it doesn’t address the problem above but it could add a more dramatic effect when you’re about ready to take that last shot.

    • checker says:

      I’ve thought about it a bit, and I don’t want to do a heartbeat sound effect because I want any heartbeat sounds to come from the player’s actual heart.  :)  It’s a subtle thing, but I never want my games to tell somebody how to feel, I want their feelings to emerge from the stimuli naturally…if somebody is cold as ice playing, that’s just as awesome to me as somebody who’s soiling themselves!

    • keith says:

      Good thing you have to make all the choices. I certainly don’t want that task! I have a hard enough time making choices games throw at me. So instead of choosing I just save the game and do both options.

      Good reasoning though.

  3. Jon says:

    Deception outside the game is definitely a plus.

  4. Quirken says:

    Meanwhile, I’ll be the guy who uses the unbound extra buttons on my mouse to click randomly with no apparent function :)

    • jordy says:

      Tried that, unfortunately mine make a distinctive different sound, of course I could re-map my mouse so that those are actually the functional buttons, faking out my opponent twice :D

    • keith says:

      *jots down notes*

      Would you care to elaborate on your top secret plan to fake out the sniper? Details are most welcome.

      I never did find much use for extra buttons. I have two by my thumb that I could use but they don’t make any sounds. Maybe I could yawn obnoxiously loud to cover some clicks. Id be more worried about my keyboard though. Its a loud clicker!

    • jordy says:

      Using the sound of the side buttons to sound like I’m trying to fake out the sniper while actually moving and then, acting trying to hide the “normal” mouse clicks using it when an AI is moving.
      The Sniper would think I’m trying to fake him out with my side-button noise and are hiding my real mouse-clicks but he catches on, or so he thinks, making me in-suspicious cause it sounds like I’m trying to frame myself and the framed AI looking guilty.

      Would need to be clear that it are 2 different sounds though for the sniper..

    • keith says:

      I feel like I’m getting a sense of your style already and ill have an advantage against you when we play each other.

    • jordy says:

      :D, You’re trying to get in my head?! .. ALREADY?! :p I’ve got some surprises in mind already when you play me, so you better watch out!

    • keith says:

      Is doing a complete 360 when I’m not looking one of those things? Because when I’m streaming, I’m totally doing that to you at least once. Hopefully I won’t get shot though. Haha

    • jordy says:

      :P feel free to do that, just know I’ll ALWAYS be looking! .. And probably wait the entire game before shooting you to make you feel you got away with it..

    • checker says:

      I am very interested to hear how both of your play experiences differ and are the same as your assumptions…you’ll have to post in the beta forums about it when you’re in!

    • keith says:

      Don’t you worry Checker, I will most definitely be posting on the forums. May not post stuff like that unless you request it but ill do what I can to help!

      @jordy not if I hide behind the fat person at the party! Ill be like a ninja spy. I can do cartwheels and other ninja spy stuff. If I think you’re on to me ill just throw down smoke and disappear.

    • jordy says:

      I’ve only one assumption at the moment, it’ll be awesome :).

      @Keith, you won’t realize I was on you until you get shot

  5. Wessel Stoop says:

    Haha, are we able to do to full 360s? Then there should totally be some kind of achievement for doing a 360 and get away with it :-P. Or maybe some other things to tease the sniper, like an animation of the spy juggling with the statues :-P.

    • Wessel Stoop says:

      Oops, that comment was meant as a reply to the thread above.

    • keith says:

      I would think it would be possible. I can’t think of too many control schemes were you wouldn’t be able to do a 360. But who knows? Will be interesting to see what other kind of things people come up with. I have a few more ideas that are similar but not sure if its possible. I will have to wait and see.

    • jordy says:

      I’ve some gambits in mind as well that will spin your head :p

    • Keith says:

      I see what you did there! Spin your head? As in, doing a complete 360 when i’m not looking? haha

      I bet you can get away with a lot more stuff when on the bigger map. Now, doing it on the ultra small balcony map, that would be the challenge.

      You know, i’m beginning to enjoy these high risk maneuvers. I am beginning to catch a glimpse of what it would be like to be the ONLY person at the window and you don’t have much time so you need to check your watch. Sounds intense.

      Go go gadget awesome game.

  6. Quirken says:

    Looks like you’re in the news! http://kotaku.com/5892030/spy-partys-chris-hecker-calls-out-players-the-press-and-developers-for-lack-of-variety-in-games

    Mostly, I agree. I never understood why Halo was so popular when there was nothing particularly… different about it. (This is before CoD took the flag)

    That said… some developers have found ways to do very new things inside what might look ‘safe’ at first glance.

    • checker says:

      I’ll be posting video of it soon…this upload is going really slowly…8 hours to go!

    • Jordy says:

      “The bad wasn’t that you bought the same fucking game six months previously?” Hecker asked. “I mean, what the fuck!” Classic!

      I couldn’t agree more, though there is something to say for sameness, which is that it adds refinement to a game/genre. I cannot deny that I wished for quite a few games they would make a sequel, just because I thought the game was great and I really liked it, but it could possibly be even better.
      This ofcourse goes back to your “Please finish you f*ckin game”, or something like that, rant.

      But I guess I’m talking in a more specific sense here while you are targeting the industry and in that sense, yea, all for it!

    • keith says:

      There were some interersting points on there for sure. And reading some of the comments, they too bring up some interesting perspectives. Me and my buddies have similar conversations about the way games are being made. We are all disappointed in how the current trend is going but we still hope.

      Good read though. Good read.

    • Jordy says:

      Nice speech, do you believe this change will/has to come trough indie-games or will big cooperations eventually sway as well when the public demand changes?

      I recently heard about an interesting philosophy about pivot points, which was applicable to many things, basically the premise was this:

      Efficiency or profit optimization happens at the cost of resilience and vitality.
      So maybe this is applicable to this example as well in that we all seek efficiency, gamers want to spent there money on games were they know what to expect and what they like, press wants to attract readers and fulfill there desires, which is to know whether a certain game in there preferred genre is any good and most game companies seek to optimize profit.
      In this search for efficiency the playground has become stale and lost it’s vitality, which means one little shock can shatter the total environment because there is no resilience to the game industry as is.

      I certainly hope for more innovation, and am very happy you’re leading the way :), on that note… Any chance this week..?

    • checker says:

      Good chance this week…gotta fix the latest playtest stuff first, but very soon.

    • Adam says:

      I have an appetite for varied games, does that kinda make me like a Vegan?

    • checker says:

      I think it makes you a healthy omnivore.  People who just like current games are like those people who will only eat products with corn syrup as the first listed ingredient.

    • Adam says:

      Either way I feel it’s a license to feel superior to other gamers, so I’m all aboard!

    • Jordy says:

      I’m like the snob that only eats haute cuisine.. in games, otherwise I prefer big macs.

    • Adam says:

      The only food I can think of to compare to a game like Modern Warfare 3 is Taco Bell’s Taco with the Doritos Shell

    • keith says:

      Yes! Analogies! Ill give it a whirl.

      I like games where I can take a salad and bake it in the oven. Or…. I like games where I can stir fry me a cake. Mmm mmm good.

      That’s why I love analogies. Its not everyday I can say stuff like that. I thank the game Deuce Ex for being the first game to impress me in that way.

      @jordy, I think its the indies who will have to sort of lead the way. The big game companies won’t sway until the public opinion changes. Because they are indeed a business and they need to make the money. The model they currently have of “sameness” has proven time and time again to generate profits. And they think if its working, why change that?

      I think it should also be noted that our “appetite for sameness” can be applied to waaayyy more than video games.

    • Quirken says:

      I think you two have invented a new strategy for SpyParty. Spout inane comments over voice chat to distract the sniper while they try to figure out what you meant.

    • Jordy says:

      If this is confusing you… you don’t know what’s in store for you next time we meet eye to scope in a game of spyparty!

    • keith says:

      Unlike most games, I do think chat could play a significant role. Everything is a tell. I’m not so sure either play will have small moments of “rest” but if you ( the sniper ) can get the spy to talk and converse, the act of typing is a tell. And so is what they say, the length of the message and yadda yadda. I think it could benefit the sniper if they know a little about their oppenent.

      Likewise for the spy because they too could mess around with the sniper. Perhaps plan “moves” while trying to catch the sniper typing and not paying attention. I think it could be a great back and forth! This also extends out to voice chat.

      Can’t wait to find out!

    • checker says:

      Everything is a tell.

      This is totally true.

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