I give a lot of lectures on games. In these lectures, I often talk about games as an art form, and how games are different from the other popular and important art and entertainment forms. Even though we often get compared to film, I think when games finally fulfill their potential, they will be as deeply different from film in the ways they affect people emotionally as film is from music or painting.1
I don’t think anyone knows exactly what these differences will feel like in 50 or 100 years, but I think we can get whiffs of them in current games, and for me, the scent is especially strong in competitive player-skill games. There is something about a competitive player-skill game that gets to the essence of interactivity, the thing that makes games different from the other art and entertainment forms. The players, interacting with the game systems and each other, using their physical and mental skills to achieve a clearly defined win-state…it can be magic. Although there are many different-yet-amazing competitive player-skill games, like my old flame Counter-Strike, but also obviously Starcraft, and DOTA/League of Legends,2 I think the magic I’m talking about is most clearly captured in this famous clip of a Street Fighter tournament:
There have been articles written about these seconds of gameplay, it has become internet-famous, and I have used it in several of the aforementioned lectures.
This magical thing happened at a fighting game tournament called The Evolution Championship Series, or more commonly, Evo.
It’s always been one of my design goals for SpyParty to be regarded as a competition-worthy player-skill game, to try to attain the depth of a game like Counter-Strike or Street Fighter, but by emphasizing a very different set of player-skills from the current crop of competition games. However, to be included in that pantheon your game has to be able to stand up to thousands of hours of play, and designing a game like that turns out to be very hard. Luckily, I’m patient, but I’m expecting it to take years for SpyParty to get to that level, if it ever does. Eventually, once the game was balanced and tuned and deep enough, I hoped people would start running tournaments, and maybe those tournaments would grow, and then, who knows. But I’m getting way ahead of myself…
This is all by way of saying I’ve been fascinated by Evo for a while, but hadn’t spent much time thinking about how it relates to me and my game right here and now. And then my friend Seth Killian emailed me, “Would you be interested to bring SpyParty to Evo this summer?”
He went on, “Obviously your game isn’t a fighter, but what’s interesting about these guys is that they aren’t just good at fighters–they’re good at games, and breaking down systems, period. They like games that involve psychology, competition, or are just insanely difficult.”
Now you’re talking.
So, after I said “YES” as fast as I could, Seth introduced me to Tom Cannon, and it’s happening, and I’m nervous but very excited! Did I mention the nervous part? The fighting game community is well-known for their, um, honest feedback, and I’m hoping they like SpyParty, but if they don’t, I’m hoping they’ll tell me why, and not just beat me up or something.
In fact, to this end, I offered to invite a bunch of Evo attendees into the beta before the show, so they could read the manual, practice, and play some games online with the current beta testers to increase the level of play once we get there. Tom put a signup form on the announcement and got over twice as many signups from registered Evo attendees as we planned, so he had to shut it down. I was originally going to invite 50, but I may try to invite even more of them this week. I expect some of them will be pretty good by the time the show starts if they practice. I’m going to do a similar setup to last year’s PAX booth, so three 1v1 stations, but this time I’m also going to try to get two of them on the internet so people in the beta lobby can play people at Evo. I hope some of the expert players will hang around the lobby to give hands-on demonstrations of SpyParty‘s current player-skill depth!
Even better, it turns out Tom and Seth wanted to have a bunch of player-skill competitive indie games at the show, so they’ve got a great lineup for their Indie Showcase, including Aztez, BaraBariBall, DIVEKICK, Nidhogg, Super Comboman, and Super Time Force!
But, the coolest thing of all is that I found out the Evo expo is open to the public and free on July 6th and 7th! So, if you’re in the Las Vegas area, or within driving distance, come by and play SpyParty and all these indie games! Oh, and I’m sure there’ll be a couple fighting games around somewhere to play if you look hard enough.
I have my work cut out for me trying to make SpyParty deep enough to be a competitive gaming title, of course. There have been a few different articles about the game’s upcoming appearance at Evo, with comments ranging from “awesome!” to “wtf?!”, but my favorite comment was on the Kotaku piece:
|LuppyLuptonium||Tue 26 Jun 2012 8:26 PM|
|This is like Bingo being played at an NBA basketball game…. Nothing necessarily wrong with it but strange.|