The SpyParty Masterclass Show: Pilot Episode with r7stuart

Three hours, forty-two minutes, and fifty-four seconds is too long for a YouTube video.

I don’t mean technically; it’s actually really great that YouTube now allows long videos. I mean in every other way. It’s too long to edit. It’s too long to watch. It’s too long to watch again to see if you made any editing mistakes. It’s too long to compress. It’s too long to upload. It’s just too long.

That said, the actual content of this too-long video is pretty awesome, so I apologize for the length, and I’ll try to keep these shorter in the future.

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What am I talking about? I’m talking about the new streaming video show I’m going to do called the…SpyParty Masterclass!

I was originally going to call it “Chris Tries to Learn to Stop Sucking at His Own Game”, but I think SpyParty Masterclass rolls off the tongue a little better.

The idea is this: every so often, like hopefully at least weekly from here on out,1 I will invite one of the elite SpyParty players to mentor me, to teach a masterclass with me as the student. I will do this on live-stream, and I will have the mentor stream too, or at least record the match locally. We will play some games, I will lose a lot, and we will discuss why I lost after each game. I will then edit the two recordings together for better post-stream viewing, and post them on the SpyParty YouTube channel.

Here is the first episode, the pilot if you will, recorded with r7stuart on his 1 year beta birthday:

If you go to the YouTube page for the video, you can see links to all the individual game timestamps in the video description. This makes it somewhat easier to navigate this giant monstrosity. I’ve put the Sniper side first in each game, so you can play along with me (losing) or him (winning) before you see the corresponding Spy view.  After both sides of the game, you can hear the discussion about what I did wrong.

Even just watching the first few games and commentary will teach you a lot about elite level SpyParty play. I will try to keep the episodes to an hour or so from here on out. As one of the players watching the stream said, “I’ve learned more in the last couple hours than I have all week.” 

I am really excited about doing this show. I love playing SpyParty, even when I lose, and I love learning why I lost, and I especially love learning things about my game I didn’t know, even though I wrote it.

When I’ve explained this to some newer players, they’re surprised I’m not the best at my own game. If I was the best at SpyParty, I’d be very worried about the depth of the design. I’m ecstatic I’m not the best at the game, and I haven’t been for a very long time. This is a good thing. The feeling of getting “beat at your own game” is an amazing one that every designer of a competitive game should strive for as early as possible. I would even claim if you have a reasonable number of players and you’re not getting beat at your own game, it either means they’re not that into your game so they’re not spending enough time to get really excellent at it, or it doesn’t have the systemic depth for them to find ways to get better at it than you. Either way, it’s a problem you need to fix!

If you’ve got feedback on the format, please post it in the comments. It’s my first even remotely complicated editing job, and it’s pretty rough. I hate editing video, it just takes forever, but I really want this show to be educational and useful, so don’t hold back with any constructive feedback!

If you want to hear about when these are going to happen, follow @spyparty on twitter. If you want to find out about any SpyParty streams, check out the SpyParty Streams Notifier.


  1. although the summer is a little crazy for me with PAX right there at the end of it []

8 Comments

  1. @JaminGrey says:

    I think it’s interesting that r7stuart several times refers to the AI as “players”. Is that because he subconsciously views the AI as his peers, since he’s trying to emulate them? =)

  2. Calitar says:

    Finally got around to watching this. Really good stuff. The length didn’t really bother me, but then again I’m a regular listener to the Giant Bombcast (which often runs over 3 hours). My only thought is that it might be a good idea to split the YouTube archive in 1 hour chunks (split just before a new game is started) so it’s easier to watch in several sessions.

  3. Calitar says:

    I should mention that I know you put the timestamps in the YouTube description. The trouble is I don’t like to actually watch YouTube videos ON YouTube. I almost always rip the videos and watch on my TV via media server and Xbox 360. Usually I’m able to resume videos from where I left off using that method, but sometimes my media server “forgets” where I was and starts it from the beginning. Anyway that’s why I wanted to request that you split super long videos.

  4. jordy says:

    I’m just 25 min in, but really interesting so far. I haven’t played (much) in a long time, so I probably don’t have the right to say this, but I feel like thus far the game has been to grounded/based on performance versus observation. Performance in the sense that you have to worry a lot about performing the right actions at the right time and walking correctly. While the Sniper is all about observing but most annoyingly, the sub-conscious brain gives a boost to all this observance and tells your brain to suspect certain people without you realizing why. I think this has a lot to do with pathing and movements/tells, a lot of which might not be processed consciously but is processed nevertheless.
    That is probably the reason, like you mentioned, that Ian (or was it Paul) pulled ahead eventually in wins playing the Sniper.

    I agree that performance and observation definitely give depth to the overall game, but I’d like the dominant gameplay to be about mind-games. I think the action-test and walking manually brought a great deal of immersion, TENSION ;), live and depth to this game so I am pretty sure that is the right way to go. But I feel like it might have pulled this game into vastly different territory BEFORE anyone had the chance to really explore the other side of the game, with automated walking. I think it would be really interesting to see how the game would play out and develop if players would no longer be bothered or could no longer rely on pathing and movement stuff.

    So in short I guess, what I am trying to see is, I feel like the game took an early left by adding manual walking (and action-test to a lesser extent), disrupting the exploration of the gameplay that lies beyond it. I do believe adding manual walking and action-test belong to this game, but they were added to soon before other gameplay aspects could become dominant.

    I think I will try to get back into this game as soon as the new art is in, it is still my most promising game of all time, and you are by far the best Dev there is in my humble opinion, I wish more indie developers would take your approach! And I think you should at least thoroughly consider doing a major overhaul on the pathing system.

    • checker says:

      Aw, shucks, thanks for the kind words, and we miss you and will be here when you come back!  

      The interesting thing about designing games is you’re constantly making decisions that preclude some types of play and emphasize others. There are so many games in this area!  So, yes, taking out click-to-move in favor of direct-control was an aesthetic decision, it’s not clear one is absolutely “better” than the other, they’d lead in different directions.  I hope others come in and explore this territory, since I can only make one of the games in here, and slowly at that!

      On the specific subject, I think the elite play (of which I’m not a good example, yet!) has some of the stuff you’re talking about, because there’s more mastery over the micro end of things.  That’s a good thing, I think.  You want the game to change as the level of skill increases.  I’m definitely going to re-write the entire pathing system, hopefully only one more time.  After that, we’ll see how things settle down for the long term.

    • kcmmmmm says:

      You make a few good points, but I’d like to add a few of my own thoughts on the subject, if you don’t mind.  There is certainly a high emphasis on performance in the game at the moment, but I personally don’t feel this precludes an emphasis on mind-games.  When top level players play against each other, as Chris suggests, there is a high degree of mastery over micro.  Even the performance aspect of the game bleeds mind-games as you’re forced to make decisions over whether a particular player has chosen to put forth the time and effort required to perform specific actions.  The degree of difficulty of any action can be measured, and assumptions can be made over whether a player is likely to take the risk of performing that action (where failure may draw suspicion), or whether they are aware of how to emulate the action in the first place.  Additionally, the rarity of AI performing actions can lead to some very interesting mind-games in which a player can intentionally play “poorly” to secure a lowlight.  The thought process of a Sniper witnessing a Spy doing this might be, “That character walked so badly, there’s no way it’s my opponent.  He/she is way too good a player to make such a novice mistake.”  This particular example actually comes up far more often than you would imagine, and it wouldn’t be possible if micro were entirely removed from the game.

      As for why a Sniper may pull ahead of wins over a Spy, given that both players have eyes-on (and not hands-on) experience, I feel you are only partially correct.  The Spy certainly needs hands-on experience in order to better his/her performance, but the Sniper’s main tool of performance is their eyes.  Learning to divide your attention consciously is something that can be learned effectively without holding the controller, but it isn’t entirely subconscious.  Likewise, a high level Spy can use the same element of perception to watch the party from the inside, observing AI behaving oddly, and determining a list of assumed suspects their opponent might have, and may use this information against them.  Learning to spend your attention as a resource is a conscious effort a Sniper makes, and an aspect of performance that must be practiced in order to remain proficient.  I genuinely believe the number of Sniper games I’ve won due to a subconscious “gut feeling” is decisively lower than the number of wins I’ve procured from a conscious effort to divide my limited attention in an efficient manner.

      Another point I feel I should mention is that this particular masterclass features heavy discussion on the subject of pathing, and general performance, because the featured player (r7stuart) is something of a pathing expert in the game.  Not all players focus primarily on this aspect; in fact, most elite players have their own unique approaches (and specializations) to the game, which range from pathing to camping to behavioralism.  I really hope future episodes will highlight these different playstyles, so you can see the different approaches players take, and see better how mind-games fit into the overall gameplay of SpyParty at high levels of play.

      Unfortunately, at Beginner and Intermediate levels, performance is currently the most prominent aspect, since it takes less time for players to learn about bad movement than it takes for them to learn to avoid it.

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