Revealing the First Two New Character Animations

As you may or may not know, we’re going to try to show off the new SpyParty artwork in-game at PAX Prime, August 30th through September 2nd, dates which are closer than they appear, and they appear pretty damned close!  I’ll post more about PAX in a bit.  On the run-up to the show, we’re going to start releasing videos of the new characters animating every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, starting today! 

If you want to get notifications whenever we upload new animations and videos, Subscribe to the SpyPartyGame YouTube Channel!

The new art will be “limping along” at PAX in a single map, more like a tech demo tacked onto the side of the game than a competition quality map at this early date.  The old art, which may be ugly but is very tuned and balanced for competitive play, will live on for quite a while as the main maps for real games.  The new art will go in as we get it working, with very limited missions available at first. Initially, it’s just going to be the conversation animations, bugging the Ambassador, and checking watches.  More missions will follow as John gets the animations done!

If you’ve joined the beta, you’ll get to see the new art come together and go from “neat tech demo” to “fully playable level” as we update it.  You’ll also get to help me find bugs in the new renderer and post in the forums about how OP the old black guy with the cane is!  I’ll probably update the public beta build with the new art right after PAX.1

Like the new environments we revealed last week,2 all the characters shown in the first art reveal last year were rendered with full raytracing and global illumination and antialiasing and other fancy settings that make them take hours to render.  The stuff we’re going to show in these animations is all rendered in real time on my two-year-old laptop.  There will be some hiccups, I’m sure, but my goal is to keep the minimum spec machine for SpyParty as low as possible; I want as many people to be able to play the game as I manage.

The Animations

I will talk more about the aesthetic goals for the animations as we go on, but at a high level, we want the animations to have that same “illustrative” quality we’re going for across the SpyParty art style.  We don’t want them to be too realistic or motion-captured, which I think leads to a bit of a dead look; these are all bespoke hand-animated movements.  At the same time, we don’t want them too exaggerated or cartoon-y, so we’re using reference videos of people doing similar motions so we can anchor ourselves with plausibility as we get a grip on the style.  Hitting just the right tone and avoiding the uncanny valley on one side, and cartoons on the other, takes constant vigilance and attention to detail across every aspect of the visuals, from pixel quality to the movements.

The first animations are of two of the characters talking, so we looked for reference of people lecturing, giving monologues, or just conversing in a stylish way.  We haven’t chosen in-game names for the characters yet, so we’re going to name them by letter for now, which sounds all spy-like and mysterious, but is mostly us just not knowing what else to call them.  I’ll probably involve the community in naming the characters when it’s time for that; I did that for the old characters and we got some really great spy fiction names.

Hope you like them as much as we do!  I felt kinda bad putting the old characters in there for comparison, but it had to be done.  You can defend their honor in the comments!

  1. It’ll almost certainly have bugs and performance issues, and I can’t afford the time right now to fix those bugs before the show, hence updating after when I can actually do something about it when it all breaks for people with different graphics cards.  Yay PC games! []
  2. Yes, I still haven’t posted those shots to the blog, I will do so this weekend, but here are some awesome news stories about them: kotaku, destructoid, polygon, rockpapershotgun, joystiq []


  1. The Algerian says:

    When exactly do we get these, by the way?

    • checker says:

      They’ll be in an update for the beta testers right after PAX.  I probably can’t update them before that because I’m almost certain they’ll break stuff and I don’t have time to fix it yet.  After PAX, all the new updates will go straight into the beta build when they’re ready!

    • The Algerian says:

      Man, I can’t wait to see these in action :)

  2. Chris Lyons says:

    HOLY BEJESUS that is awesome!

  3. These are SO good… tell Cimino he’s a genius.

  4. Sergio says:

    This is beautiful, Checker!

  5. KrazyCaley says:

    Awesome!  I wonder what a lip reader could discern.

    • @JaminGrey says:

      Probably something like, “blah blah blah blah. Bananabread!”, *glances around paranoid*, “…blah blah blah blah.”

      Either that, or the sound of a thousand Koreans saying, “kekekekeke”, as they prepare to pwn all us westerners at this game. =)

  6. WarningTrack says:

    My mouth is agape. Agape, I tell you.

  7. kcmmmmm says:

    I can’t wait to see the rest of these roll out.  They look fantastic.  Putting these new animations beside the old model animations is hilarious and cruel.

  8. Naveen says:

    The art looked great as static pictures but man oh man THIS looks fucking amazing. The animation work is excellent. I cannot wait to see everything. Subscribed to the youtube channel. I don’t have the ability to put into words how amazing the new characters look in motion. Seriously, I think this is as good/better than Pixar animation.

  9. Naveen says:

    P.S. Since I didn’t say it there, your RPS interview with yourself was both informative and highly entertaining. Once again, kudos to John.

  10. Naveen says:

    P.P.S Perhaps you could get a crossover with Tom Francis and have one of the characters in the future named Richard Conway, the player-character freelance spy from his game Gunpoint!

  11. Ognami says:

    Want now! Now, now now.

  12. SomeGuyNamedDavid says:

    They are beautiful. Some people are definitely going to feel bad about shooting these people in their beautiful faces.

  13. jordy says:

    Did I watch The Godfather too many times to think that Mr A. looks suspiciously much like Vito Corleone?!

    Really nice job, it really brings live to the party!

  14. Zach says:

    Great job, John! The motion looks very natural. Looking forward to this, guys!

  15. Chris Lyons says:

    I noticed this says Talk #1. This seems like characters will have multiple talks they can choose from/randomly chooses from. Will specific talks look a specific way for each character? Meaning will Banana Bread look a certain way for that character and if I’m watching someone and they BB I can tell just from the particular animation? Or could I tell a certain talk was a seduce from the animation played?

    Having the tells specific, and having them not are both interesting choices. I’m merely curious which it is.

    • checker says:

      For now they’ll just have a set of talk animations and I’ll randomly play them when they want to talk.  Same as “listens” in the game now.

    • Chris Lyons says:

      Does that mean in the future you want to have those missions give one particular animation as a tell, or you are undecided at this time how it will play out?

    • checker says:

      I doubt I’ll ever do a hard tell for contacting the DA/BB, it’s meant to be a soft-tell mission.  But, having different flavors of animations for things like somebody telling a joke in a conversation is a possibility (although an insane amount of work given that we’re doing custom animations per character now).

  16. Stuart Harper says:

    This might sound silly, but I believe these in engine, decimated characters look better than the high res pre rendered ones. That feeling of knowing it is an object made in a computer colours the player expectations of what they are able to do. Avoiding, as Lantz calls it, ‘too much make believe’ in games isn’t just about avoiding fantasy, but also of not denying that what you are playing isn’t real. Looking at these characters, they feel grounded and believable, but also like a part of a simulation, which is an impressive balance. Amazing work!

  17. swenson says:

    Wow. You can already see a bit of character even just from the animations. I can tell Ms. B is quite the chatty type, and she probably likes a bit of gossip as well…

  18. Giles says:

    One idea for the naming could be to name them something that sounds like their initial “code” letter. B is Beatrice, C is Celia, for example. That was people could use B, C, etc or the name and both sides could figure out who you were referring to.

    I am really enjoying the reveals. It is great to finally see some of the finished artwork in motion.

  19. kcmmmmm says:

    “The new art will go in as we get it working, with very limited missions available at first. Initially, it’s just going to be the conversation animations, bugging the Ambassador, and checking watches.  More missions will follow as John gets the animations done!”

    Essentially, this is all you need for a rudimentary version of Classic Balcony.  There’s no reason games can’t get competitive on the tech demo!

    • Naveen says:

      Hey! That’s right! That’s everything but the purloin guest list and taking drinks. I like this, because it means we’re closer to having a full map all arted up.

      @Chris/John how much after the character art/animation will the environment art come or will it come at the same time?

    • checker says:


      It will hopefully be the modern mansion level, or at least an approximation of it.

      I am so far behind, zomg.

    • Stuart Harper says:

      It is unethical to force a perfectionist to be punctual! Surely we could politely ask for PAX to be pushed back.

      *That last sentence was tongue in cheek but I was serious about the first statement.

  20. Iceman says:

    I can’t wait for Mr. E ;)

    Still, these look amazing!!! I mean, their fingers aren’t stuck together anymore!!!!!!

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