This Week in SpyParty: Sharing SpyParty’s Arcanum

After a hiatus, we’re back with zerotka posting to the blog! – checker

Information is a valuable thing in all areas of life. The government does a great deal of work to keep ‘sensitive’ information from the public, Coca-Cola has a vault for its secret formula, and there are even rumors of secret societies like the Illuminati. It comes as no surprise to me when this expands into any competition. In baseball you can see the catcher give signals to the pitcher on what pitch they are thinking or you can see coaches touch their hats in certain ways to convey secret messages.

Therefore it should be no secret that SpyParty is exactly…the opposite.

You may have read from a previous blog about the community of SpyParty. The community extends a bit further than that. Not only are they friendly and want to treat everyone with respect, they are also open about their top secret strategies. There are a bunch of discussions on the private beta forums about the different strategies people use. Strategy is also freely discussed between players before, during, and after games. I can recall several days where the chat was filled with “theory crafting” and what strategies would be good.

The nature of SpyParty is that communication is bound to happen. When I was working the booth for PAX 2013, I would constantly see players finish a game and immediately talk to their opponent. They would discuss what they were thinking and what got them shot. Communication is extremely helpful when you are playing and learning the game. You gain a wealth of knowledge from the other person but you may also discover things that you do subconsciously. Communication isn’t just for newer players either, there is a TeamSpeak sever that many veterans use to communicate when they play each other. If you fancy watching streams, you can usually listen in to the players and see what they are saying.

SpyParty isn’t the only game in which you can communicate with your opponent after a match. There are tons of games that allow this and inevitably it seems to bring in some pretty mean spirited people. Valve has done a blog post about its communication ban system for Dota 2 and Riot has a team dedicated to helping correct bad behavior. Is SpyParty different by design or has this just been a lucky streak? The player base for SpyParty isn’t very big, especially when compared to Dota 2 and League of Legends. Both games have millions and millions of players. I have personally invested over 2,400 hours into Dota 2 and probably close to 1,000 into League of Legends. Not once, after a game, has the opponent offered advice on how I could improve, or what mistake(s) caused my downfall(s). Yet, after every game of SpyParty, that’s the first thing that gets talked about regardless of how much you have played. There’s some sort of inclination to just talk–even if it’s just about strategies.

Sharing strategies and game breaking bugs in SpyParty isn’t a recent phenomena, it’s been going on since the beginning. checker has stated that he would like to know about strategies in order to properly balance and tune the 1v1 to ensure a better experience for everyone, and so far the community has been doing just that. I’m sure there are some strategies that are being tested out in private or being tinkered with but players don’t seem to keep strategies secret for long, and there does not seem to be a guaranteed winning strategy.

I reached out to checker and asked him his thoughts on the openness of the community and the future of this phenomena.

Could you explain your thoughts on the openness of the community toward sharing strategies and sharing information so readily?

I think it’s amazing!  I have two thoughts about it, which are related but separate. First, at this stage in development it’s really important that I find out about any degenerate strategies as soon as possible so I can fix them, and the folks in the beta seem to agree with that and they quickly report bugs that are exploitable in gameplay, or strategies that seem unbalanced.  The really experienced players have even gone to the trouble of ranking the game balance bugs in order of priority in the Bugs forum so I can quickly know which ones to fix first.  Second, the players in the beta seem genuinely interested in exploring SpyParty‘s the mechanics to see how deep the game goes, and they’ve publicly talked about how sharing strategies will allow them to go deeper faster. I think that shows a lot of forethought and more than a desire to just play a game now and win, but also to help it reach its potential, for which I am very grateful!

Do you think this trend is going to keep up even as the community grows bigger and bigger?

I really hope so.  I think the small size of the community and the relative inaccessibility of the game right now help a lot because everybody currently in the beta is committed to the game, for sure.  However, I do think (hope?) the design of the game helps with this a bunch too.  First, as you mention above, the way the games in a match play out, there’s a clear break time between the games where it just makes sense to ask “Why’d you shoot me?”, and the way the replays are integrated into the game results also encourages analysis and conversation about the game you just played. But another important aspect of the game design that’s different from a lot of other competitive games is the intimacy of an individual game, where you’re playing a close subtle game of hide and seek with a single other human, rather than being on a team of people killing each other repeatedly. The team dynamic in a lot of MOBAs means it’s easy to take credit for victories and blame others for defeats, which doesn’t really work in SpyParty, so I think players approach it from a more humble vantage point from the start, which is good for honest communication.  I mean, unless you’re nice and ask, you might never know why the Sniper shot you, so it behooves you to be friendly and exchange information.

Eventually you will run into someone who is trolling or just having a bad day and become a hamper to the community. Is the process that takes care of ‘bad apples’ going to be primarily community driven or some sort of automated reporting system or perhaps a combination?

It remains to be seen, I’m not sure yet what will be necessary. So far, it’s seldom come up, and usually a quick PM in the beta forums solves the problem.  As the game grows, I assume we’ll need some kind of reporting system, but I hope to never have to write some kind of algorithm that bans people or whatever. I’m an optimist, even about people on the internet!

Finally, I have heard rumors that the community loves you. Do you have a response to that?

Thank you for your time!

3 Comments

  1. Wodar says:

    “Finally, I have heard rumors that the community loves you. Do you have a response to that?” What a bias interviewer :P

  2. DJ says:

    I think SpyParty definitely benefits from voicechat and it would be way more convenient if the game itself supported it. As it is, I am shy and generally only play with one other person and we use Steam’s voice chatting function for it. If it doesn’t already have one, a SpyParty Steam group might be more user-friendly for more novice players.

    And voicechat certainly does contribute to the sharing of strategy. With voice, the question “How did you know it was me?” comes almost immediately after a Spy loss.

    “You were walkin’ sloppy,” I explained once. Which was followed by a friendly argument as to how one could “walk sloppy” in this game.

    As to why SpyParty seems to facilitate sharing of technique, it’s probably because it has more in common with something like Yahoo’s ye olde Java-based browser games than it does DOTA. It’s one-on-one and when the match ends, you don’t get automatically reassigned to someone else. You play the same person until you either choose to change or quit. And you’re given the means to chat while you play. By that way, it’s easier to share strategy because you get comfortable with each other. Too, I think that there’s something to be said for being able to give your opponent a pointer and then seeing if they make use of it, thus making the game more challenging. When victories versus losses ultimately mean nothing, like they do in SpyParty, it doesn’t cost anything substantial to share your strategies instead of closely guarding them.

    • checker says:

      Yeah, I’m torn on voice chat. It’s a fairly significant technical thing to do, as well. LoL doesn’t support it for griefing reasons I believe. There’s a TS server you can use that’s in the beta forums, so that’s an okay compromise for now. I’ll have to make a decision about voice at some point, though.

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