The Not-Strictly Ballroom Update is Coming This Week!

The next SpyParty update is almost here, and it shall be called The Not-Strictly Ballroom Update!1 I’m going to try for the end of this week, so Thursday or Friday, September 24th or 25th. Given my track record on hitting dates, wish me luck.

As always, if you join the SpyParty Early-Access Beta you get all the updates and the final game and Steam keys and whatever other platforms the powers-that-be will let me give you when it’s done.

Once again, John has done a great custom image for the update:

Yes, currently they have pictures of themselves hanging in their houses.
Eventually they’ll have better taste.

So, besides being a kind of silly joke about a kind of awesome movie, the name refers to the fact that this update contains two big features. The first big feature is the updated Ballroom map, and oh boy John outdid himself on this one. However, the update is not strictly the Ballroom update, and so the second big feature is the third group of new art characters playable in game! And then, as usual, there are a bunch of smaller fixes and features, most of which are fixes to The Spectation Update.

The New Art Ballroom

If you look back at the very first post on this blog, you can see the image of the original SpyParty map, Ballroom. Here is that image, in all its glory:


Life was simpler then…also, apparently walls were shorter then.

Well, things have changed. I was trying to figure out how to convey exactly how much things have changed, and I decided it would be fun to hack up one of those fancy before/after image sliders2 so you could scrub between the past and THE FUTURE right here on the blog. It is pretty cool…if it works correctly in your browser you should get a single image here that you can click on and adjust the time machine right here:

before after

Drag the slider, or click here for the full-sized fancy before/after image!

And here’s an interior shot:


What blows me away about these images is they’re exactly the same size room, and I even lined up the cameras between the shots. I moved the Security Guard over by a bit, but take a look at the statues and the walls, they’re exactly the same! They look like completely different-sized spaces to me. The power of art. SpyParty is in part a game about seeing, and so I will be very interested to see how the visual aesthetic change affects the gameplay.

It’s Getting Crowded Up In Here

The other big feature of The Not-Strictly Ballroom Update is the third group of characters is finally in the game and playable. Normally we do characters in groups of five, but because of the twins, you’re getting six for the price of five! 20% more gameplay! Such a bargain!

Putting twins into SpyParty may have been a bit of a dick move on my part...

Putting twins into SpyParty may have been a bit of a dick-move on my part…

It’s going to be very interesting to see how the twins affect the game. Right now, one of them wears all the jewelry,3 so Snipers should be able to tell them apart, but you will usually have to zoom. We already had situations at PAX where Snipers shot the wrong twin, including a case where both twins went behind a pillar going in opposite directions, and then must have bounced off each other and went back out the way they came, and the Sniper assumed they’d kept moving straight and shot the wrong one. Good times!

The other thing having 16 playable characters is going to do is open up more of the maps. Before this build, we only had 10 characters, which was a bit low for most of the current maps. Now we will have the new Ballroom obviously, but I also created a Crowded Pub map with all 16 guests. Eventually the number of guests will be an adjustable parameter during game setup, with recommended values for the current meta and handicapping gap, but for now I have to make separate maps. The current old-art version of Veranda has 17 guests, so I could make a slightly Sniper-nerfed version of that next…

Speaking of the number of guests, as a random experiment, the new Ballroom will have 16 guests instead of the 13 the old one had, so we’ll see how that plays for a bit. I left the Beginner vs. Beginner Ballroom with 13 because I didn’t want to change its tuning, but for the full unlocked map with all the options, I thought it might be fun to see how more guests played.

Back a zillion years ago, when Ian and Paul were the elite playtesters,4 we did some testing and everybody agreed that “Any 3 of 4” missions and 13 guests on Ballroom was more fun and interesting than “Known 4” and 17 guests.5 The larger number of guests made it feel overwhelming for the Sniper in an unpleasant way, and so Ballroom has had 13 guests since then. Well, the meta has changed a lot over the years, so it seemed reasonable to revisit this, and give people a new option to play with. I’ll be watching the beta forums for how people feel about the additional guests.

So listen to me as I reminisce the Dayz of Wayback...

So listen to me as I reminisce the Dayz of Wayback…

One thing I didn’t change about Ballroom is the visibility of Toby’s tray for watching Purloin the Guestlist. Much to every Sniper’s chagrin, that should be at about the same totally-annoying level:




I’m fixing a bunch of stuff from The Spectation Update, and adding some small features. I need to get the final list of stuff together, and when I do, I’ll update this post. I have already fixed the annoying bug that made the guests start sliding around on longer games. I think I’ll blog about that, it was kind of interesting.

Until then, join the beta if you haven’t already and you’re into that sort of thing, and I’ll see you online! Also, I’m hoping to start streaming again over at now that the summer is over.

  1. The “Strictly Ballroom” idea was from Simon Elgie on facebookit is such a great movie! []
  2. I used this one and modified it a bunch, and since the web is cool and open you can just grab the js yourself if you want it! []
  3. The players started calling that one Bling Twin at PAX! It really doesn’t matter what I name them… []
  4. Back then, 10 hours of SpyParty was  a lot…these days, the top players have around 500 hours of play time, and that’s at 3 minutes a pop, it’s not measured by how long the executable is running, like Steam’s stats! []
  5. At least, I think it was 17, anyway, it was the number necessary to balance k4 vs a3/4 given our skill levels back then. []


  1. Daniel says:

    Nice. From the looks of it the only thing missing from the new ballroom are new models for the staff and proper lighting. The game is progressing more quickly than you made us believe :)

  2. Noah says:

    Nice job! I was wondering if once the game was released on steam etc, if there will be an option to switch to old art and back to new. Like in the MCC (Master Chief Collection)

    • checker says:

      I’m hoping I can keep the old art working, but as we add more stuff it gets harder. So, not sure yet, but hopefully.

  3. Shylok Vakarian says:

    Any day now, Chris. :P

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