And now the PAX 2017 Photo Gallery

SpyParty booth drawing

I assume the big guys design their booths like this too.

In my ongoing odyssey through PAXes past, I now present a gallery of pictures taken only four years ago at PAX 2017!  This was the “Year of the Tutorial” because it was the first public playtest of the fully voiced (by me) interactive tutorial.  I watched a lot of people play it, took a ton of notes, and fixed a lot of bugs, so it was an incredibly useful playtest—as PAX always is—and it probably helped save some booth helper larynxes.  Let me explain…

Our usual PAX booth setup is three stations with six monitors head-to-head, as you can see in this amazingly professional illustration from my notebook from 2011 when I was coming up with the plan.  We have always been fortunate to have a line waiting to play, so that gives people time to read the manual1  But, even though we force people to read a manual for a video game as if it’s 1993, the game is still different enough that to ensure the best first-time experience, we personally walk and talk people through a practice game as both Spy and Sniper first, then we let them play each other.  Experience has shown through thousands of playtests this is the best way to make sure people get the game, even though it means we end up with 10 or 15 deadhoarse booth volunteers at the end of the show.

This left the question of what to do when SpyParty was going to go on Steam. Since shipping a live human with every copy of the game gets expensive, I made a tutorial that was kind of overengineered and overdesigned and overlong, but it explained the game and worked really well and players ended up loving it.2  You can read about it and watch some design commentary here.  

Unfortunately, the tutorial takes about 45 minutes to play through completely, while a booth helper takes about 3 minutes to teach you the game in-person. It was clear we weren’t going to be able to replace all our humans with robots, so we ended up making the third station use the tutorial, and the humans kept teaching people to play on the first two stations.  This worked pretty well, and if we were ever short on helpers or if people just needed a voice break, we could use the tutorial on the first two setups when we needed to.

I could write a lot more about the tutorial and how it’s worked out, and my plans to make it even better, but let’s get to the pics!  Oh, one note about the pictures…sometime between 2016 and 2017 I forced my camera to ISO 400 and forgot, and so it struggled in the low light of our now mood-lit booth.  Oops.

Thanks to all the volunteers, the list of whom will be posted as soon as I get help from Steph collating it!  Update, Steph has delivered:  Cleetose, Alice, Wodar, Lthummus, mrmrhi, KrazyCaley, Cameraman, Warningtrack, Courtney, CanadianBacon, Mrrgrs, Virifaux, Slappydavis, IgoUnseen, John, ZeroTKA, Kate, KCMmmmm, Reika, Steph, Aforgottentune, Drawnonward, Pwndnoob

  1. Even though that page says “updated” I haven’t updated the manual in way too long, but it’s still mostly accurate…some day we’ll have a new one! []
  2. If they played it, which is a topic for another blog post. []

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