SpyParty is an asymmetric multiplayer espionage game, dealing with the subtlety of human behavior, character, personality, and social mores, instead of the usual spy game explosions and car chases.
SpyParty is very early in development, but it has been playtested a lot, with more to come, including occasional public playtests, and eventually internet playtests. There is some documentation written for playtesters about how to play the game in its current state, which you might find interesting, here and here.
A very early prototype of SpyParty was shown in public for the first time at the Experimental Gameplay Workshop at the 2009 Game Developers Conference. It got a fair amount of press after this demo, and even more after I got laid off and started working on it full-time, which was very nice.
The next year, a bunch of journalists played it at the 2010 GDC, and they seemed to like it a lot!
Various press clippings:
- AVC at GDC ’10: Spy party! by John Teti on The Onion AV Club
“I don’t want to beat around the bush here; this game is awesome in too many ways to describe here.”
- GDC 2010: Enjoyed and Annoyed by Evan Narcisse on Time Magazine’s Techland Blog
“Even in its pre-natal form, Spy Party does a great job of creating a new kind of multiplayer psychological tension. It’s something that wasn’t even on my GDC agenda, yet it wound up rocking my world.”
- Why you need to be excited about SpyParty by Anthony Burch on Destructoid
“There has never been a videogame like SpyParty. … SpyParty is as cerebral and personal experience as I’ve ever had with a multiplayer game. … Despite being two years away from completion, the early version I saw still remains one of the most subtle, enjoyable, and surprisingly playful multiplayer games I’ve yet played.”
- Innovative SpyParty Is Ultimate Mind Game by Gus Mastrapa on Wired’s Game|Life
“SpyParty is like nothing else I’ve ever played. … When the laser focuses on you, the tension is intense. And the relief, when the beam swings away, is powerful.”
- I Know That You Know That I Know What You Know by Chris Dahlen on Edge Online
“Both players are tense with the joy of knowing or not knowing or thinking they know what’s about to happen.”
- The Next Smart Video Game Only Lets You Kill Once by Stephen Totilo on Kotaku and Gizmodo
“Part of what is so exciting about Spy Party is the stuff that happens around the game. Hecker has seen the game trigger strong emotional responses. I even felt it… guilt of all things. I’ve killed thousands — millions? — of enemy characters and even some friendly characters in video games with none of the pangs of consequence. I shot one innocent partygoer in Spy Party after tracking them for a few minutes, after being sure they were Chris Hecker’s avatar and up to no good, and then, as they lay dead on the floor I realized I was wrong. I felt bad.”
- You Only Shoot Once: SpyParty by Kieron Gillen on Rock, Paper, Shotgun
Kieron couldn’t make it to GDC this year, but he wrote up his thoughts on the game from reading the other articles!
“Pure battle of wits stuff here, and seems totally fascinating. It’s a couple of years away, at least in part due to a major general aesthetic upgrade, but we’ll be watching it. Closely. Trying to work out if it’s a spy.”
- …he’s using his newly found free time to develop one of the most interesting-sounding independent games we’ve heard of in a while.
- …first revealed at this year’s GDC Experimental Gameplay Sessions that I’m now and forever kicking myself for missing, SpyParty intends to do precisely what more games need to do: forgo games as big budget thrill-rides and focus instead on the richness of subtle interaction.
- SpyParty Gets Back to What Spies Are Really About
Spies are stealthy, aren’t they? Then how come every single spy video game tends to contain the same elements – explosions, shooting, and generally being as un-stealthy as any human being could be? Chris Hecker is changing that around a bit with his upcoming game SpyParty…
- In the announcement Chris reveals that he’ll be working on SpyParty, a game which he demoed at this year’s Experimental Gameplay Workshop. In the game you play a sniper watching a cocktail party from another building, trying to figure out which of the partygoers is the spy by looking for various tells. I saw it at EGW and it’s a cool take on the spy genre.
- From the Experimental Gameplay Sessions: I couldn’t make it out to GDC but I wish I could’ve seen this…This is exactly the kind of thing we should be doing more of…
- This game, developed by Chris Hecker (“Spore”) has a character doing suave and subtle things in a cocktail party, trying not to get spotted. One player is the spy, whose animations are a little different from everyone else’s, and who has to complete a few stealthy missions like bugging an ambassador. The other player just watches, looking for subtle animation tip-offs. They are the sniper. Their one move: to shoot the spy. The game looked like a cocktail party of characters from “The Sims.”
- Chris Hecker’s project was inspired by the simple fact that “spies are cool”, particularly early Bond-esque spies who have the ability to “hide in plain sight.”
Hecker’s design in turn was inspired by the Turing Test, and the difficulty in which a computer has in fooling the user it is human when asked to do natural language processing. But what if, Hecker considered, you only allowed the player a “simpler, more responsive” form of interaction with the computer? Could he be fooled?
The perfect setting, Hecker decided, would be a cocktail party, where a variety of people interact in an already very stylized way and the social rules are an already tight subset. So Hecker’s prototype asks one player to take the role of a spy attempting to complete missions at a party filled with other AI characters, while an opposing player observes the party (as a “sniper”) and must attempt to observe the player enough that they can work out who it is and kill them before they complete their missions.
In Hecker’s current, “very early” prototype, the gameplay was formed around “tells” — observable, if subtle, occurrences such as a brief look to the left when stealing a book rather than returning it to a shelf — but he hoped that, in time it would evolve to become a game about observing subtle differences in behaviour.
- Chris Hecker’s Spy Party is a game of deduction between two players. The scene: a cocktail party for spies, where one of the attendees is a live human being trying to complete a mission, and everyone else is an AI-driven decoy. Player number one plays the spy; player number two is a sniper, waiting from a balcony across the street and deciding who to pick off. The sniper’s challenge is to figure out which spy is controlled by a human, and which are just AIs. It’s harder—way harder—than you might think. In fact, when a handful of attendees got the chance to identify the target (using laser pointers), they guessed wrong and shot a civilian, which ends the game and hands the victory to the spy.
- Spy Party by Chris Hecker is a two-player game inspired by an inversion of the Turing test. The Turing test is so difficult for a computer to succeed at because language is so complex and difficult that only humans or truly functional AI could master it in a realistic and believable way. But what if you made the language very easy and instead of a computer trying to be human, you made a player try to act like a computer? Two players — one a spy, one a sniper — are in asymmetrical competition. The player must move around a party completing objectives that the other AI party guests will not even attempt to accomplish. Everytime the player accomplishes one of these objectives, they give a slight “tell” — if you try to bug an ambassador, the player’s hand will dart out and suddenly retract, just like if you try to steal a book, you’ll motion to put it back until suddenly shifting it into your coat. The sniper’s job is to look at the crowd and figure out which of the dozens of characters is the human spy, and kill him. As it stood the game was almost exclusively based around recognizing these little telltale signs, but Hecker planned on expanding and deepening the gameplay.
- This ‘side-project’ is a game based on the principle of the Turing test, but a bit more complex. Let me explain the game first: it is a multiplayer gamer, set at a cocktail party hosted by the ambassador. One player is a sniper outside the room looking in. He has a mission to kill a double agent but doesn’t know who that is. Most guests are NPC’s, but an other human plays the double agent. The game is: can the sniper distinguish the AI from a human player? Hence the Turing test.
- Spy Party is a game by Spore man Chris Hecker for two players: Spy and Sniper. A cocktail party provides the setting, in which the Spy will be asked to complete an objective such as bugging an ambassador. The Sniper, on the other hand, will simply have to sit back and watch, looking for minute and subtle giveaways that will identify the Spy who can then be shot in the face.
- Spy Party — perception. Spy/counterspy sim where people’s observed behaviors tell you how to proceed.
- - 20 people at cocktail party (some players, some A.I.). 1 is a spy.
Assasin observes party, attempting to determine who the spy is. Bam!
- Spy can only be distinguished by subtle “tells”.i.e. spy reads book from bookshelf, but places it back strangely
i.e. spy secretly slipped a piece of paper from someone
i.e. spy wears a T-Shirt saying “spies do it in the dark”
- “affordance” and “actors” mentioned. must… remain… calm.
- Game demoed. Audience plays assasin watching 20 people, attempting to finger the spy.
Laser pointers highlight innocent man. Audience shoots – “you killed a civilian”
Audience quickly picks someone else (game developers are cold hearted bastards)
- Most memorable moment: When civilian was shot.
Ambient chatter stopped, replaced by piercing female scream, everyone ran from victim.
[Shocking. Can't remember last time I felt bad for killing someone.]
Reminded me of wedding.
- “Spy Party”, by Chris Hecker. Really seems to capture the intrigue, danger, and more importantly, subtelty in some of the more realistic spy stories…you know, the kind where the spy doesn’t advertise his presence by blowing up most of a city. Really fun to watch players compete in this one.
- Spy Party creator Chris Hecker is looking for more martinis and less explosions in his spy fare, so he turns to a cocktail party as the setting of his game where one player is an agent and one a sniper outside. Spies take on missions to fulfill, such as transferring a book from one shelf to another (who knows what secrets are contained within?) or bugging the ambassador, all while chatting it up like a pro at a hoppin’ social gathering. The animations have very subtle differences that the sniper will have to learn to pick up on. Right now he admits that it mostly relies on looking for these tells, but he hopes that he’ll be able to ramp up the complexity as he continues development.
- What is it? A multiplayer whodunnit mystery puzzler
25-word pitch: Infiltrate a cocktail party, accomplish espionage missions, avoid detection.
Inspiration: ‘Fugitive’ from Indie Game Jam01. James Bond. Cocktail party etiquette. The Turing Test.
Why it works: You’re a sniper who’s got to shoot the only human-controlled person (spy) at a cocktail party, basing your decision only by reading social cues. Like Minesweeper, but using social interaction.
- & now: Chris Hecker’s Spy Party
Design after my own heart–simplify the symbols.
This is a very promising mechanic. Can’t wait to see it mature. Has some fleeting commonality with one of my mystery game designs.
The game is in development in Oakland, California, by Chris Hecker, with no current release date.
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