About

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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.

Edit 2013/6/30: This page is woefully out-of-date, and needs updating, sorry about that!  The beta is open, I’ve been lucky that there’s been a bunch of press about the game over the years, and development is going slowly but really well, and I’m really proud of the game and the community.

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.
    http://www.joystiq.com/2009/08/30/former-maxis-employee-working-on-new-project-spyparty/
  • …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.
    http://offworld.com/2009/09/free-agent-spore-tech-lead-chr.html
  • 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…
    http://allgeektout.com/2009/08/31/spyparty-gets-back-to-what-spies-are-really-about/
  • 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.
    http://tigsource.com/articles/2009/09/08/chris-hecker-goes-indie
  • 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…
    http://www.ninjadodo.net/dodoblog/archives/2009/03/28/gdc-09-spy-party/
  • 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.”
    http://multiplayerblog.mtv.com/2009/03/26/experimental-gameplay-ideas-revealed-head-currently-hurting-gdc-2009/
  • 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.
    http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=22946
  • 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.
    http://www.avclub.com/articles/avc-at-gdc-09-day-four-wake-me-when-your-game-does,25806/
  • 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.
    http://www.destructoid.com/gdc-09-experimental-gameplay-sessions-126446.phtml
  • 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.
    http://dvtggdc.blogspot.com/2009/03/experimental-gameplay-sessions.html
  • 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.
    http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/gdc-experimental-games-shown-playable
  • Spy Party — perception. Spy/counterspy sim where people’s observed behaviors tell you how to proceed.
    http://www-2.crispygamer.com/blogs/post/2009/03/27/Keita-Takahashi-Drew-My-Picture.aspx
  • - 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.
    http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/JimMcginley/20090329/1019/GDC_2009__Day_43__Experimental_Gameplay_Sessions.php
  • “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.
    http://www.newton64.ca/blog/?p=208
  • 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.
    http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/conferences/gdc_2009/5935-GDC-2009-Mind-Blown-Experimental-Gameplay
  • 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.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/gamesblog/2009/apr/06/gdc2009-experimental-games-guardian
  • & 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.
    http://twitter.com/CorvusE/status/1397375701
    http://twitter.com/CorvusE/status/1397390590
    http://twitter.com/CorvusE/status/1397448122

The game is in development in Oakland, California, by Chris Hecker, with no current release date.

Site Credits

233 Comments

  1. cameron says:

    I’ve been waiting for a multi-player game that did something – anything! – like this since Shiny’s Messiah. All I could imagine playing that game were the multilayer possibilities of a human opponent hidden inside of an AI, imitating them.

    I realize you are going for something more subtle than a body snatching cherub packing heat, but it’s nice to see the core mechanic in use anyway.

    All the best with this awesome project!

  2. jordy says:

    I’m soo excited it’s 2011!! This is the year where a revolution in the game industry will change the whole gaming scene, kicked-off by the release of a BETA from a game named SpyParty!
    And 2011 is one year away from the year that the transformation from the game industry will be finalized and there will only be awesome games, made by gamers, for gamers!

    Best wishes!

  3. jordy says:

    I don’t understand why SpyParty isn’t in the “Excellence In Design” and “Nuovo Award Finalists” lists of the IGF, but I think you have a good chance for the grand prize! Nidhogg is good I heard, but perhaps too limited, didn’t play much minecraft, but I don’t understand why people are so crazy about it.

  4. Louis says:

    I would love to be a beta tester for this game. Let me know.

  5. I’m loving the idea – been looking for something like this for ages. Can’t wait to hear about an open beta or something going on!

  6. jordy says:

    PLAYTEST YESSSSSS!!!!!!!!

  7. anders says:

    I will give you $1000 to exclude jordy from playtesting.

  8. Thomas Engelman says:

    Have you played any of the other IGF games. If so, do you think you stand a chance against them. I know you played Minecraft and that is a tough one to beat. 

    • checker says:

      Yeah, I’m just assuming Minecraft will win.  Seems like a safe assumption to make.  Who knows, though, juries are weird!

    • Thomas Engelman says:

      I thought it was a big surprise when Monaco won the Grand Prize. I thought for sure it would be either Super Meat Boy or Joe Danger.

    • jordy says:

      If the jury doesn’t pick SpyParty I don’t know what’s wrong with them…

      Honestly, minecraft is just computer lego and I don’t really get the hype about it, spyparty really provides other gameplay dynamics that haven’t been explored yet..

      But I understand your pessimism, you don’t want to get disappointed, however don’t expect me to go sit here with you saying that minecraft will/is a better game then SpyParty xD

  9. Thomas Engelman says:

    What are you voting for in the audience awards?

    • checker says:

      I think I accidentally voted for Super Crate Box while trying to vote for myself.  SCB is a great game, so no harm done, but it was funny.  :)

    • Thomas Engelman says:

      I’ve gotta try it out. I’m either voting for you, Amnesia, or Dinner Date.

    • checker says:

      What does the bidding start at?  :)

    • Thomas Engelman says:

      What’s that supposed to mean.

    • checker says:

      Just joking about auctioning off your vote!  I actually have no idea how these audience awards work.  In practice, I’d assume it’s a popularity contest, since a lot of people won’t have played a lot of the games that are eligible (I mean, I don’t know how many people have played SpyParty total, but it’s probably less than 2000…there were ~600 games played at PAX West, and that’s two people per game, but some repeats, plus other venues, etc.). Contrast that with how many people have played some of the publicly available games, like Amnesia, or Minecraft, and it’s orders of magnitude lower.

  10. Thomas Engelman says:

    It used to be that only games with demos available to the public could be nominees, but they changed that in light of the fact that many voters have been to gaming conventions and have played games that do not have demos.

  11. Tom says:

    Do you have any idea when this will be released? I just want an idea of how long. 

  12. KE says:

    Hi, I have been thinking several times about a game based on a reverse Turing test. It’s great to see someone actually doing it and apparently with success. A few thoughts…

    Why do you consider the assymetry a goal in itself? Wouldn’t it be a more intensive game if the players were simultaneously faking it themselves and trying to point out the others. It would also open a lot more possibilities for players discovering other players (or revealing themselves) by directly interacting with them.

    One interesting thing about assymetry, though, is that it would be easy to scale the multiplayer for snipers, having the party watched by a large number of snipers simultaneously, creating many possible competitive game modes.

    Any thoughts about using Kinect?

    • checker says:

      I find the asymmetry interesting for a bunch of different design reasons, but in the case of the Turing test aspect of the game, I think it’s important because it allows the two players to “relax” into their roles.  In games based on Assassin, like The Ship, and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, you are trying to hunt somebody and watch your back at the same time, and so the perception and deception challenges can’t be that deep.  In SpyParty, if you’re the Sniper, you know the Spy can’t get out of the party and come stab you in the back, so your entire job is just perception.  Contrariwise, if you’re the Spy, you know you can’t pull a fast one and kill the Sniper, so you have to focus on the deception task.  I think it makes for a lot deeper psychological game this way.

      As for Kinect, I don’t have anything against it, I’m just putting thinking about that kind of thing off (like iPad, etc) until I have the gameplay where I want it.

  13. Thomas Engelman says:

    What platforms are you planning to release the game on?

  14. Thomas Engelman says:

    Cool. You gonna try to get it on Steam?

  15. Thomas Engelman says:

    I see you took off the playtest application thing. Why? Or am I going blind and just not seeing it. i already signed up.

  16. jordy says:

    If you’re just as excited about SpyParty as I am and feel like talking about it whole day long, please join me at:

    http://webchat.quakenet.org/ Channel: Spyparty

    We can talk about things like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJG698U2Mvo or anything in general.

  17. Nocturna says:

    Looks like a great game! Regarding distractions, perhaps the spy could cut the power for a few seconds. He/She may be seen doing it, but they could get away with a mission. If that’s their last one, they’d win before the sniper had the chance to notice. Lets say they start flickering before the lights go out, the sniper could look for any suspects and kill the spy. This is just a high-risk situation that I would find interesting.

    Also, what about hats?

    • checker says:

      Interesting idea! I was thinking the Sniper could cut the lights to “poke” at the party, but I like the idea of the Spy being able to do it as well, and maybe there’s some interaction between the two.

      I need to update the FAQ about hats.

  18. jordy says:

    Your facebook page is offline or deleted, I don’t know. Did you break any rules?!

  19. Nocturna says:

    Has a sniper ever kept a close eye on one or two missions instead of the characters? For instance, keep looking at the statue and bookcase, so you can carefully see everyone interacting with those items, and pick out the spy. I think there’s currently about a 15% chance tat the spy does a misssion set that doesn’t include swap statue, transfer microfilms, or inspect statues.

    • checker says:

      Yeah, after players have played for a while, it starts to become easy to camp a specific mission, and at that point you switch to a “subset” game type, where the Sniper doesn’t know which missions the Spy picks, so it’ll be something like “3 out of 4 missions”, where the Sniper knows the 4, but not which 3. This makes camping a mission really risky, but still an interesting strategy if you know your opponent.

  20. Roblox says:

    Evilness! How did I not know there was a beta going on!

  21. elmerfudd says:

    I just Stumbledupon this video (I do not own it) and don’t know if anyone here has seen it, but it very well may be the solution to the two player, one screen problem. 

    It looks promising!

    http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/4aX6GN/www.youtube.com/watch%253Fv%253DCVJcVPvjUJo

  22. Dustin Hoffman says:

    I don’t know how twitter works, so I’ll say it here: Congratulations!!! You know, it would be really nice to celebrate the 10,000 mark with the release of the BETA.. XD

    Though I don’t know how many sign-ups yo get on average each day? From the posting times I’d say 42 each day? Hmm, never mind, just release it ASAP! I’ll use the release of the BETA for my release of the SpyParty BETA Celebration!

    On a side-note, how much do you expect the sign-up rate to increase after the BETA-release? I’m thinking it’ll reach 100,000 easily.

    • checker says:

      Yeah, I don’t know how many people will join once the thing is actually up and running and scalable. I’m trying to keep my expectations reasonable.  I only need a couple 10s of thousands to fund the whole game, so if I get that, which seems possible and maybe even likely, it’d be awesome.  100k is something I don’t even want to think about right now.  :)

      PS. You’re still posting as Dustin Hoffman, which is fine, just wanted you to know. :)

    • Jordy says:

      Argh :), I bring this man to shame with my bad acting, you could see right trough my impersonation!

  23. Jordy says:

    BEETAA!!! No more excuses@ ;) I want it now!

  24. Can’t wait to play it. GET IT OUT :D

  25. Lee says:

    I’ve done so many BETA’s it’s not even funny.. but I have to say.. this is the first one since Star Wars Galaxies that I am excited about!

  26. Patrick says:

    Hey my friend Noc got his beta access and I just requested for mine. I would like to make a trailer for this game. It is a great game I have seen No play it and I am very interested in it. I linked my YT not many subs but what the hell I will enjoy making a trailer. I want to start work on it soon cause it will be fun! I was wondering if for the sake of time I can get my access soon so I can begin work? Would be nice but if not that is fine. 

    -Nub

  27. Andrew says:

    Is Spy Party going to be free or after I receive that e-mail I have to pay?

  28. Joseph Harner says:

    Reminds me a little of a garry’s mod custom gamemode called “Trouble in Terrorist Town”. The objective there, though, was to determine which few players out of a group are “traitors” going around killing the other players. It would be interesting to see a slower take on that idea, which is what it seems you’re going for.

  29. I just watched “Let`s look at SpyParty” on Yotube. The whole idea of the game is brilliant. Thats some fresh air in game business. I`m kinda old player who remember Spy vs Spy on Commodore so i prefer playability more than graphics. The only problem i see in this production is NPC behaviors, there have to be a xxxxxxxxxxx combinations to prevent player to recognize the “system”. Wish you all good in production and i`m waiting for full version :)

  30. Panda says:

    This Game is AWESOME!
    cant get enough of it. The concept is soooo refreshing and innovative to all these so called tripple AAA titles. Its brilliant and i salute to you for that =D. It even made me pay for a beta, which i usually wouldn’t do. Hope you get lots of support and i am eagerly waiting for the full version! I saw that you try to improve the graphics (would it be possible to implement the beta graphics to the full version?), i knda fell in love with the character models. HAHA

    keep up the good work. cheers
    Panda

  31. Kyle says:

    Hey I’ve heard you mention the forums in a couple places, but can’t actually find them. Is it only accessible for current beta testers, or am I just blind/incompetent?

  32. Ben says:

    You are my favourite person in the world.. you have no idea how much I love this game, and I havn’t even played it yet.. Literally all day ive been watching streams and keeping my emails open.. constantly checking to see if i’ll get invited! I love mafia.. and this is just the most perfect game ever. I realise I wont be able to play it for a while, but do you have any idea when I might?

  33. Yosa says:

    Do u acctually need to pay to play this crap?

  34. bignatebig says:

    IS IT GONNA BE ON STEAM???????? PUT IT ON STEAM!!!!!!

  35. digitalswan says:

    Holy hell, the new art looks awesome! This is absolutely gorgeous. Can I please, and I’m not being facetious, pay you the money you deserve to have?!

    Cheers, 
    digitalSwan

  36. derek says:

    Hey, just wondering. My wife and I would like to play this together on separate computers. Would we each need to pay for the beta? Or could I somehow share it between computers? And also, will we be able to play together in some sort of private game setting? Thanks for any help, can’t wait to purchase tomorrow!

    • checker says:

      Hi, right now you’d both need to purchase a copy. I want to do “spawned copies” and 2-for-1 discounts, but haven’t had time yet, and will need to modify some stuff to make it happen, so it’ll be a while! There’s no automatic matchmaking, so you both just log into the lobby and then choose to play each other, so you will be able to play each other no problem. You’ll have to be connected to the internet, there’s no offline or lan mode yet, but it’ll be trivial to play each other, lots of couples do it.

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