PAX 2019 – It Takes a Village

And we finally arrive at PAX 2019, the last one to host a SpyParty booth until the Covid-19 pandemic is under control.  Hopefully next year?  Get vaccinated, please!

PAX 2019 started out fairly normal, as you can see in the first gallery of picures below.  We were playtesting the Redwoods venue that year, and the booth setup went pretty smoothly.


The new Redwoods venue! Photo credit: lthummus

However, I ended up having a family emergency and had to fly home the morning of the first day! Luckily, John and Alice and the volunteers all stepped up and took over all the booth duties, including selling and turning the booth on and off every day and even breaking it all down and getting it into storage.  Under normal circumstances I am incredibly grateful to everybody for helping with the booth, but 2019 was a new level of amazingness and I can’t thank them all enough.

My hasty exit also left a distinct lack of pictures on my camera.  Once again the community came together to help out, and so in addition to my photos, Steph, Cleetose, Wodar, and WarningTrack all supplied galleries below, so check them all out.

Here is Steph’s complete list of booth helpers that saved my butt in 2019:  Steph, Cleetose, Wodar, KCMmmmm, Yeesh, Warningrack, Courtney, Pwndnoob, CanadianBacon, Nanthelas, Plastikqs, Maxedwardsnax, Opiwrites, Aforgottentune, Lthummus, Cameraman, Slappydavis, Virifaux, Mrrgrs, Turnipboy, Star, DeJoker, Reika, John, Alice, KrazyCaley, Monaters, Inediblecake, and Drawnonward

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Day of the Devs 2016 Photos

I’m almost through all of my archived photos!  Here we have the pictures from Day of the Devs 2016, an awesome free one-day show in San Francisco organized by DoubleFine and iam8bit.  As I wrote about previously, Day of the Devs is like a PAX-lite, where we can playtest the game and meet a bunch of folks, but drive there instead of fly, and not die because it’s only one day.  Day of the Devs is for unreleased games, and I think SpyParty was the game with the longest tenure there, but eventually they decided even if I hadn’t officially shipped we’d had enough repeats, and I think 2016 was our last year there as a booth, but I love the show so go as an attendee now.1

This was a particularly fun Day of the Devs for us, because KrazyCaley and Drawnonward, two old-timers and SpyParty Discord moderators (whom we call Double Agents) drove up from southern California.  As usual, Slappydavis drove down for it, this time bringing a friend to help in the booth.  Cleetose lives right near me so he’s also on booth duty by default.  I also had Christian Strohm—an aspiring indie game developer friend who I randomly met when he was working at Art’s Automotive in Berkeley—come help out at the booth.  Plus, in addition to John and Alice, Reika brought her friend BerBer.  It was a Bay Area team effort!

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  1. when there isn’t a pandemic []

PAX 2018 Photo Gallery

I’m up to 2018 in my PAX picture gallery backlog clearance!  I had to ask in the SpyParty Discord what we revealed at PAX 2018 because time has no meaning and I’d completely forgotten.  It turns out it was the Teien venue, the blog post about which I would normally link here, but writing this has made me realize I never even posted about it?!  I will need to rectify that, and talk about the “Occlusion Venues Experiment” with Teien, Redwoods, and Aquarium.  At the very least you can see all the players/booth volunteers playtesting it for the first time at the start of the image gallery. Longtime player Cleetose also 3D-printed a bunch of the guests, which was super cool.  Oh, and we had super fancy buttons for sale, which I’d love to eventually sell online!

As usual, I’ll post the list of amazing booth helpers after I get it from the amazing Steph!  The list:  Cleetose, Wodar, Lthummus, KrazyCaley, InEdibleCake, Cameraman, WarningTrack, Courtney, Clementine, CanadianBacon, Mrrgrs, Virifaux, Slappydavis, IgoUnseen, John, Yeesh, KCMmmmm, Skrewwl00se, Steph, Sharper, Aforgottentune, Drawnonward, Pwndnoob, Turnipboy, Nanthelas, and Zebramf.

The 2019 post is going to be a bit weird, because I wasn’t there the whole time, so we’re going to crowdsource the photos from fans.  If you happen to have photos of the PAX booth in 2019 and don’t mind me sharing them (with credit, of course), post on the SpyParty Discord and let us know!

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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

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  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. []

SpyParty at PAX 2016 Gallery

SpyParty has a very long history at PAX West, the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle.1  PAX 2021 is actually going on right now while I’m writing this,2 and for the first time ever, the SpyParty booth is not in its usual corner, not nestled in the protective embrace of The Behemoth along side our bigger sibling, Supergiant Games.  Of course, if you’re reading this from the future, you should know the reason for our absence is the Covid 19 pandemic, and although there is a much smaller PAX happening in Seattle right now with masking and social distancing, after a lot of deliberation and talking to fans and other indies, I decided to skip it this year for safety.  I feel pretty conflicted about it, and it appears I’m not the only one…

However, this PAX weekend did remind me that I am way behind on posting photos from PAXes past, so here is a giant gallery from 2016!  That was the first year of our fancy sign and lighting, both of which worked out even more spectacularly than I ever hoped.  As always, thanks so much to our booth volunteers who you can see helping to tirelessly set up, break down, and destroy their voices teaching people to play, we literally couldn’t do it without them.3  Steph compiled a list, so thank you to all of these amazing people: John and Alice, Cleetose, Wodar, Lthummus, Warningtrack, Courtney, CanadianBacon, Virifaux, Slappydavis, IgoUnseen, KCMmmmm, Reika, Aforgottentune, Drawnonward, Pwndnoob, and of course, Steph herself!

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  1. I never called it PAX Prime and I’m glad they finally renamed it! []
  2. although it’ll be over by the time I post it []
  3. I know this because we’ve tried it before and we almost died. []