Frequently Asked Questions

I probably should have put this FAQ for SpyParty up a long time ago, but “better late than never”, I guess!

I’ve tried to look over most of the comments on the blog and roll them into this FAQ, but I’m sure I missed some, and I’m sure people will come up with more questions as time goes on.

If you have a question that’s not answered here but should be, or if you want clarifications on any of the answers, please post in the comments below, and I’ll promote them up to the page.

  1. When are you shipping?
  2. What!?! Why do I have to wait so long?
  3. Will there be a demo?
  4. Will there be a beta? Can I help you playtest SpyParty?
  5. Okay, there’s a beta, but why is it going so slowly?
  6. Is it an open beta, an early-access beta, a paid beta, a pre-order, or what?
  7. Where can I find the infamous Four Page Instruction Manual so I can read it and not get completely owned the first time I play?
  8. What platforms will SpyParty be on?
  9. What will the hardware requirements look like?
  10. How much will the game cost?
  11. How is SpyParty different from ______?
  12. Will there be other modes besides just two-player Spy vs. Sniper?
  13. Will the Spy and the Sniper be able to play on the same screen, like on a couch?
  14. Will there be other settings besides parties?
  15. How many maps will there be?
  16. How many missions will there be?
  17. Will the Sniper be able to do anything else besides observe the party?
  18. Can the Sniper influence the Spy and/or partygoers?
  19. How many characters will there be?
  20. Will each character have different behaviors? What about genders, races, ages, etc.?
  21. How can the Spy see the laser sight but no one else at the party can?
  22. Will the Spy be able to make distractions?
  23. Will there be a Spectator mode?
  24. Will there be a single-player mode?
  25. Will there be LAN support? Spawned copies? Can I run my own dedicated server?
  26. What is the art/music style going to be? Will it be stylized or realistic?
  27. What about dialog?
  28. What about plot, or campaigns?
  29. Will I be able to play with the current prototype graphics?
  30. Banana Bread.
  31. If the game is hard core player-skill, how will new players not just get owned? Will I have to read a manual when the game is released?
  32. I’ve heard you have a mechanic like Gears of War’s Active Reload, doesn’t that detract from the psychological skill and make the game more about twitch skills?
  33. What language is SpyParty written in? What engine do you use? What’s your development environment?
  34. What kind of animations will SpyParty use?
  35. What are your inspirations for SpyParty?
  36. What are your aesthetic goals for the game?
  37. How did you name the game? What about the poor Sniper, doesn’t he or she feel left out?
  38. How many people work on SpyParty? Are you hiring?
  39. Will there be any kind of User Generated Content, or customization, or XBox Live Avatar support, etc.?
  40. Can I put on a SpyParty LARP?
  41. Can I live stream and post and monetize videos of SpyParty?
  42. Will I be able to get a Steam code when it’s on Steam if I pay for the beta now, and what about redeeming it on consoles too?

When are you shipping?

The short answer is: I don’t know. The long answer is: probably a couple years from now, where ‘now’ is spring, 2011. Update 2013: the Early-Access Beta is now open.

What!?! Why do I have to wait so long?

I want SpyParty to be perfect. I think the game has a lot of potential to explore themes and mechanics rarely explored in this medium, like perception, deception, and performance, and others I mention below. I want the the game to be deeply tuned so it supports competition-level player skills,1 but instead of being twitch skills, they’re psychological skills. I also want the game to be beautiful artistically and aurally. All of these things take time to do right. I talk more about each of these topics below.

Will there be a demo?

I assume so, but I’m not sure yet.

Will there be a beta? Can I help you playtest SpyParty?

Yes you can! Please head over to the Early-Access Beta Sign Up Page and read about the beta plan.

Okay, there’s a beta, but why is it going so slowly?

I’m really sorry the invites to the Early-Access Beta are trickling out so slowly. The quick answer is, I would love to invite everybody in at once, but my server would melt. Making the game’s back end servers scale to the 12000 people signed up so far is going to be a lot of work, and there are going to be (and have been) a lot of bugs that need fixing along the way. Trust me, I want to invite you in more than you want to be invited in, I just can’t go faster yet! This blog post talks about the roll-out plan in more detail. Update: wait, it’s open now!

Is it an open beta, an early-access beta, a paid beta, a pre-order, or what?

It appears there’s some debate about what to call this kind of beta. I call it an Early-Access Beta, because you get the game now and all the updates and the final version, and I say it’s “open” now because it was “closed” and invite-only for a long time. So, I use “open” to contrast with “closed” in that sense. Some folks use “open” to mean “free”, which this isn’t, since I’m using it to fund the development of the game, as I explain here. So, I guess it’s an Open Early-Access Paid Beta?

Where can I find the infamous Four Page Instruction Manual so I can read it and not get completely owned the first time I play?

Thank you for asking! Reading the manual is the best way (short of actually playing) to get a feel for SpyParty! You can find the latest version here.

What platforms will SpyParty be on?

I hope to have it on all the major platforms that will run it. This includes PC and Mac (on Steam and other distribution sites, including this website, and they will all be able to play each other), Xbox Live Arcade, and PlayStation Network. I’ve been talking to Nintendo about their next generation console, and if the controller screen (exists and) is good, that could solve one of my “couch issues” I talk about below, so that could be cool. (Clarification for the Internet: I have not signed an NDA, but I read the same rumors as other people, and when I talked to some Nintendo folks recently, I said, “I know you can’t confirm or deny, but if the controller screen is good, then that might make it a perfect SpyParty machine because of my ‘couch problem’.”) Also, the iPad is another solution to this problem of how to have players in the same room, so I’ll probably look into that as well. Linux is a real possibility too, especially since the successes of the Humble Bundles with Linux users.

However, I am 100% focused on making the game as deep and as awesome as I can right now, and I’ll worry about the platforms later, after I’ve got the gameplay where I want it.

In some updated platform news, some beta testers have gotten SpyParty working with Wineskin, a Windows emulator for MacOS! There’s a thread about how to set it up in the beta forums, so once you’re invited into the beta you can try that if you’re a MacOS user. It is incredibly easy to install and it works really well, I just tried it myself!

What will the hardware requirements look like?

It’s too early to say for sure. Right now, it runs on incredibly low end laptops (even netbooks!), but obviously the graphics are going to improve a lot and that’s going to cost some performance. However, I want as many poeple as possible to be able to play SpyParty, and that’s vital for a multiplayer indie game, so I want to keep the hardware requirements as minimal as possible. I do all of my development on an old Lenovo T500 laptop, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon, so that’s another thing that will help keep me honest and the specs low.

How much will the game cost?

I assume it will cost $15, but I don’t know for sure. $15 is kind of the “AAA Indie” price point these days, and I think it’s good for the industry to standardize on a single price in this segment so players have a basic intuition for what level of polish and production values they will get for their money. Update: I figured out and posted the pricing model here.

How is SpyParty different from ______?

I send out the link to this entry often enough, and the %3F in the anchor confuses enough url shorteners, that I made this pseudo-permanent pseudo-handy shortlink:

SpyParty is not the first game to explore psychological themes, nor pretending to be an NPC, nor hiding in plain sight, nor any of these concepts. I think it is a particularly interesting take on them, but there have been many games before with similarities. These include:

  • The Ship and Bloody Good Time, by Outerlight, the multiplayer modes in Assassin’s Creed by Ubisoft, and Murderous Pursuits by Blazing Griffin (who bought The Ship from Outerlight). These are basically games of Assassin, which is a popular live-action game played on college campuses. They’re mostly symmetric, meaning each player is playing the same role, they use large maps where occlusion and environment traversal is a big part of the gameplay so they have features like radars for telling where your target is, and they don’t focus on the same level of behavioral performance and perception that I’m going for in SpyParty. I have a long post I’m writing that will do a detailed analysis of these games, that I’ll link to here when it’s finished. Actually, I ended up talking about this a lot on a Kotaku podcast, and they happened to transcribe this exact part, which was nice.
    Jason: It’s really fun. Once you start getting into it, playing as a spy, you can find lots of clever ways to mimic the AI. There are a lot of misdirection tricks you can use to try to fool the sniper.
    Kirk: And you know, I’ve played games like this before, and watching the game, getting ready to play the game, having Chris explain the game to us, there’s a lot going on. This is a very complicated game, there are a million mechanics and systems that we didn’t see.
    Hecker: Yeah, the [full] tutorial takes almost 40 minutes to play.
    Kirk: So, having played a game like Assassin’s Creed, the multiplayer in that, where you’re kinda pretending to be AI and blending in… there’s a level of specificity to [Spy Party] that I found. Where, just because it’s me versus you, we’re head to head, we’re at a table, and it’s this one moment that we’re building toward. It’s gonna be this shot. Jason’s probably gonna take the shot, and it’s either gonna work or it’s not. It really raises the stakes.
    Hecker: And there’s more than that. Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, and there’s an old game on Steam called The Ship, which are both games of Assassin. Which is that college campus game where there’s a hat, and all our names are in the hat, and you pick my name, and he picks your name, and then you’re chasing me and I’m chasing him.
    Kirk: Right. It’s a more cyclical thing.
    Hecker: Yeah, it’s asymmetric in the sense that [your target is] a different person than who’s chasing you, but it’s completely symmetric in the sense that everyone is chasing and being chased.
    Kirk: And has a similar move-set, similar skills.
    Hecker: Right. So I’ve thought about this a lot, about why Spy Party actually is different and deeper than those games. Because The Ship came out before Spy Party, obviously. And Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood came out after. And so you know, people are like, how is it different from this, or whatever. So I’ve thought about that a lot.
    Kirk: It’s very different.
    Hecker: It’s very different! First, when Assassin’s Creed multiplayer started coming out, it was Brotherhood, when it came out, I was like, oh shit. And then I was like, okay, they’re just doing Assassin, and I know how [Spy Party] is different from Assassin now.
    And so what the difference is: Spy Party is 100% asymmetric. There is no way for the spy to get around behind the sniper and stab him in the back with a knife. The sniper doesn’t have to worry about watching their back at all. I can take 100% of the sniper’s brainpower and devote it towards the party, which means I can make the tells way more subtle. So the spy also knows they have to commit to the deception part of it. If you get what happens in Brotherhoodmultiplayer, is, you get someone who’s better at combat or whatever, or jumping around roofs, and then they’re like screw this hiding in plain sight thing, I’m just gonna wait for somebody to do it and then just do the pile-on thing.
    Kirk: When you’re playing as the spy, there’s never a moment where you’re thinking, I have this other avenue to victory.
    Hecker: Exactly. Like, “I’m gonna shoot back,” or anything like that. So you have to commit 100% to the deception thing or you’re toast. And I didn’t know this [off the bat], it’s not like I’m some super genius where I was like, “Oh, this is how it’s different” a priori before I even did it. It was more just like, oh, this is working, why aren’t those other games working at the same level? Oh, I see, it’s because each person is totally committed to their role.
    People don’t make completely asymmetric games most of the time, because they’re really hard to balance. By diving into the completely asymmetric thing, it unlocks this thing that no one knew was there, just because you can’t get to it in that more locally asymmetric but globally symmetric game like Assassin. I mean those are cool games, those are fun to play, but they don’t seem to have… [Spy Party’s] top players have 20,000 games, over 1,000 hours at three minutes a pop. It’s way deeper than those games, right?
    I have a list of clones and demakes, people who have made other similar games, and Assassin’s Creed and The Ship are on there, as like, other games that are similar. I have a list of those on the FAQ, [since people will ask] “aren’t you worry about getting cloned” or something like that? And I’m like no, I want more games in this area, it’s just such unexplored territory! You can just pick up game design off the ground as you’re walking around, because nobody does games about normal people.

    People ask if I’m worried about these games, and the opposite is true, actually. I wish they explored subtle psychological gameplay more than they currently do, because we need more games pushing in these subtle behavioral directions, not fewer!

  • Puji, Ninja Convention, Lucas Debes, SPY PARTY, Remote Shepherd, Hidden in Plain SightNintendo Game & Wario’s ThiefBetraille: Part Deux, Crime Scene, A Letter to my Valentine, XX13, inconSPYcuous, The 80 Spies, The Good, The Bad and the BotAlien Laser Bunnies, Dark Day LA, No Photos, Please!, Hey You!!!, Mimic, Framed!, Intrigue, Where’s Tango?, PanopticonParty Saboteurs, odlaw, Thief Town, BLADENET
    There are a bunch of “demakes”, clones, games inspired by SpyParty, or games designed totally independently that just have a similar mechanic! I collect links to these and love to hear about them, so if you know of one not on this list, please comment below so I can check it out. They’re listed here in the order in which I learned about them. It’s fun to see different interpretations of the idea. I’ve thought about having a game console in a room in SpyParty, with some of the 2D games running on it, and the two players can “push the stack” and go play one of these in the middle of their normal SpyParty game. That’s probably a pipe dream though, but it’s a cool idea! Most of these differ from SpyParty because they’re done as “Jam games”, or for competitions, or just for fun, and the developer isn’t trying to take them to a full polished game. Daniel Benmergui has an awesome SpyParty 2D demake design he’s been kicking around, so hopefully I’ll be able to convince him to make it. People often ask me what I think about other developers making these kinds of games relative to my work, so here’s a link where I discuss it a bit with the developer of Hidden in Plain Sight (also read the comments). The short answer is, as I wrote to Adam:

    My attitude towards derivative game designs is that they can contribute significant value to the art form, they simply have to move the game design ball forward. If they’re just clones of an existing thing without pushing in any new directions, then that can be fine for game development practice (just like copying a painting at the museum while you’re training to be an artist is an effective learning tool), but it’s not something you want to focus on as an end goal.

    In general, I want more experimentation with subtle psychological gameplay!

  • Hitman by IO Interactive. There is some disguise in Hitman, but they don’t explore it very much. Hopefully they will more in the future. There’s a level where you dress up as a waiter in a restaurant, for example, and there’s another level where you’re a sniper and getting a description of a guy in a room, and slowly trying to figure out which one it is. Also, Mission: Impossible on N64 has a deception level where NPCs react to your behavior. It looks like Grand Theft Auto V added a level similar to the Hitman one where you get directions on who to snipe.
  • Team Fortress 2 by Valve. They have a fictional Spy and Sniper rivalry, but that’s about it! But hey, people ask, so here it is.
  • There is also a whole genre of Flash “Sniper Games”, where you’re given a description of somebody and you have to find them in a crowd (usually of stick figures!).
  • Werewolf/Mafia. These are great party games, and have a different take on the performance and deception idea. Because they’re real people in a real room, they tend to be more about politics and bluffing.
  • Trouble in Terrorist Town by BadKing. This is a Garry’s Mod mod, and I haven’t played it yet, but it sounds interesting. It sounds a bit more like Werewolf than The Ship. There are a few other mods like this, like the Bystander mod for Quake, and the Prop Hunt and Suicide Survival mods for TF2 and Counter-Strike: Source, which sound hilarious from the descriptions. There’s a SpyParty mod for Minecraft as well.

If you have others that should be on this list, add a comment below!

Will there be other modes besides just two-player Spy vs. Sniper?

Yes, definitely! I’m just focusing on Spy vs. Sniper 1v1 right now because it’s the most “pure” asymmetric mode that gets to the heart of the core game design. After it’s where I want it, I will branch out into multiple players on both sides, Spy/Sniper teams, Snipers who can be at the party, and all kinds of other craziness.

I’ve gotten a bunch of ideas for different game modes and features from fans, so if you have an idea for the game, don’t hesitate to suggest it in the comments!

Will the Spy and the Sniper be able to play on the same screen, like on a couch?

This is hard. As I mention above, the Wii 2 and iPad might help with this. It’s also been suggested that the Spy player be able to play through the Sniper’s view, but that presents a lot of problems. A hot-seat design is also on the back burner. This is an important play style for some people, so I’m going to try to do something here, but it definitely is not a natural fit for SpyParty. That said, the Sniper side scales well to groups of people sitting together, and it stays fun (although multiple people watching the Sniper view and cooperating makes the game very challenging for the Spy).

Will there be other settings besides parties?

Yes, basically any place people gather where a limited and stylized set of social mores express the basic interactions will work, so this could mean a nightclub, a queue outside the velvet rope of a nightclub, a park during the day, a classroom, lunch at a cafe, etc.

How many maps will there be?

I don’t know yet, but hopefully lots. I’m still focusing on the core game loop, and I haven’t run out of gameplay depth there without having to resort to making more maps, so I’m going to keep digging. I have done two more maps as an experiment to see how it changes the gameplay and that’s been successful in playtests, but I’m not going to focus on map building right now, since it’s a lot easier to build maps than getting the core design solid, so I’m not worried about it as a risk.

How many missions will there be?

Again, hopefully a lot. There are 6 right now (Bug Ambassador, Swap Statue, Transfer Microfilm, Contact Double Agent, Inspect Statues, and Seduce Target), and a couple more that are partially implemented (Steal Plans and Poison Drink). I tend to do new missions to explore completely new types of tells, like trying out an audio tell, or figuring out if the Sniper can perceive when two people at the party are spending a lot of time together. There are three main categories of tells: 1) hard tells, which are when a character plays an animation no NPC will play, and if it is seen, identifies him or her as the Spy, 2) soft tells, which allow the Sniper to reduce the number of suspects, but not positively identify the Spy, and 3) behavioral tells, which are cues like “that character is acting funny” but that don’t have any specific indentifying characteristics. The space of these tells is a very large design space to explore, so I’m confident I’ll be able to add many missions that are completely different from each other.

Will the Sniper be able to do anything else besides observe the party?

Yes, that is the plan, although I’ve been surprised by how much gameplay there is in just trying to perceive without have any other verbs available. But, the plan is to add things like the Sniper can control a video camera to record areas of the party that are offscreen, but rewinding and playing back the tape takes attention, and the Spy knows when you’re doing it, and having the Sniper be able to ask the Security Guard to take someone aside and ask them questions from their dossier. Both the Spy and the Sniper need to know the correct answers, of course. And, to make it more ludicrous, the Spy could choose to be the Security Guard, so the Sniper can’t even trust that character.

Can the Sniper influence the Spy and/or partygoers?

Right now the only feedback is the laser sight, which definitely influences the Spy’s behavior. In fact, a great “newb test” is to just aim the laser at each character’s head and see which one starts moving—that’s usually the newbie Spy. In the future, I hope to have lots of ways for the Sniper to influence the party, including deciding when it’s time to serve dinner, when the musical act goes on stage, dimming the lights, etc.

How many characters will there be?

I don’t know for sure yet, but I have the number 30 floating around in my head. The game is basically unplayable for a single Sniper with 30 partygoers in a room simultaneously, though, because there’s just too much visual information flooding the screen, but of course each map uses a different number of characters, and eventually there will be modes with multiple Snipers. I have a list of 50 or 70 “spy fiction archetypes” that would be hilarious as SpyParty characters, so it’ll just depend on time, resources, and art direction which ones make it in.

Will each character have different behaviors? What about genders, races, ages, etc.?

I hope to have different behaviors for all the the characters and characteristics, but this is a stretch goal. I would really like it if the General would “chase skirts” and “drink too much”, and the Mad Scientist would “alienate people in conversations”, and both the Spy and the Sniper would have to learn these behaviors to get good at the game. This makes the game deeper, but even more complicated, and it’s a lot of programming, debugging, and animating, so I’ll have to see how it goes.

How can the Spy see the laser sight but no one else at the party can?

The Spy is wearing infrared sensitive contact lenses. Duh.

Will the Spy be able to make distractions?

Yes, although none are in yet. Spilling a drink on somebody, or asking the Double Agent to spill a drink on somebody are obvious candidates. Making the stereo system start smoking, turning off the lights, drawing the blinds, the list goes on and on.

Will there be a Spectator mode?

Definitely. SpyParty is almost as much fun to watch as it is to play.

Will there be a single-player mode?

Yes, although it remains to be seen what form it will take. There are three levels of single-player: 1) tutorial – I obviously have to have a good tutorial since the game is so different; 2) practice – I want the game to be skill based, so players need to be able to practice on their own; 3) campaign – this is like StarCraft II’s single-player relative to its multiplayer. Obviously all three would be great, but man, I want to ship this game before the heat death of the universe.

Will there be LAN support? Spawned copies? Can I run my own dedicated server?

Hopefully, yes to all these questions. I found this post called An FPS Server guide for developers that I’ll also try to follow, although man, some of that stuff is a lot of work. The game is at its best when played by two people in the same room with their laptops back-to-back, trash talking over the screens, so I definitely want to make that play style possible for people who have the hardware to pull it off.

What is the art/music style going to be? Will it be stylized or realistic?

Definitely stylized, not only because it’s an indie game and even big budget games fall into the Uncanny Valley when they try to do realism, but also because I think it suits the design better. Spy fiction is always absurd and exaggerated and stylish. That said, I don’t know what the aesthetic will be yet. Retro? Modern? Timeless? I don’t know yet! This post has a lot of visual inspirations, and feel free to add suggestions to the comments there.

What about dialog?

It’s a stretch goal due to time and cost, but I would love to have voice acting in the game. More on that later.

What about plot, or campaigns?

For single player, this remains to be seen, as I say above. For multiplayer, the current plan is to do it kind of like Left 4 Dead, where there’s a loose fictional arc to a given multiplayer session, that gives a sense of progression but without any kind of heavy-weight plot.

Will I be able to play with the current prototype graphics?

Really, I get this question a lot! The answer is probably ‘no’, simply because it would take a ton of work to keep them functioning once they’ve been replaced, since all the animations and skeletons will be changed, but then again, the new Monkey Island on XBLA apparently lets you switch between the old and new art, so I guess I’d possible. Of course, that’s a 2D sprite game, so it’s a different level of complexity. However, I really want to encourage developers to make more games with normal people, rather than aliens and orcs, so I’m thinking about how I could open-source the current assets as a “normal people game engine” so other indies could play around with a bunch of animated characters. Too early to say whether that will work, but it would be cool if it does.

Banana Bread.


If the game is hard core player-skill, how will new players not just get owned? Will I have to read a manual when the game is released?

Right now, I’m doing the Depth-first, Accessibility-later development methodology, which is why you need to read a manual to play. After I nail the depth, then I’ll work on the accessibility. There will be a tutorial and a mentoring system and ranking and matchmaking and all that stuff. But, I secretly hope there will also be a manual, and if you read it, you’ll do better. Maybe I’m just old fashioned that way.

I’ve heard you have a mechanic like Gears of War’s Active Reload, doesn’t that detract from the psychological skill and make the game more about twitch skills?

I call it an Action Test, and no, it didn’t, thankfully! It’s different in a couple of important ways, but the core idea is definitely stolen directly from Gears. This post and its comments talk about these issues, and this post has the results of the Action Test playtest.

What language is SpyParty written in? What engine do you use? What’s your development environment?

SpyParty is mostly custom C++ written by me. I use OpenGL for low level rendering, a modified libjingle for networking, and I’m currently using an open source animation library called Cal3D that I’ve heavily hacked up, but it’s not very good, so I’m going to rewrite it from scratch soon, since achieving high quality character animation is such a vital technology for SpyParty. I talk a bit about the game’s custom AI system in this lecture. I use GNU Emacs for editing code, and Visual C++ for compiling and debugging.

What kind of animations will SpyParty use?

Animations are critical for both the visual aesthetics and style of SpyParty, but also for the gameplay, so the core of every animation is going to be done by hand, and then there’ll be some light procedural “touch up” done. An example would be picking up a statue…there will be a custom animation done for this motion (and maybe even custom per-character!), and then there will be an Inverse Kinematics system that warps the animation’s target to the statue’s current position relative to the character. This is important for making the character actually grab the statue, but it’s also important for the animation system to be able to deal with misaligned characters. Normal games would just have the NPCs always register themselves properly relative to the statue, but SpyParty has to deal with the Spy player not aligning correctly, and so I also have to have the NPCs not align correctly so the Spy isn’t the only one messing up, which would be a recipe for getting shot.

What are your inspirations for SpyParty?

Game-wise, there are a bunch. Counter-Strike is a huge influence on the player-skill depth and multiplayer community aspects of the game. I played a lot of Left 4 Dead to “research” asymmetric multiplayer games, and I came up with my mentoring plans for SpyParty while playing L4D pubbie pickup games. The Sims is obviously influential in terms of it being one of the only other games about people in a room, talking. More games need to explore this human scale level of interaction. Similarly, Ico shows you can have a very simple mechanic (calling and holding hands), with very simple animations and AI, and very simple controls (push a button to call the Princess) and you can get an immense amount of expressivity and emotion out of it—you don’t have to have a million polygons per-character and solve the Strong AI problem, you just need to be smart about your affordances and feedback. Go, the board game, is the most beautiful game ever created, and also maybe the deepest, so it’s a huge inspiration. Poker is another beautiful and deep game, and the bluffing and psychology aspects are directly relevant to SpyParty. Frank Lantz gave a great GDC talk about Go and Poker you should watch if you’re interested in these games. A big inspiration for the game, and in fact, in some sense the “prequel”, is Thatcher Ulrich’s Indie Game Jam 0 game, Dueling Machine. At IGJ3 I was trying to figure out what a more intimate version of Dueling Machine would be, and came up with the Inverse Turing Test idea, and then the Spy fiction, and then it basically designed itself from there!

What are your aesthetic goals for the game?

I’m interested in exploring a number of themes with SpyParty‘s gameplay. Here’s a list from a recent lecture I gave:

  • perception vs. deception & performance
  • attention as a resource
  • consequential decisions with partial information
  • deduction vs. intuition
  • analysis paralysis vs. extinct by instinct
  • extreme asymmetry
  • intense focus on player-skills about subtle human behavior

By the way, I think all game FAQs should be required to answer this question.

How did you name the game? What about the poor Sniper, doesn’t he or she feel left out?

I struggled with the name a fair amount, but at the end of the day, “SpyParty” is punchy, and gets across the vibe of the game, makes you wonder what it’s about, and is unique (well, there are a lot of people throwing spy themed birthday parties for their kids out there, but I finally have them beat on google :). I think names serve a lot of different masters, and being descriptive is one of them, but it’s fairly low on the list compared to being memorable and making people wonder about it. The game was originally called SniperParty, but that set the wrong tone, I think. I also think of both the Spy and the Sniper as spies, fictionally. They just got different assignments!

How many people work on SpyParty? Are you hiring?

It’s currently just me, Chris Hecker, and the amazing artist John Cimino. You can read more about me on my personal site, which is composed mostly of my technical game development writing. I’ve also had some awesome help here and there from various friends (especially Ian and Paul, my elite playtesters, and Ocean Quigley, my friend and rock climbing partner). I am not really looking for more people right now. With AAA indie games, it’s really important to keep your burn-rate as low as possible to give yourself enough time to get the gameplay exactly right.

Will there be any kind of User Generated Content, or customization, or XBox Live Avatar support, etc.?

It’s unclear right now. Customization is hard with this design, because obviously if you have a purple hat, you can’t just wear it, or else you’re going to get shot pretty quick. I think the Avatars design here is to have the party composed of your and all your friend’s avatars, and then you pick one. We’ll see, I’m not worrying about this right now.

Can I put on a SpyParty LARP?

Sure! There have been a few, and I’m going to post a list of the ones I know about at some point. People find it challenging to get the players playing the NPCs to “act normal”, apparently. Let me know how you solve that problem!

Can I live stream and post and monetize videos of SpyParty?

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes, please do! I, Chris Hecker, the creator of SpyParty give you permission to stream the game, post videos of the game on the internet, monetize those videos, make animated gifs of the game, or whatever. I actually think it’s pretty messed up that I need to give explicit permission for this, but that’s a rant about copyright law that’ll have to come in a different post, so for now, consider yourself permitted. If you need even more permission than this, post a comment and I’ll update this entry.

Will I be able to get a Steam code when it’s on Steam if I pay for the beta now, and what about redeeming it on consoles too?

Unless Valve has a massive policy change, I’ll be able to give you Steam keys no problem, that’s definitely the plan. I am planning on asking the console folks, but I don’t know of any case where they’ve done that before, sadly. We’ll have to see about that.

  1. I sometimes use the phrase “e-sports level player-skills”, but some people really hate the word “e-sports”. I actually agree it’s a dumb and problematic word, but it’s also a succinct word that gets the point across in terms of being clear about the difference between a game designed merely for people to battle for fun, versus a game that’s intended to have serious competitive levels of balance, where player-skills are dominant over randomness or items or avatar-skills. []


  1. John says:

    I noticed in the manual that some of the missions seem to rely on colors. Will this be a hindrance to someone who is color blind? If so, will there be an alternate color scheme? Thanks!

  2. andvari says:

    Kickstart this shit ASAP.  

    • checker says:

      Hopefully I won’t need to, open beta soon! The dream is the open paid beta funds the rest of the development and I can stop spending my daughter’s college fund!

    • cfc says:

      Asking people to pay money to be beta testers for a developer has always seemed pretty skeevy to me. I’d much rather see a Kickstarter.

    • checker says:

      I dunno, I guess it’s personal opinion, but I think Kickstarter is way less healthy for indie developers than paid betas.  I’m going to write up my reasons at some point, but basically with a paid beta, people can choose if they want early access and to help fund the game, and if it’s already fun and compelling, it’s win-win.  Everybody who’s uncomfortable with that can wait until release, which is cool too.

  3. kenny veres says:

    how do you download the game after you buy the beta

    • checker says:

      You’ll get a link to the beta website, and there’s a download link there once you’ve logged in.

  4. Justin says:

    I’d love to play this game, and especially on Wii U! You might want to update that stuff about Nintendo’s new super-secret console, though ;)

  5. thomasaustin says:

    Hi, just wondering if you knew why i could not complete any missions on my mac trackpad. For some reason there is no sliding thing (which you have to hit at the right time to complete the mission). Thanks in advance and Thanks for the game :)

    • thomasaustin says:

      I am talking about the mechanic. For some odd reason there isn’t one…

    • checker says:

      The beta forums are the best place for stuff like this about actually playing the game, since other beta testers can often answer before I get to it…they’re linked off your beta homepage.  But, my guess is you aren’t “right-clicking”, which on the MacOS I think is two fingers, or maybe command-click?  All the normal NPC actions you get as a Spy are left click, and all the Spy actions are right click.

  6. Rusty Shackleford says:

    Please get this on steam greenlight, it would be a great and easier way for me and my friends to play, and I trust steam a lot more, you would make a lot more money if on greenlight, even if it doesn’t get greenlit

    • checker says:

      It’ll go on Steam eventually, but not for a while.  I like having the community and everything local so I can change anything and everything.  Plus, I couldn’t handle the number of players I’d get on Steam right now, so I’ll way until the game and I are ready.  I probably won’t do Greenlight, I’ll probably just go direct to steam.

  7. Qirby says:

    where do I find that guide how to install spy party on my mac?

    • checker says:

      It’s in the HOWTO subforum of the Discussions forum, which is linked on your beta homepage on the left side. Check the email you got when you registered.

  8. Varanas says:

    Going through the recent developer sessions for Rezzed I came across another Spyparty-like called The 80 Spies, and I thought you might be interested. I believe it was made in an 8 hour game jam themed around the 80s and it’s pretty similar to Hidden In Plain Sight. Here’s the video skip to around half an hour in if you just want to see their game.

    • checker says:

      Cool, thanks.  Also saw this in comments on RPS about SpyParty:  Will update with both.

  9. AmazingJas says:

    If I get 2 accounts, can my son and I play against each other when connected to our home/LAN network?

    • checker says:

      Yeah, but you’ll need to be on the internet right now to both get into the lobby.  The match connection will all happen internally to your LAN, but for now it requires the lobby for chat and stats and game journals and whatnot.  Eventually there’ll be a complete offline mode.

  10. jessica says:

    hey i was just wondering if i purchase the beta, will i get a steam code when the game is done? I want to play it how but would prefer to play this game on steam with my friends when it is released

  11. isaacgal says:

    I’m trying to buy your amazing game with a visa gift card, and every time I attempt to it says I have invalid billing information, and I know the card works because I have bought games with it on steam is there any reason why it wouldn’t work?

    • checker says:

      PayPal can be annoying about those cards, but they can work. I would call PayPal, which I know is a drag, but their phone support is good while their email support is terrible. Another person who had issues with a gift card got it to work by calling them!

  12. Chad says:

    The text in the game goes behind the 3D images. As a result, I can’t see the end log or the objectives or any text because the graphics are in the way.

    • checker says:

      That’s a known driver bug. Check the Bugs forum off your beta homepage, and update your drivers.

  13. isaacgal says:

    I have recently bought your AMAZING game and I read partially through your README.txt file. I had to restart my computer before I could finish reading it and it seems there isn’t a way to re-open that file, will I have to re-install the game to see the rest of it

    • checker says:

      It’s installed next to the executable file, so probably c:\program files\spyparty or something.  It’s also in the program group made for the game, so it should be under your start menu.  Send mail to support at spyparty dot com if you have trouble finding it, and thanks for the kind words!

  14. Paleolithic says:

    Is there any way you can add a link to the Login page somewhere on the site? I couldn’t seem to find it, and had to search through my history to get to it. If I’m just dumb and its right in front of my eyes, please let me know.

  15. smackythefrog says:

    Is there a way to change the email address I registered with?

  16. SpoonyPizzas says:


    To play this 2 player on 2 different PC’s I need to buy 2 codes?

    So I can play my girlfriend/brother/friends etc.


    • checker says:

      Right now you need two accounts. I’m hoping to eventually do “spawn copies” so you can have an account that will only play you, but I haven’t gotten to it yet, and probably won’t for a while. But eventually I want to, and also two-for-one discounts, etc.

    • SpoonyPizzas says:

      I’d settle for 2 for 1 discount to be honest.

      Cheers and keep up  the good work – new art looks great!

  17. Magicdoer1 says:

    Is there a way to log into the website after you have an account, and if not, will there be?

    • checker says:

      Hmm, not sure what you mean?  There’s a private beta forum for beta testers, where you can report bugs, talk strategy with other players, and suggest stuff.

  18. Hayden says:

    when will it be on steam

    • checker says:

      Not sure, I might put it on Steam Early-Access next year sometime, but no promises!

    • Hayden says:


    • Quirken says:

      Having watched quite a few games go up for early access and then get bad reviews from people who don’t understand the intent of Steam Early Access, I’d highly recommend you wait until the game is in a near-final beta.

      Unless you hope to get people like that to leave the community early so as to avoid their toxic influence, in which case, maybe doing that would flush them out early.

      That all said, it would be cool to install through Steam, and I look forward to the ability to do so.

  19. isaacgal says:

    So I am very much into your game mr.Checker sir. and i was wondering is there a way to re-download the game because i have recently had to do a full system restore to my computers factory conditions and it has deleted your wonderful game.

    PS if there is no way to redownload it i can simply just get another copy

  20. Dwarf Face says:

    Would we have to buy it again when it launches on steam, or will we get free keys if we already bought it? Same with consoles, do we have to buy the game again if it launches on consoles?

    • checker says:

      Unless Valve has a massive policy change, I’ll be able to give you Steam keys no problem, that’s definitely the plan. I am planning on asking the console folks, but I don’t know of any case where they’ve done that before, sadly. We’ll have to see about that.

  21. Noah says:

    Hey will those who payed to get into the beta get a free redeem code key for steam/console?

    • checker says:

      I should make this an official FAQ, since I answered it right above your question! :)

      Edit: added as (currently) last question!

    • Noah says:

      Sorry Didn’t see that. But will this game be cross platform too? Ex. P.c. vs Console.

    • checker says:

      No worries.  Yeah, hopefully it’ll be everywhere, PC, consoles, tablets, probably in that order.

    • Noah says:

      No, no i didn’t mean in that way i meant that can people on a PC play against someone on an ps4, tablet, etc.

    • checker says:

      Ah, yeah, I’m going to do as much interplay as I can, definitely. It’s one of the rare skill-based games where there’s no real difference between a controller and a mouse+keyboard, so interplay between PCs and consoles will actually work without nerfing either side.

  22. Noah says:

    I Have A Great Idea For A Gamemode :) It Involves Damon vs Spy. You Use Regular Maps and spy picks the missions (like in sniper vs spy) but…  Instead of a sniper, The enemy Plays as Damon. Damon Moves around in third person view like spy and has almost everything the sniper can do (Low light highlight etc) except when wanting to kill the spy He Gets out a tazer (Or gun) with one shot. If Damon Hits spy, Damon wins, If He Misses or hits a civilian, or if spy completes all mission, spy wins what do u think? 

    • checker says:

      Eventually, yeah, the Sniper will be able to be in the party, but I want to get the 1v1 asymmetric mode perfect first, because it’s the hardest.  There’s a great scene in one of the recent Bond movies where Bond stabs the guy who’s been chasing him in a crowded art gallery and sits him down in a chair to die amid all the  milling people.

  23. Noah says:

    You Might Have Gotten the question before but how do you set up the Xbox controller to the PC and play spy party?

    • checker says:

      You shouldn’t have to do much setup on modern OSes if you have a wired USB 360 controller. You may have to install the DirectX runtime (to get the right xinput dlls), which you can get from Microsoft’s site, but it’s usually not necessary.

  24. Demonic0Sniper says:

    What are the bare min. specs to run the game, I play on a laptop and want to know if i can actually run the game before i decide if i want to purchase it, To list the specs required to run in the faq section would also help alot of players decide on purchasing this game.

    • checker says:

      Yeah, the minspec right now is really low.  It plays on super old laptops.  Eventually the minspec will go up a bit with the new art, but it still plays on really old machines now, check it out:

  25. Isaac says:

    How would I update spy party?

    • checker says:

      Just run it and hit Play and it’ll auto-update. If you want, you can download the setup again on your beta homepage, but auto-updating is the preferred way (since I spent all that time getting it to work :).

    • Isaac says:

      Hey, thanks for getting back to me, In the time that I have (finally) gotten around to reading this, my computer has been fried and I have gotten a new one. How can I re-download the game? Thnx again- Isaac

    • checker says:

      Sorry about your computer!  Just log in to your beta homepage:

  26. Ruten says:

    When can it play on Mac OS X platform?

    • checker says:

      Right now! It runs great on Wineskin, which is a wrapper. A lot of the beta testers play on MacOS with Wineskin, and there’s a helpful thread in the forums about how to set it up. Not sure when a native port will get done, but Wineskin is so surprisingly good that it’s taken some of the pressure off. I mean, even the auto-updater works on MacOS!

    • Ruten says:

      Thanks! But which engine edition should I use on the Wineskin?

    • checker says:

      I just use the default one they prompt with when I’ve done it.  The other beta folks are totally willing to help, though, so if you join you can post in the MacOS Wineskin thread if things don’t work the first time.

  27. jbabco says:

    What type of software did you use to create the game, it looks fantastic. (I am talking about the newer levels)

    • checker says:

      Thanks! It’s C++ for the code, Maya and Zbrush for the models, basically. Lots of smaller tools, but those are the main ones.

  28. Matt says:

    Have you considered putting Spy Party on Steam Early Access? If not, what would need to happen for you to consider it.

    • checker says:

      Yeah, I probably will put it on Steam Early Access at some point, but I don’t think it’s ready for the influx of players it’d get there, so I think it’s a bit premature.

  29. spyfreak says:

    I really need help, i recently purchased spy party, was working fine before, but now every time i start the game it shows the boxes and things but absolutely no text to be seen! Do you know how to fix this?

    • checker says:

      The best place for this kind of thing is the Bugs forum…it looks like you posted there (and ran into an ATI driver bug), so I replied there.

  30. c++/opengl but no native linux/macos? says:

    So I was delighted to learn the language and graphical package you are using are rather compatible with cross-platform, native development. Visual C, less-so. What is the likelihood of a native build (i.e. not wineskin) for linux? for macos? You suggest that you are interested, but don’t make any commitments above.

    • checker says:

      I’m assuming I will definitely do them at some point, but Wine(skin) works so well that it has definitely taken the pressure off during the beta. But, I’d definitely like to do native ports in the future.

  31. Passmore says:

    Hello I have downloaded the game quite a while ago,but recently there was a problem with my harddrive on my old laptop,where the game was stored and I lost my harddrive along with the game,if I had the money I would happily buy it again but as I spent a lot of money on my new laptop I wondered if it was possible to download it again,with some proof that I have previously paid for the game on paypal,as it is not available on steam,can you contact me please to resolve this.

    • checker says:

      No worries, just go to the BETA SITE link on the front page and that’ll let you log in and download it again.

  32. Ike says:

    I would really like to buy this game and start playing it with my friends, but I would much rather prefer to play it on steam.  Do you know if/when you’ll have it out on steam maybe in the open access beta category?

    • checker says:

      It’ll be on Steam Early-Access at some point, probably next year, but not for a while (probably summer next year at the earliest). All people who buy it on the website will get a steam code when it happens, of course.

  33. kevinoleeh says:

    I really enjoy this game and after scanning through this FAQ (not reading it thoroughly though), I havent seen any mentions of a 3+ player mode with multiple spies and snipers. Do you think you might add something like this next to the normal game mode? Cause I know my friends and I would really enjoy it. Kevin

  34. DragonsKin says:

    I know you get this kind of question a lot, But I think you mentioned that it would be possible to purchase the game on Amazon in the future? Because that would be a million times better than Paypal (At the least it would be better for me). Especially for gifting the game I bet.

    • checker says:

      Yeah, definitely. Amazon and Stripe are the next payment methods I’ll provide. Not sure when, but this year I’m pretty sure.

  35. Kevin says:

    My friend, who lives in U.S bought this game, i wished to buy it after he mentioned it but it seems there is no option for a canada zip or address, even after trying and failing to enter an all american address, it still searched my debit card and declined it because the addresses was not matching or something of the sort, how do i go about buying this game?

    • checker says:

      Hi, it’s just PayPal, so it should work in Canada (there are a bunch of beta testers from Canada in the beta, so it must have worked). You should just be able to enter your email in the form on the homepage and it’ll take you to PayPal, where you pay like normal (PP account, credit, debit, whatever). I assume you have to switch the country on their form maybe?

  36. sranck says:

    If I wanted to play the open beta with my son who’s living in the same house as I do, will I need to purchase 2 copies?

    • checker says:

      Hi, yeah, right now you do. Eventually I want to support “spawn copies” to give you a second free account that will only play your primary account, but I haven’t gotten to it yet, and it’ll be a while (sadly).

  37. Jez says:

    Just bought this game, think its coming along quite fine, multiplayer with 2 or more spies would be awesome. keep up the good work.

  38. Amphiprison says:

    This kinda reminds me of OBEY a bit… weird game with bunnies trying to lord it over each other.  Ever heard of it?

  39. jorone says:

    I want to buy a copy for a friend, but I don’t want to send it to their email, will i be able to buy it with my email and give him the product key or something so he can make an account? I haven’t bought the game yet but I was planning on buying two copies, one for me and another for a friend.

    • checker says:

      I will send you mail, but I don’t really have support for that implemented yet so it’s a little janky.

  40. Rain says:

    I forgot how to get to the private forums. Can you send me a link?

    Also, I have not played SpyParty in a while, and I forgot how to launch it on MacOSX. Can you help me with that?

    • checker says:

      Hi, sorry I didn’t see this sooner! The beta homepage is at (and it’s linked off the homepage here). There’s a thread in the Discussions HOWTO subforum for getting it running on MacOS that’s really easy to follow. I’ll also mail you from support in case you don’t see this.

  41. Justice says:

    I bought spy party on my old computer but, the computer broke. Now that I have a new computer I no longer have the game so I thought as long as I had the email address my username and password i could somehow download the game for free (since I already paid.) Unfortunately I couldn’t figure out if I could do this. I searched your website but found nothing about this topic. So i’d like to know if i have to pay for SpyParty again. If I have to pay for SpyParty again I probably will it’s a really great game! :)

    • checker says:

      While I’m glad that you would be willing to pay for it again, you definitely don’t have to! Just go to and use the Forgot username? and Forgot password? links on the login form and you should be able to get to the beta homepage where you can download it again. Email support at spyparty dot com if you have trouble.

    • Justice says:

      Thank you sooooooooo much good luck on your game it’s one of my favorite games out there! 

  42. Hansen says:

    I acidently pressed ingore and now I can’t play sniper. isn’t there a way to reverse this?

    • checker says:

      Looks like you mailed support (which is what I was going to suggest), so we’ll deal with figuring this out over email! ;)

  43. Norskov says:

    Hi, I don’t know if you’re already aware, but RPS just posted about another game similar to SpyParty which seems interesting. Party Saboteur :

  44. Roys says:

    Well, kinda like what happened to this game, someone beat me to it. But thought I’d mention it anyway, I just noticed a game called: “Party Saboteur” on Steam Greenlight, and it’s looking pretty damn sexy.

  45. Diego says:

    I have no idea to how to reach the support … i lost the mail linked to my spypary license how can i do it to link the license to a new mail?!

  46. Goose says:

    How can i help develop spyparty apart from buying the game (which i already did)?

    • checker says:

      Thanks! Just being part of the community on the forums and helping new people learn about the game is super helpful!

  47. Yuka says:

    Hi Chris!

    I would like to request the authorization to use Spy Party .
    Can you send me your e-mail for a better explanation ?

    Thank you!

  48. Maze32 says:

    How is the games netcode like? I’m looking to play the game peer to peer with a friend accross the world with me; does the movement of the game suffer at 200-300ms ping?

    • checker says:

      The game is super latency-tolerant, so 300ms ping is no problem. There are some bugs where the characters on the sniper machine will lag, but they’re bugs, not net problems for the most part. So you should be fine. Post in the Bugs subforum if you’re having problems after you join and we’ll figure it out.

  49. Chase says:

    I bought this game a long time ago and was never sent a email to confirm anything, I know I must have waited 2 years to ask this question but is it possible for me to get the game without paying again?

    • checker says:

      Send mail to support at spyparty dot com and we’ll figure it out! You definitely don’t have to pay again if you paid already!

  50. Romp-A-Stomp says:

    Will you please bring back the dude in the top hat, AKA the monopoly guy? everyone loves the monopoly guy in spy party, and a redesign for the new look would be greatly appreciated.

    • checker says:

      I’ve always considered the guy who looks like Taft in the new art to be the spiritual successor to the top hat guy, but when we do another batch we’ll consider it. I might open it up to community ideas as well, not sure yet.

I have temporarily disabled blog comments due to spammers, come join us on the SpyParty Discord if you have questions or comments!