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What is SpyParty?

SpyParty is a spy game about human behavior, performance, perception, and deception. While most espionage games have you spend your time shooting stuff, blowing stuff up, and driving fast, SpyParty has you hide in plain sight, deceive your opponent, and detect subtle behavioral tells to achieve your objectives.



Category Archives: strategy

On Aggressive Idling

In my mind, there are two kinds of idling: passive idling, and active idling.

Passive idling is doing nothing and not gaining attention. Active idling is moving around and gaining attention, but not completing missions.

Passive idling is the best way to look like an AI, because AI are so fond of doing nothing. The most passive idling is just standing in a conversation: you aren’t finishing missions, and you aren’t giving the sniper any reason to care about you. This is unsuspicious, but a weak play, because you never show on the sniper’s radar and are therefore unlikely to be lowlit.
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SpyParty and the Dunning-Kruger Effect

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”

There is a well-known cognitive bias in psychology called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. The bias is named after social psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger who published a study in 1999 claiming that the less competent someone was, the less accurately they could judge their own level of competence. Put another way: part of not being good at things is not realizing it. Or, in bumper sticker form: You don’t know what you don’t know.

This has significant implications for many aspects of life, but the implications for a game like SpyParty, a game about deception and obfuscation, are profound, and are responsible for the single most important skill hurdle in a player’s development.
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It’s My Party and I’ll Cry If I Want To

Within the SpyParty community I’m known for being from Lithuania (wherever that is), but more so for playing SpyParty a lot, talking a lot, and generally doing everything a lot. And that‘s the kind of person I am–when I love something, it takes up a big part of my thoughts, my emotions, and my life. And that‘s why SpyParty has made me cry more times than some of my crushes.

As I write this, I have about 5,000 games played. When I started playing this number was unthinkable, and I assumed anyone who’d played that many games must be a pro. But now that I’ve reached it, I don’t feel like a pro. I still second guess my decisions. I still question my assumptions and doubt my ability to understand things. I still get fooled by AI pathing, and I’m still not sure when a briefcase return is suspicious. I don’t feel as good as my game total. And sometimes, the difference between my experience and my expertise can be discouraging.
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The New Art Changes Everything

Just over a year ago, SpyParty developer Chris Hecker revealed the first new character animations on the game’s development blog. The first reaction was “these are gorgeous!” The second was usually “what’s the game going to be like once these are implemented?”

One of the things any beta tester has to contend with is that most of their arcane knowledge of the game may (nay, will) be rendered useless by the game’s evolution. This is the price of getting to help shape the game’s direction, and it’s a pretty fair trade. It’s disconcerting to have to change the way you play after thousands of games or hundreds of hours, but most of the turmoil is temporary. There’s a short adjustment period, and then most players settle right back into the same skill tier they were in before.

The switch to new character models, however, feels fundamentally different. I said this a year ago when they were released, and my opinion was reinforced when I played a “mixed art” set with kcmmmmm (IE: new character models mixed in with old, on an old map) back in September.

There’s a distinct possibility that the new art, and its corresponding talking animations, cannot be adjusted to the way previous changes have been. They have the potential to fundamentally and permanently change the entire game.

The old art talking animations were identical from character to character. A skilled Sniper is capable of quickly glancing at a half-dozen old art characters in a conversation and processing who is and isn’t talking. The exaggerated, consistent movements could be noticed in the Sniper’s peripheral. With the new art, achieving the same result takes a precious second, especially given that there are not only unique talking animations for each character, but several per character.

These are the obvious ways in which it will be harder to identify actions, and they’ll be mitigated as dedicated Snipers memorize talking animations (though even holding them in your head figures to increase cognitive load substantially). But there’s a subtler consideration: color.

One of the reasons Snipers can see things they’re not entirely looking at with the old art, or notice things at a glance, is because most characters a) wear clothing that stands out against the untextured backgrounds, and b) wear bright colors that are highly distinct from one another. You have little to no chance of confusing the debonair fellow on the left with the thrift store enthusiast beside him:

Because the new art is striving for a level of realism, the clothing must reflect this. Yellow blazers and bright purple dresses are rarely seen in real life, and even less so at upper crust cocktail parties.

And on top of this, we add another layer: the environments, which are no longer gray, textureless slabs that create a clear contrast with the characters’ clothing. So we have darker, less distinguishable clothing, closer skin tones, and less contrast between the characters and the environments. The end result is that these two, despite their widely varying body types, become a brown blur:

Evidence on the effects remains anecdotal, but top players like krazycaley already feel it’s made their sniping more difficult. And amusingly, virifaux, his polar opposite in terms of play style, has talked openly about the need to make the talking animations more consistent and noticeable. The data so far is scant, and doesn’t show any significant shift, but this could simply be because SpyParty players are an adaptable bunch, and that the new art is changing the way they win, if not the frequency. This certainly jibes with my personal experience.

Whether or not these changes are good or bad in the long run remains to be seen. What’s already evident is that they change the way the game is played.

The Average Game of Balcony

Balcony is one of the most common maps to see at high levels of play. Some players love it, some hate it. I am not here to write about how much I like or dislike Balcony, but rather to discuss some core strategy regarding the map that I have been using a lot lately, and feel like other high-level players are using as well.

Maps-balcony

I’ve begun to, after about five thousand games of Balcony (link accessible for SpyParty beta users only), form what I call The Average Game of Balcony. I say “form” because this is, at the moment, a theory. And before I continue, I want to note that this will not win you every game of Balcony; it’ll only work a certain amount of the time, and there are plenty of counters to it. But, on average, this should work more often than not. And when it works, it should work quite convincingly once you have the core ideas well formed and are ready to look out for them. It is also assumed that the game-mode is Any 2/3, with Purloin the Guest List and Fingerprint Ambassador turned off, as that is by far the most commonly played game-mode for Balcony.

First lets get a few things out of the way: Many players don’t want to play a fancy game of SpyParty, they aren’t interested in getting a lowlight for their sweet pathing, they just want to win that specific game and move on to the next one. This theory preys on that mindset, and can be particularly brutal if they keep at it. Most players will switch it up if you keep winning on a given map, so this will not work 100% of the time, but if it does keep working I’d suggest you send them here.

That said, there are four major steps in The Average Game of Balcony that will always take place. They are, in no specific order:

  1. Flirt
  2. Contacting the Double Agent
  3. Flirt
  4. Flirt

“Drawn,” you might be asking yourself, “that’s really obvious! How can that help anyone get better at sniping on Balcony?” Well the basic answer is that there are telltale signs of characters who only do these specific actions, and people who do not. Let’s start by looking at common actions of the Spies who play The Average Game of Balcony. I can’t tell you exactly how I would take advantage of any of this knowledge, as I want you to learn, adapt, and play however you want to. All I want to do is give a gentle nudge in what I believe to be the proper direction and see where it takes other players.

Spies only talk when they absolutely have to

Spies will ignore their turn to talk in Conversation Circles quite commonly, and they especially do not talk constantly unless they need to (which is basically never). They do need to talk, however, to flirt, and to Contact the Double Agent on a White Action Test, which averages to every 45 or so seconds. How you deal with this is entirely up to you, but in The Average Game of Balcony this is very easy for Spies to do, but there are definitely ways to punish more relaxed players who don’t bother with watching when they need to talk (although be careful for false-positives with no talks in the Conversation Circle).

Spies do not like to move

Spies tend to stay in the same spot for as long as they possibly can, rarely, if ever, moving. They also don’t like to attempt hard or interesting pathing choices, although this probably already nets most people reading this some Lowlights. Although there is no clear-cut way to watch for people not moving, there are ways to deal with those who consistently hang about in the Conversation Circle and never walk around the actual map. One example of this is to simply Lowlight people who briefcase during chaotic times, although do remember that players with adequate experience can emulate this, which then makes it an Un-Average Game of Balcony so the advice here becomes obsolete.

Spies are impatient

Spies do not wait when they have the win in reach, with rare exception. Many fear their Seduction Target or Double Agent leaving the Conversation Circle so they do their Action Test as soon as possible. You can watch for flirts at certain timings (first 15 seconds, around 1:10-0:55 mark, and 0:20-0:00 respectively), especially if no real movement happens, and eventually catch the Spy flirting at the proper time.  Characters who do not talk ~45 seconds after their previous one are unlikely to be our Spy, and if they are the Spy odds are that you are not playing The Average Game of Balcony. I would also like to remind our Sniper friends to use Overtime to their advantage when possible, because that can 100% confirm a shot or let the Spy lose due to Timeout, something a shot at 0:05 can’t do.

I would say these are the defining characteristics of Spies that play The Average Game of Balcony. But I want to stress that I am not making fun of or belittling Spies who play this way. In fact, this whole theory works on the premise that most games of Balcony function in a very similar, almost mechanical, manner. So don’t feel bad if you win using The Average Game of Balcony while Spying: It’s a solid game plan, and because it’s a solid game plan it’s used often, which is why I can devise an entire theory (this one, that you’re currently reading!) to deal with it.

Before moving onto the Spy side of things, I want to address the one mission I have barely touched on this entire article: Bug the Ambassador. Watching for Bugs is a huge deal on Balcony, and if you can’t guard Bug you may want to be careful using The Average Game of Balcony as a strategy guide, because when you lose to a Bug it feels pretty awful. My best advice on watching for Bugs is fairly simple, watch for the arm and the lean. You can find more info in this video.

Onto how to counter Sniper’s using The Average Game of Balcony as a guideline for Sniping on the map: Throw curveballs at them. Make their Lights useless by acting useless, talk a ton, move around a lot, or attempt Bugs while they are trying to watch the party. It actually isn’t that hard, although watch out for Snipers who can watch for The Average Game of Balcony and the other, weirder games of Balcony all at once, as those Snipers are way scarier than anyone just using this as a guide.

As a final note, I want to remind players that this is not the only way to look at Balcony. Don’t feel like you need to bother changing your playstyle if it has worked perfectly fine for you in the past. Do not forget that this is a rough guideline for what to look for and how to play against and with The Average Game of Balcony. I left a few things out of how I would do things with this information intentionally, hoping other players will learn the vital information and come to their own conclusions as opposed to copying and pasting a “How to Win at Balcony” strategy guide, if anything of the sort could even exist.

That should be about all I need to cover for this particular topic, but if you feel I missed something, or maybe you disagree with the article, feel free to let me know via twitter, a PM in the forums, ask about it on my ask.fm, mention it while I am streaming, or in the comments section down below. Thanks for reading!

-Drawn

How to Beat Me at SpyParty

If I’m Sniping:
  1. Avoid hard tells. If the setup gives you the option to cut missions, cut as many hard tells as you can.

  2. Complete soft tells quickly. I do not guard soft tells especially closely, and while I can detect overactivity, it is not a strong suit. You can usually rush through flirts. Be careful when inspecting or fingerprinting, as these soft tells are relatively easy for me to track, especially on a smaller map with fewer partygoers. Double Agent and Flirt are the easiest missions to complete against me. Note that toing to statues with inspecting turned on is an automatic highlight.

  3. Use the time gained from completing soft tells quickly to set up a quality hard tell attempt.

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