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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.



All posts by WarningTrack

Six More New Art Characters Revealed

In a stream earlier today, Chris Hecker revealed the latest batch of new art SpyParty characters. You can read more about the reveal on Rock Paper Shotgun, Destructoid, Kotaku, Polygon, PC Gamer, and Engadget.

For those who missed the accompany Q-and-A, here are some pertinent details:

  • The characters are expected to be playable by PAX Prime (which is in late August/early September).
  • The twins are separately playable characters, but they will—at least initially—have the same animations.
  • Though the twins share a profession (they’re both doctors), they have several slight differences in appearance, including a ring, earring, and tie clip.
  • The twins still only count as one in the context of the 20 planned new art characters. So even though this makes 16 total, the final batch will still consist of five.
  • The characters are deliberately more colorful than previous models, which may counteract the tendency that the more realistic models and environments have to blend together (see: The New Art Changes Everything).
  • The rocker in the leopard print shirt is based on Hecker’s girlfriend, the same way Ms. F is based on artist John Cimino’s.

SpyParty Talk Show: Pub and the State of the Game

The inimitable drawnonward hosted a panel of SpyParty players last night to discuss the new Pub map, as well as the state of the game and its general trajectory. Guests include myself (warningtrack), slappydavis, wodar, and canadianbacon, who was apparently holed up during a helicoptered mountie raid. In addition to serious talk, there was much amusement and general goofing off. Here’s the VOD, broken into two parts:

First Look at New “Pub” Map

The official SpyParty account just tweeted out this gorgeous preview of the new art level “Pub,” which is going to be released (assuming all goes well) in about 20 minutes on the official SpyParty Twitch stream:

A low-res version of the same map has been previewed and played on stream for weeks now, but this is our first look at the high-res version. It also differs from the release of the last new map, “High-rise,” in that only the high-res version is being included in the build, as opposed to the low-res version being released and tested beforehand.

New Art Tournament: Results and Replays

The New Art Tournament finished just minutes ago. For now, you can watch a video of the Live(ish) cast on Twitch, and on YouTube:

You can also read a brief rundown on the official SpyParty Dev Blog, and below you’ll find a listing of all the sets played, with links to download the replays:

Round 1

Round 2

Round 3

Loser’s Bracket

Semifinals

Finals

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.

Community Building on “The AfterParty”

SpyParty’s sharper, apart from drawing up lots of cool art for people’s streams and tournaments, also does a semi-regular podcast called “The AfterParty” (which needs to exist if only for the name). He just posted an episode where he and I discuss how successfully communities are built, a topic with particular relevance to SpyParty. Enjoy:

The Elite Want To Lose

Reprinted from the blog of Brian Reddington, with permission.

“Nice!”

It’s the seemly solid motto of Drawnonward, SpyParty’s most experienced player. At a whopping 15,000 games and 500+ hours of gametime, he is perhaps the best at the game. His nightly streams give you a great glimpse into how he thinks, plays and acts.

But the greatest part is that motto… is his losing motto. It encapsulates the entire spirit of the “elite” of SpyParty: They want to lose.

SpyParty has no tutorial, so it’s currently packed with an extensive readme and information pamphlet that’s almost flat out required to read to play the game. It’s a complex set of rules and suggestions, and that’s only for the first 50 games. After that, you’ll start getting into learning about the final frontier of the game — the dreaded human.

This is where the Elite shine. Humans may seem random, but deal with them enough, and you’ll see patterns. Some are common (pathing!) and some are not so common (more pathing!), some are easy to see (animation cutting) and some are not so easy (stalk flirting), and some is just downright silly (dancing!)

The Elite know them through and through. Things you may not even be aware were mistakes will reward you with a present going faster than the speed of sound. Even smaller mistakes will get you highlighted or draw attention to yourself.

Then you lose. Then they tell you what you did wrong. Then, hopefully, you’ll win.

It’s perhaps the strangest thing. There are no secrets in SpyParty. Even if a bug crops up during a beta update that makes it easy to find out who is the human, it’ll be patched the next day thanks to a user submitted bug report. Personal or “working” strategies will usually be explained one on one after a match, but the more common ones will can be found in videos, podcasts, and so much more.

Why do the Elite want to lose? Perhaps they’re crazy in some way (500+ hours I mean how insane do you need to be?) Perhaps they want to see the world burn? Perhaps… they just want to play the game?

SpyParty works best when the two players are of equal skill. You can’t expect anything out of them. They know what you know, and you know what they know, so what you know they’ll know to try won’t know, so you’ll know to know to look out for things that they don’t know… or something like that. Perhaps what the Elite want most is to return to that “randomness” that all players start out in. They want to lose so it’s so much more fulfilling when they win.

Replays Now Sortable and Searchable

The first order of business after launching the site was to squash bugs and start filling the database up with replays, and as we tweeted out on Friday we quickly doubled the number of total replays at launch, to 1,700. Yay.

But with great numbers of replays comes great need for organization. I think Aquaman’s assistant said that. So naturally, the next order of business was making them sortable and searchable. You can sort replays by Spy, Sniper, date uploaded, or date played, and you can sort sets by most of those criteria, was well as games played.

Searching is simple at the moment: you can specify a Spy and/or Sniper, and each field will offer autocompletion suggestions from a list of all the Spies and Snipers currently in the database.

And just to nexusify (whatever, it should be a word) these two things, we’ll be adding sorting to search results, as well as expanding search capabilities before too long. And pagination, as the pages get a little on the unwieldy side.

You can also expect another batch of replays uploaded soon, these ones largely from the 2014 Summer Cup. And going forward we’ll be tagging a lot of these reviews with the match results, to help identify them. Thanks to all the participants who gave their permission.