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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: new art

Soon: Development Tidbits from PAX

A few random facts and possibilities picked up around the booth at PAX West 2017:

  • The next new art maps are Courtyard and Gallery.
  • The new maps will likely be held until the game goes on Steam Early Access, targeted for February.
  • Reika is working on both of the new maps, and is particularly excited about Gallery.
  • They’ve modeled cars for Gallery’s external environment.
  • A new art Balcony is still planned; Modern isn’t going to replace it. Instead, it’ll transform into a much larger map by opening up the indoor area, which John has basically already finished. The new map was referred to conversationally as “Moderne.”

PAXcast: An Impromptu Podcast

Big thanks to virifaux for bringing some recording equipment and capturing some first impressions of the new PAX build. Featuring virifaux, drawnonward, wodar, cleetose, and slappydavis.

What’d I Miss?

It’s been over a year since I posted this message and took a leave of absence from the SpyParty community. Now, I find myself drawn back to both the game and its still-welcoming community. Some things are different. Some things aren’t.

I think I’m in a unique position to comment on the evolution of the community, for a few reasons. Without trying to sound pretentious (as if I need to try to sound pretentious), I started playing around the same time as many great, highly influential players: virifaux, KCMmmmm, zeroTKA, and slappydavis to name a few. And the community was small enough that I was streaming earlier and more often than anyone, which gave me more influence on the game and the community than I had expected (KrazyCaley first found the game watching my streams, and lthummus was introduced to higher level strategy through them). I was privileged to host many players regularly who are now among the best in the world, like bloom and canadianbacon. All of this was by accident: I thought streaming would be fun, and no one was doing it, so I did it.

These are the kinds of things I find myself thinking about more after taking some time off. I find myself asking: what’s different? What isn’t? What’d I miss?

What’s New

The most significant change is probably the introduction of the SCL (SpyParty Competitive League). It’s the most sustained and successful attempt thus far at formalizing competitive play. The increase of activity in the lobby is noticeable, and anecdotally it seems like new players are climbing the skill curve faster than ever. It remains under-promoted in formal channels, however, and it’s fair to say the streams, while greatly improved over season one, are still finding their footing.

We’ve had a large influx of players, which has been fantastic. Seeing all these newer players getting really into the game, being driven with such a sense of competition and community has been glorious to watch. Even in the short time that I’ve been back and interacted with these people, they remind me of why I enjoy our community so much, as well as being people I am looking at to be the next big ambassadors of the game – Sure, we have our virifauxs and zeroTKAs who’ve been here forever, but we can’t rely on a handful of passionate players; we need an army of passionate players to spread the word, or else we’re leaving the future of our beloved game to chance. The role the speedrunning community has played (a few prominent speedrunners have found the game through KrazyCaley) as of late cannot be overstated.

The way people talk about the game is different, thanks to the SCL. When I took a break a year ago, many players were commenting that there wasn’t a lot to do after reaching a certain point in the skill curve. The positive side effect of this was that most of the games were casual and fun. The downside is that there weren’t as many being played. Today, it’s the opposite: we’re missing those fun, casual games, but we have lots of more serious matches. Trying to have both may be impossible, but at minimum we can look at the upsides and downsides of both. The upside of the SCL, in addition to the increased activity mentioned earlier, is a corresponding uptick in high-level strategy discussion and analysis. It’s also led to a highly encouraging increase in the number of third-party tools, from lthummus’ SpyParty Draft Tool, to sgnurf’s SCL match database. SpyParty‘s community has always been filled with independent, self-starting, technically-inclined people, so none of this comes as a surprise, but even so, this group has risen to the occasions to fill these needs.

The downsides, apart from pulling the game into a more competitive, high-stress format, is that it standardizes certain game modes through its mere existence. This is probably inevitable, and probably worth it, but it’s part of the trade off.

What’s the Same

The game still isn’t on Steam, still doesn’t have a new UI, and we still don’t have dossiers or recommendations. The first item might be more understandable than the last, because it’s a one-time event from which there’s no going back. And obviously, the new UI has to precede the Steam launch. For better or worse, the state of the game and the community when it launches on Steam is going to have an outsized impact on how it’s perceived going forward. If it seems like I’m being pedantic in talking about the lack of casual games, that’s why: this is one of the biggest inflection points for the mood and tenor of the community.

While we’ve definitely seen a swelling in ranks, the number of regular posts on the forums seems to have not changed at all. I know what you want to say: “What about the Competitions Subforum, Drawn?” It’s true, the SCL itself has led to a lot of forum activity, but it’s segregated: the Competitions subforum feels much like the old Zendo thread that got to over 100 pages; it’s interesting to people involved and mostly ignored by everyone else. Either you’re interacting with it, or you’re not: there is no middle ground. There’s a big, glowing line between those who participate in the SCL, and those who don’t.

Streamers

I think this is an area where the community has been, unfortunately, pretty stagnant. KrazyCaley and elvisnake are the only regular streamers that come to mind. Beyond them, they happen here and there. I had hoped that, when I stopped streaming regularly, someone (or even several people) would fill that gap, but I’ll be the first to admit it’s difficult to find a stable time to stream day in and day out. It’s even harder when you’re playing what’s still a niche game.

Where Are We

Overall, I’m still happy with the state of the SpyParty house. It is, after all, still standing, and most of the rooms look better than when I left it. The structure is still pretty much the same, and that’s largely a good thing. But it’s just about time to hold the big Open House that is Steam. It’s time to show the rest of the world what this game is about.

If you have any comments, whether regarding how poor my writing style is, or perhaps on why you agree with me so much ( ), feel free to post a comment here, hit me up on twitter, or even shoot me a PM on the SpyParty forums.

Thanks for reading,
-Drawn

Confirmed: New Art Ballroom is Next Map

Earlier today Chris Hecker confirmed that there are plans to release a new map by PAX Prime, in addition to the six new characters detailed in April. The two pieces of news are linked, because the new map is going to be a high resolution version of Ballroom, which has more party goers than there are (current) new art character models.

No word yet on how much this new map might resemble the existing Ballroom…

…as opposed to the ballroom concept art released in October of 2013:

SpyParty players have often expressed a desire for direct translations of old maps, as well as for more populous new art maps to allow for more high level competitive play within the new style. This exact topic was discussed at length on Drawnonward’s Talk Show in late March (relevant discussion starting at 3:05).

UPDATE: the new map will be a fresh recreation of the existing Ballroom map, and not a playable version of the early concept art.

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.

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.