The creator of SpyParty gives a primer on how to play his social, addictive game

The creator of SpyParty gives a primer on how to play his social, addictive game

SpyParty is a game of observation. One player is the spy and must fulfill a number of objectives in a social situation. You need to plant bugs, seduce targets, replace statues, and move microfilm around the bustling room, but you have to avoid the all-seeing eye of the other player, the Sniper, who wants to put a bullet in your head. The trick is to do all these things while appearing to be just another computer-controlled NPC.

It’s not easy, and you can see the laser sight of the sniper as you walk around each location. It’s fun to watch the sniper consider targets, trying to find the human hiding in each scene. Being the sniper is just as tense, as you have to study the behavior of everyone you see, trying to determine which one is the spy. You’re only given one shot, and if you kill a civilian you lose the round. It’s a fascinating game.

It's also now in open beta. $15 gets you instant access, all the game’s future updates, and a copy of the final product when it’s all done. The game’s graphics are basic now, but the character models and locations will be replaced by higher quality art in the future. Don’t worry, you’ll forget about the basic visuals once you begin to get lost in the game play.

Chris Hecker, the creator of Spy Party, has been kind enough to share his hints for getting started. This is a tricky game for beginners, so his advice will go a long way to helping you become competitive. I’ll turn the microphone over to Mr. Hecker.

You really need to read the manual

Chris Hecker: You really, really, really should read the manual, watch the intro tutorial video and play through practice mode before you play online.  I know this is the Tip equivalent of wishing for more wishes, but it's just true, and there's no way around it. The game is so dense mechanically and so different from other games that you should set aside some time and cuddle up with the documentation, just like in the olden days. 

And then, after you're done reading the documentation and have played a few matches, you should come back to the documentation, becuase you'll see how much you missed the first time through. Also dive into the forums, because there is so much to learn. Eventually there'll be a fancy modern in-game tutorial and some actual thought put into accessibility, but for right now, I'm trying to make the game as deep as I possibly can, and the learning curve is more of a sheer cliff than a hill.

Make a plan, move with purpose

The most important Spy tip for newbies is “make a plan for where exactly you're going to go before you move, and move with confidence, directly from point A to point B.”  In most video games, you can kind of aimlessly wander about, admiring the artwork, and adjusting your position nervously. 

When you're playing SpyParty, how you move from one conversation to another is incredibly important, and new players often will start moving before they have a clue of where they're going to go. The NPCs at the party know where they're going before they start moving, so you should too. This, of course, implies good camera management. 

You should swing the camera around so you can see the party, where your possible destinations are, and where the Sniper's laser sight is pointing. When you move, never move into the camera, always set up a camera angle that can you get you to your destination. There is no inertia on the Spy, so walk until the floor pad you're aiming for lights up, and then release and don't touch the movement key again!  Don't fidget; if you're on the pad, you're fine.

Relax, and look for the big picture

The best first Sniper tip is “relax”.  If you're freaked out and overwhelmed with all the visual information flooding at you, you'll just lock on to small irrelevant things and miss the big picture.  We call this “tunneling” in the SpyParty community, after “getting tunnel vision”, and it's a trap for Snipers. 

Yes, there's a lot of stuff to look at, but if you're playing another new player, you can almost always spot them aimlessly flailing around the party, missing their walk destinations, not sure of where they're going, and generally ignoring the advice in #2 above. 

Get a feel for how the party flows, and you'll quickly spot new Spies violating that flow.  Guy walks right up to a conversation and immediately starts talking?  Suspicious.  Gal goes from bookshelf to statues to Ambassador one after the other, never stopping to chat with friends?  Suspicious. 

Watch in Practice Sniper mode to get the hang of this, or watch streams and try to guess who the Spy is before the streamer shoots.  Yes, you need to know about the details and subtleties of the missions eventually, but most newbie Spies are closer to a drunk Austin Powers or Peter Sellers than they are a suave James Bond.  Plus, learning to fight tunneling and see the big picture will serve you well as you start to climb up the skill curve…even elite Snipers have to check themselves to keep from tunneling on a partygoer they think is acting suspicious at the beginning. 

Confirmation bias is a very powerful thing, and you only have one bullet.

One last note from Ben: SpyParty is a wonderful game, and I've been practicing my skills as a spy for the past few nights. Chris Hecker has done a great job building a supportive community of players, so be sure to stay friendly, talk about your experiences, and be sure to play others on your skill level. This may sound intimidating, but the game comes alive once you figure out what's going on and begin to see the subtleties of play. Have fun!