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The Reasons Behind SpyParty
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The Reasons Behind SpyParty

January 10, 2011 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

But Chris Hecker is not Ubisoft. And while Brotherhood was developed with accessibility and ease of play at the forefront in order to appeal to the widest possible audience, SpyParty is deliberately developed from a "depth first, accessibility later" design perspective, Hecker says.

Before our playtest we were given a four page manual to introduce us to the controls, goals, characters and mechanics. Hecker clearly recognizes that the desire for depth over an easy introduction is something that a lot of people would need to get used to again. Which is probably why the manual begins with the half-jokey, half serious outburst: "WHAT?! I need to read something to play SpyParty?!"

"I mean, Spore kinda did the opposite and did accessibility first and never got to the depth," Hecker says. "I mean, parts of it are deep, like the creature creator is really deep and interesting but like, the gameplay we never quite got to. But it's very accessible.

"And so when Rob Pardo gave this talk in GDC Austin a while ago and started talking about this depth-first, accessibility-later development model it really rang true to me because I was in the middle of Spore and frustrated about that part at the time.

"So I don't know if it's the best way to develop games but it's certainly working well for me now -- knock on wood -- so I'm going to stick with it.

"To me if you want to make an e-sports level game something that's that deep like Counter-Strike, you know, you can't add that depth later. Whereas you can add a lot of tutorials and better UI and icons and modes that help you out and mentoring and all that kind of stuff.

"But there's a magic to that deep core gameplay loop that you have to find and if you don't find it, then you're toast. You can't add that in later."

With this in mind, Hecker is still working on that 'core gameplay loop' and trying to make it as much fun as possible. His presentation is full of speculations as to what he might do with the game in the future. Team-play is a big idea he wants to explore. The possibility of multiple spies and multiple snipers is a complete game-changer, especially if you put them all on the same voice channel.

"It's like Bridge. They'd have to figure out a way of communicating information to each other, knowing that the other people are listening. So, that's pretty fucking cool!

"And in fact, they don't even know who they are. Like, you don't know who your spy is. So you're trying to say 'Okay, go over to get a drink.' But you can't say that because then anybody who goes to get a drink -- the other Sniper's gonna shoot them. So how do you communicate things? Who knows?"

He's also toying with the idea of letting another spy drop-in or out of a game in progress, without notifying the other players. Which raises a bunch of questions about how things could pan out. Would the spies be able to interrupt each other, or --

"I don't know. Are they competing or co-op or now can they do a harder set of missions? Or maybe the spy gets notified but the sniper doesn't? I don't know. I don't know. All this is stuff to experiment with. Clearly there's no end-ideas in this space. I mean, we could just sit here and brainstorm all day long about crazy ideas for the multiplayer modes of this thing."

So all these interesting ideas are subject to change. But if even one of them gets through and evolves to the point where it is as deep as Hecker envisions it, it will turn out to be an indie hit. It doesn't look like much now (he reassures us that all the art and models are placeholder -- "The final game will be beautiful and stylish, naturally!") but the conceit is an excellent one. It results in something that feels strangely like Chess, Poker and Assassin. Something a specialist in Game Theory could probably analyze.

Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

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