A Game About Hiding In Plain Sight
“A competitive game of subtle espionage at an exclusive cocktail party”
-SpyParty Official Website
You’re at a dinner cocktail party – you look smashing, decked out in a suit with amoung all your acquaintances in high sobriety. Champagne and fancy wine are being served around as you participate in small conversations. You’re here to blend in – because to these people, they don’t know your true objective, to be a Spy. Checking your watch for time, seducing party goers, contacting the double agent, switching the statues, annoying the Embassador, completing your objectives – things are going well and no one seems the wiser. At least, no one at the party seems to think so.
Across the map in a high-rise building – a Sniper, one with sights locked and zoomed in to these party guests, keeps an eye out for any odd activity. A red laser sight hovering constantly above their heads, trying to figure out which of them is the player controlled spy. They’ve been sent over to exterminate the agent and one bullet to the head is all it takes. It glances over your head and stops. It’s an intense moment between the two players. As the spy, you ask yourself
“Are they going to take the shot?”
This is how the premise of the upcoming game “SpyParty” positions itself. “It’s about subtle behavior, perception, and deception, instead of guns, car chases, and explosions. One player is the Spy, trying to accomplish missions while blending into the crowd. The other player is the Sniper, who has one bullet with which to find and terminate the Spy!’ , according to their website on the game. Having started development sometime 5 or 6 years ago, even being a finalist of the Independent Games Festival 2011, progress has been slow – though this has not stop dedicated fans and this strong community from waiting and continuously providing feedback for improvement.
SpyParty, is subtle, deceptively deep and re-playable in a multitude of ways. On the surface it may seem pretty simple – as the spy you need to complete a number of objectives, as the sniper you need to look out for visual ques and figure out which person is the agent by observation and process of elimination – all under pressure and a running clock.
It reminds me a whole lot of this other game I used to dabble in back then called The Ship, which I noticed was one of the games that was referenced in their development blog. Whether it was an inspiration, similarity or both, SpyParty tries to go above and beyond in AI and behavioral programming, taking a simple concept and turning it into a labyrinth of out-thinking and out-observing your opponents. Second guessing yourself becomes second nature. There is a level of intricacy and subtlety in second guessing yourself, trying to blend in with other AI without standing out sometimes even requires you to NOT do certain tasks as the objective requires you. Seems silly i know. As one reviewer puts it, “It is based off a reverse version of the Turing Test.”
The Turing Test named after the famous Alan Turing in 1950, is a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour equivalent to or indistinguishable from humans – for an AI to imitate human behaviour. The same context would apply to the reverse of it, in this case, a game to see if we as humans, could imitate the AI’s behaviour. That involves walking like an AI, even doing menial things, and sometimes walking aimlessly as AIs sometimes do. How you blend yourself in is up to you.
In a way though, the game is a bit like poker, as you’re trying to figure out what the other person knows, what they’re hiding, (and if you’re in voice chat), whether they are telling the truth.
So, when is it coming out?
For the full game? Unfortunately, developers Chris Hecker, John Cimino and Keith Millot are unsure of that as of yet. However, Early Access Beta is now out on Steam ( on 13th April 2018 ) for $25 if you wish to check out the game for yourself.
They are constantly updating the game with newer graphics, deeper competitive game mechanics, more maps and more missions in the near future. When asked how long will the game be in Early Access, the developers had this to say on the game’s Steam page
“I am very bad at estimating dates, but I think it will be in Early Access about two years. I’m a perfectionist, and hopefully you can see the trendline from how the game started with the original prototype art (you can catch a glimpse of some if you look for the waiter or bartender in the screenshots above) to where it is now. You’re invited to come along for the next part of this ride!”
They’ve recently added 6 new map locations to the game, bringing the total number of maps to 10 at the moment in Early Access – including places like the Balcony, Courtyard, Gallery and Pub to name a few imaged below.
I for one, wouldn’t mind waiting another two more years for the game to be fully completed and realised. It’s taken us this long, why not more? Especially as the developers have said themselves, “I’m a perfectionaist. You’re invited to come along for the next part of this ride” . If that is what it takes to see the next step forward towards behavioral AI in gaming, then I’m all in!