Brandon Boyer

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The most bittersweet news that dropped during my recent SF getaway (and has gone too long unmentioned here on the site) was an announcement that Spore developer Maxis had laid off over 20 members of its staff — most notably, technology lead Chris Hecker, responsible for heading up the game’s complex solutions for reliably animating an infinite variety of user-generated creatures (via a tool, as I talked about in my 2006 Edge Magazine feature on the game, appropriately called SPASM).

Hecker’s clearly not bitter, as he cheerily blogged that his post-launch efforts had “generated lots of goodwill but no revenue, which tends to be a problem when you’re expensive and the economy is down”, and it may turn out to be a fruitful misfortune, with Hecker also revealing that he’s now turned all his attention to the pursuit of the indie, starting with SpyParty.


Described as an “asymmetric multiplayer espionage game about subtle behavior and deception”, and actually first revealed at this year’s GDC Experimental Gameplay Sessions that I’m now and forever kicking myself for missing, SpyParty intends to do precisely what more games need to do: forgo games as big budget thrill-rides and focus instead on the richness of subtle interaction.

Here’s the quick gist, scrobbled together from the various GDC reports: one player plays as a spy, who needs to accomplish a series of espionagical tasks amongst a field of AI controlled party-goers (say, planting wires/bugs on ambassadors). Another player plays as a sniper, who needs to single- and take out the spy as quickly as possible, with only the tiny ‘tells’ of a real human acting suspiciously to guide them — a game using the cool/international intrigue 60s type spy as its inspiration, over the stunt-jumpin’, big exploding 90s-00s style Bond we’ve been handed more recently.

You can follow Hecker’s new indie course via his SpyParty blog, and look forward to more concrete information coming soon.

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  1. Although I’m sure a lot of the implementation details are what will make this game shine, I’ve played around with the idea of a game where you must uncover the human player amongst a formidable collection of NPCs. The idea sort of reminds me of that game where each round, every “living” player votes for which player should die next. Whoever the assassin chooses each round dies immediately. There are variations on how to beat the assassin, but the most common way I’ve seen is for the game to end immediately when all living players (excepting the assassin) vote unanimously (which is sometimes correct, and sometimes incorrect.)

  2. Pingback: VP Rewind: SpyParty gets character | VENUS PATROL