It was quite the soirée. A waiter hurried by as guests greeted the arriving ambassador. Walls displayed the latest works of art. A set of statues lined one alcove. We each took turn picking them up and examining them as though the meaning of life might appear on the bottom at any moment. The night was perfect except for that little red laser that would occasionally sweep the room - searching for me.
I had a job to do after all, but I refused to do it. These paintings weren’t going to admire themselves. It wouldn’t take long before that itch would set in. Having come from the other side, I remember the feeling. Bang. Guests hurried over to the fallen woman and I was still alive. For this Spy Party, the assassin didn’t find his mark.
In Chris Heckler’s new game, Spy Party, you play one of two roles. If you are the spy, you’ll mingle with the computer AI while accomplishing a list of tasks such as planting a transmitter on the ambassador or switching out one of the statues. Every move comes with a slight tell: an animation that gives away your true intentions. You have to be clever and blend in with the crowd. Think of it as a reverse Turing Test where you want to be a part of the machine. Look at the paintings. Read a book. Mingle.
For the assassin, you play a role closer to detective as you peer inside the party as an observer. Gather evidence. Mark the guests you believe may be the spy. All you have to do is deliver your guess – with a single shot to the head. The method and gameplay is wonderfully visceral and psychological. You become acutely aware of your own actions and the actions of others. Even when you’re behind the gun, I found myself asking, “What would I do as the spy?”
The buzzword here is “asymmetrical gameplay.” Changing from one role to the other presents a completely different challenge and experience. Unlike most multiplayer games where everyone is challenged along the same lines, you’re tasks here are so different that it’s almost like playing a different game. Another crux of the game is that you need play along someone at the same level as you. Understanding how the AI works is part of the process.
While the game is still in development, it’s an experience that few gamers will come across in the mainstream market. We'll talk about this intriguing game later, and find out when they're hoping to release it for PC and consoles.
One note from the developer's website about the screenshots: "These are screenshots of a gameplay prototype. This means the look of the game will change drastically as it’s developed, and everything you see is temporary artwork and UI for testing! Thank you for your understanding!"