“SpyParty” Aims at Psychological Espionage

“SpyParty” Aims at Psychological Espionage  (photo)

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Chris Hecker wants you to act fake. More precisely, he wants you to act artificial.

“Spy Party”–the in-development title he’s programming all by his lonesome–pits two players against each other on either side of a nerve-racking cat-and-mouse dynamic. One player controls a sniper who views the titular party through the scope of a high-powered rifle. The other player takes on the role of the spy, milling about in a gathering filled computer-controlled partygoers. The spy must fulfill several objectives like bugging an ambassador or planting microfilm under a time limit and the sniper needs to take out the spy before all the objectives get done.


[An early look at “SpyParty.” All art is placeholder and reflects a work-in-progress.]

The twist is that the sniper never knows who the spy is, while the spy can always see the blood-red dot of the rifle’s targeting laser. One player always knows he’s being hunted and the other can always see his prey, if only inadvertently. The result is a delicious tension that quickly becomes addictive. Most intriguingly, the best strategy the spy player can use is to look like one of the AI-controlled party people. How long one stays in a conversation, admires a piece of sculpture or walks back and forth across the room could all tip off the sniper as to who the spy is. However, the partygoers are programmed to act “human” too and the limited animation set makes the difference between person-controlled and computer-controlled characters tough to spot. Essentially, the spy player must act like an artificial intelligence that itself is designed to look like people. It’s a head-turning conceptual axis that can lead to the sniper putting a bullet in the head of an innocent debutante.

11292010_Checker-gdc10.jpgHecker’s an alumnus of EA, having specifically worked on the much-heralded “Spore.” Since he’s working all by himself, Hecker estimates that “SpyParty” is a good two years away from completion. He has, however, been doing a barnstorming tour of playtesting, where he instructs folks on the basics of the game’s mechanics and lets them play each other. “SpyParty” was a smash hit at this year’s PAX fanfest and the San Francisco programmer recently brought the game to NYU’s Game Center for students to play. It got a great reception there but watching players puzzle out the game manual and the actual play experience reminded me of Hecker’s talk at IndieCade in October. The subject of the talk was how single-player modes introduce the game mechanics Many already consider “SpyParty” a success even at this rough, early stage so why even do single-player? It’s an important consideration for a game being made by one guy. In the video that follows, he delves into what a game like “SpyParty”–which is primarily ordered as a multiplayer experience–stands to gain from a single-player component. Be warned, though: Hecker’s an hyper-intelligent fast-talker. There’s no shame in admitting that some of his presentation will go over your head. “SpyParty”–whenever it comes out–won’t.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.



Stan Diego Comic-Con

Stan Against Evil returns November 1st.

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Photo Credit: Erin Resnick, GIFs via Giphy

Another Comic-Con International is in the can, and multiple nerdgasms were had by all – not least of which were about the Stan Against Evil roundtable discussion. Dana, Janet and John dropped a whole lotta information on what’s to come in Season 2 and what it’s like to get covered in buckets of demon goo. Here are the highlights.

Premiere Date!

Season 2 hits the air November 1 and picks up right where things left off. Consider this your chance to seamlessly continue your Halloween binge.

Character Deets!

Most people know that Evie was written especially for Janet, but did you know that Stan is based on Dana Gould’s dad? It’s true. But that’s where the homage ends, because McGinley was taken off the leash to really build a unique character.

Happy Accidents!

Improv is apparently everything, because according to Gould the funniest material happens on the fly. We bet the writers are totally cool with it.

Exposed Roots!

If Stan fans are also into Twin Peaks and Doctor Who, that’s no accident. Both of those cult classic genre benders were front of mind when Stan was being developed.

Trailer Treasure!

Yep. A new trailer dropped. Feast your eyes.

Catch up on Stan Against Evil’s first season on the IFC app before it returns November 1st on IFC.