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“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.


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.