Chris Hecker’s ready to come in from the cold. So far the only way to see and play the solo game-maker’s hotly anticipated “SpyParty” has been the public playtests he’s held at gatherings like GDC, the PAX gamer conventions or before lectures like the one he gave at NYU a few months back.
But, the fast-talking programmer’s just announced that he’ll be launching a beta for the psychological shooter in the near future. It’ll cost $15, but you’re essentially getting a lifetime license that lets you play from the game’s current raw state to the polished final product. The beta version of “SpyParty” will only run on Windows PCs but Hecker plans on putting the final game on as many platforms as possible.
As he mentions on the sign-up page, Hecker has been using public playtesting to tune and help develop the game. A paid beta will continue funding as well as generate ongoing streams of data that he can use to figure out the sweet spot of the experience he wants to deliver. It’s a smart model, one used to great success by Markus ‘Notch’ Persson for his runaway indie success “Minecraft.” Of course, clever funding/development models aside, what you need to make a game a hit–especially indies without the benefit of mucho marketing dollars–is a compelling core idea. “Minecraft” has it in the mechanic of being able to build almost anything you can imagine. And I think “SpyParty”, which asks you to either blend in with a bunch of computer-controlled characters or pick out the person doing the blending, has it, too.
The particular thrill of “SpyParty” comes from anonymity and mimicked behavior. At an in-person playtest during GDC or PAX, my opponent was always in view. Thus, when I played as a spy and escaped the sniper’s bullet or successfully shot down the opponent’s espionage avatar as the rifleman, I got to gloat in person. Yet, I think “SpyParty” is going to feel purer over the Internet, since that play experience will isolate players. Hunting for that damned spy all by your lonesome on a couch somewhere turns “SpyParty” into a true battle of skill, will and observation. I predict that it’s going to stoke heretofore unseen levels of gamer rage. Soon, the masses will be able to partake of it.