Spy Party is a game that recently went into open beta. It is a multiplayer espionage game in which one player takes on the role of a spy at- that’s right, you guessed it -a party, whilst the other plays a sniper, attempting to determine who at the party is the spy. All of the other party-goers are AI controlled, however they will often do things that may make you think ‘that doesn’t seem like something an AI would do’ when in the middle of looking for that spy.
When playing as the aforementioned sleuth specialist you have to complete objectives such as transferring microfilms, bugging ambassadors, signalling your fellow double agent, stealing priceless statues and more. You must do this all whilst remaining inconspicuous to the sniper watching your every move. You are able to see a laser sight to show you where the sniper’s screen view is centered, which can make the game extremely tense. Your goal is the spy is to blend in as best as you can, hoping to avoid looking like an obvious player. Part of this is attempting to avoid looking like a player and doing things an NPC would never do, I have lost a good few games by accidentally hitting ‘W’ and taking one step forward, who would have known walking in a jittery manner was suspicious?
So really this is a game of skill between one player’s ability to pretend to be an AI, and the other player’s ability to differentiate between an AI, and a player pretending to be an AI while completing subtle tasks. The game is almost completely multiplayer, there is no campaign as of yet (there is an offline practice mode), and it is currently in quite a beta state, but it is extremely fun to play right now. The graphics are relatively low fidelity and simple, although the simplicity is a good thing, as it means things are very easily recognized and defined, making it easier to be sure of what you are looking at when playing the sniper.
Due to the game currently being in open beta there are few assets in terms of sound and textures, but the game is still fun to play, it gives each round an intense feeling of concentration which is where the game really shines, with two players in a mental battle of stealth and observation. The community is very nice, and there are usually people in the lobby willing to have a game with new members and teach them the ins and outs of gameplay. The game has an interesting learning curve where it is easy to learn the basics, and not exactly hard to master, but long to master. There is a lot of information you have to take in and use if you want to play at a higher level. Someone who knows how to play well will usually absolutely destroy a new player (although usually they will instead tell them who they are in the in-game chat and tell them their mistake, teaching them how to play better).
There is no matchmaking system in place, however you can play in multiple lobbies, so anyone can play against anyone. After each player’s name in the lobby there will be a statistic displaying their matches won as a spy, and their matches one as a sniper. This is actually a very good method for choosing people to play with, for example I have a much higher win count as a spy than a sniper, so either I just REALLY suck at playing a sniper (which I do), or I prefer to play a spy and play one more frequently. This allows you to hazard a guess at player’s role preferences so that you could invite someone who would likely want to play the opposing role to you without having to clutter up the lobby chat asking for people who would like to play a specific role (although due to the number of players online at any one time not currently being too high that is not usually a problem).
One of the difficulties of this game is matching the skill of two players. There are a good number of different maps in this game, some favouring the spy, some the sniper, many of which are being used for testing purposes. The tricky part is that there can be a huge imbalance between players depending on the maps you are used to. Once you have gotten to the point where both you and your opponents are skilled enough not to do anything that is blatantly unlike the AI, the game becomes about masking and recognizing tells, and the players who have memorized the tells, and know how to use specific parts of maps to their advantage will have a significant edge when facing off against a player who is less familiar with the map, or who has not gone up against many players using a particular tell, or going for a specific objective. The only real remedy for this is playing a lot of games and learning all of these aspects.
All in all, this is a game you should certainly check out. You can currently get in on the open beta by purchasing a copy of the game at Spy Party for $15.