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PAX East: Chris Hecker on Spy Party’s Public Expo, Realism [mini-view]

Spy Party never ceases to create a long line of intense onlookers. DIY, and every other indie site, has been drooling over and covering Spy Party from Chris Hecker for a good while. PAX East presented me the opportunity to meet Chris and talk a little bit about the game. He felt the large lines were bittersweet. The attention was great for him, but it also meant most people are not getting to the advanced content he was working on. However, that didn’t sway some people from coming back to see the new maps.

DIYGamer: So how are things progressing with Spy Party this year?

Chris: “Well, it was an IGF finalist, so that meant it was going to be on the show floor. So, I decided I’m going to put a bunch of stuff in and trying to get it done for GDC. I got it mostly done. I fixed a bunch of bugs between GDC and PAX.

“It’s not really a good show floor game, actually. There’s a four-page manual. It’s a really depth-based game. So it’s great that people play the game, but it sucks people can’t play the game the way it’s meant to be played. You know, two hours in, you’re still learning stuff.

“It’s really important to me that everything is fine-tuned right now, because I’m doing that depth-first thing. And I can make it accessible later. I’m lucky in that most of the stuff I do actually plays ok for beginners, too. It’s a little confusing still, but that’s why the first map has only four missions.”

“Not many people do these deep player-skill games these days. It’s much more about avatar skill, grind your guy up. It’s hard to test these things. You need someone who’s been playing for 10+ hours.”

What are your thoughts on the IGF outcome?

“It’s a fun show. It was great to have it on the show floor. Two girls and three guys ran the booth the whole time for me. I thought I would lose to Minecraft, and I lost to Minecraft. So that’s pretty much expected.”

Are you shopping around for publishers?

“Not exactly. The best strategy for me is to make the game so freaking awesome that they all come begging me to put it on their platforms. But if you show it too early [to publishers]… that’s part of the reason I show the game a lot and talk to press a lot. It’s never too early to start building awareness of the game. The kind of press and exposure I want is this: people come up and play the game and are like ‘that was totally awesome. Let me go tell my friends.’ There was no line yesterday.”

Were there any people that asked about the graphics?

”I got a couple people telling me that I have to keep the graphics. The graphics are ugly. But they have a certain charm, I guess. Eventually it will be really polished. The Incredibles is a big influence… really stylized, not trying for realism. Realism is a total trap. Even with 200 people you can’t really do realism. But I want to make it timeless. You wanna envoke that 60s Casino Royale kind of thing, but not be 60s.”

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I was happy to babysit Chris’s laptop for him to do another interview. The interview clocked at about 8 minutes, which lasted the duration of one round. Eight minutes sounds pretty intense to be locked in a battle with one person, meticulously watching his or her every move. And the fans keep coming back for more. Spy Party is definitely onto gaming gold.

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