Video Horror: Ain’t No Party Like A Glitchy SpyParty

Throw your hands in the air, then merge them into your torso like you just don't care.

Sometimes glitches and bugs are more than mere annoyances. Sometimes they’re joyful farce, as in Soldner. Sometimes they turn patch notes into a kind of poetry. Sometimes, as in the SpyParty video below, they’re shrieking nightmare fuel that will keep you awake at night for weeks to come.

This would be my reaction too, if I was at a house party and a friend was suddenly sniped through a window.

SpyParty has been in development since 2009 and is currently available as a purchasable beta. It works by two players assuming the roles of a spy and a sniper. The spy has to blend in with NPC characters at a party while planting bugs, switching objects, and performing other scripted tasks. The sniper is sat outside the party and observing everything that’s happening while trying to detect which of the people inside is the human, and therefore the spy. When the sniper thinks they’ve worked it out, they take a shot, and find out if they’re correct.

The result is a game that’s based around human psychology and highly competitive. It’s possible as a sniper to be absolutely convinced that a computer character is human. The tension as the spy, when a laser dot is focused on your head, is unlike almost anything else in videogames.

Developer Chris Hecker has been updating the game regularly since it launched into beta, and records livestreams of each patch’s release notes. The video below details the latest changes to versions 3076 and 3091; don’t worry, the nightmarish bug shown above has since been fixed. The most interesting information is that Hecker is working towards adding replays and a spectator mode. As thoughtful and quiet a game as SpyParty can be, the tension it builds makes it great to watch other people play.

Check out the official site for more. Getting into the beta currently costs $15/£9.12.


  1. brulleks says:

    Further proof for Daily Mail readers that video games are indeed the tool of the Devil.

  2. Shadowcat says:

    Spectacular! And I love that it was posted as a promotional video :)

  3. ramirezfm says:

    You’re not allowed to post a thing like this in the morning. Now I’m here at my desk at work and giggling like a little girl. Exceptional video though!

  4. Gap Gen says:

    “You failed to kill the levitating devil. Game Over.”

    • RaveTurned says:

      The game gives you one bullet but all these abominations MUST DIE!

  5. Cooper says:

    I worry about the eventual release of Spy Party. I’ve decided to wait till release to get this, but by then there will be a bedrock of players who absolutely know the game inside-out and can pick up tells and hide themselves increadibly well and basically be no fun for new players to play against.

    The same kinda happened with Frozen Synapse. I was in the beta for that, so when it was released, I ended up walking over loads and loads of new players. I’d try my best to be helpful & friendly in the chat but the skill disparity was no fun for either players.

    A small number of beta players is fine, but with ‘early access’ becomming so prevalent, many multiplayer games will get released and the majority, rather than a small minority, of the players will be skilled at it.

    Unless early access games start explicitly addressing this, I can see many people bouncing off of this when it’s released; constantly getting picked out in seconds by trained snipers.

    • BisonHero says:

      Yeah, I expect the multiplayer community for this game will always be small since the game is such an oddity. The beta players being completely savage at it probably won’t help matters.

      Also, while I’m here, I’d like to know: good Lord, how has this game taken so long to be released? I know it’s Chris Hecker and some artists or something, but the early prototype of this game seemed like a GameJam game someone could put together in 48 hours, and the more finished version still seems like the fleshed out version of a GameJam game that at best would’ve taken, say, 3-9 months. Is there a reason this game has somehow been in development since 2009?

    • Gap Gen says:

      The converse problem is that people burn out on the game in beta, or leave because the beta community was better than the pub server hellscape that appears post-release.

    • UmmonTL says:

      I think the fact that it’s a two-player game can largely mitigate the problem of skill disparity. People will coach their friends, choose harder levels for themselves and tell them to take easier ones.
      The other thing is that AFAIK there might be additional roles coming into play, multiple agents and undercover police mixing in with the party guests. That and maybe new stuff to do for the spy. While I don’t know how long that will take to make it into the game, it should mix up things nicely.

  6. LionsPhil says:

    I think the worst part is how the fat guy isn’t warping inside-out, just sliding around a bit. Clearly, this madness is his arcane doing, as he stands there, knowingly mocking the chaos behind him.

    • Faxanadu says:

      this and this “The sniper is sat outside the party and observing everything that’s happening while trying to detect which of the people inside is the human, and therefore the spy.” made my day. Thank you sirs and sirsesses.

  7. Turkey says:

    This is what happens when a magician dies.

  8. Lemming says:

    Their only regret: Having Boneitus.

  9. Tei says:

    From the Galactic Encyclopedia:

    “The first attemp of Thorians spy to infiltrate a human embassy failed when all the attended where infiltrators from different Thorian agencies. ”

    So typical of dopleganger aliens :D

  10. Darth Gangrel says:

    This made me go to imdb’s page for Luis Bunuel’s movie Un Chien Andalou and its message board. Okay, that’s enough Internet for today!

  11. Reginald XVII Archduke of Butts says:

    The premise for this game seems like an inverted version of the Turing Test: A human trying to pass themselves off as a computer.

    • BisonHero says:

      Which was also the aim of The Ship and Bloody Good Time, which in turn inspired the Assassin’s Creed multiplayer modes. The only difference is that in those games everyone is a participant trying to look the part of an AI, while SpyParty has a sniper who is completely removed from the goings on.

      I still don’t really get why this game gets coverage from news outlets, or why it has taken this long. I get why a game like Fez or Antichamber, also made by very small teams, can take a while, because there are some super devious puzzles in there and whatnot. But SpyParty seems like a concept that has both more or less been done before, and has very limited scope (a single room), so I really don’t understand why it’s taken 4 years to make it.

      • Kaeoschassis says:

        Then make it?

        • BisonHero says:

          Coding and game design aren’t particularly relevant to my career, so I don’t think it really proves anything that I’m not going to personally go out there and make SpyParty in a more timely fashion.
          But knowing what I know about the scope of the game, and comparing it to other similarly scoped smallish games, it baffles me that the game has been in development for over 4 years. Unless it turns out that Chris Hecker still has some day job I’m not aware of, and is only moonlighting as a developer on evenings and weekends.

  12. Varanas says:

    Just so everyone knows, this bug (and those other funny ones shown on the spyparty youtube channel) aren’t actually in the game, and in fact never have been. They are bugs that come up while a new feature is being worked on and are fixed before that build is released. That’s why they’re on the spyparty youtube channel, as otherwise we would never have the opportunity to see them in the first place (notice that the description says “by popular demand”, the fan base enjoyed a video of this bug affecting the old art so much, that we asked to see it with the new art too).

  13. sharkh20 says:

    Ain’t no party like my nana’s tea party

  14. Antistar says:

    I think anyone who’s worked on a game with character animation rigged to bones probably knows this kind of horror. I remember for a while early on in this multiplayer FPS we were working on, simply looking up would result in your character literally bending over backwards and shooting rockets (or bullets/whatever) out their arse.

  15. wilsondeluxe says:

    There’s a good XBOX LIVE Indie Game based on this premise called Hidden In Plain Sight – link to – where four players are on-screen at the same time with a crowd of NPCs and you have to work out a) which character is yours and then b) which characters are your opponents’, and then zap them in the head until they fall down without showing your hand to the rest of the players. It’s quite crude graphically, but with four players in the room at the same time it gets remarkably tense very quickly. There’s a PC version floating about too, but it doesn’t appear to be available for download at the moment. If you do have a 360, the XBIG version only costs about £1 or something and is well worth the purchase.

  16. Hidden Thousand says:

    Oh, god, THE ENTROPY.

    May be this is what that scene from Event Horizon is supposed to look like.