SpyParty is coming to Steam early access after 8 years of development

spy

The first time SpyParty was mentioned here was in 2010, and we’ve not written about it since 2015, so you could be forgiven for forgetting that it existed. But it does indeed still exist, and after eight years of development, it’s coming to Steam early access. There’s a new trailer below that breaks down the simple but seductive premise.

SpyParty is a competitive multiplayer romp where players control either a spy or a sniper. The spy is tasked with infiltrating a fancy shmancy party where they’ll have to bug dignitaries, steal priceless objects and seduce unsuspecting guests, as one does at social events. The wrinkle? The entire time, the sniper is across the street, trying to figure out who the spy is.

The sniper, then, becomes a remote detective, studying the guests and attempting to figure out who is just a harmless NPC and who’s a nefarious secret agent. And the spy, as well as completing all their objectives, must try to avoid drawing the sniper’s attention or doing anything that an NPC wouldn’t.

While 8 years is a very long time for a game to be in development, it’s come a long way. Here’s the first screenshot we posted way back in 2010:

spyparty

That is not a party I want to be invited to.

It will be launching on Steam early access “soon”, but there’s no indication of a final release date. In the FAQ, developer Chris Hecker says that there’s still a lot of work to do and estimates around two years more work – while admitting that he’s terrible at estimating times.

31 Comments

  1. BooleanBob says:

    Only two classes? How will that work in today’s post-purchase monetisation climate?

    Perhaps you start with the Spy, and every 40 hours you unlock another part of the Sniper – his left pinkie, his sacrum, his tongue, his salt and pepper sideburns…

    Or maybe they’ll put the other class in a loot box – presumably one with the most generous odds of all time.

  2. CMaster says:

    8 years!

    It’s a really neat idea for a game that will probably keep most people entertained for a few hours. Why on earth has it been through so many reworks and so on.

    • antszy says:

      cause making games is harder than playing them?

    • Chris Hecker says:

      I’m sure some people will bounce after a few hours because the game is very different, but the top players right now have 10’s of thousands of games played and thousands of hours in the game, so if it resonates with you you can go pretty deep.

  3. medwards says:

    It’s not even done. It’s still in early access.

    I dunno, maybe they don’t want to be a flop like The Ship, but this is a ridiculous amount of development time.

    • TychoCelchuuu says:

      What do you care how long it takes to make? If someone wants to take their time making a video game, how is that any of your business? What makes it “ridiculous”?

      • thehollowman says:

        wut? Why would I care how long people who are making an early access unfinished game take to make a game? Cause I don’t want it to be in EA for 8 years.

        • Chris Hecker says:

          I think what TychoCelchuuu is saying is you can just wait if you don’t want to play in early access. The game isn’t rotting or getting worse, and in fact it’s getting better, so feel free to wait, or dive in now, whatever your preference! I don’t really buy into the idea that there’s some limited window from announcing a game to releasing it and if you miss this window the game is somehow worse. It can be frustrating if you want a game but don’t want to play it before it’s done, but that’s about it. If the game continues to get better then that’s good for you in the long run if you’re interested in it!

          • Herring says:

            I’m quite happy to wait, but I suspect the concern would be if the game will get released _at all_ if the dev time is so long. There’s certainly a lot of examples where lengthy game developments are not released or are released partially complete.

            That said, your game seems fun and playable now from the player comments so as long as the buyer is happy with the game now, they really don’t have anything to worry about :)

    • Person of Interest says:

      I played it several years ago at a game expo, with the prototype graphics. It was loads of fun then, and I assume even better now.

      You can see for yourself on the development blog what’s taking so long, but from what I gather, there are a bunch of reasons: the team is small; they are polishing everything (many iterations on UI, for example); they’re trying to maintain not only a playable game, but a 50-50 balance on a radically asymmetric competitive game, throughout development; and they’re not afraid to re-work stuff if they think of something better.

      • Artist says:

        Sorry, but the games scale is so small that even a small team could pull this off in ~2yrs. 8 years? Way off.
        Unless they build the engine too. That would be really rickdiculous.

        • Chris Hecker says:

          > Unless they build the engine too. That would be really rickdiculous.

          Guilty as charged.

          However, that’s not what’s taking so long. The perfectionism and the fact that I want it to be incredibly deep and balanced is what’s taking so long. And the spectation and replay system, and the fact that it’s an indie game with 25 animated human characters. And it’s a networked multiplayer asymmetric competitive game. And…

    • Chris Hecker says:

      It is a bit ridiculous, but I’m super proud of how it’s turning out, so hopefully that counts for something. :)

      • medwards says:

        Hey, also responding to your other post above (also for context I originally assumed you were a small team):
        I wasn’t saying “you have to release in 2 yrs” more that I didn’t think Spy Party needed 8 years (I say this as a fan), to hit Early Access. I’ve been going over your blog and I see you were selling copies by August 2015, right around when you released the spectator update if I read it right.

        So, like, I’m just saying Early Access by 2015 was reasonable and tbh spectator mode is a totally-fine-to-introduce-in-early-access feature. I’d argue you can get away with multiple art and/or UI passes in Early Access (see The Long Dark) so I think releasing even earlier was feasible.

        That’s not to belittle the significant improvements you’ve made over the years, I just think Spy Party could have hit early access a long time ago.

        Also don’t write your own graphics engine XD lol

        • Chris Hecker says:

          Yeah, I mean part of the delay is I’m just scared of Steam, for sure. The game has had multiple different stages of release, first just friends and family testing, then closed beta with invites, then open beta on spyparty.com, and now SEA. I dragged my feet on each one because opening the game to a wider audience is scary as a creator. The game has been very good from a depth of gameplay standpoing for a long time, but each widening of the audience kind of means it should have more polish so people don’t write it off. For example, right now you basically have to read a 4-page manual to have any idea how to play…that’s not going to fly on Steam, hence the need for a tutorial. Similarly, if you buy it right now, you go to a lobby and then manually chat and invite other people to play, which scares people, so it needs at least simple matchmaking. All of these “needs” are optional, but are good things to have.

          I know I have no credibility on this given how long it’s been, but writing the engine hasn’t been the slow part. :)

  4. Kollega says:

    I wonder about the current state of the game. The tuxedo-and-martini espionage with a NOLF-style art direction, that’s also low-key rather than an explosive parody of itself is very seductive to me. And the idea of a non-toxic community that helps new players learn, plus the one-on-one nature of the game, seem like they would actually help me get into the swing of things (or maybe play with a friend, for teh lulz). But the multiplayer still looks like something I’d be bad at, simply because I’m bad at spotting odd behaviors or acting naturally.

    So what I’m wondering is: how hard is it to get into the game, nowadays? Is there a tutorial, and are there many newbies playing so that I’d have similar-skill opponents to play against? And is the community still a jewel in the sun in terms of helping new players learn the game? At the “last mention of SpyParty in 2015”, Chris Hecker himself went into the comment thread to answer questions – and it’d be cool to get an updated explanation from the lead dev himself.

    • Chris Hecker says:

      You called? :)

      The community is still awesome, and if you plan on joining the beta you might want to do it before it goes live on Steam because I have no idea what will happen then… I’m still going to have the private beta forums available so the old timers will have a place to gather, and Steam buyers will be able to register there too, but it’s really hard to predict what’s going to happen with a lot of new people in the mix.

      As for getting into the game, the learning curve is still steep but I’m about to release a full tutorial that we playtested at PAX this year and it appeared to teach people how to play the game, so that will help…especially since most people don’t want to read a manual (we have a manual, it’s 4 pages long in very small print). And the community is great about doing mentor matches and teaching newbies how to play. So yeah, if you don’t mind construction noises, come on in, the water’s fine!

  5. caff says:

    It was rather fun when I played back in er…. 2014? I remember the last time I booted it up there were a handful of players on but they were very experienced. Hopefully a steam release will level that out a bit and attract a load of new players.

    I think some 1v1 matchmaking games can suffer from early access in the long run though. Take Chaos Reborn, I reckon that could have been huge were it launched fully initially.

    • Chris Hecker says:

      SpyParty has a few things going for it on the matchmaking front: 1v1, short games, I can have players play sniper against spectated games or replays, latency tolerant, etc. So, I’m hoping once I get matchmaking in that it will work even with a small player base. Right now, you join a lobby and invite someone to play, and even at off peak times you usually only have to wait a minute or so for somebody to play, but a lobby and invites is kinda intimidating and old school for people these days, so matchmaking will be in before Steam Early-Access, he says, hopefully.

      • caff says:

        Hey Chris! Always cool when you get a reply from developer in the RPS comments section. Yeah I played it a lot when I first had it, really liked the tension and I think matchmaking will definitely help. I wouldn’t be afraid to pitch mid-tier players against noobs because it will help them develop and understand the tactics a bit more. Very much looking forward to playing this again :)

        • Chris Hecker says:

          Yeah, I forgot to mention that it has a lot of knobs for handicapping skill gaps too, so I’m optimistic that players will basically never have to wait to play. We’ll see soon enough!

  6. Urthman says:

    Is there a single-player version where you have to guess which character is controlled by the computer and which are just bots controlled by the computer?

    • Chris Hecker says:

      Not yet, but there will be! There’s single player Sniper where you can play against a replay of a previously recorded game, which works really surprisingly well actually.

      • Herring says:

        That’s a brilliant idea !

        Good luck with the game!

      • subprogram32 says:

        That idea really is excellent. Especially as the only games that could possibly work as replays are ones where the Spy *won* originally, so every version of the mode will at least be somewhat of a challenge.
        It’s almost like a ‘revenge’ mode for the Sniper in that sense, defeating their past failures…

  7. mike22 says:

    I’ve been waiting for this for soooo long. Looks like it’s come a long way!

  8. TheSplund says:

    Awesome, I’ve had this sat in my Amazon wishlist (a useful place to bookmark games that are ‘over the horizon’ before transferring them to the Steam wishlist) and was only thinking about it on Monday. I wanted to wait until it was closer to completion so I’m please to hear the latest progress and the concept of a single-player option. Keep it up.

  9. Celcos says:

    Did you know I own this game? I did not know that I own this game. Apparently I spent $15 on it sometime in 2014.

    • Chris Hecker says:

      If you launch it and hit Play it’ll auto update, or at least it should, or if you don’t have it installed anymore then just go to the beta homepage (linked at the top of the main site) and download the installer again. You’ll get access to the Steam version when it’s ready for testing. :)

  10. jonfitt says:

    Hey Chris.

    The thing I worry about these long running indie games is the affect on the people involved. 10 years of income for a few people is going to be hard to ever make back on a game like this! Do you all still have full time jobs during this?

    I personally would have completed the game less than polished and used the experience for the next game. That way we’d have more creative ideas out there!

    • Chris Hecker says:

      Nope, it’s been my full time job for a long time, and yes, I wouldn’t recommend it for the faint of heart and it’s definitely the cause of a fair amount of anxiety. That said, I take pretty good care of my health and sleep well, and I’m really proud of how it’s turning out, so even if it flops I’ve got no regrets. Plus, I can program a computer in the SF Bay Area; I doubt I’ll starve. :)

      I gave a talk about how the money end of the development has gone: link to spyparty.com

      I think there are benefits from having lots of “creative mulch” out there, but also to people going deep on exploring a game design. I also gave a short talk about this a while back: link to chrishecker.com

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