Friday, June 17, 2011

"A Spy Game About Subtle Behavior" and "A Puzzle Game About Observing People": Spy Party and Remote Shepherd

I'm reading this month's issue of GameInformer, and there's an interview with some guy named Chris Hecker. Some of you may have heard of him. Anyways, he's talking about this game he's working on, Spy Party. As I'm reading about this game where one player tries to blend in with a crowd of NPCs, and another with a sniper rifle tries to identify that player via behavioral cues, I think to myself: this sounds familiar.

Oh right, I just finished making a single player version of this game.

The game I worked on for my graduate capstone project was Remote Shepherd. Remote Shepherd is, at its heart, a puzzle game about observing crowds of people. The player is tasked with identifying a target or targets in a crowd of NPCs using not a description of their appearance, but rather a description of who they are or their behaviors. In the mission we developed the player was asked to find three targets: a mafioso, a body guard and a crooked cop. As an example, the body guard could be identified by observing how people react to others running towards them. Normal people might not do anything, while the body guard might take up a defensive posture, or reach for a weapon. If this experience sounds a lot like what the person playing the sniper in Spy Party might have, you're not alone.

I want to be clear here: I'm not accusing anybody of stealing any ideas. It would be completely ludicrous for a number of reasons to accuse Chris Hecker of stealing our idea, and I know our lead designer, Eric Baker, didn't steal Hecker's idea. None of us had ever heard of Spy Party until recently, if we had it would have definitely been in the competitive analysis included in our game pitch. Truthfully, I read the interview, learned about Spy Party, and thought the similarities were too amusing to not talk a bit about. It's also kind of reassuring to know that someone else had a similar idea, and thought enough of it to go Yea, I want to make that game dammit! (I don't actually know if Chris Hecker swears that casually).

I'll also take any excuse I can get to talk about Remote Shepherd.

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