[In this latest Road to the IGF interview with 2011 IGF finalists, Gamasutra speaks with Chris Hecker about his two-player competitive espionage-based game SpyParty.
Having already worked for EA on Spore
, a huge AAA game release, Chris Hecker has now returned to his indie roots, and consequently earned himself an IGF finalist place, with his game SpyParty
in the running for the Seumas McNally Grand Prize.
Here, Hecker explains his inspirations for SpyParty
, the visual style he hopes to achieve and what the next step in development is.
What is your background in making games?
I've been in the industry forever, but only managed to ship one game so far (Spore
I was indie a long time ago, 1996-2003, and then worked on Spore
from 2003-2009. EA laid me off last year, which indified me again.
What development tools are you using to develop SpyParty?
It's C++, a custom OpenGL graphics engine, a modified version of Cal3D, which is an old open source animation library I'm eventually going to replace, and a bunch of spit and bailing wire.
How did you come up with the concept?
Thatcher Ulrich and Marc Leblanc did a cool game called Dueling Machine
at Indie Game Jam 0 (the "100,000 guys" one) where one person was hunting another person in a city with 30,000 inhabitants.
It was super cool, and when IGJ3 rolled around (theme: "people interacting"), I was thinking about what a more intimate version of that game would be.
I came up with the inverse Turing test idea, and the spy fiction, and the game kinda designed itself from there!
The current visuals seen in screenshots of the game are placeholder. What kind of graphical style will the final game take on?
Not sure yet, but I really like the timelessness of The Incredibles
and Team Fortress 2
. You're never sure what time period they're taking place in. Similarly, I want to reference retro 60s spy-fi, but not look dated.
What are the next steps in the development of SpyParty?? What types of missions can we expect to see?
The next steps are making the game an even deeper player skill competitive experience, and then figuring out single player. I plan to turn just about every spy movie trope into a mission, from poisoning a drink, to seducing the secretary, to breaking into the safe behind the painting.
Are there any elements that you've experimented with that just flat-out haven't worked with your vision?
I've been pretty lucky so far that there haven't been any big dead-ends. There have been lots of things that didn't work out like I thought they would, but the game design fates have been smiling on me, because those things have usually ended up cooler than I thought, not worse.
Obviously there have been smaller things that haven't worked, like the first version of the bookshelf mission was a complete disaster, and the current one still kind of sucks, but in the grand scheme of things those are not significant negatives.
I have also pushed some risky stuff off to v2, and there is still a lot of experimentation to go, like how important should facial animation be to the gameplay, and things like that. Who knows how those will work out?
How long have you been working on the game?
Full time since September of 2009. I worked on it occasionally over the years since IGJ3 in 2004, though.
Have you played any of the other IGF finalists? Any games you particularly enjoyed?
I haven't played nearly as many as I'd like. I'm a big fan of Marc ten Bosch's Miegakure
; I think it's a really interesting and deep game. I love the voice over stuff in Bastion
, and think it adds a real personal touch to the game.
I still haven't played the vast majority of them, though, so I'm looking forward to hanging out at the IGF booth at GDC and playing them soon.
What do you think of the current state of the indie scene?
I think it's great. Last time I was indie in the 90s, there really was no good dependable way to make a living at it. Now, if you can create a quality game, you can be somewhat assured of earning enough to be able to make another one, and once that cycle starts, I think the level of design experimentation will increase greatly.
I'm really excited for the industry right now, and I hope this "Golden Age of Indie" lasts for years and years!
[Previous 'Road To The IGF' interview subjects have included Minecraft creator Markus Persson and B.U.T.T.O.N. developer The Copenhagen Game Collective.]