This is where we post Spymaster development updates & other random notes that come to mind. 

Spy Dossiers: File #4

Stressed out

In the Spymaster universe, stress is not just a matter of scheduling way too many barbecues again this weekend. It is the very real risk of an agent collapsing under the pressure of performing demanding tasks in the face of danger.

As a spymaster you get caught up in plans and optimization, often not thinking about the mental health of your agents. You want them to perform like good, little board pieces. Weakness and breakdowns are hard to accept when the balance of the world is at stake. But if an agent breaks down at a crucial moment, all could be lost, so any spymaster would do well to manage the stress level of their agents.

Keeping stress down is obvious when it comes to not over-burdening your agents with too many travels, raids or other tasks. But only recently did I realize that one of the most stressful situation for my agents is being already stressed and trying to rest, as a Gestapo inspektor arrives in town. I suddenly noticed how their resting speed comes to a halt when the gestapo arrives on the scene.

It is hard to rest with Gestapo inspektors swarming around

In a given situation I ended up with two agents down and only agent Charlie still standing. Severely stressed, his resting would be constantly interrupted by several Gestapo inspektors circling the area. It didn’t take a lot of spymaster imagination to visualize agent Charlie lying wounded in a safehouse in Naples, trying to calm his racing mind from the events of the past stressful weeks and from being away from home. Even less to imagine the sinister sound of the black, shiny riding boots of a Gestapo inspektor walking down the street to where he was, followed by a knock on the door. It’s even easy to imagine how it would be, when the door gets kicked in, and you are lying in a small space above the ceiling, trying to hold back breath, as the inspektor and his henchmen thoroughly search the room below.

It is no wonder an agent can't very well rest with the Gestapo in town. In future I’m taking this into account, and will send my agents back to London to rest, whenever possible.


Alessandro, the designer of our other team, e-mailed us this picture, and I just couldn't resist sharing it. Here's his tale.



I have a sweet spot for the good old days of game development, back when a game’s aesthetics were confined to the technical limitations of the era. The low fidelity and palette restrictions pushed artists to come up with really creative techniques to make things look pleasant. Those efforts resulted in an artistic style that is still used to this day, even when those restrictions have all but disappeared: Pixel-Art!

So whenever I see a modern art-style that I love in a game (Like Spymaster), I cannot help but to try and envision how it would look like if it was made over 20 years ago. This is the result:

That's clearly Charlie, but who's that other spy?

My main motivation for the blocky routes and nodes came from Mario Bros 3. You navigate the stages in that game in similar roads that lead to different stages. It was pretty groundbreaking at the time to show that limited form of exploration.

The thing I enjoy the most about doing this are the detail challenges, like how do you represent a cigar in an ashtray in a region that is 9 pixels tall and wide?

You also have to change the form slightly to look more wholesome. For example the lunch tray looks so naturally placed in the original Spymaster, at a slight angle, but you have to make it straight to look good when making Pixel-art.

Sugar cubes are just to hard to pixelate. 

Aaaah, way better! The Obsessive-Compulsive in me is very very pleased! I try to work on my pixel-art whenever I have a chance, and I usually post my stuff on twitter, so add me there and tell me what you think!


Spy Dossiers: File #3

Time is Running out!

The task seems simple enough. Just sabotage a train depot in Brest. It is not even a hard mission. Just two agents in the field; agent Lucy and agent Steel.

The first time around I play it too casually. I fail the raid.

Next time around I’m more careful. After all the clock is ticking and I should get the mission wrapped before running out of time. I spend a lot of intel on a good plan, I mobilise both agents and locals. It should be an easy victory.

Only it isn’t. I fail again. And this time with agent Lucy down. My only pianist.

The clock is ticking now. I’m low on intel, I’m low on people. Starting the raid again right away would be suicide.

I’m biting my nails as the days fly by and Lucy heals at snail’s pace. As soon as she is up, she starts sending off intel. I need it for planning the next raid. Failing again is not an option.

But my desperate measures have not gone unnoticed. A Gestapo inspektor arrives on the scene. I can only watch as Lucy the pianist gathers enough intel to start the raid, while the Gestapo are zooming in on my spy ring.

Even a master pianist has her limits

The situation is about to boil over, as agent Lucy finally collapses under the extreme pressure. She did not manage to gather much intel, but it will have to do. The Gestapo inspektor is close on my heels and everything seems hopeless, as I gather my remaining agent, the unproven novice agent Steel,  and a few locals and send them off on a raid with a very unlikely chance of success.

Locals to the rescue!

But with an unexpected strike of luck, they pull through. Everyone just barely gets away, but the depot is sabotaged. Against all odds I managed to win this battle.

Moving back from the edge of my seat, I must say, I do like when my game sessions turn into tense action scenes. My agents may just be pieces on a game board, but the suspense is real enough.


Spy Dossiers: File #2

So, I have already put on my long coat and soft hat and looked knowingly at my strategic map for hours, whilst placing pins here and there, but as I quickly learn, there is more to spying than this. Entering into the world of spies, there’s a few things to take heed of, and a rookie spymaster would do well to learn the basic ropes before entering enemy territory.

It is of utmost importance to always establish connections between cities. It can seem like a waste of time establishing spy rings all over the map, but a good network will help you travel fast and gather more intel.

It always helps to have a network of friends across Europe.

Always use the right people for the job. Conventional wisdom is right in this respect. Need to gather intel? Be sure to bring a radio expert. Going on a raid? Bring someone who can knock some punches or charm the guards or tamper with electronics. Preferably all of it. Establishing a spy network as fast as possible? Include a people’s person on your team that can rally people to your cause.

If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well.

Lastly, do not bring too many agents on a raid. It may seem like a brilliant idea to bring a regular army to blow up that factory, but more people means a bigger chance of getting caught or injured. You may bring the whole team and win an easy battle or two, but who will be left to lead the cause, when all your agents are wounded due to poorly planned and clumsily executed raids?

- Astrid

More agents means more noise and higher chance of injuries.