Blog

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.

Pixelmaster

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

-Tiago

Low-fi

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! https://twitter.com/A_Ituarte

-Alessandro