The top SpyParty player is a fighting game guy from EVO 2012

SpyParty EVO thang thang
Four months before SpyParty debuted at EVO 2012's Indie Showcase, convention founder Seth Killian threw down a gentlemen's bet with SpyParty creator Chris Hecker: "An EVO attendee will be your No. 1 player in subsequent tests, and take down whoever the existing top players might be."

Hecker took the bet. One year later, SpyParty is on its way to EVO 2013, and Hecker owes Killian a beer.

SpyParty is slow-paced for a one-on-one "fighting game," but it requires the same mad obsession with detail prevalent in many fighting games. Players are either the spy or the sniper: As the spy they must blend in with a room of AI characters attending a fancy party and complete tasks unbeknownst to the sniper. The sniper has to spot the human character with enough certainty to shoot it before the other player completes all the tasks.

The top SpyParty player in the world is Korey Mueller, AKA "kcmmmmm" (pictured above, standing in the blue button-down), and as a lifelong fighting game fan, it's fitting that he first heard about SpyParty at EVO 2012. Since the convention, Mueller has played 6,436 games of SpyParty and has spent 262 hours in-game, with 1,020 hours total log-in time. The player that comes closest to these numbers clocks in at 5,151 games and 213 hours in-game.

After picking out which beer he's going to buy Killian, Hecker asked Mueller about his fighting game roots and how he thinks SpyParty fits into the fighting game community.

"There's always this feeling that there's some way I can improve, and every time I meet a personal goal, I find another one," Mueller tells Hecker. "I couldn't really look at the game and decide to be a top player, I just wanted to continue to improve – and at some point, I guess I got pretty decent at it. Now that you mention it, 6,000 games is a lot."

Yeah, it is.

Mueller played Street Fighter 2 on SNES as a kid, but didn't really get into fighting games until his friend introduced him to the Guilty Gear series. By 2008 he was deep into online matches of BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger.

"I had played a lot of non-fighters online in the past, primarily Counter-Strike," Mueller says. "The fighting community is so different. Since fighters rely on more than a purely twitch-response skill set, fighting game players tend to be more knowledgable about the games they play. In a shooter, you only need to know map layout, relative weapon strengths/weaknesses, and how to quickly shoot someone in the head the second you see them. In fighting games, success depends on a large variety of information, most of which is not immediately apparent or available."

That's where SpyParty is a different. It comes with a dossier, a manual that must be read before diving in that outlines gameplay and each character's unique traits. The information is all there for everyone to see, and players simply have to put it to use – or not so simply, Mueller says.

"I don't mind doing homework for games, so long as there is a reward at the end of it," he says. "If players put hundreds of hours into studying the dossier behaviors, but are unable to apply that to real games, then it will have failed as a feature. So it needs to be deep and effective to ensure that players benefit from doing their homework."

SpyParty EVO thang thang
This premise – acquiring deep knowledge, putting it to practical use, spotting the human in a room of robots – intrigues Mueller endlessly (or at least for 1,020 hours), and it caught his attention right away at the EVO 2012 Indie Showcase.

"In the midst of all of these high-tech and visually stunning games (Right across from PlayStation All-Stars' booth, if I recall) was this sort of ugly game which looked like The Sims from 2002," Mueller says. "I'm not a graphics whore or anything, but the game just felt very out of place. It seemed as far removed from fighting games as was possible. It caught my eye immediately. I wandered over, and there's just this table of pamphlets and a sign telling me to read the manual first. Read the manual? What? So I pocketed a manual to read later, walked up to the guy standing next to the table, and asked, 'So, what am I looking at here?'"

That guy was Hecker, and the rest is history.

SpyParty is still in beta, and it was recently opened to the public. Regarding Mueller's thoughts on the game's art, SpyParty has been running on placeholder graphics for years now, and it's due for a super swanky update eventually.

SpyParty EVO thang thang
Mueller sees the fighting game community as a long-lasting, welcoming environment, and one that SpyParty can be a part of.

"If the SpyParty community can learn anything from [the fighting game community], it's to continue to work toward helping other players develop, and continuing to work to maintain the quality," Mueller says. "This means nurturing each new member as a valuable part of the community, and teaching each of them to uphold the high standards we set for it and ourselves right now."

You hear that, Killian? Nurturing. Maybe wipe the smug grin off your face before drinking that beer.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.