Alongside a shiny new tutorial, the Steam Early Access version of SpyParty will have a total of 10 updated maps built by Hecker's partner in crime, artist John Cimino. As SpyParty has stewed in beta over the past decade or so, it's largely featured placeholder art -- blocky, 3D characters and environments plastered in primary colors. But today, SpyParty is gorgeous, featuring fully shaded and colored villas, restaurants, mansions and balconies, and a cast of striking, diverse characters.
These 10 maps are live today in the SpyParty beta, and they'll be available in the Steam Early Access version when that launches April 12th. Anyone who buys into the beta via Hecker's website will automatically receive the Steam version as well. This is notable for any interested spies and snipers, as the game's price is set to rise when it hits Steam: The SpyParty.com beta is $15, while the Steam Early Access version will cost $25.
"The players told me to do it," Hecker says about the price increase. "They were like, 'Your game is way under-priced at $15.' So, there you go. I mean, maybe not when it was the old art."
"At indie scale, you can't make something an eSport."
That old art and a decade of playtesting has helped Hecker create a rich, competitive game unlike any title currently on the eSports market -- a market that didn't even exist when he began building SpyParty.
"At indie scale, you can't make something an eSport," he says. "That happens, that's something the players do. I'm putting, obviously, all the stuff in there to make it possible to -- I don't even know what an eSport means, at some level, right? But I'm making an intensely competitive multiplayer game."
With the inception of Twitch and eSports on a mainstream scale, the video game industry might finally be ready for SpyParty -- just in time for SpyParty to finally be ready for prime time. It even has a ridiculously deep replay system, allowing players to relive their matches from all variety of perspectives and speeds, and slice together their most amazing moments for YouTube and beyond.
This is truly, really, the beginning of the end of Hecker's 10-year journey to release SpyParty in its entirety.
As a former developer at Microsoft and Electronic Arts, Hecker began working on SpyParty with hundreds of thousands of dollars in big-name company stocks to back him up. After 10 years of development, including paying Cimino a AAA-level salary, he's recently had to borrow some money from his mom to keep things rolling.
"But I can program a computer in the Bay Area. I'm not gonna starve, worst case, right?" Hecker says. "So that helps me not like, just die from the anxiety. But it is hugely scary. Because it's the culmination of 10 years of creative work. I know the game is good, people love -- the top players have 20,000 games. I know I made what I wanted to make."
At 47, Hecker is living the indie life commonly associated with young fresh-out-of-school developers. He's living the life he built for himself, one spy and one sniper at a time.
"It's weird to be 47 with a kid and a mortgage, and literally have like -- I have literally no idea what my life is gonna be like in 30 days," he says. "In less than 30 days this game ships and I'll have some idea of how it's doing, and it's just a weird, that's an 18-year-old feeling. Where you're like, 'I don't know, I'm moving away from home, and what's gonna happen?' Who fucking knows?"