"It all started with Seth Killian," Hecker said. "Seth and I have talked about my goals for SpyParty to be a game that can eventually be counted among the most intensely competitive player-skill games we have, games like Counter-Strike, Starcraft, LoL, Dota and Street Fighter, and he's been really supportive of that goal.
"Seth emailed me and asked if I'd be interested in bringing SpyParty to EVO. I knew a bit about EVO and was kind of blown away by the offer."
SpyParty is one of EVO 2012's Indie Showcase titles, and will be available for anyone to try out on the expo floor, which is completely free and open to the public July 6-7 at Las Vegas' Caesars Palace.
The game itself is based on subtlety, precision and practice, much like many fighting games, but it doesn't involve any twitch movements, bright, flashing colors or hadoukens – and it comes with a four-page manual that must be read before anyone attempts to play it. In terms of pacing for the American audience: if Mortal Kombat is football, SpyParty is soccer.
Hecker doesn't know if the fighting-game community has the attention span or interest in such a (non-)violent departure, but he's eager to see.
"I really have no idea what to expect," Hecker says. "I've been to PAX a bunch of times, but I think EVO is going to be really different. There's a huge difference between designing a game for 10 to 30 hours of play, versus designing one that can be played for 300 or 1,000 hours at a competition level. I'm hoping the fighting-game folks love the game, because although SpyParty is very different at the low level, with very few twitch elements, the high-level psychology, deception and perception skills of elite play might be similar. I can't wait to find out."
Killian, co-founder of the EVO championships and former Capcom community manager, is willing to bet Hecker that Caesars Palace is where SpyParty will find its audience.
"If you take me up on it, I'd even be willing to make a gentleman's bet with you that an EVO attendee will be your No. 1 player in subsequent tests, and take down whoever the existing top players might be," Killian writes. "I dunno which one, but I trust implicitly in these guys as a group."
Hecker gave away 50 SpyParty beta invites to EVO attendees, allowing winners to skip the beta's 15,000-person line and prepare to do it live on the show floor, perhaps against some of the top beta players of all time, in person or online if the expo supports a stable internet connection.
Outside of EVO, Hecker has dreams to see SpyParty on every major platform – PC, XBLA, PSN, WiiU, iPad – with cross-compatibility between each one. Hey, we said dreams.
"The game is actually really well-suited for this, because there's no advantage to mouse and keyboard over controller, which is not true for any other real-time player-skill game I know about," Hecker says. "But, sadly, the platform holders don't actually want [interoperation] between the platforms, so I'm going to try to get as close as I can to this ideal. Maybe every platform will be able to play with PC players, that'd still be a great help in growing a vibrant community."
First, he'll have to get past the crushing honesty the fighting-game community is notorious for. "I'm a little scared, actually, but I think in-person people are generally cool and interested in trying new things," Hecker says. "I do want to make sure the SpyParty community stays as healthy and helpful as it has been so far, but I'm confident the new folks will be understanding that creating a community from scratch around a very experimental and new game design is a difficult and delicate thing to do."
If his EVO experience goes well, Hecker said he'd jump at the chance to have SpyParty featured at "the hardest-core tournaments" in competitive gaming. He may have to re-think his manual-dissemination strategy, though, lest he take out an entire forest telling players how to make a bug plant look like an innocent ass grab for EVO's free public floor alone.
"I'm not sure how many manuals to print out now...." Hecker says.