I don’t live on Twitter, so Spymaster, the Twitter-based online spy game, didn’t cross my radar until I got a DM from someone I follow inviting me to join her spy network. I followed the link and discovered an apparently easy-to-come-by invitation to Spymaster’s public beta. It looked like a pretty well-designed site, so I decided to give it a try.
After signing up, you first decide what spy organization you want to work for. I was hoping for CONTROL (Don Adams version), but it wasn’t a choice. So I picked the CIA, being an American and all. Afterwards, you’re a junior spy working for the Company.
In sum, the game then involves performing various spy tasks that, if you are successful, result in payment and an increase in experience points. Pretty standard game fare.
As you accumulate money, you can buy weapons and defensive gear- body armor, etc.- for yourself and your spy ring, which consists of your spymasters (those of your Twitter followers who also play spymaster) and your regular spies (those of your followers who do not yet play the game).
As you accumulate experience points, you progress up the spy ladder. I am currently a Level 11 spy. As you move up the ladder, you can perform more difficult- and lucrative- spy tasks and buy better gear, thereby increasing your attack and defense numbers.
You can also assassinate rival spies, though your success or failure rate is tied to the overall strength of your spy ring in a way that is not easily discernable. As a result I have, thus far, generally engaged only in retaliatory strikes and public service first strikes against those who link bomb Twitter by adding a bunch of Twitterfeed posts at one time.
If you are successfully “assassinated,” you don’t die. You just lose money and perhaps other assets. If the attempt fails, you get a portion of the assassin’s money. Thus far, I’ve made a little net money via unsuccessful assassination attempts against me, but not much. I tend to see the assassination thing as an annoying distraction so far, which is odd since I assume the interactivity of assassinations is intended to be the focal point of the game.
As you accumulate more money, you can- for a price- deposit it in a Swiss bank account, so it won’t be subject to loss via assassination. You can also purchase “safe houses” in remote location to generate additional revenue. So far, this has been the focal point of my game, with some success and a little uncertainty. While risk and payment numbers are provided, it is not clear how that matrix works, and it is not clear how often safe house payments accrue. In sum, there should be a lot more detail about some of the game play details.
But the purchase of safe houses keeps my account balance low, which is a disincentive for those who might seek to assassinate me.
There’s been a bit of an uproar on Twitter over the game feature that allows players to increase their power by recruiting their Twitter followers to the game, via DMs, and the game setting which increases your payouts if you post certain game events to your Twitter feed. Personally, I haven’t been overwhelmed by DMs, so I don’t have a problem with that feature. I only post two major game events to my Twitter feed (level ups and assassination attempts), but I have seen a bit too much game related activity in my Twitter stream. So while I wish people would keep their game-related posts to a minimum, I haven’t un-followed anyone for posting game-related stuff. Yet.
The big question, of course, is whether Spymaster is a brief diversion or something that will have the staying power to become a permanent part of the Twitter experience. While it’s clearly in beta at the moment, it needs more depth to have the permanence it seeks. At present, there’s a lot of clicking on tasks, waiting for your energy level to return, and clicking on more tasks. Notwithstanding the “social” nature of the game, interaction with other players is limited and, as far as I can tell, interaction with those in your spy ring is non-existent. On the plus side of the ledger, those of us with game playing pedigrees are conditioned to climb up the money/experience ladder and will probably do so, at least for a while. And the web site is well designed and highly functional.
It’s a good start, for sure. But the final story won’t be known until we see what else the developers have up their sleeves. There’s not enough depth now, but there could be later.
As far as the Twitter spam goes, I have not sent any recruiting DMs, because I am a vocal opponent of anything resembling spam. Given the free for all (and, candidly, already heavily spam and quasi-spam infested) nature of Twitter, I don’t consider the Spymaster-related communications spam. But I can see how some people would.
For now, I’m mildly interested in Spymaster. If you want to be in my spy ring, send me a DM and I’ll send you a return invitation. Let’s go assassinate some geeks, shall we?