11 March 2013

Spies Spying On Spies

In my never-ending quest to be unhappy with anything that's been produced in the past, I'm now on a quest to create a game about spies. But not just any spies- about Cold War spies. Or even earlier, I guess.

See, look. It's not about the technological gizmos, although they have some very neat things, like satellite communications and wire taps, but it's not about the toys or whatever. It's all analog and the world is still a place dominated by men, not machines. Daring and bravery and sublety gets you the information you need, and then you sneak away into the night.

The worst part is that spies don't lend themselves easily to the sort of party-based hijinks that people are usually interested in. You're kind of limited to one or two people, max, and even then they're as likely as not to be completely at crossroads. I mean, how are you going to try and sneak two people into the same place? 

So I figured, "Let's run with that."
Looking over your back constantly is stressful

You play as a spy, and so does the other person (or people). And at the beginning of the game, you decide what your spy is good at. You decide what sorts of things they've got. And you decide who they're working for and where they're from.

But the thing is, that's just who you've overtly working for, because on the back of your character sheet you're writing who you actually working for. And you write your secrets on there too, like what your real name is, where you're really from, what sorts of things you've got hidden on you. And you never, ever show the back of your character sheet to anybody. Why would you? Are you sure you can trust the guy next to you?

They seem American, but are you sure they aren't a communist? Are you sure they're not a double agent? Or even a triple agent?

And why do you keep bumping into the same guys?

Why does your government keep insisting that you work with a guy that you're sure is a Communist? Are you being set up, or are you wrong?

Only one way to be sure

If you've ever played Mafia, you can understand where I'm going with this. You've got your overt side, and then your covert side, and you can only get experience by giving information to your covert source, which means that you're probably getting experience for betraying each other. Giving your organization old or wrong news isn't worth nearly as much, and if you keep it up, you'll find yourself reduced to a pawn and out of the game entirely.

If that wasn't enough, you actually get more experience for betraying each other. If you tell on your "friends" you can increase your own experience, in exchange for making their lives harder. But like everything else, the more renowned you get, the more the other side is going to offer you. It's not just monetary rewards, it's information, it's the knowledge that the side you thought you were on might not have your back as much as you thought...

It's a game about shifting loyalties, watching your own back, and above all, breaking international laws and selling the information.

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