Friday, Spymaster debuted on Twitter. At this point in time, according to bit.ly, nearly 200,000 people have signed up. Spymaster is turning into Twitter’s first viral social game. I saw my first invite yesterday morning. Happily, I haven’t been deluged as some folks have. However, the application is very chatty, as many folks have complained. More on that later.
The game is pretty simple. Sign up, and join either the US, British, or Russian intelligence services. Recruit some friends as fellow spymasters. Then start accumulating money and experience by performing tasks – assassinate an ambassador, or coerce a mafia boss. As you gain money and experience, you’re able to use those to buy better weapons, and become a better assassin. And for grins, you can kill your fellow players.
Spymaster has two problems. The first is, as I mentioned before, that it’s very chatty. Even using the default and quite restrained notification settings, it still fills your twitter stream with messages from #spymaster. Several of my Twitter followers thought that my account had been taken over by spammers. I quickly discovered how to change the notifications settings, turning off all #spymaster notifications. Although Spymaster’s creators have said that they’re trying to be responsible about how much notification goes into the stream, Twitter still has a problem in that other application developers may not be as considerate.
Spymaster’s bigger problem is that it’s actually somewhat dull. Game play is regulated by how much energy and health you have. Each task consumes energy, which regenerates at a rate of 25 energy points every 5 minutes. Play consists of pushing buttons labelled either buy, sell, perform task, or select target repeatedly until such time as your energy hits zero, and then taking a break until your energy fully regenerates. Currently, with 153 energy points, my play consists of 5 minutes of button pressing, followed by a 30 minute break.
Spymaster could be made more interesting by speeding up the regeneration cycle, increasing the types of items available at the black market, and allowing more information about opponents to be acquired. Right now, however, it’s an interesting experiment in viral propagation with unrealized potential.