February 4th, 2019
SPY2K can be boiled down to a few keywords: screen-peeking, quick puzzles, two-player, and espionage. We arrived at these terms over time; in fact, none of them would represent the original pitch for our game idea.
We started day one of pre-production with the idea of a “quest-giver” style game, an RPG where the player and titular non-player character swap roles. The player would create quests and send the other characters off to complete them. Some of my original notes for the quest-giver pitch suggested the setting be medieval fantasy, with a whimsical, cheery, and bright design. That feeling of whimsy ended up being one of the few things carried through SPY2K’s development. One takeaway from SPY2K’s evolution might be that your first ideas are not always your best ideas.
Introducing puzzles and changing the theme of the medieval quest-giver to a more modern definition, the spymaster, were the first big changes discussed in our meetings. We still weren’t sure what era we wanted to represent with the spymaster structure, however. We discussed settings ranging from World War II to postmodern and nearly everywhere in between. The Cold War period had good material there for a spy-based game, but we ultimately agreed that it might be too on-the-nose. It was at this stage that we clued into the 1920s-1930s mobster subtheme, which we returned to later when designing the narrative for the agencies. It blossomed into our CNB agency.
Roughly two weeks into the project, we agreed upon the late nineties era and created a fictional corporate war, fought in the shadows prior to the Year 2000 Disaster. Our reasons were to create a believable setting that doesn’t take itself too seriously but still has a broad appeal. It certainly helped that our working title--SPY2K--was an excellent play on words.
The game travelled down many paths to get to the state it’s in and no doubt would have been a very different experience if we based it too heavily on pre-existing history. The only real consistency the SPY2K world shares with our real-world timeline is the threat of the Y2K Disaster. This gives us opportunities to add in light-hearted jokes and whimsical characters.