It’s the final day of PAX Prime 2013. I’m watching the watching the final round of the Omegathon with my PAX entourage.
Omegathon is a biannual tournament at PAX. The event started in 2004 and every year 20 contestants are picked from a pool of PAX goers to battle head-to-head in a series of randomly chosen games throughout the weekend. The competition is done elimination style with the final event being on the last day of PAX for the last two contestants to battle it out. And the games are typically always random, but always awesome.
The final game for PAX Prime 2013 was Spy Party. In Spy Party you have a spy and a sniper. The spy is in a party, trying to blend in with other party goers and complete 4 missions in the time allotted. The sniper is outside the party, looking in – trying to identify who is a spy amongst a sea of AI’s. The whole point of this game is to either try to blend in with computers or try to figure out who isn’t a computer.
This game looks insanely hard. Even when you’re the spy, your character is still kind of clunky, making him or her still look amazingly like an AI.
The premise of this challenge is simple. The two Omeganauts, Hummus vs Nantucky will take turns being the spy and the sniper. First to 5 points is the winner. There are four win states and two ways for each player to get a point:
1. SNIPER wins if he correctly guesses the spy
2. SNIPER wins if the time runs out and the spy has not completed his mission
3. SPY wins if he completes his mission in the time allotted without getting spotted
4. SPY wins if the sniper picks the wrong party guest
We look up at the screen in anticipation, watching this final match. Each player battles it out nobly until we reach a pivotal moment. It’s 4 points Nantucky and 3 points Hummas. Nantucky is the spy and if he can either not get shot or complete his mission, he will be the Omegathon winner.
I start to notice something strange though – Nantucky’s screen has a message overlaid “Press A to control your spy”. That’s strange – has that always been up there. A neighbor notices my confusion and leans in “He hasn’t turned on his character yet.” He mumbles. Wait – hasn’t turned on his character yet? What does that even mean?
Turns out if you don’t turn on your character, the character is just controlled by an AI, just like all the other party-goers.
Wait. I stopped. Why isn’t he playing? Then it hit me. This guy has just created an almost fool proof strategy. This is the situation that he has created. His character is the AI right now. It is literally acting equally as suspiciously or non-suspiciously as the other party goers, he is doing nothing to draw himself out of the crowd right now.
It’s a psyche out.
Now, this plan potentially could fail if the time runs out and Hummas doesn’t choose someone. But if it seemed as if he could afford to burn a point for this semi-high-risk move. Because what he’s banking on is this:
The sniper doesn’t know if the spy has completed his missions or not in time. If time runs out the and the spy has, he loses. So Hummas could either let time run out and hope that the Nantucky has not completed his missions – or take the situation into his own hands by correctly identifying the sniper and choosing him.
But that’s the thing. Nantucky isn’t doing anything to set himself apart. All these AI’s seem to be blending in with other. A lot is riding on this moment…what do you choose?
(It has been pointed out that Hummas’ tell should have been in the Banana Bread. Banana Bread is one of the missions – the spy has to say that phrase out loud to pass the “code word” to another member of the party. Hummas didn’t hear that phrase, thus shouldn’t have shot banking on the fact that the spy didn’t complete his missions. It just goes to show how high the pressure was at this point).
But what he chose was exactly what Nantucky wanted. Hummas in a desperate or falsely convinced move chooses someone in the party, thus giving Nantucky the point and the crown of Omegathon winner. It was subtly and amazingly brilliant and a dramatically poetic end to PAX Prime 2013.
To check out more on Spy Party, just go to their website here. And if you want to read more about this epic win, make sure to check out the Penny Arcade Report about it along with some awesome pictures of the event.