Asymmetrical multiplayer title SpyParty is getting all new character art by former EA/Maxis senior artist John Cimino.
Cimino worked with SpyParty creator Chris Hecker on Spore several years back. He turned down a position at Zynga last year to work on SpyParty, a two-player game where one person attempts to pull off a series of sneaky objectives in a crowd full of NPCs, while the other person acts as a sniper who only gets one shot to determine which party-goer is the other player.
"We really wanted the art style to reflect the same level of subtlety that the gameplay has," Hecker told Joystiq. "I didn't want it to be too realistic or too exaggerated, and I think we hit it on this really nice, call it naturalistic or illustrative - they look like illustrations. I'm super excited."
Hecker announced that the newly drawn cast would have different names than the prototypes in the beta to better suit their new appearance. "I realised that transferring the old names would be bad, since I want to show respect for them, so I'm going to retire their jerseys, so to speak, and choose all new names."
He expects the final game to have about 20 to 30 characters with environments that will suit their diverse cast-of-Clue-like appearance. Between that and having to add an entire animation system with a staff consisting of two, don't expect to see the final game soon.
"Gameplay is by far the top priority," Hecker stated. "If for whatever mystical reason I can't change the art at all without totally f***ing up the gameplay, I will ship the current art. I do not think that will be necessary though. I think that we can make a beautiful game both design-wise and visually."
Elsewhere, Hecker explained to Kotaku that the age of SpyParty's cast skews older to better reflect the mature subject matter.
"Pulling the trigger is a big deal in my game, so it [the art] needs to be age-appropriate. And the gameplay itself in my game is more mature. It's more psychological. It's more about behavior. If the cast reflects that, then so be it."
He noted that he wants his cast to look not like "space marines" but rather "stylish people in normal clothes doing interesting, emotionally-intimate things like flirting with each other or having a drink and talking".
You can sign up for the SpyParty beta here. It costs $15 and will unlock the full game when it's complete.