Spymaster: If We Told You, We’d Have to Kill You

Last week played host to the release of a new Twitter-based game from iList called Spymaster that has spread very quickly in the last several days. If you haven’t already heard of it and you’re on Twitter, you will soon.

Spymaster brings to Twitter many of the text based RPG elements we have seen in past games like Mafia Wars and a bit beyond. Like the Facebook/MySpace game, players get in-game currency, perform tasks, buy gear, and most importantly, assassinate other spies. As players perform actions such as tasks or assassinations they use up energy, and if you fail in the latter, lose money as well.

Players can also join various global spy networks such as the CIA, British SIS, or Russian FSB. While this seems arbitrary, the developers actual have currency that is unique to each faction; currency that can be “wired” to other players regardless of network using the current international exchange rate.

In addition to currency exchange, Spymaster further differentiates itself through its use of Twitter’s core function, tweeting. Whenever you perform important actions within the game, it automatically tweets your followers. Some tweetable actions are black market purchases, securing a safe house, leveling up, and assassinations. Each of these can be turned on or off by the player, but every action tweeted can earn you extras such as more money.

Though this isn’t required, it is encouraged, and that leads to a serious problem that has developed for Twitter since this game was made public. Even if players limit what they automatically tweet, the amount of status updates begins to pile up quickly, turning an interesting idea into obnoxious spam.

If Twitter truly is trying to make itself a more robust system, then it absolutely needs filtering systems that will block specific hashtags or keywords. Sure, there are third party apps that can help, but that is in no way going to be enough in the long run.

Former Digg lead architect Joe Stump shared some thoughts on the steps he has been forced to take to alleviate this spam issue. According to Stump, he has had both unfollow and report a number of users to @spam as he has had “no other recourse to stop this application’s abusive behavior.” He goes on to compare it to the same issue caused by the game Zombies during early Facebook years that caused almost identical problems for users’ streams.

According to Spymaster co-founder Eston Bond, however, “[the] Backlash has been pretty minimal. Some people find Spymaster noisy but I’m amazed at how many people defend their tweeted spymaster actions to others.”

Spymaster will not be the only game of this type, and once more of its kind surface, the backlash here is going to compound exponentially. Twitter will be forced to take action if it has not begun to do so already.