Tells are the manner in which a spy is differentiated from the other AI partygoers. A spy cannot complete their objectives without giving away some sort of signal to the sniper; otherwise, a sniper would have no information to work with and SpyParty would be a game of random shooting. During the game, a spy seeks to minimize and manage their tells, while a sniper is constantly looking for a partygoer exhibiting tells in order to highlight and eliminate the spy.
A flag is similar to a tell, but persists after the spy action is complete.
There are three types of tells in SpyParty: hard, soft, and behavioral.
Hard tells are actions that only the spy does; if a sniper spots a partygoer exhibiting a hard tell, they can nearly be certain that the partygoer is a spy. Hard tells are the most obvious variety of tell in that they can be used to positively affirm that a partygoer is a spy.
Some examples of hard tells are:
- Some red action test animations
- Aborted actions
- The animation for removing microfilm from a book
- Bugging the ambassador
- Entering a bookcase or statue pad while holding a drink that has more than one sip left
Soft tells are actions that can be used to glean information about the identity of a spy, but don't directly give away a spy's identity. Frequently, soft tells are the result of a good action test, which replaces the hard tell inherent in many missions.
Some examples of soft tells are:
- Calling "banana bread" (all partygoers not in conversation during the call can be lowlighted)
- Adding time to the game clock (all partygoers not at a window can be lowlighted)
Soft tells can also be suspicious behaviors: actions or behavior that the AI could do, but a spy is more likely to do because of a perceived strategic advantage.
Examples of these kind of soft tells include:
- Rushing the bookshelf or statues at the start of the game
- Picking up a statue in an obscured location
- Gulping a drink
- Taking a drink outside on the Gallery map
Behavioral tells are patterns that suggest the partygoer is a spy independent of their exhibited actions. Generally, these are not animations or signals coded into the game, but ways the player chooses to act that betray their identity as a spy because the AI does not generally act that way.
Some examples of behavioral tells are:
- Spending excessive time at the statues for swapping/inspection (AI partygoers have a limited time at the statues)
- Transferring the microfilm by moving the whole book (AI partygoers always return books to their proper bookcase)
- Trying to carry a briefcase to the ambassador while ambassador is busy.
- Quickly shuffling in and out of the same conversation.