Iron Tower Studio ForumsRPGThe DepositoryAlpha Protocol design interview with Chris Avellone & Co
Pages: [1] 2 3  All   Go Down
Print
Author Topic: Alpha Protocol design interview with Chris Avellone & Co  (Read 19369 times)
Vince
Developer

Posts: 6739



View Profile
« on: April 08, 2010, 07:26:57 PM »

I've had a chat with several Alpha Protocol people: Chris Parker - Executive Producer/Project Director, Chris Avellone - Lead Designer, and Matt MacLean - Systems Lead, so if there is something you'd like to know about the game, there is a good chance that you'll find the answer in this 6-page long interview.

If you're an aspiring game developer, you might enjoy Chris Avellone's "Kitchen Sink Theory of Game Design and Gamer Perception" lecture and even learn a thing or two.

* * *

1. While most players tend to agree that hacking a goblin in an isometric dungeon with your trusty axe is definitely an RPG, shooting a mercenary in the face in a first or third person modern city produces mixed opinions, doubts, and confusion. So, what's the difference between a shooter with RPG elements and a first/third person RPG?

Chris Avellone: In Alpha Protocol, the genre defined the 3rd person player perspective and the amount of action/shooting/stealthing the game should have. The game is an espionage RPG, which means we present spy challenges, combat challenges, character progression, and attribute changes based on the genre conventions. So what does that mean for the RPG experience? Well:

- Being a spy conjures (excuse the irony) forth images of infiltrating an area undetected. So, you are rewarded for being stealthy and avoiding detection as much as if you'd killed someone in your path. 3rd person was the best way to communicate this aspect in the game.

- We wanted martial arts, which we felt was key to the Bourne experience - the ability to perform satisfying martial arts moves in 1st person is harder to do than in 3rd person. Much of the emotional payoff from hand to hand combat is being able to see exactly how your kicks and punches connect with the enemy, so again, we felt 3rd person was a good choice.

- We wanted the player to identify with Michael Thorton, which means we wanted him visible during the action.

There are other genre conventions as well, although they don't break down by camera perspective or shooter vs. 1st/3rd person RPGs. We wanted the player to use intel, hacking, and lockpicking and have these actions reward you with experience, information, and knowledge of an area or a subject and make you a better spy. We also wanted to make sure we gave the player options based on what actually transpires in the mission - if your superiors tell you not to kill or kill, avoid detection or be obvious, you can choose to accomplish it however you want based on your judgment and the circumstances.

The short answer is we wanted Alpha Protocol's RPG elements and camera perspective make sense within the genre, and that's what we were striving for.

2. When commenting on System Shock 2, which many consider an RPG, you said:

"System Shock 2 was almost a role-playing game. Almost. They had the character stuff down, the skill stuff down, but you never really made a choice, in my opinion. The ending was set; your path was set. If, at one point, there was a moment where you could've made one decision that changed the ending, that would've made it a barebones role-playing game, and a good one."

Bioshock gives you a few choices, yet it's a pale shadow of its glorious predecessor. Mass Effect 2 has much better choices than the first game, yet it's a shooter with choices (unless, of course, you disagree). Any thoughts?


Chris Avellone: Bioshock is a shooter with choices, it's the lack of character construction phase that prevents an RPG comparison. This is fine because Bioshock's not billed that way and I had a lot of fun (and fear) while playing it. I also don't mean the a set persona for the main character prevents the RPG experience, either, I'm talking about the choices in building that persona with different paths at the outset, which you had in System Shock 2 with the interactive career path options.

Regardless, I did not go into SS2 expecting an RPG. What I did get was a great game. There's a reason I continually cite System Shock 2 as a "design doc" game developers should play - it got so many things about the game experience right, it's a must-play title.

3. I'm sure that when you started working on Alpha Protocol you looked at many different designs - above mentioned SS2, Deus Ex, which was cited as an inspiration for AP, Bloodlines, the Thief games, Bioshock, Mass Effect, etc. What, in your opinions, are the best design decisions that any developer should pay attention to before attempting to design a similar game? Which mistakes should be avoided? Basically, when it comes to "first/third person RPG with guns", what works and what doesn't?

Chris Parker: The biggest problem we ran into was trying to balance the action game and maintain the things we think are important in RPGs. For example, you can't have a high action shooter with bad weapon mechanics - so when you are figuring out how you want your RPG system to work, you need to work against some of the typical RPG clichés like having your ability to-hit determined by skill. Instead you need to embrace all the great things about the first or third person shooter, and then figure out how to make your RPG without screwing those things up.

Matt MacLean: What worked for us is deciding how much we wanted the game to be player-skill-driven vs. character-skill-driven and stick to it. For instance - we were okay with making the player actually aim, shoot, and take cover via action controls and not a tactical menu were you select attack or defend - if you can't play an FPS, you probably can't play our game but to try and accommodate that level of action handicap would require making two different games.

From there, we knew we wanted the game to be theoretically beatable if you never used any RPG skills but were just ridiculously good at action gaming - not because we wanted the player to ignore the cool abilities we offer, but because giving the player the choice to put points anywhere means we can't make progression contingent on any one ability - so we were okay with skills you didn't invest in getting less useful vs. enemies rising in power as the game goes on - there's just never any obstacle that requires any one certain skill.

We also decided we wanted only a few vectors of randomness in the action - a bucking SMG fires in a cone (not directly down range in laser beam line) so that might be random, but the damage it causes is not and the bad guy doesn't have a random chance to dodge. When you upgrade your skills, weapons, etc. your weapons have a tighter cone, your shots do more damage, you suffer less inaccuracy running or sustaining fire, and you open up more ways to get super accurate shots - so upgrading Mike's skill acts as a way to improve your action gameplay, but even an un-skilled Mike could dispatch every enemy in the game with a savvy (and determined) player controlling him.

4. Why did you end up going with separate gun skills whereas everything else is rolled into single Sabotage or Technical Aptitude skills? I've heard theories that a single Firearms skill is better than "obsessive focus on combat skills". Even the Deus Ex skillset was a lot longer, if memory serves me right.

Chris Avellone: Each weapon in Alpha Protocol has a personality - while playing, I found assault rifles and pistols suited me for my stealth/suave path, and I used each weapon in a noticeably different way in the environment: pistols were an excellent companion for stealth, for example, due to the silencers and the incredible precision shooting (the tradeoff is you have to get close enough to make it work) and assault rifles were sloppier but with an excellent range, allowing me to remotely target and dispatch enemies with subsonic rounds (which requires patient aim). I had initially intended to use the assault rifle solely as a backup weapon for enemies at a distance if I tripped an alarm, then I changed my use of it once I was able to contact weapons dealers to get the ammo I needed to make it more effective. Once I got subsonic rounds, I used those bullets sparingly to stealth kill opponents from a greater distance when I couldn't sneak in close enough. In general, I found the pistol's default silencer makes it better for stealth reliability.

On my aggressive playthrough, I decided I was going to arm myself as if I didn't care about the whole world knowing my presence no matter how many alarms were going off, so I fell back on shotguns for close-quarter ambushes (drawing enemy attention, then taking cover and lying in wait for them to run around the corner - or bust down the door - then blast them all at once). I also used submachine guns for clusters of enemies I took by surprise or reinforcements funneling from a common entry point. This had its own consequences in the game, but it was my decision to mow down anything that got in my path.

In any event, the weapon skills have sufficient personality and environment usages to make them merit their own skills on a par with Martial Arts, Stealth, and the tech line.

Matt MacLean: "Everything Else" isn't rolled into two skills - the play has 4 shooting skills plus Stealth, Toughness, Martial Arts, Technical Aptitude, and Sabotage. Guns are the most expedient and straight-forward way of dealing with enemies in Alpha Protocol - not necessarily the best way, but it certainly takes the least amount of mental effort to point and shoot. Rolling every weapon skill into one shooting skill would present something of a no-brainer - you'd be hard-pressed not to put all your points into it every time you play the game. Additionally, we have a ton of weapon abilities and if we wanted to roll all the cool things you can do with all the guns in the game, you'd need to make several dozen ranks of the skill to unlock all the abilities (not to mention the iterative steps of each ability from early-game dabbling version to end-game master edition) or we'd be overloading each rank with more information than we want the player to have to track - or the player would find that they're wading through several ranks of this one single skill collecting bonuses for weapons they never plan on using and that hashes the buzz of a good character building flow.

5. What are the advantages of the AP dialogue system? Why did you go with this setup instead of more traditional [for BIS/Obsidian folks] dialogue trees or a Mass Effect-like system where you get a brief outline of what you're about to say? Also, what does the timer add, in your opinion?

Chris Avellone: The goal was to create a cinematic spy experience with a sense of urgency, and the dialogue system accomplishes that. A timed dialogue system is more true to the genre (sense of pressure, commitment of your decisions, and spurring the player to make sure they've done their homework before going into a conversation they can't take back).

Like 24, we want you to feel tense and on edge, even during conversations. In focus tests we've done, it's certainly worked. During EmSense testing (a testing procedure that puts sensors on people's heads, then tracks their brainwaves during playtests) the amount of engagement the player had during a dialogue in Alpha Protocol was comparable to a combat sequence, something other RPGs hadn't exhibited before, and that's a good thing.

6. One couldn't help but notice that there are no dialogue skills. Can you comment on this design decision?

Chris Avellone: When you see a Speech skill in a role-playing game, it's usually the "correct" response. That's not much of a choice. So we made the "speech skill" based on actions you take in the game world including research, paying attention to cues in the dialogue, your attitude when speaking to someone, the amount of Intel you've gathered or purchased, and how you treat other people - not just the person you're talking to. We want you to act the way you want when choosing a stance or action, not have a skill point you to the "best" option.

In addition, dialogue in Alpha Protocol is complicated in that you don't always want to succeed in a conventional speech check against someone. In the spy feel of the game, there are many positive and negative repercussions to dealing with folks that pay off immediately (which is how players have been trained with Speech) but also longer-term counterbalancing positive and negative repercussions (which do undermine how Speech skills are perceived). By the end of the game, there isn't always a clear win when all's said and done - just reactivity.

In short, the payoffs for a response or behavior that would be typically defined by a short-term Speech skill success are often "too soon to tell," both immediately and in missions down the road.

7. The choices aspect has been mentioned quite often and supported by numerous, heart-warming examples. For example, you mentioned this weapon dealer in several interviews:

"The best examples we’ve talked about is, if you encounter this one weapons dealer, you have the choice to let him go, or to bring him in for questioning. And clearly bringing him in for questioning and cutting off all arms traffic in the region and the resulting destruction, is a good thing. But then it’s quite clear that if you do that, you’re going to lose your connection to the guy who’s a much bigger target. So then you say, “well crap, if I let this guy free, there’s a greater chance I’m going to find the big guy. But at the same time, if I let that guy go free, he’s going to cause a certain amount of damage."


Can you clarify a few things for me? First, what does "he's going to cause a certain amount of damage" mean gameplay-wise? Basically, how would letting the arm dealer go free affect my game? Second, what happens if I do the right thing [for my character] and bring in the small fish weapon dealer, thus losing the connection to the bigger target?


Chris Avellone: Without giving spoilers, the answer to your first question: the changes that take place from this trilemma are in boss reactivity, merchant availability, the armament (better or worse) for future adversaries in other optional and critical missions in the Op after the event takes place, availability of added caches, perks, bonus pay, additional intel options, and news reports (which aren't a game mechanic, per se, but they are designed to hit the player emotionally). It also affects reputation from your handler, and from the people you are fighting in your first Op. The answer to your second question: you lose a lot of resources and connections in the region, you lose access to better weapons, it causes changes in boss reactivity, loss of a vendor, and reputation changes in the NPCs involved with the Op.

The consequences aren't all bad, however, and the bonuses for arresting him have different (positive) consequences as well.

8. What are your thoughts on failing in games? i.e. "I played the game poorly, without really thinking about what I'm doing, and thus failed miserably." Is it possible to fail in Alpha Protocol? What happens if I keep disappointing my higher-ups at every step?

Chris Avellone: Just play the way you want to play. You get different rewards and consequences, and betraying or disobeying your superiors feels just as satisfying as carrying out their orders to the letter. We designed the interactions so that purposely disappointing your superiors with your attitude and approach also provided a feeling of satisfaction.

9. In a recent interview with Eurogamer you said:

"...we tried something different with it that I'm really happy about: we had less talking characters, which is a huge resource investment, and we just made them more reactive. I think the nice thing is that rather than just try and dump it into hundreds of different voice-acted parts, we chose a small selection of characters that you could more deeply interact with, and I know that from a narrative design standpoint, that ended up being far more satisfying to me."

This sounds like a very interesting design. Can you elaborate? By that I mean, tell us as much as possible about it as if you were teaching a class. Copy-pasting from design doc is allowed.


Chris Avellone: Class, my lecture and/or discussion is entitled the "kitchen sink theory of game design and gamer perception," and what I learned way back when at Black Isle (groans from class, followed by "not BIS again").

The lesson is this: you can achieve an equally compelling and I'd argue, more compelling story with fewer, deeper characters than a thousand shallow ones.

That, however, is only one of the points I learned and applied concerning a title I worked on back at Obsidian Entertainment before they rose to power and took control of the Western Seaboard (hushed fear from class).

The first point is making fewer characters that are deeper and more reactive creates a more quality experience. We didn't have 40 companions in Torment, we had less than expected for similar titles, and I worried about that decision at the time. In the end, the choice was the right one. It's not just that, though.

Way back in 2010, once upon a time at an IGDA forum panel on story, I was asked what makes a good game story. I argued that a good game story can be achieved with a lot of reactivity, however you choose to implement it. If the story has the player's actions in the game at the forefront, the positive feedback loop is much stronger than a passive story the player is subjected to. I firmly believe that. That was the goal in Alpha Protocol 1, and it delivered, as evidenced by the recent releases of Alpha Protocol 12, Alpha Protocol: Hidden Agenda: International Politics Simulator, and Alpha Protocol: Global Thermonuclear War.

The second point I want to make is something that's largely either given the finger ("what's that," someone whispers, "is that an old symbol of disrespect in the 21st century?"), viewed negatively, or else given a dismissive shrug by the gaming community when you explain why you haven't included a feature in the game.

For example, you may be tempted to ask why don't you include a thousand deep interactive characters? We're paying for this shit, after all, it's the least you can do.

So right you are, you are paying for a quality experience... you in the back, shut up for a second or I'll activate the educational restraint collar... in a blue sky world (back when the skies were blue), having thousands of characters in a game with thousands of ways to interact seems ideal. Great.

The realities of game production, however, give you bookends and force yourself to ask how can you develop the same emotional reward without a ten year development cycle and a two year testing cycle? The unfortunate reality is you have X years, X languages, X amount for voice acting, and X people to make it happen. Your goal is to create a compelling story. Again, my answer is to add reactivity.

So in Alpha Protocol we achieved this by reducing the cast, not only because it complimented the genre (the central cast list in a Bond, Bourne, or Bauer production isn't large - although in 24, the emotional switchbacks among the cast are very high) but because it would create a better story.

Class dismissed.

10. How linear or non-linear Alpha Protocol is? Mass Effect 2, for example, had many interesting choices, but if I wanted to replay the game, the replay would be almost identical minus a few irrelevant in the end choices here and there. What should we expect from Alpha Protocol?

Chris Avellone: I don't expect people who reach the end-game to have the same results. One of our design visions was you can't reload the endgame 10 minutes before the end and hit all the different endings. While the opening mission is the most self-contained to get the player up to speed, what we shot for in Alpha Protocol is "hubs within hubs," and the idea was to include a range of missions in each hub that you could tackle in any order, and hopefully, by studying the mission details, you decide what mission you want to tackle based on your skill set and your preferred playstyle.

If you're focused on stealth, for example, you may want to tackle infiltration missions instead of the combat-oriented missions. If you've accumulated enough Intel and Dossier info on a contact, you may want to talk to them first before starting the other missions, and use what you learn from them (and what you hide from them) to your advantage.

In short, the choices you make in these missions can result in different missions, different objectives, different handlers on missions, different perks, different boss battles with different tactics, email exchanges, new merchant options (and unique weapon options), and the unveiling of hidden agendas.

* * *

Well, I'm definitely intrigued. Alpha Protocol is a day-one purchase for me, so you can expect my impressions shortly after the release and a full review 2-3 weeks after.


Logged
Hector
Expert

Posts: 1130



View Profile
« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2010, 08:12:17 PM »

One thing I don't like is the idea of assault rifles being sloppy.  It's an idea used by many games, that assault rifles are simply there to pump as much lead into a given space as possible, when this is not the case.  If you want to see how assault rifles actually work, try playing Operation Flashpoint or Armed Assault, in which you're generally armed with an M16 and firefights tend to happen at a range of around 100m.  If you can't reliably hit a stationary target around 10cm wide at 300m with an assault rifle, you fail the marksmanship test taken at the end of basic training in the British Army, and that's with one of the least accurate assault rifles in the world.

Sure, it's a game, not real life, but it seems to me that one ought to remember what a weapon is designed to do.  SMG's are designed for automatic fire at close range; assault rifles are designed for accurate fire at medium to long range, with the option of automatic fire at close range should it be required.  If pistols were more accurate than assault rifles, pistols would be standard infantry issue.
Logged

For once we get a game with evil options that let you play malevolent character not just an obnoxious cunt. Happy times.

"Pardon me, good sir, might I take a moment to stab you in the lungs?"
34s Cell
Craftsman

Posts: 477



View Profile
« Reply #2 on: April 08, 2010, 08:58:42 PM »

He said sloppy with excellent range, so he's probably refering to recoil or something.
Logged

"I'm an asshole"
caster
Archmaster

Posts: 2743



View Profile
« Reply #3 on: April 08, 2010, 09:07:59 PM »

Great interview, thank you very much.

The C&C and reactivity is whats best in this game. I will eagerly await confirmation on how things change and different playthroughs. They do talk the right talk (not surprisingly) and i really hope they will pull it off.

I dont expect weapons to handle all that realistically. Some or all are probably constrained due to size of the levels or other purely gameplay reasons. It is a james bond kind of a game and those were never very high on realism.





Logged

I don't know, I don't care, and it doesn't make any difference! - Albert Einstein


The trouble ain't that there is too many fools, but that the lightning ain't distributed right.
Oscar
Developer

Posts: 5543


AoD Lead Artist


View Profile
« Reply #4 on: April 08, 2010, 09:39:07 PM »

Cool interview, quite intrigued with the game.
Logged

"Hasta la victoria, siempre."

"Who has time? But then if we do not ever take time, how can we ever have it?"
Gareth
*
Posts: 3108


Indubitably


View Profile WWW
« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2010, 03:43:32 AM »

Really great interview, AP is at the top of my anticipated list.

Quote
Chris Avellone: When you see a Speech skill in a role-playing game, it's usually the "correct" response. That's not much of a choice. So we made the "speech skill" based on actions you take in the game world including research, paying attention to cues in the dialogue, your attitude when speaking to someone, the amount of Intel you've gathered or purchased, and how you treat other people - not just the person you're talking to. We want you to act the way you want when choosing a stance or action, not have a skill point you to the "best" option.

In addition, dialogue in Alpha Protocol is complicated in that you don't always want to succeed in a conventional speech check against someone. In the spy feel of the game, there are many positive and negative repercussions to dealing with folks that pay off immediately (which is how players have been trained with Speech) but also longer-term counterbalancing positive and negative repercussions (which do undermine how Speech skills are perceived). By the end of the game, there isn't always a clear win when all's said and done - just reactivity.

He hit the nail on the head here, it's definitely my biggest problem with Speech skills. People talk about different types of build, CombatBoy vs StealthBoy vs SpeechBoy, but the first two generally have a lot of gameplay associated with them whereas Speech is usually just about increasing 1-3 skills and always hitting the 'This is the Persuasion line' speech option. It is still somewhat satisfying to see the result but there isn't a whole bunch of choice or gameplay there. Always choosing the obviously superior choice isn't actually a choice at all.

Interesting that they also tested the timed dialogue scientifically. I'm a little skeptical but it generally takes me less than a second to decide on a dialogue option most of the time anyway, so we'll see.

...

Like the Kitchen Sink lecture, I've seen many people make the "My game will be great! Why? Because I'm including hundreds of NPCs and quests!" mistake.

Quote
One of our design visions was you can't reload the endgame 10 minutes before the end and hit all the different endings.

Excellent.

Quote
One thing I don't like is the idea of assault rifles being sloppy.  It's an idea used by many games, that assault rifles are simply there to pump as much lead into a given space as possible, when this is not the case.  If you want to see how assault rifles actually work, try playing Operation Flashpoint or Armed Assault, in which you're generally armed with an M16 and firefights tend to happen at a range of around 100m.  If you can't reliably hit a stationary target around 10cm wide at 300m with an assault rifle, you fail the marksmanship test taken at the end of basic training in the British Army, and that's with one of the least accurate assault rifles in the world.

Sure, it's a game, not real life, but it seems to me that one ought to remember what a weapon is designed to do.  SMG's are designed for automatic fire at close range; assault rifles are designed for accurate fire at medium to long range, with the option of automatic fire at close range should it be required.  If pistols were more accurate than assault rifles, pistols would be standard infantry issue.

Sure, but it's an abstraction in order to make gameplay interesting. Take AoD and its weapon traits. Each weapon has unique traits so that different builds are interesting but real world weapons aren't that distinct. You can knock people down by beating on them with a heavy sword, for example, if they are off-balance. But it makes the gameplay more fun to design them in way such that different weapon types make for more distinctive gameplay.

Simply designing guns so that the difference is about range, when most shooting gameplay in a game is going to take place in the near-medium range, isn't very distinctive.
Logged

“The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.” - George Bernard Shaw

My blog
Tuomas
Craftsman

Posts: 377



View Profile
« Reply #6 on: April 09, 2010, 04:38:31 AM »

Great questions, great answers.

He hit the nail on the head here, it's definitely my biggest problem with Speech skills. People talk about different types of build, CombatBoy vs StealthBoy vs SpeechBoy, but the first two generally have a lot of gameplay associated with them whereas Speech is usually just about increasing 1-3 skills and always hitting the 'This is the Persuasion line' speech option. It is still somewhat satisfying to see the result but there isn't a whole bunch of choice or gameplay there. Always choosing the obviously superior choice isn't actually a choice at all.

In my opinion Speech skills should only help the player character to make convincing arguments for NPCs to consider. It should be up to the player to choose the arguments he wants to make. Different arguments should also lead to different outcomes so that there wouldn't be right and wrong dialogue lines. To make convincing arguments the PC should be very knowledgeable of the world and its people, which would encourage the player to explore the game world, talk to people, uncover ancient lore etc.
Logged
Starwars
*
Posts: 1221



View Profile
« Reply #7 on: April 09, 2010, 05:06:37 AM »

Great interview indeed.

AP is a game that is normally not really spot on on my "to buy" radar, but from what they're saying, I think AP seems like a better *action-RPG* than most. Most of the time I think action-RPGs suffer too much from being right in the middle of RPG and shooter but AP seems to tilt things a bit differently. For example, I normally don't like "stance systems" but I think the addition of the timer makes all the sense in the world for the type of design they're going for. It's really interesting that they decided to test it as well.

One worry that is mentioned here is that you can dispatch enemies without skill. At the same time, one of the previews (was it a Eurogamer one?) said that you were really uneffective in skills that you hadn't put points in so maybe it'll be alright anyways. I really don't want it to be like Fallout 3, where I could easily play through most of the game easily using a Laser Rifle even though I had put no points in Energy Weapons.

The bit about speech skills and whatnot is also really interesting. I've always loved the idea of reading up on dossiers and being able to use that information against your adversaries, I really hope that is implemented in a satisfactory way.
Logged

Vince: "We strongly believe that the hardcore player doesn't want to be loved, but wants to be kicked in the balls and then kneed in the face."

Check out some of my home-recordings: http://www.youtube.com/user/Starwars83/videos?flow=grid&view=0
fastpunk
Apprentice

Posts: 82



View Profile
« Reply #8 on: April 09, 2010, 05:17:49 AM »

This was a good read. It's one of the reasons I come to ITS, VD's interviews always deliver.

Every aspect of the game that was covered here seems to have a sound design decision behind it. Which is encouraging. But there are two aspect which were not covered: minigames and the activated abilities. Why oh why do we have to go through idiotic minigames to hack a computer, or unlock a door?! They listed Bloodlines as an inspiration, I wish they'd adopted the skillcheck-based hacking and lockpicking from it. As for the activated abilities, they just don't seem to fit into a modern day setting. Still, I've been looking forward to this game for a while now, so I'll pick it up as soon as it comes out. Hope it delivers in terms of characters, reactivity, and multiple-path approach to missions.
Logged
caster
Archmaster

Posts: 2743



View Profile
« Reply #9 on: April 09, 2010, 06:20:04 AM »

the only thing i didnt like that much is this:
Quote
Without giving spoilers, the answer to your first question: the changes that take place from this trilemma are in boss reactivity, merchant availability, the armament (better or worse) for future adversaries in other optional and critical missions in the Op after the event takes place, availability of added caches, perks, bonus pay, additional intel options, and news reports (which aren't a game mechanic, per se, but they are designed to hit the player emotionally). It also affects reputation from your handler, and from the people you are fighting in your first Op. The answer to your second question: you lose a lot of resources and connections in the region, you lose access to better weapons, it causes changes in boss reactivity, loss of a vendor, and reputation changes in the NPCs involved with the Op.

Which doesnt mention different missions opening or closing because of my choices. It seems i will be able to go through all the missions regardless of what i choose, meet all the same bosses and fight all the same enemies.

At first look.

Then i remember that all of this is a consequence of deciding what to do with one arms dealer.

So, hopefully - more important characters and more important decisions about them will have - more important consequences.
Logged

I don't know, I don't care, and it doesn't make any difference! - Albert Einstein


The trouble ain't that there is too many fools, but that the lightning ain't distributed right.
Joey
Developer

Posts: 101

Zombie textures!


View Profile
« Reply #10 on: April 09, 2010, 10:48:20 AM »

Good interview! This is probably as critical as you can get without burning bridges.

I'm always a little skeptical about this timed dialogue system. It seems a bit unfair to people who don't natively speak English and thus might need an extra second to interpret the whole thing.

He hit the nail on the head here, it's definitely my biggest problem with Speech skills. People talk about different types of build, CombatBoy vs StealthBoy vs SpeechBoy, but the first two generally have a lot of gameplay associated with them whereas Speech is usually just about increasing 1-3 skills and always hitting the 'This is the Persuasion line' speech option. It is still somewhat satisfying to see the result but there isn't a whole bunch of choice or gameplay there. Always choosing the obviously superior choice isn't actually a choice at all.
Makes you - me anyway - wonder; is character skill really a good gameplay mechanic, or do we just enjoy being 'rewarded' by the game? Or is it a way of obscuring that lockpicking and hacking don't generally have any (meaningful) gameplay attached to them?
If you've got all your skill points into pistols, for example, there's not much of a choice as to which weapon to use when you want to take something down; you'd make a mess with rifles and hand-to-hand, so pistol it is and pistol it must be. That choice was made before you oversaw this specific situation.
Persuasion in Mass Effect or Vampire was ridiculous; hit the coloured option and you're guaranteed a win. But Fallout or Arcanum made no distinction between regular and persuasion lines and you had to dig them out yourself - Arcanum's end boss was particularly hard to convince - and in that sense, I don't see it as any less player-skill based than having put character-skills into pistols and having to aim to actually use it.

By which I wonder, why not leave all options open and have the decision-making happen on the battlefield, tailored to the specific situation, instead of in a character sheet?
« Last Edit: April 09, 2010, 04:04:59 PM by Joey » Logged
Wrath of Dagon
Archmaster

Posts: 2091



View Profile
« Reply #11 on: April 09, 2010, 12:42:39 PM »

The reactivity they're talking about will work well if it's clear which choices of the PC produced the observed result, and the result flows logically from the choices, even if the result is unexpected (see Alistair's end game behavior in DAO on how not to do it).
Logged

Secondly--MURDER? Merely because I had planned the duel and provoked the quarrel! Never had I heard anything so preposterous.
Ellorien
Master

Posts: 1584


Mindflayer


View Profile
« Reply #12 on: April 09, 2010, 12:51:02 PM »

First, I have to say I will buy this game because I don’t care how any game is classified, as long as it is not completely linear, not party-based, have a good story and fun RT combat. A healthy dose of collar-grabbing and cool ‘splosions is a plus.  Smile

However, if someone is still entertaining any illusions as to what kind of RPG Alpha Protocol is going to be, it is advisable to look past the camouflaging PR fluff and irrelevant references to the old games and re-read what the esteemed devs are actually saying about their new game.

Quote
Chris Parker: The biggest problem we ran into was trying to balance the action game and maintain the things we think are important in RPGs.

So, what is important in [action] RPGs for Mr. Parker?

Quote
For example, you can't have a high action shooter with bad weapon mechanics - so when you are figuring out how you want your RPG system to work, you need to work against some of the typical RPG clichés like having your ability to-hit determined by skill. Instead you need to embrace all the great things about the first or third person shooter, and then figure out how to make your RPG without screwing those things up.

So, first of all, when a designer is… um… shooting for a high action shooter, good weapon mechanics are important. Right.
They should have stopped right there, without bringing up the embarrassing argument about “typical RPG clichés” because “ability to-hit determined by skill” is not a cliché, it is a vital part of combat mechanics in RPG. I don’t understand how he can call this “cliché” one must work against.  So, does he imply that “all the great things about the shooter” are not clichés? Oh, wait, my bad: of course these “great things” they embrace are not typical RPG clichés. Of course! What was I thinking?

Quote
Matt MacLean: if you can't play an FPS, you probably can't play our game but to try and accommodate that level of action handicap would require making two different games.

I suppose since the game is made by the sacred cow Obsidian, player-driven (player's-manual-dexterity driven) RT combat in “RPG” is now alright. Amen.

Quote
From there, we knew we wanted the game to be theoretically beatable if you never used any RPG skills but were just ridiculously good at action gaming - not because we wanted the player to ignore the cool abilities we offer, but because giving the player the choice to put points anywhere means we can't make progression contingent on any one ability - so we were okay with skills you didn't invest in getting less useful vs. enemies rising in power as the game goes on - there's just never any obstacle that requires any one certain skill.

Lulz. They are afraid the players would be upset if they encounter any “obstacle” that would require a simple skill-check. They want you to beat the game without putting any thought into developing the particular skills. I don’t even understand why they bothered with implementing any skills at all because…

Quote
…upgrading Mike's skill acts as a way to improve your action gameplay, but even an un-skilled Mike could dispatch every enemy in the game with a savvy (and determined) player controlling him.

Sure thing.

Quote
Chris Avellone: When you see a Speech skill in a role-playing game, it's usually the "correct" response. That's not much of a choice. So we made the "speech skill" based on actions you take in the game world including research, paying attention to cues in the dialogue, your attitude when speaking to someone, the amount of Intel you've gathered or purchased, and how you treat other people - not just the person you're talking to. We want you to act the way you want when choosing a stance or action, not have a skill point you to the "best" option.

In addition, dialogue in Alpha Protocol is complicated in that you don't always want to succeed in a conventional speech check against someone.

That’s a bit unclear. Do I really have any choice in a dialogue except deciding on my general tone -- being apologetic or intimidating on cue? Does it really matter to pay attention? I already realize there is no danger of failing whatsoever (no personality stats, no real speech-checks, not even paragon/renegade scales) and the “choice” just leads to better/worse loot, better/worse bonus, better/worse equipped enemy, this perk/that perk availability down the road etc.  So, I am clicking on my “mood” of choice. What’s next?
Does Mr. Avellone really mean the AI will determine how much Mike knows about the particular situation and, based on the amount and quality of intel, his “suave” line will be different each time? Is it possible to miss some info or to be misled by disinformation (which would have been awesome)?
I would be really interested in the answer.

Quote
we want you to feel tense and on edge, even during conversations. In focus tests we've done, it's certainly worked. During EmSense testing (a testing procedure that puts sensors on people's heads, then tracks their brainwaves during playtests) the amount of engagement the player had during a dialogue in Alpha Protocol was comparable to a combat sequence, something other RPGs hadn't exhibited before, and that's a good thing.
He probably means "stress level". Yeah, timed minigames tend to produce this effect.

Quote
The first point is making fewer characters that are deeper and more reactive creates a more quality experience.
Absolutely.

Quote
Chris Avellone: I don't expect people who reach the end-game to have the same results.
Excellent, if that means something other than better/worse loot or reputation with a vendor.


« Last Edit: April 09, 2010, 12:55:25 PM by Ellorien » Logged

μολὼν λαβέ
One Wolf
Archmaster

Posts: 2226


View Profile
« Reply #13 on: April 09, 2010, 01:24:32 PM »

Quote
EmSense testing (a testing procedure that puts sensors on people's heads, then tracks their brainwaves during playtests) the amount of engagement the player had during a dialogue in Alpha Protocol was comparable to a combat sequence

I'd like to mess around with one of those.
Logged

"He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man."
quasimodo
*
Posts: 424


View Profile
« Reply #14 on: April 09, 2010, 03:16:25 PM »

"Matt MacLean: What worked for us is deciding how much we wanted the game to be player-skill-driven vs. character-skill-driven and stick to it. For instance - we were okay with making the player actually aim, shoot, and take cover via action controls and not a tactical menu were you select attack or defend - if you can't play an FPS, you probably can't play our game but to try and accommodate that level of action handicap would require making two different games."





Oh well.  There will be other games.
Logged
Pages: [1] 2 3  All   Go Up
Print
Jump to: