Alpha Overhaul

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Alpha Overhaul

Here's hoping other developers are paying attention to Alpha Protocol.

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Here's hoping RPG developers catch wind of this article..

I've got a question for those that have played the game - are there multiple endings depending on your choices throughout the game, and is the difference more than cosmetic?

RPG is indeed a fickle term. But it has come to mean what it has come to mean, like it or not.

That said, I myself prefer the "leveling up" meaning. But why can't we have both, like with Dragon Age? A deep leveling system and that "role playing", all in one.

Yes. I'm STILL whining about the heavily dumbed down Mass Effect 2. I mean, 1 was shallow enough. 2 was..really shallow.

Choices have REAL effects in AP, like you said.

And shouldn't Lionhead be in the first group? Last I checked, Fable 1 and 2 did have choices.

Too true. Its something that at least, even if it wasnt good, thwey can look back to and understand why it was bad...and make sure it never, ever happens again

I prefer games with good stories on top of good gameplay, it doesn't matter to me whether or not I have control of it.

Sure, in theory it sounds nice, but no one has executed it. More often than not you end up with a bland script that has to be written for a number of different circumstances and then spring board off of your choices to deliver consequences, which further dilutes the storytelling.

If you want to offer choice in a game where story takes precedent, offer a few meaningful choices that radically alter the story path. You start with one critical choice early in the game, and the two options radically change the path the narrative follows. After that, some hours of game down the road, you offer another choice that splits the story yet again. Finally, you offer one last choice before the climax and each one will give you a different ending. Using that structure, you can end up with twelve unique stories, and your choices actually did matter to the narrative.

I feel that if you want unbridled freedom of the narrative, either play D & D or write a book.

Damn, the endless bad press on Alpha Protocol made me skip it, but this article really makes me want to play it.

Might have to squeeze it into my budget after all...

Galad:
Here's hoping RPG developers catch wind of this article..

I've got a question for those that have played the game - are there multiple endings depending on your choices throughout the game, and is the difference more than cosmetic?

First, thanks for saying what I have been thinking Shamus. For all it's flaws, I am seriously loving this game for the exact reasons you mentioned above.

Now, for the question above. . . yes, there are tons of consequences based on your choices. The narritive is writen through Flashbacks, so they provide some kind of framework and then you are plunged into the mission hub. If you are looking for multiple endings, that is one thing, but the best part about the game is that the choices impact you way before you reach that point.

Curse You Shamus! Here I had gone and made up my mind about Alpha Protocol now here you are making me want to give it another chance! Why you gotta be like that?

Anyway this was quite a good read and a nice prodding of the Oblivion/Fallout 3 "Freedom is Everything" types. Hopefully Bioware and Bethesda ARE paying attention to AP and what it tried to do, because really it can only better the RPG genre and the gaming industry as a whole.

This is why I love you, Shamus.

If one of my players decided their character was going to retire from adventuring and open up a unicycle repair shop, then I don't think I'd want to keep running a week-to-week simulation of their shop and roleplay a bunch of unicycle customers for them.

You obviously haven't freeformed then.

I also feel this has relevance.

Damnit, now I, too, will have to reconsider my decision to skip Alpha Protocol. Maybe I'll just hold off long enough to see if they throw out a patch and then dive in...

He's completely right. I'm on my third run of Alpha Protocol and I know that even when this is finished, I will not have seen everything.

Onyx Oblivion:

That said, I myself prefer the "leveling up" meaning. But why can't we have both, like with Dragon Age? A deep leveling system and that "role playing", all in one.

Eh, I never really considered Dragon Age's system deep. But then I'm holding it against older systems like Fallout and Arcanum; the former being fairly diverse yet easily comprehensible and the latter being tantalizingly restrictive for all it offered.

DeadlyYellow:

Onyx Oblivion:

That said, I myself prefer the "leveling up" meaning. But why can't we have both, like with Dragon Age? A deep leveling system and that "role playing", all in one.

Eh, I never really considered Dragon Age's system deep. But then I'm holding it against older systems like Fallout and Arcanum; the former being fairly diverse yet easily comprehensible and the latter being tantalizingly restrictive for all it offered.

True enough. But Dragon Age is clearly an RPG by either of the two definitions. It's got more depth in it than Oblivion/Morrowind/Fallout 3/Mass Effect/Mass Effect 2/Fable/Fable 2, does it not?

Well, maybe not Morrowind...Maybe.

I wrote something like this in the review I put up on the "User Review" section of the forums. Though not so indepth or so eloquently. I wonder why so many professional reviewers fail to mention this amazing aspect of the game.

So many games say they have choices and consequences, but they only really have choices. The consequence is usually just a change in the immediate dialog.

Anyway, I completely agree with everything in the article.

Edit: I just realized it sounds like I'm being lame and trying to advertise my review. That was not my intention. I didn't even put a link to it.

You're in luck Shamus: Obsidian announced that they're working on a patch for AP.

Here's the link: http://www.gamebanshee.com/news/98401-gb-feature-obsidians-plans-for-alpha-protocol-patches-and-dlc.html

Onyx Oblivion:
True enough. But Dragon Age is clearly an RPG by either of the two definitions. It's got more depth in it than Oblivion/Morrowind/Fallout 3/Mass Effect/Mass Effect 2/Fable/Fable 2, does it not?

Well, maybe not Morrowind...Maybe.

As far as the systems go yes. Anything with party management offers more depth and complexity than the loner scenario, as well as the increase of number of stats. Bonus points if the stats are interlaced for the derivatives. The Fable series always felt (for me anyway) as in RPG in the same loose sense of the Legend of Zelda franchise. Really an action-adventure that somehow passes into the considered RPG genre without too much fuss. It's probably because the usual high-fantasy setting has become so standardized that anything sporting it just gets lumped into the group.

Hmm. Yeah. I can certainly appreciate that while Knights of the Old Republic and Diablo and Final Fantasy could all be said to be evolutionary descendants of Dungeons and Dragons, it would still be nice if "RPG" wasn't the tent term used to describe them all. Likewise, I tend to agree that we sometimes seem to forget that "RPG" is an acronym for something meaningful: Role-Playing Game. And a levelling-up mechanic and a bunch of stats doesn't mean the player is actually playing a role. (Which is not to say the games that are mostly focused on stat-mechanics are necessarily inferior, but that they're closer to the war games D&D was based on plus story elements, rather than what D&D became, which was those war games plus player-invested unit personality.)

The article makes Alpha Protocol sound fascinating; unfortunately, the reviews have given me deep misgivings. As a PC gamer, I have some hope that the game might be patched to the point where I wouldn't feel my investment of time and focus might be betrayed by some shoddy code-checking. It does sound like they've succeeded in making a game where the player's choices will be rewarded simply in having a real effect on the in-game world. And I agree that I'd like to see that in more games; I've certainly had my share of frustrations with the limitations on some of Bethesda's recent stable. I'm just not sure how many bugs I'm willing to grit my teeth through in exchange for that kind of choice, or whether the "we 'depthed' ourselves into a disaster" story is one unique to Obsidian. I got burned by The Sith Lords; I'm not sure I want to go that route again.

huh. took yahtzee, rebecca, and shamus to change the minds of people who were mislead by haters? huh.

Callate:

The article makes Alpha Protocol sound fascinating; unfortunately, the reviews have given me deep misgivings. As a PC gamer, I have some hope that the game might be patched to the point where I wouldn't feel my investment of time and focus might be betrayed by some shoddy code-checking. It does sound like they've succeeded in making a game where the player's choices will be rewarded simply in having a real effect on the in-game world. And I agree that I'd like to see that in more games; I've certainly had my share of frustrations with the limitations on some of Bethesda's recent stable. I'm just not sure how many bugs I'm willing to grit my teeth through in exchange for that kind of choice, or whether the "we 'depthed' ourselves into a disaster" story is one unique to Obsidian. I got burned by The Sith Lords; I'm not sure I want to go that route again.

I don't know about you but Sith Lords was a debacle because it was unfinished story-wise not because of its gameplay bugs.

There are some minor bugs in Alpha Protocol but most of them can be fixed through some editing of the config files. The others appear so rarely it doesn't really matter. In 5 playthroughs I've fallen through the floor exactly one time, 2 minutes away from a checkpoint.

DeadlyYellow:
Eh, I never really considered Dragon Age's system deep. But then I'm holding it against older systems like Fallout and Arcanum; the former being fairly diverse yet easily comprehensible and the latter being tantalizingly restrictive for all it offered.

Arcanum was a masterpiece... compared to that, the very enjoyable Dragon Age is merely a YA choose your own adventure novel. I am actually replaying it now, and I keep thinking of Shamus while I play... a game like that wouldn't be possible today because to keep wp with current gen expectations, it would be impossible. Consider trying to render Terant in 3-D. The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that Shamus is right... let us dial down the graphics, voice acting, and ratchet up the content.

the reason we should buy alpha protocol is pretty much the same as with games like psychonauts and heavy rain: they try new things, in ten years time i don't want to spend my time in games hiding behind chest-high walls, beating up weird monsters in beatuful scenery or do gta in a different scenario

@ callate: you shold wait a few month until you buy they game if bugs turn you off, the game has quite a few and is one of the worst examples of Pc-port i have ever seen(you can't exit menus with ESC, the crosshair moves only after you move the mouse a minimum distance)

holy shit, a positive word about AP? Spot on Shamus, right now you're the best thing on this website.

</end fanboyism>

Anaphyis:
I don't know about you but Sith Lords was a debacle because it was unfinished story-wise not because of its gameplay bugs.

There are some minor bugs in Alpha Protocol but most of them can be fixed through some editing of the config files. The others appear so rarely it doesn't really matter. In 5 playthroughs I've fallen through the floor exactly one time, 2 minutes away from a checkpoint.

Some people reported bugs in TSL; I didn't experience any. What I did experience was much more what you describe: the last one-quarter to one-third of the game was a skeleton, poorly-conceived dialogue and exposition stretched across cut-and-paste world design and time-filler combat, leading to little in way of a real ending or resolution.

But I'd still describe the problem as "depthing themselves to death". They had more game than they had time to finish, and I'm guessing it was the case in both instances. In TSL, it was actual game development that suffered; in Alpha Protocol, it sounds like play-testing and bug-correction got the short shrift. It may come down to the milestone systems and priorities given to Obsidian by the respective publishers of each game.

Thanks for the heads-up on Alpha Protocol. It does sound like I'll give it a playthrough at some point, after I've cleared my desk of other projects.

I sometimes think New Vegas will be good, but then I remember that Obsidian is making it. Obsidian's Bugs + Fallout 3's buggy engine = A game that won't even make it mast the main menu before it CTDs.

Ultratwinkie:
Rebecca

Rebecca did an Alpha Protocol song? Where?

Y'know, I completely agree with this article. There are a thousand things wrong with Alpha Protocol. I would NEVER recommend it at full price, and I wouldn't blame anyone for hating it. Yet I consider it perhaps the most flawed masterpiece I've ever played for the reasons you've highlighted. It should have been the next Deus Ex, and it comes damn close.

The leader of Cult of Alpha Protocol Fans thanks you Shamus for spreading a good word about this game.

AP is exactly the game I was waiting for. The game that actually made your decisions count. This is finally the game that made me think 'lol, this game actually remembers my lone dialog choice made about 3/4 of the game before.' Even those slight changes changes, like a Moscow informant mentioning your previous operations in Rome (or not, if you went to Moscow before Rome!) is worth at least a smile for developers for thinking of everything.

Those are details. But combined with a really interesting and entertaining story with plenty of AWESOME plot twists (Conversation with Omen after that boss battle in Taipei anyone?), great dialog and perk system made it a game that gave me more fun than Mass Effect 2.

Bioware gameplay mechanic + Obsidian plot making mechanics = the best RPG possible.

and there's even a steam sale going on right now...

damn you people, stop tempting me! I can't buy your stuff, I gotta safe money for a new pc first

this is spot on

i got alpha protocol because i tend to like obsidian despite there bugs (i dont give a care as long as i can progress through the game)

you hit it spot on, its a greatly enjoyable game and only deserved a few nicks here and there in the score, which should have been briefly mentioned, not HORDED upon by all the reviewers

Thank God that at least the people in Escapist have some functioning brain cells. First Yahtzee made a half-good review and now Shamus wrote these. It is clear that Alpha Protocol is the game if you want to experience something more than Halo clone and I am proud of having that experience 1,5 times for now. Even the ridiculous boss fights and stupid hacking mini game (on PC at least) can`t ruin it.

I myself also enjoyed Alpha Protocol despite the mediocre reviews. I consider it a reasonably successful game, hope for a sequel, and think Obsidian deserves a bit more credit than they have been getting.

I expect "New Vegas" to be all kinds of awesome, because I'd imagine their polish-related issues won't be as big a deal given that they are using an established engine (Oblivion/Fallout 3) and seem to have had plenty of time with this one.

The best RPGs are Rougelikes.

now a fallout rougelike, that would be awesome.

So, Alpha protocol is a pretty broken game, huh? That is too bad. You would think in this day people could make sure that things were not having glitch problems that could possibly break an experience.

Though back on topic....Choice has always been an interesting thing to me. In KOTOR 2, my favorite part was when you first ran into Atris. You could choose to stir up old wounds, and start an argument, or perhaps avoid the conflict, and talk sensibly and good, or be a threatening ass all the way through. It ultimately didn't effect much, but it was interesting to see how things always turned out. Push the fight too far, and she just pushes you off, pissed at you.

Though, I have always held that fallout did the best in its people measuring scale. When you act like an ass in a town, people don't much care for you IN THAT TOWN. Rather than doing a few bad things in a town, and it chasing you all over the place until you "Rescue ten Kittens" to quote from the article.

Interesting times though. At the end there, saying how voice acting and graphics have eaten away at games. Perhaps things were better back in the day, because people didn't care as much about such things.

Spycat:
You're in luck Shamus: Obsidian announced that they're working on a patch for AP.

Here's the link: http://www.gamebanshee.com/news/98401-gb-feature-obsidians-plans-for-alpha-protocol-patches-and-dlc.html

At least they'll be able to actually release a patch this time. When they made KOTOR 2 and had to cut content, they went and asked Lucasarts if they could release the content in a large patch, but the fuckheads refused to let it happen.

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