Alpha Overhaul

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I find it odd that people go on about consequences in AP. Choices in AP are just as cosmetic as choices in any other CRPG. There's no choice you make in the game that has any real significance to the outcome of the game's story. Regardless of what you do, the only differences are a couple of cases of "Bob" syndrome, where one or two NPCs die with no tangible effects, a couple of mildly different conversations/dialogue choices, and a few differences in which enemies/allies show up in certain levels (which are entirely cosmetic - simple model swaps). The game still ends the same way, you still do all the same missions.

However, I do agree that the logical extension of TSL and NWN2's influence system from party-only to global application was a good move. The whole universal good/bad thing has been done to death and doesn't make a whole lot of sense. It sounds like they are trying a hybrid of the two systems for New Vegas (more of a town/faction influence system than individual), so it will be interesting to see how that turns out.

Cynical skeptic:

TooMiserableToLive:

Cynical skeptic:
Snippety-snip-snip

Get yourself some Demon's Souls and get over it.

The post was full of generalizations because I was talking about the general state of mainstream gaming.

One game, much less, demon's souls, doesn't change a whole lot. Especially since the only reason demon's souls was allowed to be so punishing was because the devs found a way to directly integrate gamefaqs into it.

True, I suppose.
Still, the fact that your post was full of generalisations made you seem angry and unreasonable, which doesn't usually help for conveying your opinion.
But, like I said before (though you snipped it out) you speak the truth, and I agree with you.

TerrorFromTheDeep:
I find it odd that people go on about consequences in AP. Choices in AP are just as cosmetic as choices in any other CRPG. There's no choice you make in the game that has any real significance to the outcome of the game's story.

Are you sure? People say the game has 24 different endings, and I really doubt all of those endings are only mild differentiations of the "Bob" syndrome.

TooMiserableToLive:

Doug:

Shamus Young:
Experienced Points: Alpha Overhaul

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

O' Almight Shamus; as a player of RPGs (the Bioware sort and the Lionhead sort, though not the Square Enix sort), I would like do know if you would recommend I should get Alpha Protocol inspite of its awful bugs and the like? This idea of meaningful choices does sound very appealing.

And, if you are able to do so, I would be most happy if you could reply within about 2 hours as the Steam sale ends by then...cheers if you do, no worries if not.

As a fellow player of RPG's I'll answer instead of Shamus to make sure you get an answer before the Steam sale ends:
Yes. Buy Alpha Protocol, so far I've had a lot of fun with it and really don't see anything wrong with it. No bugs so far (I'm about 2/3 in, I didn't get it from steam), and the shooting is fine.
Also, it reminds me of Deus Ex, which is always good.

I'm afraid your advice came far too late for the Steam offer on Alpha Protocol itself. Never the less, I have bought the game with some apprehension. Downloading now. Hopefully the patch will kill off the bugs somewhat too.

TooMiserableToLive:
Are you sure? People say the game has 24 different endings, and I really doubt all of those endings are only mild differentiations of the "Bob" syndrome.

If by "24 different endings" you mean that there are that many permutations of the news story audio clips that play during the credit roll then yes, I suppose you would be technically correct. However, in terms of what most people would consider the actual ending proper, it's functionally identical regardless of your choices throughout the game, except for which "Bob" shows up.

Yossarian1507:

Funny. I played DA:O on Hard as well, and I think it was piss easy, especially from the moment when my mage and Morrigan learned cone of cold, or whatever that spell is called.

Anyway, to everyone 'not sure' about trying AP: Try it. It really isn't that bad as reviews tried to paint it. In fact, if you can ignore not very fresh graphics and horrible ragdoll, it's probably one of the most enjoyable RPGs that came out lately.

Unfortunately I didn't pick up on the cone of cold thing till late on, didn't touch the glyphs either. Much of the game was relying on sleep and stealth and booby traps to get by. A second play through definately felt easier once I had a grip on spells.

I'll be getting AP once there has been a price drop or a patch, whichever comes first.

Ok, two things, first abbreviating alpha protocol "AP" will be confusing, because AP stands for Anti-Piracy. (suck on that legal netters) and two: The only problem I had with this article was when he basically said that he's in favor of choice illusion, that in some games that boast about choices it's ok to make all choices lead to the same end, that's bull shit, if you are gonna spend a million dollars making it look pretty then I better be able to miss out on plot pivotal information because I wasn't interested in a certain speaking branch, or because I murdered Bob. I'm not saying they should prepare for every possible choice, but if I do something then there should be some real change in either what I learn, get, or have to do. People were real exited about KOTOR 2 but I felt that, while fun, it was pretty mediocre. No matter what I did I was always someones errand boy, and it all leads to the same conclusion. What's worse is that in some games (certainly a few star wars games) metagaming can be explained (the force anyone?)

Well, now I'm buying a game that I'd previously dismissed as too flawed to bother with. Er... hooray?

I wasn't going to bother with Alpha Protocol at all after the various reviews and comments I've come across - which is not to say that they were entirely negative, but I value quality above quantity of games and I didn't think there were enough good points to justify the purchase. But I love RP systems which permit meaningful choices; if Alpha Protocol allows me to choose whether to shoot or talk my way out of trouble, I have to give it a try.

Which is not to say that I won't choose to shoot, of course.

ThrashJazzAssassin:
if Alpha Protocol allows me to choose whether to shoot or talk my way out of trouble, I have to give it a try.

It doesn't let you do that. There are a couple of Bobs that you can optionally execute or let go in conversations, one Bob boss fight you can extend via a conversation, and one Bob mini-boss fight you can initiate via conversation, but that's pretty much it. There's no mission you can just talk your way through/out of instead of going in guns blazing. The game is focused around straight up shooting things, regardless of your character build or choices.

this made me interested in trying out alpha protocol.

if it sucks i'll get back to you "and make a choice". :)

I say Level Up Game(L.U.G.) would work. Xmen Origins: Wolverine clearly ain't roleplaying but has levels and equip of mutagens.

Can anyone mention how the PC version of alpha protocol is? Is it a horrid console port with mouse acceleration out the ass so it's uncontrollable (like Ghost Busters or Dead Space)? Is the UI a piece of shit meant to be used with a controller? Is it an unoptimized, buggy mess that crashes and chugs along even with a good PC?

We have terms to make these distinctions already

RPG (Western Role-Play Game)
JRPG (Japanese Role-Play Game)
ARPG (Action Role-Play Game)
FPRPG (First Person Role-Play Game)
FPS-RPG (First Person Shooter Role-Play Game)

RPG: Baldurs Gate, Planescape: Torment, Fallout, Dragon Age, The Witcher, Arcanum
JRPG: Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana
ARPG: Diablo, Titan Quest, Torchlight
FPRPG: Arena/Darrgerfall/Morrowind/Oblivion/Fallout 3, VTM: Bloodlines (Yes 3rd person is an option but the games are very obviously designed to be played from your character eyes)
FPS-RPG: Boarderlands, Hellgate: London

AC10:
Can anyone mention how the PC version of alpha protocol is? Is it a horrid console port with mouse acceleration out the ass so it's uncontrollable (like Ghost Busters or Dead Space)? Is the UI a piece of shit meant to be used with a controller? Is it an unoptimized, buggy mess that crashes and chugs along even with a good PC?

Pretty much all of the above. You can mitigate some of it with INI tweaks, but you can't completely iron out all the issues given how systemic they are. Even official patches won't be able to resolve certain things simply because a lot of the systems/mechanics are fundamentally flawed and can't be changed without essentially remaking the game from scratch.

TerrorFromTheDeep:

AC10:
Can anyone mention how the PC version of alpha protocol is? Is it a horrid console port with mouse acceleration out the ass so it's uncontrollable (like Ghost Busters or Dead Space)? Is the UI a piece of shit meant to be used with a controller? Is it an unoptimized, buggy mess that crashes and chugs along even with a good PC?

Pretty much all of the above. You can mitigate some of it with INI tweaks, but you can't completely iron out all the issues given how systemic they are. Even official patches won't be able to resolve certain things simply because a lot of the systems/mechanics are fundamentally flawed and can't be changed without essentially remaking the game from scratch.

Well, thanks for being honest about it then :)
I won't be picking it up lol.

It's still playable (as long as you apply the aforementioned INI tweaks first) and is not without its charms, but ultimately your enjoyment level will probably depend a lot on how much of a free pass you are willing to give Obsidian for churning out yet another half-cooked game. If the mere mention of Chris Avellone gives you a hard-on then you'll no doubt love it, otherwise you'll probably want to wait until it ends up in the bargain bin or at least until a few patches hit.

Its odd...I seemed to be in some kind of bad press free bubble when I bought the game. And you know what I really liked it. I thought that the flaws were made up for by the positive aspects of it, like the dialog trees.

Shamus Young:
Experienced Points: Alpha Overhaul

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

Read Full Article

I've got to say, I really find--and this is as a musician and music teacher--that people greatly misunderstand the interaction of "freedom" and "creativity." Mostly, that misunderstanding leads people to think they go hand in hand: that creative thinking is a product of being "free" to think creatively. I'd like to posit that this is a complete myth.

Just think of what happens when you, in a group of friends, say "Where should we go to eat?" or even the age-old "What should we get on the pizza?" With all the options out there available, the group just kind of... sits there for half an hour. No one wants to commit to any particular restaurant, because no one wants to pick the wrong one (one nobody likes, or one that ends up a bad experience for the group). And when they DO finally decide? Nine times out of ten, it's one of the three or four places the group goes all the time.

Or, in games, let's say you've got 150 different weapons available. Odds are, you'll find 3 or 4 you really like, and you'll stick with those the entire time. And it's likely those weapons will closely resemble weapons you've enjoyed in other, similar games.

When you give people unlimited options, they go with what's familiar and comfortable, even if it's not what's best. The reason is simple: It's better to have a dependably "adequate" result than take a chance on having a "horrible" one. It's also about comfort, familiarity, and just plain habit. All of which work directly against creativity.

Put someone in a room with two doors, four windows, three air vents, an attic staircase, and a basement hatch, and ask them to leave. They'll use one of the doors--usually whichever they came in. They won't default to using the "most creative" means of escape. **Unless you start closing off the "easy" options.**

Creativity doesn't happen when people are "allowed" to be creative. It happens when they are FORCED to be creative. Every invention our species has ever seen (invention being the poster child for creativity) has been a reaction to a LIMITATION or BOUNDARY. Some of the most creative cuisine in the world resulted from a shortage of the "usual" ingredients that FORCED cooks to try something new. Every hero we've found compelling was, him/herself, COMPELLED to be heroic by the limitations of their circumstances.

Translating this to games, we can see it when we think back to what the most memorable boss fights have been for us, as individuals. Usually, it's the one that required a bit more problem solving to do it. That is to say, your USUAL attacks DIDN'T WORK... so, suddenly, you had to find a new way to go about winning.

On the other extreme, too many limitations only serve to stuff the player into a NEW pigeonhole. I call it "Zelda Syndrome," where once you discover a new weapon, EVERY ENEMY you encounter has to be defeated with that weapon. It's sensible, it has a purpose, but it's really only "creative" the first time.

So, as with anything, the key is balance. Just as the truly "free market" exists along a continuum BETWEEN pure capitalism and pure communism, the "creative environment" exists along a continuum BETWEEN pure freedom and strict control.

A game should occasionally take a player's standard paradigm and give it a swift kick it in the danglies, forcing the player to hit a wall and adapt. Most games do this, albeit on a small scale--you're running, running, and BOOM, there's a hole to which you must react by NOT just running. But what more games need to be able to do is apply this on a LARGER scale (or indeed on multiple scales simultaneously), but then also allow for the possibility of MORE THAN ONE creative answer.

The unfortunate thing for video games is that "freedom" usually amounts to "different ways in which to put the sharp/heavy/shooty thing into all of the bad guys." The mechanics and decor differ, but the basic activity is the same. There are precious few games that challenge that, but those that do reap huge dividends--for instance, games with a "Challenge" mode that demands you clear a level without killing anyone, or in under X steps, or with only 3 bullets. These LIMITATIONS are what produce the most CREATIVE solutions.

And how many times have we all gone back to replay games like Portal?

Cynical skeptic:
Using mass effect 2 as an example; The entire game is a build up to a "suicide mission." Which is a non-existent concept in gaming. I'm pretty sure most people wouldn't even play the game if there was any realistic possibility of failure or losing squad members.

I assumed at the time that you could even lose Shepard for relatively minor mistakes. Turned out I was wrong, but it heightened the excitement, and I definitely would have played it had it been true.... since, after all, I believed it was true.

But since most people ace the suicide mission (apart from one or two "random" deaths mostly caused by missing the fact mordin is not leadership material!), the illusion of risk becomes paper thin.

I lost two people, specifically Thane (because I didn't want to risk Tali on what was claimed to be a suicide mission through the ducts, and Thane seemed a natural choice as an infiltrator anyway) and Zaeed (who I thought would be a decent squad leader, since he founded the Blue Suns and all). And actually, I prefer having lost a few people. Makes the idea of consequences seem real.

Now... if most playthroughs looked like this, we'd have something to talk about. This guy spent countless hours sabotaging the game in every way possible to kill every character possible. The fact he had to work exponentially harder to get a bad outcome from a suicide mission should bother the shit out of everyone.

Wait, what? Presumably, he skipped all the loyalty missions and didn't bother with any of the ship upgrades. How is that *more* work?

But its a measurement of everything wrong with current game design. You don't earn anything.

Well, if you said it wasn't difficult, I'd agree, but you do have to put in time and effort to ensure that you save everyone. And even then, you still have to make the right choices in the final mission in order to save *everyone*

EDIT: besides, tonally, when someone in a film has described something as a suicide mission, how often does it actually turn out to be a suicide mission? Bioware's goal with Mass Effect is to give the feeling of playing a space opera, so they don't *want* you to lose, because that'll screw up the effect... they also don't want winning to seem trivial, because you won't feel as proud of what you accomplished. So they mixed some genuine threat in with the illusion of threat to give the impression that you succeeded at something difficult when you actually succeeded at something reasonably easy. But they made it challenging enough that it's hard to save *everyone* and I respect that. No one I know personally who played the game saved everyone on their first go.

Labcoat Samurai:
Wait, what? Presumably, he skipped all the loyalty missions and didn't bother with any of the ship upgrades. How is that *more* work?

Look at the link again. See that little ring about all but 3 party member's feet? That indicates they were loyal.

And to be completely personal, you sent thane on a mission that was described as required extensive hacking/technical knowledge and a guy who may have founded a merc band, but got betrayed by essentially everyone he ever "led." That paints him as a bad leader. Thus, those are DURR moves.

Doing what the game tells you to do isn't work. Its just coasting along with your little hand in the game's.

Fact is, a suicide mission should be somewhat difficult. Otherwise, insistence that it isn't just makes the writing staff look delusional or out of contact with the development staff. But, this isn't a new design flaw for bioware. If you played kotor, you'll remember a sequence about half-way through the game where malak performs a series of "hit and run" attacks on your party. If you didn't faceroll up to that point, you'll be lucky to take any damage at all, and in my case, malak will run in, "die" in less than a second, then run away. The problem is the party acts like they're barely surviving each time. Which makes their attempts at drama and suspense just laughable.

Cynical skeptic:

Labcoat Samurai:
Wait, what? Presumably, he skipped all the loyalty missions and didn't bother with any of the ship upgrades. How is that *more* work?

Look at the link again. See that little ring about all but 3 party member's feet? That indicates they were loyal.

Ok, but it doesn't change the fact that skipping loyalty missions is a pretty easy way to accomplish it.

EDIT: and, confession, I didn't look the first time either, since I'm at work and don't watch videos here, so I was making an inference.

And to be completely personal, you sent thane on a mission that was described as required extensive hacking/technical knowledge and a guy who may have founded a merc band, but got betrayed by essentially everyone he ever "led." That paints him as a bad leader. Thus, those are DURR moves.

Thane is painted as an expert infiltrator, which is something that would require extensive computer skills in Mass Effect's world. If all it would take to prevent him from assassinating you is a decent security system, he'd not have the reputation he has.

Zaeed was betrayed in a power grab by the guy with whom he co-founded the Blue Suns. This says nothing of his leadership ability. Furthermore, the "good" leadership choices are Garrus, who lost his whole team, and Miranda who is not widely liked by the rest of your team.

Both of them are solid choices, not "DURR moves", and I don't appreciate the unnecessary implication that I'm an idiot for making them.

Labcoat Samurai:
Thane is painted as an expert infiltrator, which is something that would require extensive computer skills in Mass Effect's world. If all it would take to prevent him from assassinating you is a decent security system, he'd not have the reputation he has.

Zaeed was betrayed in a power grab by the guy with whom he co-founded the Blue Suns. This says nothing of his leadership ability. Furthermore, the "good" leadership choices are Garrus, who lost his whole team, and Miranda who is not widely liked by the rest of your team.

Both of them are solid choices, not "DURR moves", and I don't appreciate the unnecessary implication that I'm an idiot for making them.

The game all but tells you to pick tali or legion for that role. "Infiltrator" != "I will take the hardest, most secure path to reach my target."

Zaeed wasn't just betrayed by one guy in a power grab, he was betrayed his "best men." Six of them (plus whatshisnuts) ambushed him, and didn't flinch at the idea of him dying. Then the entire organization had no problem with him not leading anymore. Whatshisnuts describes him as a 'mad dog.' Which is what he was. A solo player, not a leader.

What I call "DURR" moves are results of simply not paying attention. The game tells you to upgrade. The game tells you who's best for the vents. The game tells you whos best for the leadership roles. If you're paying attention, the suicide mission is piss easy... but apparently, if you're any indication, "paying attention" is a rare skill set in the mainstream gamer.

Cynical skeptic:
The game all but tells you to pick tali or legion for that role. "Infiltrator" != "I will take the hardest, most secure path to reach my target."

He had to crawl through a duct (something he was doing shortly before you met him, incidentally) and then hack a terminal. Are you saying that, as an infiltrator, he's never had to bypass a security system? Consider that they have no knowledge of the Collectors' systems. They just speculated idly that someone would probably need "tech skills" to open a door. I don't think it's unreasonable to think that Thane has, at some point in his career, developed the skills necessary to bypass security locks on doors.

Zaeed wasn't just betrayed by one guy in a power grab, he was betrayed his "best men." Six of them (plus whatshisnuts) ambushed him, and didn't flinch at the idea of him dying.

Honestly, I don't recall that. But it's irrelevant. They were mercenaries after all, and it was a large mercenary organization. It's not exactly shocking to think that a few of them could have been bought with promises of power or money.

Then the entire organization had no problem with him not leading anymore.

Are you sure about that? Maybe there were those who did, and they were quickly and quietly silenced. The game doesn't exactly say one way or the other. And as for the rank and file, one top merc boss is the same as another. Who are they to risk their necks for a guy with whom they have little direct contact?

Fact remains, Zaeed has leadership skills. He co-founded the Blue Suns. They were a successful organization under his leadership. He successfully led men in battle. What more do you want?

Oh, and did you listen to any of his stories? He led a team on a "suicide mission" to take an impregnable Turian ship and succeeded. Seriously. I'm not making this stuff up.

And as for the choices the game accepts, are they any better? Garrus was a good leader, but he made mistakes and ultimately he fatally misjudged one of his team and consequently was unable to prevent a betrayal that got them all killed.... kind of like how Zaeed was betrayed by someone he trusted. And Miranda.... well, Jack obviously hates her and most of the other squad members appear to range from indifference (Mordin, Legion, etc.) to outright distrust (like Tali or Garrus).

Whatshisnuts describes him as a 'mad dog.' Which is what he was. A solo player, not a leader.

"Whatshisnuts" is a traitorous coward and a lying snake. Also, he might be biased, seeing as how he betrayed Zaeed and now Zaeed is attempting to kill the shit out of him.

What I call "DURR" moves are results of simply not paying attention.

Not at all. Jacob said that the person who went through the ducts was likely going on a suicide mission. I considered Tali, but ultimately did not want to risk her. Then I considered Thane, who I knew to be dying anyway. Given his infiltration skills and having little to lose comparatively, he seemed the solution to a difficult quandary. Consequently, he died, but it was most certainly not for lack of paying attention.

The game tells you to upgrade. The game tells you who's best for the vents. The game tells you whos best for the leadership roles.

As for the game telling you who's best, that's inconsistent at best. Miranda volunteers for the leadership role, yes, but she is immediately challenged by Jack. Later, she also volunteers for the biotic role, and if you choose her, you'll get someone killed.

So yeah, the game tells you who to pick... if you cherry pick dialog in hindsight.

If you're paying attention, the suicide mission is piss easy... but apparently, if you're any indication, "paying attention" is a rare skill set in the mainstream gamer.

And if you're any indication, civil discourse is a rare skill set in the mainstream gamer. Seriously, the previous sentence's smart-assery aside, it's possible to talk about this stuff without making it personal.

I love this article, i played this game when it was first released and thoroughly enjoyed it 2 years later i'm half way through my 2nd play through and enjoying it just as much, i really wish more people would have taken notice of this game as it had the potential for greatness and could have done with a more polished sequel.

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