Obsidian Explain Alpha Protocol

By Jim Rossignol on April 4th, 2009 at 10:32 am.


I just want to echo John’s sentiments regarding Alpha Protocol: the forthcoming modern-day spy RPG really could end up being one of the most accomplished games this year. Real-time combat mechanics, branching dialogue trees, hub-structure environments and missions, statistics-led character progression: all set in the real world. SEGA seem to have given Obsidian plenty of time and freedom to develop this, and we’ll definitely be looking at it more closely as it approaches the October release date. Anyway, two videos from Obsidian sit below the cut, and they’re crammed with game footage. Go take a look.


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49 Comments »

  1. teo says:

    I always thought Obsidian made better games than BioWare who just remake the same shit over and over. I’m more excited about this than Dragon Age, but “story is the most important thing in a game”? Brrr, go away

  2. bananaphone says:

    Hope they fix those wonky animations. Grenades bounce like gravity has gone wrong and at one point a pistol’s recoil pushes it to the side.

  3. mister slim says:

    I’m really hoping Alpha Protocol accomplishes all it’s trying to, but those trailers are *not* selling the game.

  4. Larington says:

    Looks promising, and was that good usage of a grenade by AI? Been a while since I last saw that.
    I did on occasion feel as though the game was suffering for staying in 3rd person perspective more than really needed. The interface for the equipment looks as though its been informed by gamepad limitations which is disconcerting.

    And from that interview piece you’d think the development staff are working in a dungeon, or terrorist cell.

  5. SlappyBag says:

    The animations seem very funky at the moment. Otherwise this really interests me, would like to hear more about the world really – is it open world or like dark messiash and just single player with rpg elements?

  6. Dood says:

    “Our combat mechanics are excellent”
    They really didn’t look so great, but I guess they’re not finished.
    Anyway, I’m looking forward to this. (If they care to finish it)

  7. Meat Circus says:

    One of these days I really hope an RPG company will want to make an RPG with RPG elements.

    “We really wanted… action elements… twitchy”

    Yeah, because the endless degeneration of the RPG into bad shooters is something that really *needs* to be encouraged.

    *sigh*

  8. teo says:

    @Larington Clear Sky had enemies that used grenades well and we all saw how fun that was

  9. Koopa says:

    I’ve always wanted a good modern-day RPG. Too bad that usually means the combat acts out like a mediocre shooter. The combat looked like a bad shooter, something I hope will be fixed sometime soon. I hope they can achieve all they are trying to do and your actions really do have consequences.

  10. Jockie says:

    Alpha Protocol seems to have gone from ‘mild interest’ to ‘next big rpg’ in my circle of rpg lovin’ friends, no doubt bolstered by the lacklustre dragon age videos. With the exception of the april fools video, which was prettty awesome.

  11. Garg says:

    I like the Jack Bauer moment in the first trailer, with him ramming that old guys face against the desk to interogate him.

  12. Pavel says:

    Hmmm, if it will be at least half as good as Deus Ex, I will buy it.

    But they really have to do something about those animations – the character walks just as badly as the one in Fallout 3, and here I was, thinking it was only Bethesda who were so bloddy incompetent in this department.

  13. Tarn says:

    Hm, looks a little silly and cliched and hackneyed to me…the title ‘Alpha Protocol’ immediately puts me off. It’s great that it’s set modern day, I wish more games were, but I’m not sure how relevant that is when you fill it with guns and generic Arab bad guys and hi-tech PDAs and warehouse/office environments.

    Perhaps I’m just cynical due to Knights of the Old Republic 2 being on my list of ‘worst games ever’?

  14. Pidesco says:

    Perhaps I’m just cynical due to Knights of the Old Republic 2 being on my list of ‘wost games ever’?

    You should play more games.

  15. kyrieee says:

    Worst games ever-list?
    Are you mad?
    KotOR II was better than the first even though it was more flawed

    BioWare don’t make interesting characters, or write interesting dialogue. The wookie, the girl, carth, bastila are all LAME AS HELL. The characters in KotOR II are much more interesting.

    I have to give them credit for HK-47 though, but that was probably just some brilliant guy’s creation

  16. Larington says:

    Never did pick up Clear Sky, something to consider doing during the summer break mayhaps.

    The main problem KOTOR2 had was that the development deadline was unrealistically tight forcing a lot of content to be cut, including a chunk of character specific stuff for HK47. The somethingawful ‘lets play’ for KOTOR 2 highlights a fair bit of the cut content and makes for an interesting read in its own right.

  17. DK says:

    I love how during his speech about “a really unique game” – they show the footage that shows that it’s quite simply Mass Effect in a spy setting. Same cover mechanics, same cripple-rpg point spending – but with trademark Obsidian bugs and lack of polish.
    They should try to make, you know, an actual RPG. Without all that actiony crap.

  18. Panzeh says:

    “Actual RPG” screams “two people stand their shooting each other with handguns in the open while numbers pop out of their heads”

  19. Tei says:

    @Larington: Yea, that Lets Play is worth read. With all, the Kotor stufff, witty humor, information about missing content. It make me laught at times. I am reading it like a book… and man, is a loong read :-)

  20. Jonas says:

    This tickles my Deus Ex bone in quite a stimulating fashion.

  21. mrrobsa says:

    IT WILL TAKE MORE THAN TRAILERS

    Seriously though, really looking forward to this, hope they can deliver on the proposed systems.

  22. Pidesco says:

    I love how during his speech about “a really unique game” – they show the footage that shows that it’s quite simply Mass Effect in a spy setting. Same cover mechanics, same cripple-rpg point spending – but with trademark Obsidian bugs and lack of polish.
    They should try to make, you know, an actual RPG. Without all that actiony crap.

    Mass Effect didn’t have a real time dialogue system, or stealth mechanics, or proper melee combat, so try harder. Also, Mass Effect had most of its content recycled and repeated again and again, which is a “feature” AP will not sport.

  23. Tarn says:

    “Perhaps I’m just cynical due to Knights of the Old Republic 2 being on my list of ‘wost games ever’?”

    You should play more games.

    OK, guilty as charged. That was a bit of a silly comment. Quite clearly there are vast swathes of far worse games. What I should have written was “”Perhaps I’m just cynical due to Knights of the Old Republic 2 being on my ‘biggest waste of potential’ list?”

    It’s by no means a ‘worst game ever’ candidate, but it is one of the biggest missed opportunities I’ve encountered.

    Worst games ever-list?
    Are you mad?
    KotOR II was better than the first even though it was more flawed

    I’d say that anything good in KotOR2 was due to it using the same general systems as KotOR1, most of which were still just as fun.

    On top of that they brought a rambling plot, bizarre difficulty spikes and patronising and tediously verbose dialogue. All the intriguing themes and questions are hammered home in an embarassing fashion that treats the player like an idiot, and it all comes across like the philosophy of a 12 year old.

    KotOR2 didn’t have conversations, it had lectures.

  24. tmp says:

    it all comes across like the philosophy of a 12 year old.

    KotOR2 didn’t have conversations, it had lectures.

    Sounds like it captured the spirit of Star Wars perfectly, then.

  25. Rei Onryou says:

    This has risen up my list of interest and is even above Dragon Age in terms of RPGs. The devs sold it to me more than the footage. Grenade thrown and doesn’t bounce, then bad guy doesn’t react to it (until it kills him) and stupidly fast melee movements worry me, but if Sega are giving them the time, I have high hopes. October (or similar month) = the month of RPGs?

  26. Serenegoose says:

    it looks like a lot of fun to me but they’re TRAILERING IT WRONG. they done exactly the thing that fallout 3 done that made me worry. Show me how your dialogue system works prettttty please. Show me that it isn’t dodgily written trash, show me that the ‘moral choices’ are more interesting and deep than completely good or completely petty (evil being too strong a word for most RPG dialogue). RPG players need to be shown that stuff working well before trying to drown the game in ‘awesome action scenes.’ They might well be, and I’m certainly really interested in the game, I just wish that RPGs would remember not to market themselves as the next big FPS. >>

  27. MetalCircus says:

    I have to agree with the characters in Kotor. They were fucking boring. Kotor II was far more interesting as far as characters are concerned. Also, did I see a Feargus in the interview piece? As in the fallout guy? Im looking forward to this

  28. Tarn says:

    Yeah, Serenegoose’s got it right. Everything the devs were saying sounded extremely interesting, even Deus Exy, but the video itself was showing a generic actioner with sub-par graphics.

    Given that the action doesn’t look great (even if it might be fun to play) and the graphics aren’t its strong point, you’d think they’d focus more on the game’s unique points.

  29. Chaz says:

    I’m rather looking forward to this one. It makes me think of Project IGI when I see the vids of it. Although obviously a really cool next gen evolution of it.

  30. tmp says:

    show me that the ‘moral choices’ are more interesting and deep than completely good or completely petty

    They don’t have the ‘moral choices’ from what i’ve read. The player selects if they want to respond in “aggressive”, “professional” or “suave” manner, bit like in the old Tex Murphy games.

  31. ohnoabear says:

    Well, the combat and graphics look pretty lackluster, but that’s fine. I don’t need more entertaining ways to kill people: I need worthwhile narrative and lovingly written dialogue trees.

    Hopefully the reason the combat looks a bit crummy is because they’re focusing on the things that truly matter, like dialogue and RPG mechanics. Given the developer’s pedigree, I think I have good reason to hope that.

  32. pilouuuu says:

    I don’t care the primitive graphics. They remind me a bit of KOTOR, which isn’t really bad, just dated.

    What I really want is great story, good dialogues, relevant choices which have repercutions, multiple endings, good missions, interesting characters and fun gameplay.

    If these game fulfills our needs in that, then it’ll be 2009 GOTY.

    It’s nice that they are not following the path of most games nowadays which are:

    - generic
    - dumbed down
    - shallow
    - fantasy or sci-fi
    - have dull gameplay
    - console-ish

    Hopefully we’ll have a new Fallout 2 or Deux Ex here and hopefully Obsidian will be allowed to finish their game now.

  33. caesarbear says:

    I guess this game is going to be “spy” in the sense of killing foreigners, instead of “spy” in the sense of solving mysteries. Doesn’t seem to have a single element of problem solving in the gameplay vids.

    PC spy games used to be somewhat popular and there are some really great classics. Alpha Protocol just looks like yet another console action RPG where you mindlessly follow a story line. I was hoping there would be some sort of process of investigation like in older games.

  34. drewski says:

    Difficulty spikes? in KotOR II? Are you freaking kidding me? I could have finished it with my main character soloing the whole way through. The combat was snoozefestingly easy.

    As it should be in an RPG.

    And KotOR II > KotOR by the same margin that Deus Ex > Deus Ex 2.

    I don’t play RPGs for animation so I couldn’t give a rats if Alpha Protocol clunks its way around the screen, as long as the character development is good enough.

  35. Panther says:

    Gah. I get less impressed with this every time I hear more about it.

    For some reason it reminds me of Hitman, but all I can think of is that it’s supposed to be a “proper” RPG, which I don’t see yet.

    I’m looking forward to Dragon Age far more now, every time they show something new it seems good (so long as you don’t mind the fantasy setting!).

  36. bitkari says:

    This looks promising.

    Good to see Sega backing something like this too.

  37. tmp says:

    I guess this game is going to be “spy” in the sense of killing foreigners, instead of “spy” in the sense of solving mysteries. Doesn’t seem to have a single element of problem solving in the gameplay vids.

    From the videos i got impression it’s going to be “spy” game in the sense of Sid Meier’s Covert Action crossed with Bourne novels. The “problem solving” part seems to come in form of decisions made by the player during the dialogue sections.

  38. kyrieee says:

    “KotOR2 didn’t have conversations, it had lectures.”

    Maybe, but I’d take that over a bunch of boring sissies having whiny conversations

    I thought the story in the KotOR II was more evenly paced than the one in the first game. If you take out the twist from that one you don’t end up with something very interesting.

    It’s just personal preference. I enjoyed the characters that Obsidian wrote much more than the ones BioWare wrote. I can look past the game being unfinished

  39. skalpadda says:

    I really wish they’d show off the actual RPG stuff. 3 second action clips while the devs sit and say “choice, consequence” doesn’t seem very convincing. I hope it’s just to get people’s attention.

    KotOR or KotOR2? I’d dare say KotOR2 had an abundance of great concepts and some really intriguing characters, but it failed in making much of it, where the first game was a well rounded and complete experience. Most of the more interesting ideas where lifted from the original game, like the failings of the Jedi, the nature of the force and a lot of other ideas that explored different aspects of the world.

  40. Muzman says:

    Oh, the devs in the basement game. I remember.
    A pity they don’t mention the price of shooting the arms dealer. Surely that will have some cost as well (since leaving him in the game apparently makes things harder later on)
    Looks interesting though. Quite Deus Ex-y actually (or is it more Mass Effect-y and the DX nerds will now kill me?).

    Anyway, what’s wrong with the grangde use in Clear Sky?

  41. Muzman says:

    Yes I really did mean to type ‘grenade’ there and not just mash all the letters in the word at once.

  42. skalpadda says:

    Apparently the enemies were a bit too good with grenades, and tended to kill you, a lot. I haven’t actually played it though :)

  43. caesarbear says:

    From the videos i got impression it’s going to be “spy” game in the sense of Sid Meier’s Covert Action crossed with Bourne novels. The “problem solving” part seems to come in form of decisions made by the player during the dialogue sections.

    Yeah, the typical dialogue trees is what I mean by no problem solving. Picking one of the three dialog options isn’t solving of any kind. I was actually hoping Alpha Protocol would be something like a modern take on Covert Action, but it’s not looking like that at all. Covert Action had tons of problem solving. Decoding messages, who to tail, where to place taps, all done under time management. The combat in Covert Action was often the climax or the result of a screw-up, just like in a “spy” movie. Alpha Protocol is looking more like Jack Bauer. Combat serves to unlock the next piece of dialogue and story. In other words, you don’t participate in the story, you’re simply told the story in segments.

  44. BigJonno says:

    “I really wish they’d show off the actual RPG stuff.”

    Exactly. This is the same pattern as Mass Effect as Fallout 3 and Mass Effect. They’re showing the action stuff to get all the shooter types interested, but that tells us nothing about how good it is as an RPG. And if it’s anything like ME, we’ll see a bunch of reviews telling us that it’s a substandard shooter with boring talky bits.

    /sigh

  45. Jason Moyer says:

    If this sucks it will be the first time Chris Avellone has missed the mark. I’m tending to think it’s going to be great, and the clunky animations don’t look any worse than Mass Effect from what I can tell.

  46. SuperNashwan says:

    I always have reservations about Obsidian, I’ve just never really engaged with one of their games. Like I salute anyone who could get through KotOR2′s terrible, long-winded opening to find a decent game beyond. But they really do seem the uncompromising sort, so my money says accusations of dumbing down with action elements will be off the mark. I just hope that Obsidian realise that with the action elements comes a greater responsibility for designing the environment in an interesting way as well as the conversation/inventory/levelling systems which we know they can do.

  47. Muzman says:

    skalpadda says:
    Apparently the enemies were a bit too good with grenades, and tended to kill you, a lot.

    Pshaw! To know real fear they should try Shadow of Chernobyl with the AMK mod. That impliments grenade throwing with terrifyingly realistic damage/radius and riccochet-ing shrapnel to boot.
    Throwing one well in any conflict will either kill a whole lot of people or scatter the field of battle rather wide (including thrower and his mates if they don’t do it right).
    And before anyone says it, I reckon it’s great fun.

  48. whalleywhat says:

    I’m excited by Obsidian’s track record for releasing quality, not broken at all products.

  49. Tarn says:

    “Difficulty spikes? in KotOR II? Are you freaking kidding me? I could have finished it with my main character soloing the whole way through. The combat was snoozefestingly easy.”

    No, I am not ‘freaking’ kidding you. I imagine it’s Final Fantasy syndrome, whereby if you’ve played the RPG the way the designers wanted you get by just fine. But if you develop your characters slightly differently, or don’t grasp every facet of the arbitrary combat rules, you end up getting completely stuck at a random boss battle somewhere down the line.

    As with the rest of the game, I imagine the balancing just wasn’t finished. So lots of people would have breezed through it, while others hit crazy difficulty spikes.

    “I don’t play RPGs for animation so I couldn’t give a rats…..”

    I doubt people play many game genres specifically for the animation. You don’t play an FPS or a platformer for the animation. It just happens that those genres sometimes have games in which the animation is also really good.

    So, no, I don’t play RPGs for the animation either. But it sure would be nice if developers put some effort into that area as well! I don’t see why it being in the RPG genre suddenly gives it a free pass to be crap in a bunch of areas, anymore than being an FPS means you’re allowed to have crappy, cliched writing. The elements might be more or less important depending on genre, but they’re still relevant.

    re:KotOR2 characters lecturing
    “Maybe, but I’d take that over a bunch of boring sissies having whiny conversations”

    Fair enough, you can prefer KotOR2′s dialgoue to KotoR1′s. But that doesn’t stop it being horribly self-indulgent. If I wanted to read that much text I’d be reading a book. If I wanted to listen to that much spoken word I’d listen to an audio drama (although an audio drama would be better acted, I’d hope).

    KotOR2′s characters were great on paper, I agree. The game is full of great ideas. But they (and the rest of the game) felt lifeless in their implementation.

    “Like I salute anyone who could get through KotOR2’s terrible, long-winded opening”

    Wow, I’d actually forgotten about that giant, rambling opening level. Bizarre. I seem to recall another very large space station-y type hub that hardly had anything in it, and which they hadn’t bothered to really light at all…so dreary.