Age of Decadence lead designer Vince D. Weller put his project on hold for a moment to conduct an informative ten-question interview with Obsidian Entertainment's Chris Avellone, Chris Parker, and Matt MacLean about the role-playing elements present in Alpha Protocol. The first and last questions paint a great picture:
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? Thanks, RPG Codex.
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.
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.