After recently asking their community to submit questions about Alpha Protocol and then choosing the ten best of the lot, Kotaku sent them off to Obsidian Entertainment's Chris Parker and Chris Avellone for answering. As it turns out, the results are in:
In the current RPG environment where players expect to be able to customise their character, name them and pick their (class) there seems a danger when you present them with something predetermined. As a role playing game they may not like that character or want to be that character. But on the other hand as a result the story could end up being bland and the character lack depth. There would seem to me to be three approaches to player engagement/role immersion and character design:
* Make the character fully customisable and let the player control every aspect of them and the story.
* Make the character generic or anonymous (eg Master Chief from Halo with his faceless helm).
* Make a strong character and let the player choose stats or other things in the story.
In designing the character Michael Thorton, and his background, how did you balance those factors so that a player could easily (identify) with him and feel he is (theirs) while still holding onto the integrity of the story? Or is there a magic option 4?
Chris Parker: This was something we battled with at times during development and ultimately we chose the third. We were looking to mimic a genre in which all the leading males have a ton of charisma and then let the player determine what their version of that character would be and do. So Michael Thorton only looks and speaks like Michael Thorton your decisions determine his skills, stats, items, and most importantly how the story evolves.
What process went into the mapping of coversation trees and the outcomes that followed? Further, most games either run you on a path of good or bad (depending on which you do more) and sometimes entirely forget that large shade of grey. usually making (conversation choice) games linear regardless of how you play. How well does Alpha Protocol adapt to the players choices and change the overall feel/play of the game?
Chris Avellone: The dialogue system was designed to match the genre, which meant conversations needed to be fast-paced, tense, and to the point. Also to match the genre, the consequences of those decisions weren't good or bad, either, only good or bad in the perception of specific people in the game. Often, what may seem like good or bad options are (too soon to tell) options all the way to the end of the game. The only thing that matters is that the player plays the way they want and get different rewards or consequences that suit their playstyle.