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Default Alpha Protocol - First Review

May 19th, 2010, 02:32
Well, sort of. Obsidian is pointing out a short summary of an Alpha Protocol review at Segabits, based on Spanish mag PlayMania. They awarded 88/100 and here's the not-so-informative score summary:
Graphics -> 80 - The exteriors are not so bad but the models and their animations are far from perfect.
Sound -> 90 Appropriate soundtrack.
Diversity -> 89 - Even though its the same game, there are many possibilities when it comes to customizing your character and deciding how to play.
Duration -> 90 - The replayability factor is really high. You can play Alpha Protocol a lot of times without experiencing the same adventure.

Overall -> 88 - A spy role playing game that succeeds in blending action with stealth and gives players a high degree of freedom in choosing how they want to proceed.
More information.
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May 19th, 2010, 02:32
Can't even tell what platform it's reviewed on! Ah well, we can watch for more complete reviews in a couple of weeks. And at least we know it isn't going to be a complete mess of bugs.
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May 19th, 2010, 06:56
2 tips:
The PS3 on top of the page and the resolution 720p.
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May 19th, 2010, 09:40
Didn't really tell me a whole lot, but it's nice to see a good score of course. Looking forward to more thorough reviews.
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May 19th, 2010, 10:22
That summary makes it sound kinda like what I expected.

Technically flawed, but with good/interesting gameplay - very much like everything Obsidian have done
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May 19th, 2010, 10:36
It seems to say that the game is well made in the areas that I care about. ("far from perfect" graphics might mean "sooooo last year" which wouldn't bother me one bit.) That would make me excited if I could consider such an early review trustworthy.

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May 19th, 2010, 10:54
Yeah, well, it kinda depends on what the game is trying to do.

Some games need to look great because they're attempting to give the player a certain immersive sensation and in this case, probably an adrenaline rush of some kind.

I'd need to play it before determining if Obsidian's usual issues hurt the game.

Personally, I find their relatively inept technical skills to be a minor concern, but in NWN2 - for instance - I think it was hurt by being poorly animated and unoptimised.
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May 19th, 2010, 11:20
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
Personally, I find their relatively inept technical skills to be a minor concern, but in NWN2 - for instance - I think it was hurt by being poorly animated and unoptimised.
That Bingo's it for me. Game looks great, but doesn't run smoothly? Meh, that's the price they paid. Game looks bad, but runs great? OK, doesn't bother me too much. Mediocre graphics AND running far below par? Unacceptable. I loved NWN2 but man that pissed me off.
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May 19th, 2010, 11:39
Bad interiors? Who cares.
Far from awsome exteriors? Big deal.
Great models and animation? Ooo they've put 1 pixel more!

A game with a story, a game that is real role assuming one? It's christmas!
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May 19th, 2010, 12:20
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
Personally, I find their relatively inept technical skills to be a minor concern, but in NWN2 - for instance - I think it was hurt by being poorly animated and unoptimised.
True - the big difference is that NWN2 didn't "work" so well - ie it's problems were functional not merely aesthetic. (Bad graphics and animation can be functional problems if you don't get proper feedback of what is going on - the fist-fighting in the Witcher comes to mind) As long this is about aesthetics or the 'amount of corners' in the models I have no problem with it.

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May 19th, 2010, 12:30
Originally Posted by holeraw View Post
True - the big difference is that NWN2 didn't "work" so well - ie it's problems were functional not merely aesthetic. (Bad graphics and animation can be functional problems if you don't get proper feedback of what is going on - the fist-fighting in the Witcher comes to mind) As long this is about aesthetics or the 'amount of corners' in the models I have no problem with it.
Again, I would have to see the game in action before knowing for sure.

So far, Obsidian have failed to impress me in terms of both technical competence, and artistic/aesthetic skill. They remind me of Troika in this way, except Troika were better game designers overall.

I think NWN2 looked - at best - mediocre and performed horribly all things considered. I won't even get into the crappy interface and controls.

In my mind, without having actually studied the game in detail - Alpha Protocol strikes me as a game that needs to look good and feel "tight", sort of like Splinter Cell.

If it's technically "half-assed" like most of Obsidian's work, I think it will be hurt.

Will it be a bad game? No, I don't think so at all - but it won't be QUITE what it should have been.

Still, I really like Obsidian's approach to design and mechanics - and they're pretty much the last non-indie developer left to cater to old-schoolers, even if I doubt they're going to keep that up for much longer.
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May 19th, 2010, 12:52
I don't think it has anything to do with technical skills, but the scope of what they're trying to implement. Obsidian has a habit of trying to add crazy amounts of content, both in terms of choices/consequences leading to different results, and in terms of "cool stuff to do".

NWN2 is huge. Exceptionally huge. The amount of stuff to do, skills to use and spells to cast is redicilous. Dragon Age was in development for 5+ years while NWN2 was in development for a little over 2 years, yet NWN2 has significantly more abilties, spells, skill checks and so on and so forth, in addition to multiplayer support and an extensive toolset.

No wonder there's little time for optimization. Sure, you can blame them for being over ambitious, but it's hardly the "technical competence" that is in question here.

Edit: I wouldn't be surprised if Alpha Protocol had twice the content of ME due to all the possible ways to solve it (not just in terms of combat, but also dialogues and consequences), yet it's bound to be less polished, as I very much doubt it had a bigger budget than ME did.
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May 19th, 2010, 13:09
Originally Posted by Maylander View Post
NWN2 is huge. Exceptionally huge. The amount of stuff to do, skills to use and spells to cast is redicilous. Dragon Age was in development for 5+ years while NWN2 was in development for a little over 2 years, yet NWN2 has significantly more abilties, spells, skill checks and so on and so forth, in addition to multiplayer support and an extensive toolset.
You seem to be forgetting that not only did they have a complete engine with which they could work and improve, they also have dedicated artists that are either capable or not capable of producing better results. While their designers, scriptwriters, etc., are working on their stuff - they have artists working on theirs.

I agree NWN2 had tons of content, but - for instance - pretty much every single humanoid in the game (if not ALL of them) are based on the EXACT same skeletal structure, and that's actually what you need to animate. They did a pretty bad job, if you ask me. Just look at your character running around - and he looks so unnatural. Beyond that, you can take a look at the facial modelling during character creation. They look really quite awkward - and I can never find a face that looks "good" - and only at best, adequate.

You can claim that's because they didn't have time - but really, are you not kidding yourself? They can't animate a single skeletal structure that's used in so many vital NPCs? They can't make that commitment?

I suspect you respect Obsidian, as do I, but you're letting that respect cloud your vision - to the point where you're being overly forgiving of their flaws.

NWN2 took a while to develop, and the vast majority of the groundwork was laid by Bioware with the Aurora engine and the D&D rule implementation - just like the case was with KotOR.

No wonder there's little time for optimization. Sure, you can blame them for being over ambitious, but it's hardly the "technical competence" that is in question here
I don't think there's much way of proving either, really. Whether they simply overcommit or don't have the skill required to polish what they commit to - is more a semantic point to me.

I don't really care what the reason is for the lack of polish and technical quality, I can only say it's there.

Maybe you think it has nothing to do with technical skill, and that's your opinion, though I think it's incredibly blind.

But we have no way of knowing, and we never will.

Edit: I wouldn't be surprised if Alpha Protocol had twice the content of ME due to all the possible ways to solve it (not just in terms of combat, but also dialogues and consequences), yet it's bound to be less polished, as I very much doubt it had a bigger budget than ME did.
Well, I guess we have very different opinions about polish and technical skill.

Ever since KotOR2 - Obsidian has been releasing poorly optimised and technically "awkward" games, when you take into consideration what they're working with.

Basically, they've been using the exact same engine Bioware uses for all their games, and though they're likely improving them (certainly, they worked on NWN2 improvements visually) - they can't come anywhere near Bioware in terms of the polish.

They basically ruined the NWN2 modding potential, by failing to realise what made NWN easy to create content for. I simply don't think they're particularly smart "outside their strengths".

I think of them as passionate talented nerds, without the ability to look properly "over the fence" and see what's needed, or make an informed decision to either go for mass appeal, or stick to what they're good at.

I wouldn't call NWN/ME/KotOR small projects - and to me it's SUPREMELY obvious that Obsidian simply don't have the technical skills to reach that same level of polish. You can dance around semantics, claiming they don't have the time or they don't have the resources to hire talented artists - but the end result has always been the same - to me.

I'm going to take a fresh look at Alpha Protocol, and see if they've improved in this area. Even if they haven't, it's no big deal - as I've always enjoyed their games because I value their design approach a lot.

In fact, I tend to prefer Obsidian's work over that of Bioware. But I'm not going to pretend Obsidian is not Obsidian.

Just like Troika wasn't about art or polish. It even said so on their own logo

Nothing wrong with playing to your strengths, which is why I was always puzzled by their decision to go with Alpha Protocol - because it doesn't REALLY seem like an Obsidian game.

What I'm seeing, is Obsidian capitulating to the realities of the market, and for that to be a true success, they'll need to hire talented artists and coders or gather enough resources to reach a genuinely polished state. If they don't, they're bound to fail eventually - just like Troika did.
Last edited by DArtagnan; May 19th, 2010 at 13:23.
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May 19th, 2010, 14:49
You seem to be confusing the job of a programmer with the job of a 3D designer/artist. Whether or not a game runs smoothly is primarily up to programmers. Whether or not facial animations are good or not depends on the 3D designers/artists (also on the engine, but talented artists can work wonders even with mediocre engines).

Technical skills will never change whether or not a game looks good, but it will change whether or not it feels buggy or runs smoothly.

NWN2 has quite a few bugs and technical issues, the result of not enough time to even it out because there is such a massive load for the programmers to do when working on a project that big.

PS. Don't kid yourself with the whole "D&D 3" implementation you claim BioWare did for Obisidan. Obsidian no doubt had to start from scratch, due to an upgraded ruleset and overall different mechanics. Their game is no doubt structured differently than the original NWN, so you can't "copy/paste" massive chunks of code between the two and make it work - that'd be more work than just re-writing it.
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May 19th, 2010, 16:12
Originally Posted by Maylander View Post
You seem to be confusing the job of a programmer with the job of a 3D designer/artist. Whether or not a game runs smoothly is primarily up to programmers. Whether or not facial animations are good or not depends on the 3D designers/artists (also on the engine, but talented artists can work wonders even with mediocre engines).

Technical skills will never change whether or not a game looks good, but it will change whether or not it feels buggy or runs smoothly.
Ehm, no - there's a reason I include both things - because NWN2 neither looks very good nor runs well.

They don't seem to have great artists OR coders. Decent, sure, but not at the level required for a smooth great looking game, obviously.

That said, we're dealing with professional people with experience - and I'm not trying to make them out to be bad. They're simply not at the top of their game.

Naturally, big projects and bad planning might be a big factor as well - but there's no way to "explain away" the quality of modelling and animation, nor the state of NWN2 even after years of patching.

It's playable, sure, but optimised? Hardly.

NWN2 has quite a few bugs and technical issues, the result of not enough time to even it out because there is such a massive load for the programmers to do when working on a project that big.
You have no idea what reason there is for the poor optimization. We can but guess, and my guess is that beyond the project being very big - their coders aren't at the same level as would be required for an optimised engine. NWN2 at release was horrible, and THAT was probably the result of not enough time. After a few patches, the game became OK - because they had the time to polish it up to a certain playable level.

PS. Don't kid yourself with the whole "D&D 3" implementation you claim BioWare did for Obisidan. Obsidian no doubt had to start from scratch, due to an upgraded ruleset and overall different mechanics. Their game is no doubt structured differently than the original NWN, so you can't "copy/paste" massive chunks of code between the two and make it work - that'd be more work than just re-writing it.
Haha, start from scratch to upgrade rule implementation from 3.0 to 3.5?

Let's get real, please.

Sure, lots of work entailed - but the groundwork was laid.
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May 19th, 2010, 16:55
NWN2 … oh my god.

It was biggest disappointment for me. Being such a great fan of NWN and Obsidian.

But looking back I can hardly blame Obsidian. Not after Mask of Betrayer , in any case.

Its simple.

Obsidian are great creative company. But they are technically inept.
Same thing was with Troika.

Obsidian should stick to what they do best. Take existing engine from Bioware (or Betasheda) and make their own game with it.
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May 19th, 2010, 17:03
Originally Posted by Twotricks View Post
NWN2 oh my god.

It was biggest disappointment for me. Being such a great fan of NWN and Obsidian.

But looking back I can hardly blame Obsidian. Not after Mask of Betrayer , in any case.

Its simple.

Obsidian are great creative company. But they are technically inept.
Same thing was with Troika.

Obsidian should stick to what they do best. Take existing engine from Bioware (or Betasheda) and make their own game with it.
Yup, I agree completely.

I should add that I think NWN2 is a good game overall

It's not the kind of game that really NEEDS to look and run great to be good.
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May 19th, 2010, 17:28
Originally Posted by Maylander View Post
NWN2 is huge. Exceptionally huge. The amount of stuff to do, skills to use and spells to cast is redicilous. Dragon Age was in development for 5+ years while NWN2 was in development for a little over 2 years, yet NWN2 has significantly more abilties, spells, skill checks and so on and so forth, in addition to multiplayer support and an extensive toolset.
NWN2 didn't have to develop its own IP nor its own game system so all that effort could go elsewhere.

And in any case despite whatever problems it might have had Dragon Age was vastly more polished and better developed than NWN2. Obsidian always seems to have great ideas but bites off more than they can chew and turns out something that has the potential for greatness but is just off a bit. That wouldn't be so bad but they seem to do it *EVERY TIME*.
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May 19th, 2010, 17:40
I bought NWN2 when it was well into the patching process, and had a blast. The game starts very slow, but once it opens up after a few hours, it is a roleplayer's dream. Managing the keep was extremely well done.

Obsidian is a bit hit & miss for me. I felt that KotOR 2 was a huge waste of time. The second half was horrible.
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May 19th, 2010, 17:47
For me, it tends to be those games that are memorable for whatever reason. Of course, I definitely like polished games, and I felt the NWN2 campaign was pretty bad overall.

But I'll take a game that pushes the envelope a bit in gameplay, writing or story any day of the week than a polished game that I felt I've played a a lot of times before. Bioware's games tend to fall in the latter category for me (though I did like Dragon Age a lot and found ME2 to be a lot better than the first one)

Troika's games proved this to me. Obsidian isn't at that level for me (except Mask of the Betrayer so far) but I think they have the potential to deliver really interesting games that do things a bit differently.

Anyways, I don't think Alpha Protocol will turn around OEIs reputation on unpolished games, definitely not. And those things (since they're easily noticeable for anyone) will be brought out in reviews and hurt the scores. Unfortunately, I think there are very few reviewers who will take the time to analyze the game enough to bring out the truly interesting points and strengths of the game.

That said, 88 is a great score.
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