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Default Alpha Protocol - Editorial about Consequences @ Bitmob

June 10th, 2010, 21:38
Bitmob discusses in their latest editorial consequence and choice in rpg games, mentioning that consequences matters more than choices. Alpha Protocol are seen as one of the game in which this is done very well:
The recently released Alpha Protocol goes even further, packing countless choices and results into the game and interspersing them throughout. Every character has a relationship scale based on how much they like you. However, a person liking you is not always the ideal situation. Sometimes you have to make someone angry in order for them to divulge information. In addition, your handler trusts you more if they like you, but sometimes having them like you too much can negatively affect the mission. Gathering intel opens up conversation options.

Read more: Consequences Matter, Not Choices http://www.bitmob.com/articles/consequences-are-what-count-not-choices#ixzz0qThOzL00
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June 10th, 2010, 21:38
Good article.

But missing an aspect that's important to me. While I think choices should be available for roleplaying, the player should also be telegraphed possible consequences. Blind rushed conversation choices like AP are more of a gimmick than a thinking man's game.
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June 10th, 2010, 21:54
Originally Posted by Thrasher View Post
Blind rushed conversation choices like AP are more of a gimmick than a thinking man's game.
Well said. While it is true that you cannot foresee all consequences of your actions in real life, you at least have some good feeling for wrong or right choices. If making choices amounts to throwing a dice, it is more than useless, it only gets annoying.

On the other hand people, who played the game, seem to have different opinions about the amount of information you have available before the choices are made. I am still sitting on the fence with regard to buying this game.

I would like to have a playable demo.
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June 10th, 2010, 22:04
To understand what makes choices an appealing gameplay mechanic, you don't need to look further than your average strategy game, like Civ.

An interesting choice, is one where you give up something - KNOWINGLY - because you believe it's worth the sacrifice. That's how you develop your strategy, and refine your development.

Obviously, Obsidian failed utterly to understand this when designing the C&C in Alpha Protocol.

I find it incredible that such an experienced team, has so little understanding of the basics. Especially sad, when they put SO MUCH effort into making all those consequences.
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June 10th, 2010, 23:53
Not sure I fully agree with that. Sure, in general youvshiuld have a reasonable idea what the consequences are. But storytelling only happens when you allow the unexpected, and suspense only when you allow ambiguity. The Witcher is a good example of the former - consequences were often surprising, yet I found them quite satisfying ( i have not played AP, so my comments sre meant in a general sense)
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June 11th, 2010, 00:06
Sure. But at least you can anticipate some consequences, even if they are incorrect. If the choices are blind, you can't even imagine or roleplay, unless superficial characteristics like jerk vs. suave are deep enough for you…
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June 11th, 2010, 00:35
ignorance is the only failure i'm aware of

the game lays out pretty clearly in the training through westridge—there is no wrong choices. also this is an ESPIONAGE rpg and since no other ESPIONAGE rpg has been made its funny for people to pigeon hole it to what they think it should contian. part of knowing how to react to people is gaining access to dossiers prior to meeting them the first time or subsequent time. based on where you choose go first you can't do that for everyone. and like most games where through cunning, skills, or backplaying you can "win" the favour of everyone its simlply not realisitic. ultimately many people play games to quash that inferiority complex we all have to some degree to do what we want and manipulate the sitiuation to our own adventage. even the most skilled manipulater in real life can't gain favour with everyone nor should they in a sophisticated game.

civilization—meaningful choices…i've played them all, including the better, alpha centauri, and to say there are any choices in those games is a bit of a stretch. any game that beckons you endlessly for one more turn is always going to have to be lacking on any depth or meaningful choices that are based on logic or morals.

the witcher was a great game and one of my favourite rpgs but i make the same choices each playthrough despite trying the others to see how they play out. if that is what you want in a game that is find, but as i find less and time for games typically will only get thru one thourough game so i roleplay myself as i would be in that setting. alpha protocol first is unique in that is not fantasy or futuristic so your choices can actually relate much more to your own true beliefs if you choose. also even with that familiarity i often was unsure how to pursue as i wanted to be as non-violent as possible but should i risk befriending someone and letting them go on as my character could end up not being able to influence there behavior. tough choices. real and unpredictable consequences. would suck in reality, but not i suppose if i was a spy. obsidian is the only dev with the balls to make a game like this so far and its only fitting that some reviewers and players would feel a bit inferior.
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June 11th, 2010, 00:43
I'd agree that knowingly giving up something for something else can often be a satisfying choice, but to the exclusion of alternatives?

That's rubbish, frankly*.

The Witcher example is just about perfect- I don't want a little pop-up or similar to tell me what the consequences of letting the elves get weapons, or preventing them, are in advance- that encourages the worst type of metagaming. It's fairly obvious, situationally, that there will be consequences and you have a fair idea what they may be and that is all that is necessary. Either way you get consequences. The capacity to be surprised is a very important part of having a good story.

And you have plenty of indications in AP, if you bother reading the dossiers you can find out very easily what most people like and dislike, and it's an essential part of and point of the story (and I'd argue, just about every good "interactive" story) that some may lie or manipulate you into making "bad" decisions. If you take, for example, the word of an obviously untrustworthy type at face value, or run around executing people because you're just following orders then you don't really have much to complain about if you don't get exactly what you expected. Sometimes there simply aren't any nice clean obvious solutions, much as is the case in real life.

*Fine, even to be encouraged in a strategy game like Civ, but Civ ain't an RPG by any but the most trivial of definitions and there's a fundamental difference in both decision making and story structure between the two genre.
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June 11th, 2010, 00:47
@curious

Who said you had to win their favor? Maybe you want to intentionally annoy them? But if the choices are blind….

Just to clarify.

Shallow responses,
required quickly,
without knowledge of their semantic content, and
without even allowing the one speaking to you to finish what they are saying,

is what I meant as "blind".
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June 11th, 2010, 01:42
Originally Posted by Thrasher View Post
Who said you had to win their favor? Maybe you want to intentionally annoy them? But if the choices are blind….

Just to clarify.

Shallow responses,
"Annoy Marburg" would be better, amirite?

Anyway, responses are sometimes not descriptive enough and devs were sometimes quite off when it comes to interpretation of "suave", but in majority of cases the existing stances are more than sufficient and most definitely not blind.
You just have to read the dossiers and if you donīt have them try to assess the character otherwise. Trying to get someone on your good/bad side is just not that straightforward as usual in AP and I consider this to be a huge plus since it, among other things, makes figuring out the characters more rewarding.

Agreed completely with curious post btw. That was a great one!
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June 11th, 2010, 01:59
Others have said that the stances are shallow and insufficient. How does "suave" connote any semantic content? Does a dossier say so and so prefers suave characters? That just seems so shallow…
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June 11th, 2010, 05:24
Obsidian clearly said one of their goals was a Bourne-Bauer-Bond range. While they don't hit the right note every time, "sauve" is exactly how I would describe Bond (at least, the Connery or Moore version I grew up with). It offers a perfectly legitimate roleplaying option.

-= RPGWatch =-
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June 11th, 2010, 09:08
AP is turning into a cult classic as we speak. The pro and con camp are so passionate! It's like reading the original Gothic discussions all over again.

I'm in the pro camp, so doing yet another rant on how brilliant I consider the C&C system in AP is pointless.

On topic: Good article.
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June 11th, 2010, 09:38
Originally Posted by Zygo View Post
I'd agree that knowingly giving up something for something else can often be a satisfying choice, but to the exclusion of alternatives?

That's rubbish, frankly*.

The Witcher example is just about perfect- I don't want a little pop-up or similar to tell me what the consequences of letting the elves get weapons, or preventing them, are in advance- that encourages the worst type of metagaming. It's fairly obvious, situationally, that there will be consequences and you have a fair idea what they may be and that is all that is necessary. Either way you get consequences. The capacity to be surprised is a very important part of having a good story.
You don't seem to understand. It's not the CONSEQUENCE that needs to be known, it's the CHOICE that needs to be informed.

You need to have a pretty good idea what you're choosing - because otherwise it's just a person with his hands behind his back asking you to pick one.

You see?

In AP - FAR too often, you're asked to make a choice between 3 stances, without having a good enough idea what those stances will actually do, and without knowing exactly what you're effectively choosing between. The latter, because the dialogue is very quick and obscure - and you're actually expected to reply BEFORE the line is delivered.

Just like traditional CRPGs, where you're asked to choose between saving a village or a person. You know, where you know exactly what the choice is, and you have a good idea what you prefer, even if the outcome is blurry.

That's what I meant.

That's what makes it fun, because then you can actually pretend you made some informed choices, and created a positive outcome based on your best intentions.

And you have plenty of indications in AP, if you bother reading the dossiers you can find out very easily what most people like and dislike, and it's an essential part of and point of the story (and I'd argue, just about every good "interactive" story) that some may lie or manipulate you into making "bad" decisions. If you take, for example, the word of an obviously untrustworthy type at face value, or run around executing people because you're just following orders then you don't really have much to complain about if you don't get exactly what you expected. Sometimes there simply aren't any nice clean obvious solutions, much as is the case in real life.
Finding out what people like or dislike through those dossiers, is an incredibly gamey mechanic, that I frankly couldn't take seriously.

Even when it was obvious what you were supposed to reply to gain favor (or piss them off), it was FAR from obvious what that meant. I mean, you could intentionally piss people off or make them happy, but there's ZERO indication what you're going to gain from that, so it's just another random stab in the dark. Unless, of course, you pretend to actually understand their motivations.

*Fine, even to be encouraged in a strategy game like Civ, but Civ ain't an RPG by any but the most trivial of definitions and there's a fundamental difference in both decision making and story structure between the two genre.
Strategy is a huge part of any CRPG, and I'd claim C&C is just an expression of a compelling strategic aspect.

Developing your character and roleplaying can very easily be argued to be yet another expression of your strategy.

That's why I found the Civ example a perfect demonstration, because you don't actually know the consequence "the first time" - because you haven't played the game. But you're making informed decisions based on an idea about what you want from your empire. That can succeed or fail, and you will use those experiences on your next playthrough - but they typically MAKE SENSE.

AP just didn't make sense to me (and obviously many others) - the first time.
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June 11th, 2010, 10:33
Exactly what choices were made in the dark in AP? I'd like examples of things that did not make sense to people that seem to loathe this aspect of the game. Where did you feel that the outcome was not at all what you thought it would be?

I felt a few choices were a bit abrupt, but the majority were fairly obvious. I knew exactly what I was trying to achieve when gaining influence with most characters. Certain surprises popped up along the way, but mostly because I was caught off guard at just how complex the system is - I did not expect influence to have such a big impact.

Like Dhruin said - when I pick a stance, I know exactly what I'll be getting (with a few exceptions, as mentioned above).
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June 11th, 2010, 11:31
Originally Posted by Maylander View Post
Exactly what choices were made in the dark in AP? I'd like examples of things that did not make sense to people that seem to loathe this aspect of the game. Where did you feel that the outcome was not at all what you thought it would be?
Honestly? Constantly. I rarely felt I got anything like what I expected, at least not during important dialogue sequences.

It feels random, like I said.

I can't think of examples, because the game has left my mind entirely - but I'm not making this up in some weird attempt to tear down a game that I liked in most ways.

There are simply too many dialogue sequences in the game, and they're all a blur to me now. That's because I felt the writing was bland and forgetful - so I just can't think of anything specific offhand.

Hold on, I do remember that female "handler" you read a dossier about. The girl who likes professional approaches and non-playful stuff. Yeah, that's one example. Because at first she DID like my professional approaches, but as the game went on - I found it was perfectly acceptable to flirt a bit and be a smartass. Again, just completely unpredictable and random, and I failed utterly to please her - not least because I had no idea what the stance I was picking was going to do.

Actually, I can think of ONE example where I got exactly what I expected, because it was so rare That's during a certain part of the game where a certain antagonist requires you to make a certain choice between a single person and stopping that certain antagonist.

I'm contemplating playing it again, now that I know what to expect from Boss fights. I'll make an effort to note exactly what sequences bother me the most.

But keep in mind that the C&C "system" isn't my problem with the game. That's just one aspect I think is a failure - but it doesn't really get to me.

I felt a few choices were a bit abrupt, but the majority were fairly obvious. I knew exactly what I was trying to achieve when gaining influence with most characters. Certain surprises popped up along the way, but mostly because I was caught off guard at just how complex the system is - I did not expect influence to have such a big impact.
I know, you keep saying that.

Obviously, we had a different reaction and we expected different things. Maybe you think just like the designers at Obsidian think, and I don't

Like Dhruin said - when I pick a stance, I know exactly what I'll be getting (with a few exceptions, as mentioned above).
Are you being completely honest here?

Think back to the first time you played the game.

Did you REALLY know EXACTLY what you'd be getting?

I don't want to make you out to be dishonest, but I find that VERY VERY hard to believe.
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June 11th, 2010, 12:19
Yes, I was sticking to the professional approach pretty much through the whole game, and as I got used to what types of responses that usually gave me, it became very easy to predict the outcome of choosing the professional stance.

Of course, I predicted the general meaning of such a stance, not the exact wording.
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June 11th, 2010, 19:27
Surprises are good, so I'm not entirely against the system they used. In fact, if the sequences between the conversations weren't terrible, I'd have actually finished the game just to see what all the choices added up to.
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June 12th, 2010, 00:50
I'll only respond directly to one bit, except to say that my experience was almost diametrically opposed and 90% of the time I said and got the responses I expected, more or less. If I had a criticism it is that sometimes "suave" was sometimes more "smug" than anything else.

Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
Hold on, I do remember that female "handler" you read a dossier about. The girl who likes professional approaches and non-playful stuff. Yeah, that's one example. Because at first she DID like my professional approaches, but as the game went on - I found it was perfectly acceptable to flirt a bit and be a smartass. Again, just completely unpredictable and random, and I failed utterly to please her - not least because I had no idea what the stance I was picking was going to do.
To an extent it helps if you get 100% dossier on her as you can understand her motivations better and why she would cut you slack, but even without that I think it's fair to say that some women who get turned off by someone coming out directly with cheesy pick ups and come ons immediately upon meeting may not get so turned off after getting to know the cheesy pick up merchant better. And, more to the point, if you go full professional she will start flirting with you first (stay professional and you mention/ observe the change in an email reply, too).
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June 12th, 2010, 08:30
Originally Posted by Zygo View Post
To an extent it helps if you get 100% dossier on her as you can understand her motivations better and why she would cut you slack, but even without that I think it's fair to say that some women who get turned off by someone coming out directly with cheesy pick ups and come ons immediately upon meeting may not get so turned off after getting to know the cheesy pick up merchant better. And, more to the point, if you go full professional she will start flirting with you first (stay professional and you mention/ observe the change in an email reply, too).
Whether or not a real girl would react like that, it doesn't make it any less unpredictable in "gamey" terms.

In that same way, the entire C&C system feels almost exactly like having an extended dialogue with a girl

I don't know about you, but in my experience - communicating with girls is pretty much a shot in the dark no matter what
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