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Default Alpha Protocol - From Script to Digital Vision

December 13th, 2009, 04:15
A fascinating blog update at the IGN blog for Alpha Protocol gives some insight into the process of moving from a written script to the finished, voice-acted, game experience. A flowchart of the interaction with a character named Grigori is provided (although it's too small to read any spoiler detail) and seems to show five different outcomes across a large number of conversation nodes and/or actions. Whilst you can't draw hard conclusions from a flowchart you can't even read, it would seem to nicely refute the famous Sony tester comment that the game isn't RPG enough.
Here's an introductory snip:
Mike Thorton walks into a dry cleaner's shop; he hears muffled yelling to which he calls out, "Hello?"

"In the back." He follows the voice to the source to see a man tied in a chair, tape over his mouth, along with another man - an informant for Thorton in the Taipei hub, Steven Heck - walking toward him with a huge bottle of bleach. Clearly the man tied to the chair is about to be tortured for incredibly important information; yet Thorton needs information of his own from Heck -but he's (obviously) preoccupied. Alas,Thorton needs to say something and what he says could affect how Heck looks at him from then on. Does Thorton hesitate, offering to come back later? Does he instead offer to help, possibly gaining some reputation points with Heck? Or does Thorton go the professional route and get right to business, thus possibly angering his would be informant?

The three choices - or Stances as they are referred to in AP - will come up in every major cinematic in the game. Matched with a timer, the player will have to make their choice quickly to keep the conversation going toward what they think would be best. Yet how do we, as the developer, incorporate what can be a spiderweb of choices and reactive callbacks into the game with relative ease?
More information.
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December 13th, 2009, 04:15
Thus far I've played no game of such nature that ever made me want to play through again.
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December 13th, 2009, 04:24
I have and do all the time. Normally not right after I played it, but give it a year or so and I'll replay the better games in my library. I'll try out different paths than I did the first time through. Still have a hard time being evil, but sometimes I'll try to go down that path.

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December 13th, 2009, 04:39
Ultimately, your probably a minority.

For the rest of us its just waste.

And many people probably won't even finish the game.
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December 13th, 2009, 05:06
What specifically is a waste? Choices?

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December 13th, 2009, 11:21
And many people probably won't even finish the game.
Maybe in the future we will not only have games with no choices, we will also get games that end after half the plot because it wasn't worth it to finish the game with all these gamers who don't finish the game.

Anyways, choices is one of the most important features in RPGs for me. Not only because of replayability (though, that is part of it), but because you can often tell on the first playthrough as well if the developers spent time in making different options and choices viable. And thus that increases the level of player interactivity and the feeling of "hey, this game is tailored to whatever character I'm choosing to play".
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December 13th, 2009, 15:17
The level of choice and consequences is one of the reasons I'm interested in Alpha Protocol. They seem to have put a lot of very concentrated effort into developing these aspects.

As others have said, having choices is an integral part of what makes an RPG fun. Besides the replay factor, it is also very interesting to make those choices in the moment. I like the fact that AP will push you to make those dialog/action choices within a short time frame. It'll heighten the tension and sense of consequence.
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December 13th, 2009, 16:40
Originally Posted by northreign View Post
Ultimately, your probably a minority.
Maybe not.

It's an odd statement saying that choices are a waste for an RPG. It's one of the main reasons I enjoy playing them and I would guess a lot of other people as well or developers wouldn't go through all the trouble of trying to add them into the games.

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Last edited by skavenhorde; December 13th, 2009 at 16:51.
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December 13th, 2009, 18:04
I don't think its odd at all.

If you take Risen for example, the percentage you play the first time through is a lot higher than it will be in Alpha Protocol. That's better use of resources.

If they offer three choices for example then there is x amount of waste unless you play the game 3 times through with completely different choices each time.

Many people do not finish games the first time through. Even short games are not finished by many people let alone longer ones. A quick google brings up 1up article. But, I remember particularly valve software released stats showing how few people finish their short episodes.

Sure its different, but imho it offers no more enjoyment over a linear non-changing story line that is well done and allows the dev to spend time working on everything else which is equally as important not less. Final Fantasy 13 will be a much better game and is much more linear. White Knight Chronicles, etc.

In the end, unless you play it more than once you wind up with what is in a sense a 'linear' story line anyway. Whether the linear came from you making choices or from someone else its still 'linear' unless you play it a second time or more.

So for many people there will be waste as they will not ever see it. I know I won't.
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December 13th, 2009, 18:27
Originally Posted by northreign View Post
If they offer three choices for example then there is x amount of waste unless you play the game 3 times through with completely different choices each time..

I'm sorry, but that doesn't make much sense.

It's not a "waste" just because *you* choose not to replay the game. The simple fact that those options exist appeals to a lot of people, and is added incentive to play it again. Not to mention it also makes doing a replay more interesting.


Originally Posted by northreign View Post
Many people do not finish games the first time through. Even short games are not finished by many people let alone longer ones. A quick google brings up 1up article. But, I remember particularly valve software released stats showing how few people finish their short episodes.
"Many" doesn't equal majority, and people not finishing games has nothing to do with choices. So should devs start dumbing down games even more because some people have ADD?
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December 13th, 2009, 19:04
For once I agree completely, JDR.

@Northreign I get it that you like a more linear game. So do I. I also happen to like C&C within a game as do a lot of other people that I know. It's not about which is better or if C&C is a waste because they both have different styles of gaming to them. You can have both types of games and still enjoy them both.

Although, I think the point your trying to make is that devs should stop wasting resources on a branching narrative and just focus on other areas. It is all up to the developer and what their 'choice' is on what kind of game they want to create.

In my opinion both are fine if done right and neither one should be dismissed as wasteful or unnecessary.

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December 13th, 2009, 20:53
According to valves statistic's roughly 50.33% ever completed their game that only lasts a few hours. Stats page.

So yeah, I will continue to stand by my reasoning that there's waste. The vocal ones are only a minority.

You have stats's that prove otherwise?
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December 13th, 2009, 21:07
Originally Posted by northreign View Post
If you take Risen for example, the percentage you play the first time through is a lot higher than it will be in Alpha Protocol. That's better use of resources.
They kinda screwed the resource management for chapter 1 though.
You know, the one containing choices and content unreachable without a replay.
I wonder what would results of "your favourite chapter of Risen" poll look like.


Anyway, nice look into developerīs kitchen.
Sorta reminded me of Avelloneīs first draft of Ravel which was insane.
Frankly, the roleplay element is the only thing that makes me interested in AP, so hereīs hoping it will be well executed and sufficiently pronounced.
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December 13th, 2009, 23:02
Originally Posted by DeepO View Post
They kinda screwed the resource management for chapter 1 though.
You know, the one containing choices and content unreachable without a replay.
I wonder what would results of "your favourite chapter of Risen" poll look like.
I agree. Surly, AP won't have that problem
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December 14th, 2009, 01:07
Originally Posted by northreign View Post
According to valves statistic's roughly 50.33% ever completed their game that only lasts a few hours.

So yeah, I will continue to stand by my reasoning that there's waste. The vocal ones are only a minority.

You have stats's that prove otherwise?
You just attempted to pluralise an already plural word with an apostophe (a piece of punctuation that is never, ever used to pluralise something). I can't even measure the degree of fail.

To address your argument in a more relevant way, I'll attempt to undermine the central premise of everything you've said. Your arguments imply that optional content, or content that can be completed in different ways is a waste, unless one plays the game twice or more, in order to experience the different options. That is patently false. The fact that I have the option to approach a quest or task in different ways makes a game more enjoyable to me. The argument you are making seems really out of place on a RPG news website. In order to be able roleplay a character in any meaningful way, you need to be able to make choices and approach tasks in a variety of ways. Is it a waste to present a player with multiple dialouge options, given that the player will only actually select one of them?

You've completely missed the point. Increased replay value is a latent effect of choices and consequences. It's a side effect, not the motivation for including the feature. Seen in that light, it's actually quite a good use of resources, because it not only makes the initial playthrough more fun, but also extends the lifespan of the game. More quality and more quantity, so to speak.

Edited to add: the assertion that a single statistic for a piece of DLC for a shooter proves anything demonstrates (note: not proves) a serious lack of understanding of statistics or logic.

And some more:

In the end, unless you play it more than once you wind up with what is in a sense a 'linear' story line anyway. Whether the linear came from you making choices or from someone else its still 'linear' unless you play it a second time or more.
What rubbish, you're unknowingly trying to invoke the principle of bivalence in order to argue that no game can be non-linear, which is utterly ridiculous. Can you really not distinguish between a playthrough of a game, and the game itself? The playthrough will be linear, but the game itself, is not. This is what we appreciate. Apply that 'argument' to your life, it's going to be linear whether it's because of the choices you made, or the choices forced on you, so what difference does it make if you're a free person or a slave?

Clearly you have no appreciation or even basic understanding of what many of us here like in our games, and this type of game is not for you. That you lack the intelligence to enjoy a certain kind of feature does not make it a waste.
Last edited by Badesumofu; December 14th, 2009 at 10:02.
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December 14th, 2009, 02:00
Well, that was quite a bit more hostile than I would've put it, and I wouldn't lead with a punctuation error, but I was generally thinking the same thing: a game without choices may "optimize developer resources," but it would no longer be an RPG. An RPG by definition depends on player choices. Your argument is essentially that there should be no RPGs.

You are right, of course, that a lot of developer resources go into aspects of the game that many people never experience. Undoubtedly this is one reason why some RPGs are "dumbed down." People say it's the consoles, but it's also cheaper to develop an RPG (usually a very time-consuming project), if you cut and simplify choices.

And B is right, you mischaracterized linearity. I think you were trying to restate your idea from a different vantage point, but you misused the concept. Every game, even life itself, must be a completely linear experience, the way you are describing it.
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December 14th, 2009, 02:11
Originally Posted by northreign View Post
According to valves statistic's roughly 50.33% ever completed their game that only lasts a few hours. Stats page.

So yeah, I will continue to stand by my reasoning that there's waste. The vocal ones are only a minority.

You have stats's that prove otherwise?
I was trying to wrap my head around your argument that choice was wasteful. It is just an odd thing to say for an RPG. Let me put it another way. Take choice out of a P&P RPG and what do you have? Same goes with a lot of CRPGs. In the good ol' days the technology wasn't there for true C&C, but the technology/resources have become available. Now I'm seeing more rpgs trying to duplicate the P&P experience where the DM responds to your choices instead of forcing them upon you.

Two of the best games I've played in recent years have been NWN2: MOTB and The Witcher. Take the choices out of those games and what do you have? Whether you replay them or not is irrelevant, as Badesomofu said. The fact that you 'roleplay' the character is what I like about those games.

As for your stats question. It is not the point how many people passed Half-Life or any of the other shooters that Valve makes (though I can't imagine why anyone wouldn't pass those games. Half-Lfe is one fun ride). Those are shooters and people play those for entirely different reasons than they would a rpg.

One last thing, why would replaying a game be in the minority? I constantly read about someone replaying a game. Take for instance Dragon Age. I read a few posts on people replaying the game as a different character for a second or even third time. That amazed me because even I don't have the kind of stamina to do that. I need to give it a little time before I try a game again.

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December 14th, 2009, 02:32
Originally Posted by skavenhorde View Post
One last thing, why would replaying a game be in the minority? I constantly read about someone replaying a game. Take for instance Dragon Age. I read a few posts on people replaying the game as a different character for a second or even third time.
You read those kind of things here, on a hardcore PC RPG site. In the real world, a big chunk of people will not even finish a first playthrough. They'll buy the game on impulse, find out they don't like it, and sell it. Or they'll play it for 30 hours or so, get tired, put it away for something else, and never come back to it. I do think that people who replay a game, especially a long RPG like DA, are in the minority, especially when you take into account all the folks who don't even finish once.

Btw, that stat page you linked, northreign, does not give the 50% figure you are quoting, unless I missed it. Also, even if the figure is 50% (sounds right, I think I remember hearing that before), that simply means they have not yet completed it. They may still complete it in the future.

Your argument here seems to be that since some people don't finish the game, the remainder is "wasted" resources somehow. We're talking about a 5 hour game here. Are you arguing that developers should make games 2 and 1/2 hours long, in order to optimize resources?
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December 14th, 2009, 02:43
Originally Posted by Anderson View Post
You read those kind of things here, on a hardcore PC RPG site.
If you're on a site that caters to the minority doesn't that make it the majority opinion on that site

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December 14th, 2009, 03:26
Originally Posted by northreign View Post
According to valves statistic's roughly 50.33% ever completed their game that only lasts a few hours. Stats page.
So, your advice is devs should only make games one hour long, right? Anything would be a waste, surely.

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