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RPGamer Feature - Alpha Protocol Interview
Alpha Protocol
Platform:
Developer: Obsidian Ent.
Publisher: Sega
ESRB: M
Release Date:
06.01.2010










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RPGamers, get your tux cleaned and your gun ready; Alpha Protocol has gone gold. This espionage RPG is coming to North America on June 1, 2010 and in preparation for its release we were able to talk with the game's producer, Matt Hickman. Here's what Matt had to share with us about Sega's upcoming RPG developed by Obsidian Entertainment.


First off, I just want to say hello to our good friends at Sega on behalf of RPGamer! We're very interested in Alpha Protocol, so hopefully this will help to enlighten us and our readers. Can you give gamers a brief overview of the espionage RPG that is Alpha Protocol?
Matt Hickman, Producer: Alpha Protocol is a 3rd person action RPG, big emphasis on the RPG, from Obsidian Entertainment and SEGA. The basic set up is in the year 2009. Hundreds of innocent passengers and crew are killed after a commercial airliner is shot down over Eastern Europe. The culprit? A high-tech U.S. defense missile which had somehow fallen into the wrong hands. As government agent Michael Thorton, you have been chosen to find those responsible and bring them to justice.

What is the pedigree of the team behind the creation of this game? What PC RPGamer doesn't know Chris Avellone, the lead designer, but who else has his back?
MH: Most of the lead team was old-school for a good chunk of the project. Chris Parker was the producer at Black Isle for the entire Baldur's Gate series with BioWare. He also produced Icewind Dale with an internal team at Black Isle along with a number of lesser titles. At Obsidian, Parker was the producer on KotOR2 and helped out a little on Neverwinter Nights 2. Darren Monahan tag-teamed production with Parker for a good chunk of the Alpha Protocol project. He was the producer on Dark Alliance and IWD2 at BIS and then NWN2 at Obsidian. Darren, Avellone, and Parker are 3 of the 5 owners at Obsidian. Lead Programmer Dan Spitzley was the lead on Planescape:Torment with Avellone back at BIS. He has worked in some way or another on just about every BIS and Obsidian game since then. Lead Artist Aaron Meyers was an artist on several BIS titles and was the Lead on KotOR2. Others included Lead Animator Mark Bremerkamp and character designer Brian Menze.

In watching gameplay videos, the real-time combat seems like a mix of stealth meets run-and-gun? What are some unique aspects of combat? Also, share a little about Michael's gadgets.
MH: What you're seeing in the gameplay videos is a demonstration of some of the ways you can play through each level. When you get the game at home and start playing you aren't ever forced into either one of these play styles. That's actually one of the really unique aspects, particularly for an RPG. You can get through each level using all stealth, all long range combat or a combination. What allows for these very disparate methods is a very rich inventory of weapons, armor and as you mention gadgets. We have a lot of basic gadgets like incendiary grenades but we also have some really fun ones you can combine and do some unique things with. One of my favorite combos is to place a proximity or remote mine at the end of a hallway then toss out a noise maker, bad guys come running, boom. There's a lot more in there but part of the fun is figuring out how to combine things to get through levels in new fun ways.

The dialogue system and choices players can make appear to be a key aspect of Alpha Protocol. How much do the player's choices in the dialogue system affect the game? Do you gain anything by being good over bad or are decisions independent of each other?
MH: The dialogue system is absolutely a critical component to the story telling and the game overall. Your choices within the dialogue system can cause dramatic changes in character relationships and plot points to a huge extent and are literally game changing. No decision in Alpha Protocol is truly independent from another. All of your choices throughout the game have impact. A lot of that stems from the fact that we don't have good or bad choices per say, everything is a shade of grey. If you anger a particular faction or character, their enemies may approach you wanting to be allies. Basically we tried to set this in as believable and real a world as possible and very early on the decision was made that in the real world there is no good or bad only many points of view and we wanted that represented in the game.

How is the game structured? We're curious if you just do mission after mission with only a briefing in between or if there is any downtime when in a safe house? Do you have free reign over which missions to tackle when or are you just ordered around by the government?
MH: After the initial levels in which you uncover the very tip of the conspiracy the game opens up and provides the player with an enormous amount of freedom. You can choose which country you want to start with and within that country you can decide the order of missions. Moreover you can hop from country to country and play the missions in any order you'd like. Of course the order in which you play through the game has ramifications later on in the game. When in the safe house you have as much time as you want to communicate with contacts, purchase intel and weapons, etc. There is a huge amount of freedom in the game because after all, you are a rogue agent in the eyes of the government and have to find your own way through the world.

Tell us about the character stats system. How is the system built and how much customization is there for players to build their own Michael Thorton? Is it all skills and abilities or you can min/max Michael's stats as well?
MH: The character system is built around a combination of skills, abilities and perks. Basically as you earn AP you can put points into several skill areas such as pistol, stealth, martial arts, etc. As you level each skill up you unlock passive and active abilities which act as our real world "magic" system. These include the chain shot ability you've probably seen video of, remote hacking of cameras and keypads and so on. There are dozens of these abilities. In addition to those abilities we have perks that augment your skills with little bonuses depending on how you play through the game and interact with characters in the dialogue system. So it's a very deep system and yes, if you want max out a particular skill or if you want to be a well rounded spy it's up to you. I suggest trying both!

Other games have done a good job branding their main character regardless of gender, so why no female "Michelle" Thorton?
MH: We definitely would have liked to put in a female lead but honestly working that in with the time and budget constraints was just not feasible. When you think about all the work and time that goes into cinematics, dialogue, etc. it all adds up to significant investment. We decided to dedicate those resources elsewhere in the game.

I read that Thorton's character was described as a mix of Jason Bourne, James Bond, and Jack Bauer. Were these characters the inspiration for Alpha Protocol or did the concept for the game come from another area?
MH: Alpha Protocol definitely draws a lot of inspiration from the films and character archetypes in the 3 JBs but it's really about giving gamers out there the chance to play through a story they can identify with right now. We set out to deliver something both topical and relevant to the here and now, but more importantly deliver something people perceive as real or legitimate. We just used the familiar style and methodology of a Bond, Bauer or Bourne as the vehicles that drive that story and make it accessible.


RPGamer would like to thank Matt Hickman from Sega and the rest of the team for taking the time to talk with us about Alpha Protocol. As of today, the game has gone gold, so keep a lookout for it when Alpha Protocol hits stores on June 1, 2010.



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