Q&A: Obsidian talks Alpha Protocol

Just what can one expect from an espionage-themed action RPG? Obsidian Entertainment producer Matthew Rorie gives us the lowdown on Alpha Protocol.

A mishmash of genres that combines action and stealth with gadget-based gameplay may sound daunting at first, but Obsidian Entertainment is certain it's on to a winner with its upcoming title Alpha Protocol. We spoke with producer Matthew Rorie to get a better look at how the elements of the game will all come together upon its release this October.

GameSpot AU: First thing's first. What does the story in Alpha Protocol revolve around?

Matthew Rorie: You play as Mike Thorton, a field agent for an agency called Alpha Protocol. After you're sent to Saudi Arabia for your first covert mission, things go very, very wrong, and you're forced to figure out who's behind a global conspiracy. Along the way, you'll meet a cast of 20 or so major characters that you'll interact with via your phone, e-mail, and in-person conversations. Each of these characters can be friends or enemies to Mike, and each relationship that you make will have an effect on the way the story plays out.

GS AU: Tell us a little about how the gameplay mechanics will work, given this is an espionage-based role-playing game.

MR: Mike Thorton is a spy, but we didn't want to lock players into any of the various spy archetypes that you might see in popular media. So, our solution to that problem was to allow players to be any kind of spy that they want. If you want to be a badass, take-no-prisoners sort of character, you can specialise in weapons like the assault rifle or the SMGs and go in with guns blazing. Alternately, if you want to be sneaky, we have a stealth tree that will reduce your visibility and let you move around more quietly; the better to avoid enemies.

GS AU: What are the role-playing aspects of the game? How will they be incorporated into gameplay?

MR: There are tons of role-playing elements in Alpha Protocol. Firstly, we have the ability to interact with a wide cast of characters and earn reputations with each of them, which will influence the way they interact with your character as you progress through the storyline. Or, if you wish, almost all of them can be killed, which will of course eliminate them from the rest of the game if you choose to take that path.

On top of that, we of course have the aforementioned skill allocation. Whenever Mike levels up, he'll gain a number of advancement points to throw in a variety of skills, and this specialisation will let players change the way Mike handles each mission as you go through the game.

The RPG elements in Alpha Protocol include skill allocation and earning a reputation with most of the game's characters.

GS AU: What kind of skills and abilities will players be able to upgrade? How many levels of upgrades will be offered?

MR: Mike has nine core skills, running the gamut from gun skills (increases accuracy, damage, and reload time) to things like toughness (increases health and endurance), sabotage (improves gadget efficacy and makes it easier to hack electronics, pick locks, and run electronic bypasses), and martial arts (makes it easier to punch dudes in the face).

Each skill has a maximum of 15 ranks, but you can only get that high if you specialise in a skill; otherwise, you can only reach rank 10. Each skill will also have a number of special abilities that you earn as you upgrade your skill level.

GS AU: How will the RPG element of the game affect story? For example, will completing one scenario one way affect the main storyline down the track?

MR: Reactivity has been the driving force behind Alpha Protocol since very early on in the design. With the multiple outcomes that we provide to all of Mike's choices, it would be difficult to imagine Alpha Protocol without the amount of reactivity that we've thrown in.

So, you'll notice as you play through that characters you come across will react to all of your choices. Other characters will react to things like the character background that you've chosen, your choice to kill or bypass enemies, your interactions and relationships with other major characters, choices you've made in other parts of the world, and, of course, how you engage them in conversation.

GS AU: Have you incorporated moral choices in the game? If so, can you give us an example?

MR: There are a lot of moral choices that Mike is forced to make, but we try to ensure that we never force a player into a right/wrong decision. We want to reward players for whatever they do. Even if you decide to beat up an old man sitting at a bar, you still gain some reputation with other characters down the line. There are, of course, larger decisions for Mike to make, which includes deciding whether or not to kill the major characters that you come across in the game. But you're going to have to play the game to discover them.

Players will be rewarded for both morally correct and morally dubious actions.

GS AU: How long have you been working on developing Alpha Protocol?

MR: Alpha Protocol has been in development for quite a while now, since 2006 or so.

GS AU: Are there any features that had to be left on the cutting room floor due to your time schedule for the game’s release?

MR: To misquote George Lucas, games are never finished, only released. There's obviously stuff that we wish we could've had the time to include in the game, but that's a side effect of an extremely ambitious design. In the end, the game features a massive amount of complex gameplay, and we're happy with the amount of stuff that we've managed to cram onto a disc.

GS AU: What kind of weapons can players expect in Alpha Protocol?

MR: In the game, Mike Thorton can raise his skill in pistols, SMGs, shotguns, and assault rifles. Each of these weapons fits a certain profile: pistols are short range but can be equipped with silencers for stealth takedowns; SMGs are great for taking out crowds of enemies; shotguns have fantastic stopping power and can knock enemies off their feet with a critical hit; and assault rifles are highly accurate at long range. Each of these weapons has three different types of ammo that it can be used with.

In addition to the firearms, though, there are a number of lethal gadgets, including explosive grenades, incendiary grenades, remote mines, and a number of nonlethal devices, including tranq rounds for your pistols, flashbangs, shock traps, and so on.

Mike can also choose to specialise in martial arts, which will let him unleash some pretty devastating combos and special attacks in close-quarters combat.

But wait, there's more. Some levels will have missile launchers, MG turrets, sniper rifles, and even automatic turrets that Mike can hack and turn on his enemies.

Players can employ a wide range of stealth skills in the game.

GS AU: Given this is a spy game, what kind of stealth and combat tactics have you employed in the game?

MR: We know our players are fans of stealth, so we've tried to emphasise that with our stealth skill, which reduces the amount of sound that Mike makes and reduces the range at which enemies can see him. You'll also get some special abilities as you increase your stealth skill, including the ability to temporarily evade an enemy's sight at close range, allowing you to get behind cover if you make a mistake, or the ability to run at full speed without making any footstep noise.

We've also given stealth players the ability to sneak up on enemy combatants and use takedowns on them. These can take the form of lethal knife attacks or nonlethal punches and chokes.

GS AU: Tell us more about the Fury mode.

MR: Fury is actually an activated ability from our martial arts skill. It temporarily allows Mike to bust out and deal extra damage with his unarmed attacks and also makes it more difficult for enemies to block and counter his attacks while it lasts.

GS AU: How many hours of gameplay are there in Alpha Protocol?

MR: We're guessing that it will take around 25 hours to get through the game, possibly more if you attempt to stealth, as doing so will mean you'll take a bit more time to get through some of the levels. We're also building in some benefits to people who want to replay the game, including a Veteran mode that allows Mike some new dialogue options and tougher enemies.

GS AU: When can we expect to see Alpha Protocol on shelves?

MR: We're in the homestretch of development on Alpha Protocol, and we're going to get the game on store shelves in October! Hope you guys enjoy it when it comes out.

GS AU: Matthew Rorie, thanks for your time.

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180 comments
TheSokDrawer
TheSokDrawer

So many games are coming out...Borderland looks good but i might pass, Alpha Protocol looks awesome, Assassins Creed 2 i pre-ordered 3 months ago, Dragon Age: Origins looks like a sort of updated,enhanced Oblivion which means it should be one for the books. and i'm sure i'm forgetting a few. I'm probably going to be in debt after this year. so many good games within a few weeks of each other....

Jackc8
Jackc8

That looks pretty darned interesting - I guess I'll have to get a second job to buy all these games over the next 6 months or so :)

normpap
normpap

i was willing and ready to get this gamn but the 25 hours of gameplsy is making me have second thoughts

jsososmooth4u
jsososmooth4u

the game seams to be what people have been waiting on for some time now if the fighting system is up to par then this should be a classic just have to wait and see

method115
method115

man wth alpha protocol,assassins creed 2,mass effect 2, dragon age:origins, and borderlands. They couldn't have spread these games out a bit more this is going to kill my budget for the end of the year.

BIG_GAmeFreak
BIG_GAmeFreak

I've just notice a trend when it comes to SOME RPG games; choices. its an awesome gaming system, to choose if u want to be good or evil. But whenever i play an RPG game with that system, i always play the good side So when i play this game, my character's probably gonna be that "sticking by the book" agent...

deathtrip21
deathtrip21

i cant wait for this one theres so many games im looking forward to my fingers are itching

avi1708
avi1708

hmm..sounds like another deus ex typo...must be good!!

ninjagaiden18
ninjagaiden18

This game is gonna rock' i love stealth games and RPG where your choices matter. sooooo i am waiting for, this this is only second in my most anticipated games list just next to conviction

ALTAAMARY
ALTAAMARY

ITS NICE BUT THERE THE VERY GAMES SAME OBJECT

BlazeEagle
BlazeEagle

This is a PREVIEW folks! They're not gonna give away all the games details to the previewer in a PREVIEW & ruin our incentive to buy it! Sheesh! Compared to games with 8 hours, 25 hours isn’t TOO bad! Plus, As long as this has plenty of replay value, When all is said & done, 25 hours will likely stretch out to many more hours.

PxIxCiTzMAG1C
PxIxCiTzMAG1C

i love a game with player choices i just hope the controlls,shooting and mayb cover system are up to scratch.

benny1366
benny1366

looks good but maybe buggy but i guess like other RPG games the battle system sucks ! like Mass Effect on pc or Fallout 3!so bugy

Mizuki88
Mizuki88

This sounds awesome. Do want.

Dr_Manfattan
Dr_Manfattan

im sort of glad that one play through will take about 25 hours...it means i can have fun with this then be ready in time for dragon age to come out. its looking better every time i see it so i hope it doesn't disappoint

zaqcdebgt9513
zaqcdebgt9513

Its gonna be a damn good upcoming couple months for RPG-ers

Two-Gunz
Two-Gunz

Kinda disappointed you have to be the Mike character and you can't create your own but still looks like its gonna be a great game

AdamWriter
AdamWriter

I'd have to go with the third choice in the video o.O This is going to be so much fun.

AdamWriter
AdamWriter

@hassy94 Good luck, bro! Tough choices for sure

DeviantStain
DeviantStain

I can't wait for this! :D It looks awesome.

GabrielOnuris
GabrielOnuris

I liked the feature you are rewarded with all moral choices without forcing the player in a wrong/right decision; I can't remember a single game that reached such a thing. About the others features, it sounds more like a Fallout game (the first and second ones only), but as Blood Diamond said: "Sounds good on paper... well internet... but will it work?"

Blood_Diamond
Blood_Diamond

Sounds good on paper... well internet... but will it work? I am rather intrested

hassy94
hassy94

I need to somehow choose 2 games out of Borderlands, Dragon Age: Origins and this.

faris001
faris001

wOooOo.... how i can take this games???

blacks91
blacks91

im not sure whetha 2 get alpha protocal or dragon age 1st.... hmmm choices choices choices

Shadicman
Shadicman

Mass Effect x Deus Ex mmmm sounds amazing and im a sucker for spy/stealth games so im getting it no matter what, plus the fact this game instant has reply value just to see alt endings by playing in a dif style bring on October.

XtremeX10X
XtremeX10X

This looks like a cool game. i'm liking the RPG Spy element i just hope Obsidian don't f**k this one up because they on to a winner with the whole spy RPG element.

JBjazzbo
JBjazzbo

This is usually the sort of game I'd love, but I have a feeling it won't be that great. Don't ask why!

cardshark86
cardshark86

This seems kind of like Deus Ex in a way - YES PLEASE!

Turk130
Turk130

Looks decent imo. I might give it a try

Kaully
Kaully

25 hour is short....what about those new next-gen game that take only 8 hour to finish !!! God, 25 hour should be a PRETTY long game for the new standard. Looking forward for this game.

dasboy1
dasboy1

are you for real it is an rpg make him how ever you want him to look

waveddiamond
waveddiamond

my only complain is that the main character looks too generic

twilightpanda
twilightpanda

hmmm....25 hours is a bit short......but 25 hours to me is like 100 hours because i take soo long to finish a game lol :P

Joeb123
Joeb123

Looks like a good solid game and seems as if you'll get a lot of freedom of choice and cool powerups and what not. But 25 or so hours of gameplay seems quite short, but hopefully it'll be a good replay game, I think I'll play the veteran mode! :)

tweex15
tweex15

Sounds pretty awesome to me. The hacking turrents idea sounds a lot like Deus Ex, I'm pumped to try it out!

vickynimbalkar
vickynimbalkar

A nice game to see after Sam Fisher's Splinter cell... Looks good to me....

xgalacticax
xgalacticax

Looks nice. I worry about game heroes though. Those you see these days look too plain...like your average Joe and may not be remembered in the future. I wish these guys would make their characters stand out from the crowd like older games used to. I once heard a saying from a top game designer...'you know you have a cool hero when you can see his/ her silhouette and still know its him/ her'. This is evident in some of the coolest game heroes such as Solid Snake, Mario, Kratos, Master Chief, Samus Aran, Ryu Hayabusa, Link, Lara Croft and some others. I loved Modern Warfare to death but I have no idea what Soap McTavish looks like (The one thing I didn't like about the game). I just think it's important because I like to get attached to the characters I play...and that attachment is necessary to increase one's engagement in the game.

heniurisaito
heniurisaito

This is looking too much of an action game for me. It seems to have an specific ending, so "moral choices" and such are nothing too much, just different dialogues, like mass effect, however, more run and gun than stealth... And, come on, I didn't see any sort of disguise. I hope I'm just blind. I hope this has incredible takedowns, not just 3-5. And hope that the stealth goes like splinter cell, or, at least, mgs1.

LIGIN_THOMAS
LIGIN_THOMAS

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

acellelis
acellelis

this game look good more stealth action game like splinter cell

CHAMPION6171994
CHAMPION6171994

Not he spy/stealth guy but doesn't matter. This game looks awesome and if i can run and gun well in this game ill do it.

KingT614
KingT614

this sounds like its gonna be an alright game nothin too groundbreaking

XxTerryH15xX
XxTerryH15xX

looks more like a 3rd person shooter than a rpg from what i seen of it guess we have to see i guess

hero513
hero513

yeaaaaaaaa!!!! i wanna play this man

Aminal_basic
Aminal_basic

This sounds interesting. 25 hours may not seem like much but I've played games that took only 5 hours to finish and some RPG's that took only around 10 hours. I'm personally looking forward to this game. I'll buy it :)