Friday, February 22, 2013

Disclosure Alert: Alpha Protocol: Episode 8: Rouge Agent

We had planned to only do four episodes in Saudi Arabia. However, this hub ran longer than anticipated, so we had to stretch into 5 episodes. The next one SHOULD be posted either by the end of the day tomorrow.

This is one of those episodes where nothing worth commenting on happens. It's basically just us talking with Aldowyn playing in the background. Sorry, but sometimes that happens.

But rather than leave this space nearly blank, I'm going to instead talk a little about the save system of Alpha Protocol, mainly because it isn't particularly good. For context, before we record a particular segment of the game, Aldowyn usually performs a practice run, streaming it to whichever one of us wishes to watch. (It's usually anaphysik, since I am often busy doing one of the following: College coursework, writing articles for PSTD, or playing whatever game-of-the-week interests me.) When he went to start his practice save to begin our next hub world (which I'll talk more about next episode), he had difficulty finding the correct save. This is because of a couple of problems with Alpha Protocol's save system. First, it only saves checkpoints and while you can manually save, you can only save progress up to the last checkpoint. Second, unlike other games like Mass Effect (Yes, I know. Shut up!), game saves aren't neatly divided into careers for your convenience. They are all in one list. These two facts in combination combine to great irritation. If you're like Aldowyn and have multiple saves in the same spot, it can be trouble when trying to find a particular save (which you would almost always want to do whenever loading a game). You can't rename saves either, so best of luck to you if you have 5 saves all at "Saudi Arabia Safehouse."

I have to wonder if this is a fault with the engine or with Obsidian's programming. Honestly, by now saving systems should've been perfected years ago. We should not have to put up with bad save systems in the modern day. I had a similar problem with Hitman: Absolution and its god-forsaken checkpoint system. Why am I seeing developers and game engine programmers so often screw up this part of the game? Save systems may say nothing regarding your game's mechanics, themes, or play, but done poorly they're tedious and annoying, which may cause players unnecessary frustration and agitation with the game.

Sorry for not having anything substantial to say about the game. Once shit hits the fan in tomorrow's episode, I'll have a much more interesting post to give you.


Thomas said...

I like the checkpoint save system in AP. Stealth would have been ridiculously easy with manual saves and it's very rare for the checkpoints to be bigger than one room. So you've still got to be able to chain together each move.

I guess if you're not trying for a perfect stealth run it's not so useful? But it's not so long between checkpoints that it would be much of a delay between saves, especially since your happy to be shooting.

The naming is bad though. I guess it's because AP seems to have been designed ground up for consoles. I'd be happy if Obsidian didn't do too much console development in the future because I don't think they're particularly good at it

Ringwraith said...

Well, I was going to post something about the save system, but it ended up being a book and Blogger ate it, so I can't be bothered to type it up again right now. Maybe when it's light outside.

newdarkcloud said...

I hate when that happens.

Jake Albano said...

Speaking of Hitman: Absolution, I've been plugging this article all over the place: . I couldn't bear to finish it, and the broken checkpointing system was part of the reason.

Mass Effect uses the same engine as Alpha Protocol (Unreal 3), so the lack of a career save system definitely isn't not a matter of limitations of the engine. I'm personally a big fan of save-anywhere systems, which the Unreal engine can also support (Dishonored and Mass Effect), and they really should be present in a stealth game.

Melee cancel is actually one of my favorite tricks; your endurance will still recharge while Chain Shot is active, so you can let the timer run almost out, cancel, and repeat for profit.

It's actually possible to hex-edit the save files and give yourself the tuxedo during normal missions. It's super glitchy though, which is a shame. I would probably buy tuxedo DLC that let you wear it the whole time.

newdarkcloud said...

The article really speaks to my experience with Absolution. Although I did finish it. What a shame. At least contracts is good. Absolution just disappointed in so many ways that it's almost painful.

One can only hope that the other Hitman dev team learned from its mistakes.