Monday, October 8, 2018

Alpha Protocol - Closure Alert - Part 3

Aldowyn, anaphysik, and I continue our redemptive journey with Closure Alert - Part 3. Here, we finish dealing with Shaheed, and discover that the Halbech missiles weren't stolen. In the ensuing chaos, we're turned loose to stop a cold war from turning into a real one.

Way back in the day, I was one of the few people who defended Alpha Protocol's timed dialogue system. At the time, I liked them for the way they kept the conversation flowing at a good pace, to keep up the illusion that the player is part of a spy movie.

To some degree, I stand behind that. However, I've had a chance to reevaluate my opinion in the time since. After all, Telltale uses a similar formula for their games. In hindsight, there is a crippling flaw with the system: You are making dialog choices without their full context. Not only does the player need to choose what your character is going to say before the other person finishes speaking, but often they are doing so with one word phrases like "Sarcastic" or "Comfort". So with only a rough idea of what is going to be said, and what the other person is actually saying, the player is expected to make a decision of what they are going to say.

While Alpha Protocol does alleviate this by using it's tone system (every response is either Aggressive, Suave, Professional, or a special dialog gated by choices/skills), and characters do have tones they generally respond well to, it's not perfect. There are still moments where players are asked to make snap decisions without having the time to put in much thought. Despite improving the pace of conversation, there are still areas with awkward flow. And like real people, the cast of Alpha Protocol sometimes change their mood and respond to different stances differently, and it can be hard to keep up in the moment.

A good experiment, but with mixed results.

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