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It might seem like a no-brainer that someone who reviews games for a living should know how to play games...but is that really the case?

 

I have read almost all of the unflattering reviews of alpha protocol I could find, including the user comments/reviews and one common trend I see among them is that they criticize the combat mechanics, AI, animation, graphics and glitches/anomalies.

 

What do all these things have in common? They are essentially part of the user interface. They all relate back to that gap between the virtual world on the computer and the human behind the keyboard.

 

It seems like gamers today rely too much on what they see on screen to bridge that gap. We have forgotten that the best instrument to bridge that gap is our imaginations.

 

I'm going to use one simple example now:

 

Take Hellgate London's single player game. This game was lambasted upon release and there's no denying that most of the criticism was warranted. But when I actually played the single player game, I had a tremendous amount of fun. Why? Because I used my imagination to bridge the gap between the virtual world and myself....rather than relying entirely on what I see on screen. Here's what I did. I created a story for my engineer character in my head. And there I was...a skinny teen boy walking alone through the dark, smelly London sewers with nothing to protect myself but a ragged t-shirt, an old rifle, and my pet robots. Three of the robots were built like flying cameras and they had motion sensors which kept watch over me as I slept. If any unsavory creature popped out from the shadows, my robots would spot them immediately and they defended me. I grew quite fond of the reassuring buzz of their engines as they whirred and flitted around me.

 

The point I attempted to make there is that rather than relying entirely on what I see on screen, I used that as a springboard for my imagination. Consequently, I got a tremendous sense of immersion and enjoyed this game much more than I otherwise would have.

 

Back in the old days, games used iconic graphics where our imaginations were left to fill the rest. So it was easier for us to do this back then. It came natural.

 

But we've been spoiled over the years. And a consequence of that is that we have come to rely more and more on what we see on screen to bridge the gap between the human and the virtual world. I think we do this to much.

 

How does this relate to Alpha Procotol? Well go back to what I said in my opening statements, The majority of the critical reviews (especially the particularly scathing ones) cited prinmarily issues which all relate back to the user interface and by extension to that gap. They relied entirely on what they saw on screen to bridge the gap, and therefore Obsidian's shortcoming in technical execution were at the front of their awareness, and they did not find a way to immerse themselves in the world.

Rather, they should have used what they saw on screen as a springboard for their imaginations. A springboard that would bridge the gap by propelling the user into the role they wanted to create for themselves. Just like I did with my example above involving the robots in the sewers.

 

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Now I understand the point I'm trying to make here could easily be misinterpreted, and I'm not sure I explained myself well at all.

 

I am not saying that the user is entirely responsible for bridging the gap between the virtual world and themselves. So the criticism about the technical shortcomings on screen are valid. The "user interface" (which includes combat mechanics, animation, graphics, AI etc.) should make bridging that gap as seamless as possible.

 

However, the user should not entirely rely on what they see on screen to bridge that gap. The imagination should instead use what they see on screen as a springboard. It was easier for us to do this in the days of iconic graphics.

 

But with today's graphical enhancements, many seem to have lost this ability and thus rely too much on what is seen on screen. And when that is imperfect, as in the case of alpha protocol, they are unable to bridge the gap, throw the baby out with the bath water, and dismiss the good points along with the bad.

 

 

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Edited by poetic obsidian
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No amount of imagination can fix a broken game.

DISCLAIMER: Do not take what I write seriously unless it is clearly and in no uncertain terms, declared by me to be meant in a serious and non-humoristic manner. If there is no clear indication, asume the post is written in jest. This notification is meant very seriously and its purpouse is to avoid misunderstandings and the consequences thereof. Furthermore; I can not be held accountable for anything I write on these forums since the idea of taking serious responsability for my unserious actions, is an oxymoron in itself.

 

Important: as the following sentence contains many naughty words I warn you not to read it under any circumstances; botty, knickers, wee, erogenous zone, psychiatrist, clitoris, stockings, bosom, poetry reading, dentist, fellatio and the department of agriculture.

 

"I suppose outright stupidity and complete lack of taste could also be considered points of view. "

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Did the same for Oblivion, Morrowind, and yep, Hellgate.

 

IMHO, it's a small requirement to really get into RPG's in general.

 

Even with a small imagination, you can still come up with something, anything to help with the immersion and role-playing part.

 

Also a little off-topic, but Oblivion had one of the worst UI's I've ever seen. Dear God, it was bad.

Edited by Red Mundus
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Trolls sure know how to use the wrong terminology, eh?

 

In no way whatsoever is Alpha Protocol "broken".

 

Also, I agree. GameTrailers review particularly rubbed me the wrong way. Not the score, mind you, cause I can see how some may feel that way toward this game, but the complaint about the dice roll gameplay. You're playing a real Action/RPG, so that kind of gameplay is to be expected. If you don't want that, then go play Gears of War or something. Let RPGs be RPGs, ya damn reviewers. They're making the industry conform to what they think should be the norm and it's ******* annoying.

Edited by Libertarian
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Did the same for Oblivion, Morrowind, and yep, Hellgate.

 

IMHO, it's a small requirement to really get into RPG's in general.

 

Even with a small imagination, you can still come up with something, anything to help with the immersion and role-playing part.

 

Also a little off-topic, but Oblivion had one of the worst UI's I've ever seen. Dear God, it was bad.

 

I'm glad that a few people understood what I was trying to say. :*

 

This is especially true for the RPG genre as you pointed out. Roleplaying both denotes and connotes using your imagination.

 

Yes, oblivion and morrowind ( morrowind moreso in my opinion) reward the user for using their creative juices to assist with the immersion. As sandbox games, you get the opportunity to create your own story, and the graphics, music, atmosphere, and mood of what you see on screen help to assist your imagination.

 

It's the same reason why I was able to really enjoy technically flawed games VTM:Bloodlines. If you use what you see on screen to serve your own purposes, rather than relying entirely on that, it could make for a much more fulfulling experience, especially in the realm of RPG's.

 

 

 

No amount of imagination can fix a broken game.

 

Although I agree with you, that is not the point I was trying to make at all.

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Using Hellgate as an example is not really helping your case, buddy.

 

I concede that it's a bit of an extreme example, but those usually serve best to illustrate a point. Hellgate was an ambitious RPG that was (is) indisputably flawed and got bad scores and a bad rap. Yet despite that, I was able to carve out an enjoyable experience for myself by not relying solely on what was presented on screen, but instead, using that as a starting point from which my own story could take off. Had I focused only on what was presented to me, I would have found a mundane main story, and a glitchy game. As I said above, I think doing this is especially key in the realm of RPG's, and it struck me that some of the people crucifying Alpha Protocol might have benefited from keeping this in mind.

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No offense, but AI is not at all part of the ****ing UI. It's a KEY component of the game, especially in a game that "allows" you to utilize stealth.

 

No amount of Hugo Award winning imagination is going to fix shoddy AI, no matter how much you want it to.

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Using Hellgate as an example is not really helping your case, buddy.

 

I concede that it's a bit of an extreme example, but those usually serve best to illustrate a point. Hellgate was an ambitious RPG that was (is) indisputably flawed and got bad scores and a bad rap. Yet despite that, I was able to carve out an enjoyable experience for myself by not relying solely on what was presented on screen, but instead, using that as a starting point from which my own story could take off. Had I focused only on what was presented to me, I would have found a mundane main story, and a glitchy game. As I said above, I think doing this is especially key in the realm of RPG's, and it struck me that some of the people crucifying Alpha Protocol might have benefited from keeping this in mind.

Taking the focus away from Alpha Protocol for a moment, because I haven't played it. Hellgate was a failed Diablo clone, yes it was somewhat ambitious in its scale, but that doesn't change the fact that in the end it failed miserably on multiple fronts including the online part which was arguably the main focus of the game. Having a great idea isn't worth anything if you can't follow through and being able to ignore all the flaws in a clearly bad game doesn't make the game any better.

Edited by Purkake
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No offense, but AI is not at all part of the ****ing UI. It's a KEY component of the game, especially in a game that "allows" you to utilize stealth.

 

No amount of Hugo Award winning imagination is going to fix shoddy AI, no matter how much you want it to.

 

Indeed, and I agree with you. :)

 

That's why I put "UI" in quotation marks. What I really meant was an abstract place or a gap between the human and the virtual world. Graphics, textures, combat mechanics, that awkward sneaking animation.... all those things stand between the user and his involvement with the virtual world in Alpha Protocol, and in that sense I meant they are part of the "user interface." Sorry for the confusion.

 

 

Some of you think I'm saying that imagination is a fix or a substitute for on-screen issues. That's not true, and that's not what I'm saying at all. It's more that the two should work together , and what you see on screen should help the imagination bridge that gap in a seamless way.

 

If a game's AI is atrocious, it definitely interferes with the process of bridging that gap between the user and the virtual world. And no amount of imagination could fix that.

 

But focusing only on on-screen issues and forgetting the other component, it could lead you to having an unreasonably harsher view of a game than you otherwise might have.

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No offense to the OP, but just sounds like another 'back in our day' post/comment.

 

Its always been the same. Some gamers play maths in RPGs like Might and Magic, some gamers get 'into character', and some just want to see some awesome pictures. Its never really changed and no one was spoiled.

 

That's like saying a couple of pong paddles should be treated like a fully fledged tennis game. They're different products for different people.

 

Just look at games like rockstar etc ... those games are a lot about imagination for some, scores for others, and some just like having a laugh.

 

I don't think anything has changed in this respect.

 

Hell I remember when my friends used to argue about which had better graphics ... Snes or Genesis ... Yes, it seems silly to people now, and people like to look romantically back on it and assume everyone used their imaginations but no ... some people it was really always about the graphics. ;p

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I don't think AP requires that much imagination to be played. I hate to say this, but "what you see is what you get" as far as the game is concerned. You will see some bad AI, some bad animations, some bad graphics. You will also see a great game. A great story, followed up with great characters, development and dialogue. You will find meaningful choices, almost groundbreaking for a video game. You will find a game that is true RPG, from top to bottom, with a side dish of stealth and action, not a shooter with RPG sprinkled on the top. BTW, nobody seemed to mind when Mass Effect 1, a 360 exclusive at the time of release, was pretty much the same, with the exception of the pistol being as effective as an assault rifle in that game.

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Oh but a bad UI and silly AI can really ruin the immersion no matter how good your imagination is just like a badly written book can ruin it for you or a movie with crappy acting or bad fx. No, I dont think they have forgotten how to play games. Different people have different expectations, different tastes etc.

Edited by blackwolfe
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Fallout 3 have horrible animations, no one criticize that. Both Fallout 3 and Oblivion are buggy as hell, no one criticize that. Mass Effect 1&2 have ****ty combat and little depth to it, Mass Effect 2 even got its depth striped from it. Both are one of the best game ever made in the pass few years. AP are buggy and have bad graphics, lots of people flamed it. Fallout 3 was great because of its imagination and creating the bad wasteland as a playground. The same goes for Oblivion. Mass Effect was great because of its story telling and dialogs, and rich universe, but fell short at some other things, the game was no where near perfect. Why can't people see the good things of AP and enjoy the game? The only thing that piss me off in AP was the mouse bug and how short the game really is (comparing to other RPGs). But with the mouse thing kinda of fixed, and veteran mode to playthrough, I am now having a blast playing this game, none of the bugs are gamebreaking, nor is it obvious. The way I see it, people just like going for mainstream high profile games, instead of thinking what the game excel at,0 and enjoy it.

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Oh but a bad UI and silly AI can really ruin the immersion no matter how good your imagination is just like a badly written book can ruin it for you or a movie with crappy acting or bad fx. No, I dont think they have forgotten how to play games. Different people have different expectations, different tastes etc.

 

Indeed. All of what you said goes without saying.

 

A more pertinent analogy would be: suppose there is a book with an excellent story, but the publisher got cheap, and released it in a hard-to-read, ugly font, and included typos.

 

Now, should you just pretend those issues don't exist during your review of the book? Absolutely not.

 

However, if there really is a good story there but published in an ugly font, I will see that as an unfortunate hindrance, but I won't let that color my entire perception of the story. It won't be a 2/10.

 

Ideally, the two things assist each other. Having an easy-to-read font makes for a seamless transition into the realm of the story. What's written on the physical page is just the medium through which you enter the virtual world of the story. If the medium is a hindrance, you should absolutely take off points for it, but at the same time, put it into its proper perspective, and recognize that it is only the first part of a two-step process.

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I will grant that I might be an extreme case when it comes to using imagination to fill gaps.

 

I still play and enjoy RPG's like might and magic 7:for blood and honor, and dark sun: the shattered lands. It's not nostalgia because I played both of those games for the first time in 2010 ! ;)

 

When I was a kid, if I found a stick on the ground, it was never just a stick. it could be a gun, a sword, or the front paw of my trusty wolf companion.

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Fallout 3 have horrible animations, no one criticize that. Both Fallout 3 and Oblivion are buggy as hell, no one criticize that. Mass Effect 1&2 have ****ty combat and little depth to it, Mass Effect 2 even got its depth striped from it. Both are one of the best game ever made in the pass few years. AP are buggy and have bad graphics, lots of people flamed it. Fallout 3 was great because of its imagination and creating the bad wasteland as a playground. The same goes for Oblivion. Mass Effect was great because of its story telling and dialogs, and rich universe, but fell short at some other things, the game was no where near perfect. Why can't people see the good things of AP and enjoy the game? The only thing that piss me off in AP was the mouse bug and how short the game really is (comparing to other RPGs). But with the mouse thing kinda of fixed, and veteran mode to playthrough, I am now having a blast playing this game, none of the bugs are gamebreaking, nor is it obvious. The way I see it, people just like going for mainstream high profile games, instead of thinking what the game excel at,0 and enjoy it.

 

 

Exactly.

Edited by The Jackalope
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