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Obsidian Media Blitz: Fallout: New Vegas and Alpha Protocol Retrospectives

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Obsidian Media Blitz: Fallout: New Vegas and Alpha Protocol Retrospectives

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Sat 9 September 2017, 22:00:08

Tags: Alpha Protocol; Chris Parker; Fallout: New Vegas; Feargus Urquhart; J.E. Sawyer; Matt MacLean; Obsidian Entertainment; Sega

We end the week with a couple more features from the ongoing Obsidian media campaign. First, another interview at USgamer. It's a 27 minute chat with Feargus Urquhart and Josh Sawyer about Fallout: New Vegas, a game that has become recognized as a modern classic in the wake of Fallout 4's release. Not as interesting as last week's Pillars of Eternity II interview, but Feargus does offhandedly reveal that he's been replaying New Vegas recently for Obsidian's secret project (which isn't Fallout!). I guess that tells us something about what sort of game it's going to be. The interview starts at 36:05.


On the same day, Eurogamer published an extensive retrospective of Alpha Protocol, Obsidian's flawed espionage-themed RPG that has also acquired a kind of cult classic status. The retrospective confirms many of the rumors that have been floating around for years about the game's troubled development. It also reveals that Obsidian had originally planned to make a deal with Sega to keep the Alpha Protocol intellectual property, but were ultimately unable to do so because of the cancellation of their Seven Dwarfs RPG. Here's an excerpt:

With rolled up sleeves and gritted teeth Obsidian finished Alpha Protocol and, according to the team in front of me, did so in time for the advertised October 2009 release. "We were set to ship at the end of 2009," Parker says. "The game was basically done to ship in 2009." Why, then, was Alpha Protocol delayed until May 2010? "It slipped into 2010 for reasons we'll never be able to answer in this room. They [Sega] held it until 2010," he says.

But that was OK wasn't it? It meant Obsidian had more time to polish, more time to fix bugs. Well no. "We had 20 people fixing bugs on the product and they were all going to be done by the end of September," Parker recalls. "But that was when they said, 'We're not going to ship it this year any more,' so the team went to 10 and fixed bugs through to the early calendar year. And then it sat around for around six months."

The team at Obsidian was - and still is by the sound of it - confused. They knew there were bugs in the game and didn't understand why they couldn't use the delay to address them. "We've come this far, how do you guys just leave it in the can and not put it directly to the shelves?" Matt MacLean remembers thinking. "Why don't we use this delay to fix more bugs?"

Presumably - and I've asked Sega for comment - Sega moved Alpha Protocol to avoid other big game releases. In autumn 2009 there was Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Uncharted 2. Then in early 2010 there was Mass Effect 2 ("oh dammit - we're going to have to follow Mass Effect 2?" was Obsidian's reaction) Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Conviction. You can see Sega's thinking.

Regardless, May 2010 rolled around and Alpha Protocol's release neared. Obsidian knew the game wasn't perfect but was proud of what had been made. "We always talk about how we think a game is going to rate before it launches," Chris Parker says. "We all expected [Alpha Protocol] to land around 80. We knew it had some issues, we understood all of that, but we thought if people could just get over those things the content would pull through.

"When it launched and it did significantly worse... it was pretty disheartening."

But as time passed, opinion began to change. People looked beyond the jankiness and began to appreciate the web of reactivity and choice and consequence Obsidian had spun. Here was a game which could look very different based on decisions you'd made. "There was one particular cutscene at the end that had so many character combinations in it it took probably 20 days of work time to do," Tyson Christensen says.

[...] And it's for these reasons and more people want an Alpha Protocol 2. "We finished a complete pitch for Alpha Protocol 2," Chris Parker says. "It's a pretty detailed pitch about 35-40 pages long. A lot of it was to do with fundamentally revisiting some of the gameplay systems to get some of the jankiness out of them and shore them up overall. I know the intention was to focus on reactivity because we knew that was one of the things people loved the most.

"I remember there was this idea I didn't think we could ever pull off. It was this choice and consequence web people wanted to have in the interface so you could see your choices and how they spider-webbed through [everything]. There were so many ways to play through the first game I don't think we could ever do that in the second one, but that was an idea people really wanted to pursue."

But Obsidian cannot make Alpha Protocol 2 without Sega sanctioning it, because Sega owns the game, the intellectual property, and when I asked Sega it didn't sound like an AP sequel was part of any kind of plan. But Sega almost didn't own the IP. The real kicker in all of this - the absolute heart-wrencher - is Obsidian almost did. What scuppered it was Disney cancelling the Seven Dwarves Snow White spin-off Obsidian was making after Neverwinter Nights 2.

"When the Dwarves thing happened we were practically done with an agreement with Sega to do Alpha Protocol," Feargus Urquhart says, "but what this cost us - Dwarves getting cancelled and that contract - was the Alpha Protocol IP. Having to get that contract signed right away... Originally we were going to own the Alpha Protocol IP."
And so ends another week of Obsidian media blitzing. I wonder how much longer this is going to continue?

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