Tacticular Cancer: We'll have your balls

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

Discussion in 'RPG News & Content' started by Infinitron, Sep 9, 2017.

  1. Make America Great Again Infinitrongender: ⚧ Trade Master Patron

    Infinitron
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    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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  2. Fairfaxgender: ⚧ Arcane

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    You tell me.
     
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  3. Flougender: ⚧ Learned

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    The Eurogamer article hinted of more to come during the weekend. So an another media blitz week incoming?
     
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  4. Licaon_Ktergender: ⚧ Augur

    Licaon_Kter
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    > "Why don't we use this delay to fix more bugs?"

    Is the interview cut off or what? What's the answer? Sega did not allow them to fix the bugs so the game ended up like it did? What? WTF?
     
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  5. Make America Great Again Infinitrongender: ⚧ Trade Master Patron

    Infinitron
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    The publisher does QA - those people were presumably moved to other Sega projects.
     
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  6. SeekfOgender: ⚧ Barely Literate

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    So are they going to reveal Alpha Protocol 2 or what?
     
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  7. aratukgender: ⚧ Savant

    aratuk
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    *sigh* I guess I have to post this again.

    Show Spoiler
    [​IMG]
     
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  8. Make America Great Again torogender: ⚧ Arcane Patron

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    Codex 2012 PC RPG Website of the Year, 2015 Serpent in the Staglands Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
    It's a blitz inside a blitz inside a blitz ... you got the idea.

    They are probably looking for new projects. The situation is dire considering that they got dumped by second rate Russian developers like Mail.Ru.
     
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  9. Kyl Von Kullgender: ⚧ Literate

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    At first I thought they were just promoting the Tyranny DLC, but with all of this press I bet they'll announce Tim and Leonard's secret project very soon.
     
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  10. Major_Blackhartgender: ⚧ Codexia Lord Sodom Patron

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    Why do they keep talking about Alpha Protocol? I had always figured the game was a black mark on their record, despite some of those nice things.
     
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  11. Make America Great Again CyberWhalegender: ⚧ Arcane

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    Not to mention they could make a spiritual sequel without having to moan about IP rights.
     
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  12. aratukgender: ⚧ Savant

    aratuk
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    Yes, it's not as though there is a huge Alpha Protocol fanbase who would lose the thread if Obsidian jumped over to a new espionage IP. Probably more about non-existent funding for "spiritual successor" IPs. Could have crowd-funded, but it was more of a sure bet to crowd-fund a generic high fantasy original IP, so that's what they did.
     
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  13. CrunchyHemorrhoidsgender: ⚧ Liturgist

    CrunchyHemorrhoids
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    Unless obsidianites were volunteering to fix bugs for free I really don't see how it was any concern of theirs what sega did with the game after it was done. And it certainly wasn't the bugs that made the game flop.

    Sega probably wanted the focus to be on something that would grab the millions of players AP failed to, not double down on the 200K or so AP fans. And certainly not use the Alpha Protocol name again.
     
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  14. Azrael the catgender: ⚧ Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    Azrael the cat
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    Plus for mid-size all the way up to lower-end-of-AAA (i.e. not the CoD behemoths, but includes your Bioshock type hits), the market is thoroughly familiar with the term 'spiritual sequel', and that a 'name' sequel does not imply gameplay synchronicity (e.g. Prey). With the exception of those few games that are either household names, or long-established "here's this year's update of the same game we've been selling you for 15 years (EA Sports, Elder Scrolls), I'm skeptical that the name of a gaming IP is worth that much.

    Not having to spend time re-inventing the wheel for mechanics, engine, setting, systems...that all saves money at a practical level, and players aren't nearly as keen as developers are to have to relearn a new system each time. But the name by itself? Seems to be a reflexive assumption borrowed from the movie business, where the whole product is passive and only occupies 2 hours of the buyer's time. I'm not overly convinced that it extends to an active hobby, where the buyer expects it to occupy free time for a month or two.
     
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  15. aratukgender: ⚧ Savant

    aratuk
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    But mechanics, system — gameplay "rules" — are not copyrightable, and Sega doesn't own the Unreal engine that was used to make the game. All Sega owns is the IP, and presumably the first game's code and art assets. It's an open question how much of the same code and art they could have or would have wanted to reuse.

    If they'd had funding for it, Obsidian could have made another very similar AP-style game with the Unreal engine, just under a different name. They wanted to buy their IP back from Sega, but the seven dwarves ruined it.
     
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  16. LarsWestergrengender: ⚧ Educated

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    Finally. Eurogamer: "Currently, however, Obsidian's hands are full, the 175-person studio occupied across four and a half projects: the Tyranny expansion, Pillars of Eternity 2, a small Pathfinder card game, a small idea the studio is "spinning up" and a considerable something else. And I'll tell you a bit more about that next week as well."
     
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  17. Drog Black Toothgender: ⚧ Unwanted

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    who gives a fuck about alpha protocol jesus christ easily the worst obsidiot game
     
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  18. huskarlsgender: ⚧ Novice

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    They should throw in the towel, apologize to their publishers, and go back to being the best console rpgs instead of the shittiest crpgs. New Vegas was their best work past and future because they got to come in use the existing brand, mechanics, engine, and gameplay from fallout 3 then blame all the problems on their publisher. Nothing will make you appreciate the work Bethesda puts in to make their gameplay so mediocre as a playthrough of NWN
     
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  19. Flougender: ⚧ Learned

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    Because Eurogamer apparently wants to talk about it. Maybe Eurogamer is ashamed of their terrible review back in the day and are still trying to make amends for it.
     
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  20. Bohraingender: ⚧ Learned

    Bohrain
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    Truth to be told I couldn't get into AP. Dialogue choices being QTE is something I can't tolerate.
     
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  21. Azrael the catgender: ⚧ Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    Azrael the cat
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    Registered Designs Act (or whatever its US equivalent is - I know you fuckers have one, because you guys made us do it) bitch!

    It might even be patentable. Borderline, but registered designs were invented to fill in that grey area anyway.
     
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  22. aratukgender: ⚧ Savant

    aratuk
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    No, the extent to which the rules of a game can be legally protected intellectual property is very limited, at least in the US.

    Even in cases where the functions of a game are very explicit, like a board game, wholesale copying is very common (as long as the rules are worded differently in the instructions). E.g., Words With Friends, or the many regional variants of Monopoly. A guy named Loren Brichter created a new word game on the iOS App Store several years ago, and almost immediately saw his rules get copied into someone else's game.

    In CRPGs, or in any other game where the actual mechanics aren't always even visible to the player, it would be even easier to reuse systems and rules.
     
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  23. M0RBUSgender: ⚧ Augur

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    I once played an Alpha Protocol.

    It was awful.
     
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  24. Qgender: ⚧ Augur Patron

    Q
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    Codex 2014 PC RPG Website of the Year, 2015 Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire Torment: Tides of Numenera Divinity: Original Sin 2
    I tried AP three times, and it was really hard to get into. All those hacking minigames are awful.
    Third time I finally did it, and I like it. AP is one of the best C&C games.
     
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  25. Diggfingergender: ⚧ Learned

    Diggfinger
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    FUck this guy is annoying gay to listen to and why the fuck doesnt he shut up about Final Fantasy and football shit.

    Could have warned to skip to the 2nd half.
     
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