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Gamasutra Interview with Chris Avellone Part 2

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Gamasutra Interview with Chris Avellone Part 2

Game News - posted by Jaesun on Thu 18 August 2011, 05:54:46

Tags: Chris Avellone; Obsidian Entertainment

Gamasutra has Part 2 of their interview with Chris Avellone. A brief summary:

This edition of "Unmasking the Gamers" features part 2 of an interview with Chris Avellone. Having spoken previously about RPG design, this time round we had a look at the development and eventual reception for the espionage-RPG Alpha Protocol, the relationship between developers and publishers, the process of casting voice actors to suit written characters, as well as a bit more about Chris himself
One aspect that we did want to include for AP2 was a system proposed by our Systems Designer, Matt MacLean - I've heard it called "honeycomb" mission structure, but that makes me think of cereal, so I'll just describe it instead (note that I'm quoting my answer in Vince Weller's Iron Tower interview below):
Honeycomb Mission Structure: It applies to a mission design where the player is given an overarching objective (to put it in Fallout New Vegas terms: "force the New California Republic to sign the treaty with the Jacobstown super mutants") and then given about 5-6 "satellite quests" orbiting the main quest, all of which can affect the set-up or success of the central mission. The player can choose which of those 5-6 missions he wants to undertake, and they all react to each other and cause a reaction in the central objective as well. 
We did this to an extent in AP (optional missions, missions affecting other missions for each hub), but a lot more we could have done with this system, and all other things being equal, it's my goal that it be a focus for at least one of our titles in the future, as it's a really interesting idea. 
The disadvantage is it can get extremely complex if done improperly (special casing events), the advantage is that it's a better means of giving the player reactivity without a linear quest progression... and more importantly, it gives the player choices in how they want to complete the objective. They wouldn't need to do all 5-6 missions at all, and they could accomplish these satellite missions in any order they wanted. A speech character may simply target 3 missions that cater to diplomacy (say, sowing gossip or convincing soldiers or officers that the main capital is going to be attacked), and suddenly the garrison gets a high-level order to move its troops to the capital to defend the monarch.
There are things I think we did do well in Alpha Protocol, and I'm proud of them. There's a lot of branching, there's a lot of consequences to your choices, you can outwit the bad guy just by being clever and doing your homework, you can persuade almost all your adversaries that you'd make a better boss, the fact we didn't use speech or dialogue skills in conversations as an "insta-win" button, the character had no moral barometer, but everyone's perception of him was different was good, and I liked the fact that having negative reputation gave bonuses, so if you felt like being a jackass, the game recognized you were in a role-playing game and playing a role and didn't cut you off from content to punish you, it gave you different content and abilities. I like that I could pick and choose the personality of the weapons, Matt MacLean wrote great emails, and I did like the fact that there was a pacifistic path... and having the voice actor who did Winnie the Pooh be one of our major adversaries was a nice, bizarre little touch.
WO: Is there any character that you’ve written which has been based on you, or shared aspects of your own personality? 
MCA: There's a little bit of my take on religion with Kaelyn the Dove in Mask of the Betrayer. I don't generally try to write based on my personal views outside of gaming or based on anyone I know, I feel it muddies the point of the character and doesn't help the narrative. Plus, I'd feel weird about incorporating elements of someone I knew into a character, since I feel it ends up being distracting to your evaluation of the character as you're implementing it and can sometimes feel "off" to someone who encounters the character in game. 
There are a few exceptions, and these were all done in the context of questioning their world or questioning game mechanics: One is Kreia in Knights of the Old Republic 2, who captures a lot of the questions about the Force and Star Wars, another is Elijah in FNV DLC1: Dead Money, who is speaking about my frustration with hand-holding in RPGs, but considering both are franchise and/or game mechanic opinions directly related to the universes they are trapped in, I feel they get a pass.
The first part can be found here.
Thanks Surf Solar!
Spotted at: Gamasutra

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