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Review Seriously, what the fuck Obsidian?

Discussion in 'RPG Codex News & Content Comments' started by VentilatorOfDoom, Jun 10, 2010.

  1. VentilatorOfDoom RPG Codex Staff

    VentilatorOfDoom
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    Tags: Alpha Protocol; Obsidian Entertainment

    <p>... is a question raised by Gareth Fouche, of the Scars of War RPG fame. Gareth, also known by the handle Naked Ninja, <a href="http://scarsofwargame.com/DevBlog/?p=1374" target="_blank">shares his first impressions with Alpha Protocol</a>.</p>
    <blockquote>
    <p>Let&rsquo;s start with the design decisions. Probably the poorest is how they&rsquo;ve done the stealth system. I was completely flabbergasted to discover that you have no UI indication whatsoever of how well you&rsquo;re hidden and how much sound you&rsquo;re making. I know it is based on finding cover instead of hiding in shadows, but still. Am I more exposed behind this potplant than behind this column? How much noise am I making with this equipment load-out? What about when I shoot this pistol? I can&rsquo;t think of a stealth game which didn&rsquo;t feature at least some feedback for the player. But AP shows nothing. Am I doing well at stealth? The only way of knowing is when the guards ring an alarm.</p>
    <p>Speaking of which, cardinal sin number 2 : Gradually increasing levels of awareness, and the lack there-of. This is key to a stealth game, it allows the player to experiment and make small mistakes without completely blowing things. AP has an incredibly tiny margin here when you&rsquo;re starting out, even though I took a stealth character. If you don&rsquo;t hide well enough the guards go hostile, alarms blare and everyone starts shooting. As you get access to skills like evasion it becomes a little better, you can make a slight slip and quickly duck away, but the margin is still really tight in comparison to other games. Combined with lack of UI feedback it results in a <em>seriously</em> poor stealth experience.</p>
    <p>And then there are the magic powers. I&rsquo;m not talking about Shadow Operative, which I haven&rsquo;t got yet. I&rsquo;m talking about Awareness. Thorton must be part bat, because I just activate Awareness and now all the guards show up on my sonar. You&rsquo;d think it would be a great help with all the insta-spotting nastiness but it actually further ruins the stealth gameplay if you don&rsquo;t have to even check around walls to see that the only hostiles nearby are in front of you, or in that room. So it&rsquo;s a choice between very little margin of error when you stumble, or complete awareness of every NPC in front of you when you activate the power.</p>
    <p>So the basic stealth mechanics are shit. But it&rsquo;s compounded by fucking terrible level design. I&rsquo;ve played three missions in Saudi Arabia, bear in mind, and people say it gets better later. Fuck, I hope so.</p>
    </blockquote>
    <p>Huge &amp; Drastic C&amp;C make up for everything Gareth.</p>
    <p>Spotted at: <a href="http://scarsofwargame.com">SOW</a></p>
     
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  2. WhiskeyWolf RPG Codex Polish Car Thief Patron

    WhiskeyWolf
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    So skywayish.
     
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  3. Darth Roxor Prestigious Gentleman Wielder of the Huegpenis

    Darth Roxor
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    Or is it?

    I don't know what's his definition of 'stealthing through', maybe ghosting, yeah, that's pretty impossible then. But I remember having only two firefights in these 3 Saudi missions: one at the end of Darcy's mission where you have to take out the fags shooping the chopper, the second at the end of the mission to get Nasri, with the 'elite guards'.
     
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  4. Vault Dweller Commissar, Red Star Studio Developer

    Vault Dweller
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    You can take them out quietly. Go to the right, take out the nearby guard when nobody's looking, then climb the ladder and kill the lookout guard. The rest is easy.

    I agree that there should have been more to the stealth mechanics and a meter is a must, but the system, no matter how basic, does work and it's certainly possible to sneak through all missions (minus the boss fights, of course).
     
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  5. Darth Roxor Prestigious Gentleman Wielder of the Huegpenis

    Darth Roxor
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    Aye, I tried that. Managed to knock out two or three of them, I think, but then the others spotted me and I had to shoot the bastards. And after that I didn't feel like restarting 'cause it was like the sixth try or so, and I was a little annoyed.
     
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  6. Overweight Manatee Scholar

    Overweight Manatee
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    I can confirm it is possible to ghost all Saudi missions except the two forced fights. It does sometimes require a lot of patience, but I did it without invisibility. I imagine that if you employed a lot of creative use of the sound generator you could ghost past most other non-combat missions without invisibility. Being Stealthy isn't hard at all, especially if you use the tranquilizers rounds.

    Frankly I don't care for stealth meters. It adds more tension when you don't know just how well you can be seen. And the fact that enemies react very quickly to threats is probably the best part of the AI, when you are spotted they don't dick around. The AI is already pretty dumb, at least let it react like it should when they see you.

    All in all, the game would have massively been improved in every conceivable way if areas were open and about 5x as big as they are now.
     
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  7. SuicideBunny (ノ ゜Д゜)ノ ︵ ┻━┻

    SuicideBunny
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    Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Torment: Tides of Numenera
    and didn't close of previous segments for no reason whatsoever. fuck i hate that.
     
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  8. Overweight Manatee Scholar

    Overweight Manatee
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    Yeah, when you are staring at two identical doors. One leads to a side room with loot, the other will close behind you and autosave as soon as you go through it. R00fles!
     
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  9. Fat Dragon Arbiter

    Fat Dragon
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    Stealth is fun in the beginning when you have to actually, you know, use stealth. But it becomes piss easy and broken as all hell once you get the Constant Awareness skill and the incredibly fucking overpowered Shadow Operative.
     
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  10. KalosKagathos Prestigious Gentleman Learned

    KalosKagathos
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    Buying a map before a mission helps a lot, but yeah.
     
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  11. Dark Matter Prophet

    Dark Matter
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    The stealth system is perfectly serviceable. Expecting it to play like Splinter Cell or Thief is stupid considering that the stealth aspect is the entire focus of those games. So far, I've had no problem playing the game as a stealth character and I haven't even used any gadgets.

    And what exactly is so terrible about the level design? While the general progression through a mission is fairly linear, there are multiple paths one can take within individual rooms/areas.
     
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  12. Vault Dweller Commissar, Red Star Studio Developer

    Vault Dweller
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    Pretty much. The stealth system is serviceable (I have a single point in Stealth, so I don't rely on uber abilities), the stealth path is viable and more interesting, and there are quite a few ways to approach your targets.

    From my impressions:
    http://www.irontowerstudio.com/forum/in ... 546.0.html

    "So far the overall design is linear and even though the weapon dealer is hiding in a ruined city, you don't get to determine the path and have to move through sub-area A, then sub-area B, then sub-area C, and so on. However, most of these sub-areas are fairly large and well designed and give you many aforementioned routes. The areas aren't loaded with guards, which is a "good design" element. You get 4-6 guards patrolling and moving around. I put a point into Stealth which reduces the distance at which a guard can spot you, but it didn't make me invisible and I had to reload quite a few times. It's a bit frustrating to play with a self-imposed goal (no alarms) when it's so easy to kill everyone in less than a minute. I really wish that the difficulty was harder and that you HAD to sneak unless you were an unbelievably bad dude. Oh well...

    The last mission gives you 3 excellent sub-areas (and several plain ones). Taking out all guards silently is difficult but very satisfying. Often you have to move around, figuring out the best way to approach a hard to get to guard, especially if he's backed by his buddy. The pistol's critical range is fairly short, so you have to be close if you want to kill a guard in one shot. "
     
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  13. Clockwork Knight Arcane

    Clockwork Knight
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    Awareness is a level 1 skill that tells you where the enemies are looking. Skyway said that visual indicators like that were shit, though.

    So, it's shit if the game tells you, and it's shit if the game doesn't tell you.

    I don't really understand this. The margin of time to correct mistakes is too small, and somehow this makes the stealth shit? Stealth shouldn't have any margin of time for correction to begin with, FFS.

    Well, at least he didn't complain about spe-

    ...nvm. So first there are no magic icons and it was shit, now there are magic icons and it's shit.

    He's right about the extremes, but a higher stealth skill makes Awareness active at all times, which I suppose will also be shit.
     
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  14. Silellak Liturgist

    Silellak
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    Standard disclaimer: I still haven't played AP so if I'm mistaken on any gameplay statements feel free to verbally bitch-slap me.

    That said, I don't think he contracted himself. "Awareness" showing you where guards are and what direction they're facing is different than having some sort of UI feedback regading how well your character is hidden. Though from my understanding, there isn't any such indication because there aren't different "levels" of hidden - there's hidden, and there's spotted.

    This fact leads naturally to his next complaint - there's no "levels" of hidden and there's also no "levels" of guard awareness. They either spot you and know where you are and go to full alert, or they're completely oblivious to their existence. There's no "huh?" stage, where you might've made some noise, but are concealed well enough by shadow that the closest guard(s) can't quite figure out what made the noise - in other words, you slipped up, bu not enough to call down the full fury of God upon you. That's what he means by room for error - in other games with a stealth option, those guards might now be on "alert" and start a patrol for you, but they aren't into shooting mode quite yet.

    That's my understanding of his issues. While you may not agree that those are issues, I don't think he in any way contradicted himself.
     
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  15. dr. one Augur

    dr. one
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    except there is exactly such stage...

    the article is shit.
     
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  16. VentilatorOfDoom RPG Codex Staff

    VentilatorOfDoom
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    The stealth mechanics aren't that bad. It also happens that some guard heard something and his triangle goes from green (not aware of you) to yellow (alerted but you're not spotted yet), then he proceeds *is there somebody?* *come out* etc and if you stay hidden he will return to green eventually. Another scenario: you took someone down - stealthily - and his corpse gets spotted by another foe. He will turn yellow (alerted) run up to the corpse to check it and then he will turn red and all the other guards nearby too. Then they will search around etc. If they don't find you they will go back to yellow and green eventually. Sure that's a bit silly, but considering you can't hide the corpses what else should happen?
    Stealthing the Brotocols is actually pretty difficult (except with Veteran and maxed out stealth from the get go) and will lead to lots of reloads.
    And that's what buggered me most: after all the efforts and invested time to go thru a level undetected, without setting of alarms, without ever getting spotted etc, there comes the time when you're pushed into a cutscene and heavy shooting ensues. AAARRRGGGHHHHH. Feels like wasted effort.
     
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  17. Radisshu Prophet

    Radisshu
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    Well, yeah.

    There is one scene in particular, though I can't recall when it takes place specifically, that has Mike run out from cover and yell "HEY!" to the bad guy. WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING, MIKE?
     
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  18. Naked Ninja Arbiter

    Naked Ninja
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    There is. But it's tiny until you get your skills up. Which might make sense...except it's shit playing a stealth character that can't stealth much at all until they level up.

    Let me put it in DnD terms. It's like saying the 2nd level rogue can't stealth until they get to level 10. No, it should be relative. 2nd level rogue should do about the same vs 2nd level enemies as a 20th level rogue does vs 20th level enemies. 2nd level rogue should suck against 20th level enemies though, and vice versa.

    In AP terms, it should be easy stealthing around the basic trash terrorists, harder around the luitenants, and much harder vs other enemy special agents or whatever.

    I took the stealth background, I started with 2 (I think) points in stealth, pistols and martial arts. And being noticed resulted in instant hostility by everyone in the area and a firefight. Only once you get evasion do you have a real chance to avoid notice. Which you get at level 4 stealth. And which has a 300 second cooldown.
     
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  19. denizsi Arcane

    denizsi
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    You can see around corners without even risking yourself due to the third person camera so I find most of this bitching kind of silly. Lack of visual and or audial indicators is troubling from a design POV but all I can say is, I've played the game three times, investing in Stealth in first two games, and obsessed with going through with zero alarms/detection, I've had no trouble sneaking around after getting familiar with how it works during the Saudi Arabia mission, even in my third game with a single point in Stealth, nor have I once needed such feedback. Also, the enemy icons you get with Awareness do provide feedback, actually and I think it's great that such a feedback was made dependent on a skill, even if the execution is bad.

    Also, there are all kinds of equipment that help with skills, including stealth. Using armor with high sound dampening or using digital camouflage with your armor, which shortens visual detection range of enemies, really helps. Not exacly realistic perhaps but stealth in AP is possibly the most RPGish stealth I've yet to see in any game, right after NOLF2 which is very ironic because NOLF2 isn't meant to be an RPG at all but in practice, is miles and miles a better one in all comparable aspects and I mean that quite literally:

    [​IMG]
     
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  20. Brother None inXile Entertainment Developer

    Brother None
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    I think you two are talking about different things.

    Once the guard has made visual contact, he will engage and/or sound the alarm. They have to physically be at the alarm box to do so, so you can prevent it. Once they open gunfire the other guards will hear tho, makes perfect sense.

    The stage dr. one means, and which I assumed you were talking about too, is between seeing you and hearing you. If they hear something, they will go "what's that?", if you have awareness they'll turn yellow. They'll look around but if they don't spot you will turn back to neutral.

    Even if they've turned red and hunt you, you can find a spot to hide until they calm down. They'll actually calm down all the way to blue, which is kind of silly.

    Not that I disagree with you, the stealth gameplay is shoddy, it's either kind of mediocre or dependent on magical powers. Activating top-level Shadow Operative and invisibly murdering people in plain sight for 20 seconds is not actually stealth gameplay.

    ...

    *gets back to review*
     
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  21. dr. one Augur

    dr. one
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    you can stealth whole Saudi Arabia relatively easily, if you´re cautious and patient enough and as you put points into stealth you can be progressively more and more frivolous.
    maybe you haven´t paid attention to your gear, some armors make you move louder than others (sound dampening stat), some upgrades can help too.

    something like this is implemented in AP - some enemies are better at detecting a stealthy character, some are worse - it´s mostly based on an organization (and thus their training) they´re part of and i think their rank plays a role too. G22 agents are better, russian mafia is worse, etc.

    i think we´re talking about different things here. by the "stage" i meant the one mentioned by Ventilator above, aka "yellow triangle" aka "huh?" stage - the stage enemies go into when they hear you (but not see), or discover a dead comrade etc.

    evasion works well enough as a panic button and its later iterations can be used quite tactically as well.
     
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  22. denizsi Arcane

    denizsi
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    Exactly and intel even gives you clues on strong and weak parts of enemies. Now, the game isn't hard at all without paying much attention to intel and your equipment but when you do, it's ridiculously easy.

    Final note: if you want to play a good Spy RPG, play NOLF2. It doesn't have interactive dialogue but has everything else done better, including writing and humour. First game is better though, but has no skills.
     
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  23. Naked Ninja Arbiter

    Naked Ninja
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    Like I said in my blog post, with that many points in Stealth the guards would literally spot me as I crested the top of a ladder, from across the compound or as I walk around a corner, or walking on a ledge from the ground below. By which I mean start shooting. Maybe they go into the 'huh' stage and then immediately detect me again, I don't know.
     
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  24. Roguey Arcane Sawyerite

    Roguey
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    Will stealth in Scars of War be better, comparable, or worse than Alpha Protocol? I'd like an answer very much please.
     
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  25. Radisshu Prophet

    Radisshu
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    What kind of armour you wear makes a huge difference.
     
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