Matt MacLean: Our approach to AP was to build all of our levels with the idea that the player could solve a given mission multiple ways. So from concepting, to review meetings, to production, to bug-fixing, we were always asking "How well would Sneaky MacThorton do this level?" or "What would Punchy von Thorton" do in this level?" or "So what happens if Sociopathorton decides to announce his presence in this allegedly covert mission by raining down hot lead on everyone?" This took years off our lives but I imagine living forever would be as awful as that Highlander movie so it's probably okay in the end.
Part of getting this to work meant being very strict about fail states - you should arrive at a game-over screen because you failed to survive, not because you got spotted when you were told not to give away your presence, or left alive a person you were ordered to kill. This in turn meant the plot had to roll with these choices. This took years off Chris Avellone's life but he's a cyborg, so it's probably okay in the end.
So when it came time to really dig into our levels, we'd have people play each level with all kinds of playstyles and builds. Our intrepid QA progression team would have sneak playthroughs, commando playthroughs, coward playthroughs, trap-heavy playthroughs, pacificistic playthroughs, and so on. This took years off the lives of our amazing QA members, but they're generally younger that the rest of the crew and will live to see the day when they can upload their brains into a state of digital senteince, so it's probably okay in the end.
Hooked Gamers: Decision based RPGs are gaining popularity and the latest example of that is the recently released Mass Effect 2. What are you doing to set yourselves apart from the other modern RPG developers ?
Matt Rorie: I don't think we're necessarily concerned overmuch with what other RPG developers are doing. We're all gamers here, and we love playing the RPGs that our colleagues at other companies develop, but it's a big marketplace that has only gotten bigger over the last few years, so there's room for everyone. With that said, we do have very high standards for our stories and dialogue, so we're looking forward to seeing what people make of our games when they hit store shelves.
Hooked Gamers: The game features some intuitive gadgets and gizmos for the player to use to his benefit. Can you give us an example of some of the tools at the player’s disposal?
Matt MacLean: The gadgets in Alpha protocol are a limited resource with generally flashy results. Depending on how you play and how you build your version of Mike, they'll either accentuate your strengths, compensate for a weakness, or just open new ways of solving encounters.
By playing to your strengths, I mean there are some gadgets that simply let you do things better - not fancy but certainly effective. If you excel at run-and-gun gameplay, you can pack along some performance enhancing synthetic transmitters to steady your aim, help shrug off injury, and add some punch to your close quarters combat.
Gadgets can compensate for your weakness by acting as limited resource help-me-outs. If the combat is challenging for you, you'll probably find crowd control a pain - an Incendiary Bomb will lay down fire that herds enemies into the same arc of fire (or incinerates the ones that don't move...) and help you manage your shooting. If you can't sneak and are really sick of having constant alarms and reinforcements slow you down, you can use a Radio Mimic to send in a false all-clear and at least give yourself a reset button on being subtle. If you find bypassing electronic circuits are beyond your abilities, an EM Charge will do the work for you.
Rounding it out, there are gadgets that just let you solve things in different ways. You can place Remote Mines and coordinate a quick double kill - shooting/stabbing one enemy while you blast his buddy to bits. The Sound Generator can be used to throw a guard off of his patrol (assuming he's not an agent trained to recognize such trickery) and sneak through an area that would have otherwise been diligently watched.
As with all your tools in Alpha protocol (Stealth, martial arts, firearms, etc) what you get out of the gadgets is dictated by how you like to play the game, how you build your character, and what best accommodates your skills as a player.
Hooked Gamers: The media also plays a role in the game. Can you tell us how and how it influences the game in the long-haul?
Matt Rorie: The television news will automatically follow your progress and report on the major events that happen in the game world, so if you walk into a combat mission and proceed to wipe out everything that moves, you can expect the news reporters to comment on the bloodbath at the train station (for example). You will also be able to feed information that you gain during the course of your missions to a reporter NPC that you meet fairly early on in the game, which can have some interesting repercussions down the line - unfortunately talking too much about that would veer into spoiler territory.
Hooked Gamers: Can you tell us something about the depth of character customisation in the game? Obviously we can’t change the name (not that we’d want to) but what can we change?
Matt Rorie: We really wanted to sell Mike Thorton as an iconic secret agent, but still give a good amount of customization options to players as they head through the game. There are dozens of different outfits and armors that you can obtain, along with a fair amount of different hairstyles, hats, facial hair, eye color, skin tone, and other goodies that you can customize to your heart's content. And that's not even touching on the many different skills and abilities that you can grant to Mike, which will ensure that you'll have very different experiences each time you play the game.
Hooked Gamers: It is our tradition to give developers a chance to say something about the game that they are desperate to get out. Is there anything burning on your lips?
Matt Rorie: When equipped, Alpha Protocol grants its wearer +3 Charisma, and enables the user to cast Have An Awesome Time Playing A Video Game at will.
Hooked Gamers: Thank you for your time!