My Problems with Dice-Roll Shooters

Posted by GeneralGrey (66 posts) -

I don't generally blog, but after just completing Alpha Protocol, I feel the need to express myself in an arena where others may (or may not) read and respond:

 

There are few things in the world of gaming that irritate me more than dice-roll, shooter RPGs.   I really don't understand how anyone in this day and age (without a severe masochistic strain) can enjoy such an absurd, archaic system.   Truly.   I don't get it.

 

There are a couple pieces of rationale I have for this opinion.  

First, I contend that dice-roll shooting has absolutely no place in an RPG wherein the role to be played is that of an elite soldier or agent (i.e. Alpha Protocol, Mass Effect, etc.).  These people represent the pinnacle of training and conditioning and, therefore, should not require the emptying of an entire clip to hit an enemy 3 feet in front of them.   If they did, there is simply no way that they could have gotten to the position they now occupy.   It destroys all sense of immersion.   I have no problem with adding abilities or small increases in accuracy based on character progression, but the baseline should be far more reasonable. I haven't fired a gun personally in years, yet I am absolutely certain that I could do a much better job of it than Michael Thorton.   I think it's more than reasonable to hold that the character on screen in these games should not have worse accuracy than the average player in-front of the screen.

   

Second, I have developed a principle: if you're going to make a game that looks and operates like a shooter, then make it a damned shooter.   There is a particular mission in Alpha Protocol that infuriated me to a point that I have seldom reached in gaming - it occurs in a courtyard where you are tasked with protecting a particular individual from swarms of  continuously (and visibly)-spawning enemies.   These enemies are armed with assault rifles and have the ludicrous propensity to spam grenades.   Additionally, the subject of your protection is an absolute moron who will either:

 

A.) Crouch behind a flowerbox, refusing to move come Hell, high water, or the inevitable grenade that strikes him within the first 3 seconds of the encounter, instantly reducing his health by a third.   Strangely enough, he also doesn't seem to mind getting repeatedly shot in the head by a sedentary enemy 4 feet away.

or  

 B.) Run headlong into the middle of the courtyard/swarm of enemies and then stop and allow himself to be torn to pieces.   

  *I can only imagine these actions are based on a random dice roll as well - attributing them to AI would denigrate anyone's possible definition of "intelligence."  

 

Now, returning to my principle, in a standard shooter this sort of scenario would be fine.   A multitude of enemies and poor ally AI could be overcome by skill and precise virtual-marksmanship.   Not so in a dice-roll shooter.   For me, this encounter occurred reasonably early in the game, before I had the opportunity to gain enough experience to level up skills beyond stealth (not at all handy in an unavoidable firefight) and pistols (which complement the stealth).   As such, I was ill-prepared for this sort of scenario and had no choice but to take out my tiny weapon and start shooting wildly into the mass of homicidal assholes.   My special (non-upgraded) ability to momentarily mark and execute a small number of enemies (ala dead eye in Red Dead Redemption) didn't do me much good as both myself and my "friend" were butchered repeatedly and brutally by the marauders.   The lack of substantial baseline accuracy was exacerbated by the fact that many of these enemies moved with such rapidity that any sort of effective targeting was rendered nearly impossible. I gradually became infuriated, screaming a variety of obscenities into my XBL Party Chat.   This was a shooter-scenario in a game that looks like a shooter, acts like a shooter, yet isn't a shooter.   And it was AWFUL.   Eventually, I managed to "beat" the encounter, though I'm not sure exactly how.   By my count there were still 4 or 5 enemies on screen when the cutscene triggered and I was given back my sanity, though a distinct bad taste in my mouth remained.   My basic point here is this: If I become irritated when playing games, I feel it should be due to my own lack of skill, rather than the poor design choices of the game itself.   For instance, when I play Super Meat Boy and die a million times, I don't get pissed off at the game; I get pissed off at myself for being terrible at the game.  In Alpha Protocol and games like it, I don't generally feel like I'm terrible at the game after such an encounter, rather I feel like the game itself is terrible.  That's a problem.

 

 Now, after going through two of my main reasons for despising the system, I'd like to turn to two games that, in my opinion, succesfully address the problem of dice-roll shooting in RPGs; Fallout 3 and Mass Effect 2.  The former from a legitimate fiction perspective (addressing my first rationale), the latter from a make-it-a-shooter perspective (addressing my second rationale). 

 
I mentioned before that dice-roll shooting (to the extent that they are used in Alpha Protocol) should not be used in games where the main character is supposedly an elite combat operative of some sort.  This is as it makes absolutely no sense in the context of the game's fiction.  In Fallout 3, you're a kid who has lived his whole life in a vault and whose sole experience with firearms comes from shooting a BB-gun at mutated roaches.  Naturally, when you get out you're not going to have much of a clue of what you're doing.  In other words, having very little accuracy makes sense for the role that you're playing.  Additionally, the game knows what it is and only rarely (if ever - it's been a long time and I can't recall any) becomes a victim of the shooter-scenario problem that I discussed earlier.  Bethesda knew they were creating an RPG with FPS elements and designed accordingly.  They even provided insight into how the system works with VATS.  For these reasons, I am completely fine with how Fallout 3 plays.  My first bit of reasoning has been satisfied. 
 
The game to which Alpha Protocol could best be compared (in more ways than one) is Mass Effect.  Both are RPGs with third-person shooter gameplay, both are heavily story-based with dynamic conversations and a storyline heavily-dependent on player choice, and both utilize dice-roll shooting (though Alpha Protocol's use is to a far greater extent).  Also similarly, both games' gameplay suffered from being distinctly not fun.  The difference between them is that Bioware realized that ME1's gameplay was terrible and addressed that issue in Mass Effect 2.  Obsidian, on the other hand, seems to have taken the worst elements of ME1 and augmented them in Alpha Protocol (which released months after ME2).   How did Bioware address the problems of ME1?  They took their game that looked, acted, and felt like a shooter and they made it a shooter.  BAM!  Instant fun.  "Bullets" go where you shoot them, making player-skill more important than player-luck.  The game also feels more internally consistent from both a gameplay perspective - shooter components actually function properly - and from a fiction perspective in that I can now believe that this guy is a trained, elite soldier with the skills to save the galaxy.  Thus, both bits have been satisfied. 
 
I really want to see another Alpha Protocol game.  As the GB crew mentioned in their deliberations for 'Most Disappointing Game of 2010,' this game had real potential.  Indeed, it did many things right - at times I found myself sitting back with a giant smile on my face as I played through a pretty damn good spy story.  But the gameplay sinks pretty much all hope of this game rising above mere mediocrity.  After playing it, I found it far more disappointing than Fable 3 (which, don't get me wrong, is a very disappointing game); not because I was hyped and the game didn't deliver, but because there are sparks of absolute brilliance buried beneath the crappy dice-roll shooting and poor design decisions.  I can only hope that game-designers in general just let the concept die a painful death - in games like Alpha Protocol, it is nothing more than an archaic, obsolete, and infuriating remnant of a bygone age.
#1 Posted by GeneralGrey (66 posts) -

I don't generally blog, but after just completing Alpha Protocol, I feel the need to express myself in an arena where others may (or may not) read and respond:

 

There are few things in the world of gaming that irritate me more than dice-roll, shooter RPGs.   I really don't understand how anyone in this day and age (without a severe masochistic strain) can enjoy such an absurd, archaic system.   Truly.   I don't get it.

 

There are a couple pieces of rationale I have for this opinion.  

First, I contend that dice-roll shooting has absolutely no place in an RPG wherein the role to be played is that of an elite soldier or agent (i.e. Alpha Protocol, Mass Effect, etc.).  These people represent the pinnacle of training and conditioning and, therefore, should not require the emptying of an entire clip to hit an enemy 3 feet in front of them.   If they did, there is simply no way that they could have gotten to the position they now occupy.   It destroys all sense of immersion.   I have no problem with adding abilities or small increases in accuracy based on character progression, but the baseline should be far more reasonable. I haven't fired a gun personally in years, yet I am absolutely certain that I could do a much better job of it than Michael Thorton.   I think it's more than reasonable to hold that the character on screen in these games should not have worse accuracy than the average player in-front of the screen.

   

Second, I have developed a principle: if you're going to make a game that looks and operates like a shooter, then make it a damned shooter.   There is a particular mission in Alpha Protocol that infuriated me to a point that I have seldom reached in gaming - it occurs in a courtyard where you are tasked with protecting a particular individual from swarms of  continuously (and visibly)-spawning enemies.   These enemies are armed with assault rifles and have the ludicrous propensity to spam grenades.   Additionally, the subject of your protection is an absolute moron who will either:

 

A.) Crouch behind a flowerbox, refusing to move come Hell, high water, or the inevitable grenade that strikes him within the first 3 seconds of the encounter, instantly reducing his health by a third.   Strangely enough, he also doesn't seem to mind getting repeatedly shot in the head by a sedentary enemy 4 feet away.

or  

 B.) Run headlong into the middle of the courtyard/swarm of enemies and then stop and allow himself to be torn to pieces.   

  *I can only imagine these actions are based on a random dice roll as well - attributing them to AI would denigrate anyone's possible definition of "intelligence."  

 

Now, returning to my principle, in a standard shooter this sort of scenario would be fine.   A multitude of enemies and poor ally AI could be overcome by skill and precise virtual-marksmanship.   Not so in a dice-roll shooter.   For me, this encounter occurred reasonably early in the game, before I had the opportunity to gain enough experience to level up skills beyond stealth (not at all handy in an unavoidable firefight) and pistols (which complement the stealth).   As such, I was ill-prepared for this sort of scenario and had no choice but to take out my tiny weapon and start shooting wildly into the mass of homicidal assholes.   My special (non-upgraded) ability to momentarily mark and execute a small number of enemies (ala dead eye in Red Dead Redemption) didn't do me much good as both myself and my "friend" were butchered repeatedly and brutally by the marauders.   The lack of substantial baseline accuracy was exacerbated by the fact that many of these enemies moved with such rapidity that any sort of effective targeting was rendered nearly impossible. I gradually became infuriated, screaming a variety of obscenities into my XBL Party Chat.   This was a shooter-scenario in a game that looks like a shooter, acts like a shooter, yet isn't a shooter.   And it was AWFUL.   Eventually, I managed to "beat" the encounter, though I'm not sure exactly how.   By my count there were still 4 or 5 enemies on screen when the cutscene triggered and I was given back my sanity, though a distinct bad taste in my mouth remained.   My basic point here is this: If I become irritated when playing games, I feel it should be due to my own lack of skill, rather than the poor design choices of the game itself.   For instance, when I play Super Meat Boy and die a million times, I don't get pissed off at the game; I get pissed off at myself for being terrible at the game.  In Alpha Protocol and games like it, I don't generally feel like I'm terrible at the game after such an encounter, rather I feel like the game itself is terrible.  That's a problem.

 

 Now, after going through two of my main reasons for despising the system, I'd like to turn to two games that, in my opinion, succesfully address the problem of dice-roll shooting in RPGs; Fallout 3 and Mass Effect 2.  The former from a legitimate fiction perspective (addressing my first rationale), the latter from a make-it-a-shooter perspective (addressing my second rationale). 

 
I mentioned before that dice-roll shooting (to the extent that they are used in Alpha Protocol) should not be used in games where the main character is supposedly an elite combat operative of some sort.  This is as it makes absolutely no sense in the context of the game's fiction.  In Fallout 3, you're a kid who has lived his whole life in a vault and whose sole experience with firearms comes from shooting a BB-gun at mutated roaches.  Naturally, when you get out you're not going to have much of a clue of what you're doing.  In other words, having very little accuracy makes sense for the role that you're playing.  Additionally, the game knows what it is and only rarely (if ever - it's been a long time and I can't recall any) becomes a victim of the shooter-scenario problem that I discussed earlier.  Bethesda knew they were creating an RPG with FPS elements and designed accordingly.  They even provided insight into how the system works with VATS.  For these reasons, I am completely fine with how Fallout 3 plays.  My first bit of reasoning has been satisfied. 
 
The game to which Alpha Protocol could best be compared (in more ways than one) is Mass Effect.  Both are RPGs with third-person shooter gameplay, both are heavily story-based with dynamic conversations and a storyline heavily-dependent on player choice, and both utilize dice-roll shooting (though Alpha Protocol's use is to a far greater extent).  Also similarly, both games' gameplay suffered from being distinctly not fun.  The difference between them is that Bioware realized that ME1's gameplay was terrible and addressed that issue in Mass Effect 2.  Obsidian, on the other hand, seems to have taken the worst elements of ME1 and augmented them in Alpha Protocol (which released months after ME2).   How did Bioware address the problems of ME1?  They took their game that looked, acted, and felt like a shooter and they made it a shooter.  BAM!  Instant fun.  "Bullets" go where you shoot them, making player-skill more important than player-luck.  The game also feels more internally consistent from both a gameplay perspective - shooter components actually function properly - and from a fiction perspective in that I can now believe that this guy is a trained, elite soldier with the skills to save the galaxy.  Thus, both bits have been satisfied. 
 
I really want to see another Alpha Protocol game.  As the GB crew mentioned in their deliberations for 'Most Disappointing Game of 2010,' this game had real potential.  Indeed, it did many things right - at times I found myself sitting back with a giant smile on my face as I played through a pretty damn good spy story.  But the gameplay sinks pretty much all hope of this game rising above mere mediocrity.  After playing it, I found it far more disappointing than Fable 3 (which, don't get me wrong, is a very disappointing game); not because I was hyped and the game didn't deliver, but because there are sparks of absolute brilliance buried beneath the crappy dice-roll shooting and poor design decisions.  I can only hope that game-designers in general just let the concept die a painful death - in games like Alpha Protocol, it is nothing more than an archaic, obsolete, and infuriating remnant of a bygone age.
#2 Posted by Jimbo (9799 posts) -

ME2 worked for me because it felt like it was just turning a bad shooter into a good shooter. I never really felt like AP was supposed to be any kind of shooter. I didn't have the problem with immersion either, I just considered the gameplay to be an abstract representation rather than a realistic one.

Games make concessions on realism all the time, but people only ever seem to mind when it's detrimental to the player. If your immersion is broken by the player character not being convincingly accurate with a pistol, shouldn't it also be broken by

#3 Posted by Jimbo (9799 posts) -

... how bad guards are in every game, and regen health, etc. etc.

(sorry for break, iPad fail and no edit function)

#4 Posted by GeneralGrey (66 posts) -
Thanks for commenting!  Didn't actually expect anyone to read my rambling :) 
 
@Jimbo
said:
" ME2 worked for me because it felt like it was just turning a bad shooter into a good shooter. I never really felt like AP was supposed to be any kind of shooter."  
I'm not sure how AP can be taken to be anything but a shooter; its gameplay core is third person, over the shoulder shooting.  Whether or not AP was supposed to be a shooter is somewhat irrelevant.  It is one.  Particularly given the situations like the one I addressed (the courtyard scenario) where the only viable player option  is to utilize the horrendously subpar shooting mechanic. 
 
As for gameplay being an abstract representation rather than a realistic one - I agree completely.  But it becomes nearly impossible, at least for me, to take this character seriously as a secret agent when he has about the same accuracy with a gun as a typical chimpanzee.   Imagine your typical James Bond movie - how exciting or engrossing would the films be if Bond couldn't shoot a target 3 feet away. How believable would he be as a character?   This goes hand in hand with the idea of immersion being broken by bad guard AI or regenerating health.  Guards are notoriously stupid in Bond films, nor does the titular agent ever seem to get seriously injured, yet that never really detracts from the overall experience.  Indeed, all it would take to ruin a Bond movie is one accurate guard.  Basically,  I am not advocating that these games aim for perfect realism, merely a significant degree of reasonableness in favor of the player. 
 
One plays RPGs to play roles, thus necessitating believable player-characters.  An elite superspy that can't shoot is simply unbelievable and, concordantly, imposes a detrimental effect on my ability to fulfill the very purpose of the genre.
#5 Posted by Delta_Ass (3274 posts) -

Hmmm. Well, I agree with everything you said, Mr Grey.
 
Except Fallout 3. I really disliked the shooting in Fallout 3, and had no desire to use VATS.

#6 Posted by MooseyMcMan (10864 posts) -

Nicely worded. Dice rolls are pretty terrible. The Mass Effect games never really felt too dice roll-y to me, they just seemed to go the "we'll give you a huge reticle" approach.  
 
When will they ever learn? 

Moderator
#7 Posted by sixghost (1679 posts) -

I really don't think AP was as dice-rolley as you think. Even very early in the game the assault rifle is pretty accurate.
 
It's nothing compared to something like Fallout 3.

#8 Posted by GeneralGrey (66 posts) -
@sixghost said:
" I really don't think AP was as dice-rolley as you think. Even very early in the game the assault rifle is pretty accurate.  It's nothing compared to something like Fallout 3. "
You may very well be right about the assault rifle.  I decided from the start to go the stealth route with the pistol and occasionally the smg - neither of which had any real accuracy to speak of.  Just assumed the other weapons were comparable.
#9 Posted by MooseyMcMan (10864 posts) -
@GeneralGrey: Yeah, I played a bit of it with a friend (Endurance Run style with one of us playing, and the other watching), and we went with assault rifles and shotguns. Well, we didn't really play too much, but we liked running up to dudes, stabbing them in the neck, and then just shooting everyone else. I mean, the game was still far from being on par with regular-ass shooters, but it was better than what we saw with pistols. 
Moderator
#10 Posted by HarlequinRiot (1098 posts) -

I've never understood why in any of these types of games they have accuracy be a character statistic. Just have it be based on the gun and be done with it. Missing for no reason is infuriating. 
 
So yea, I agree. Would you still recommend AP though? Is the story experience as interesting as I hope?

#11 Posted by GeneralGrey (66 posts) -
@HarlequinRiot: I really enjoyed the story portion of the game.  A lot of interesting characters, intriguing situations, and generally good voice work (though the protagonist sounds a bit like Gary Sinise stripped of all emotion).  I thought the timed element to the conversations was quite cool as well - makes the exchanges a bit more fluid and exciting. 
 
Basically, I'd say that If you can get through the terrible gameplay (though, it sounds like you might be ok with an assault rifle), the rest of it is quite good.
#12 Posted by yinstarrunner (1185 posts) -

That's really weird.  I had more fun with ME1 and Alpha Protocol's broken ass RPG gameplay than I did with Mass Effect 2's highly polished generic third person shooter gameplay.
 
Imagine that.  
 
To each his own, I suppose.

#13 Posted by ArbitraryWater (11594 posts) -

One of the many problems I had with AP was the general obviousness that your hits were being determined by a string of numbers. Same problem I had with Mass Effect 1, although that's mostly because the early game weapons were terrible about accuracy. Fallout 3/NV were better about this, although the shooting in those games wasn't so hot either. The solution: DON'T HAVE GAMES THAT USE DICE ROLLS TO DETERMINE ACCURACY IN WHAT OTHERWISE APPEARS TO BE ACTION. Just do the thing where your gun does less damage and has more recoil or spread or something if you don't put any points into it. Sure, it's just as incredulous and game-y, but the difference is that the gameplay is better because of it. 
 
But really, there are worse problems with AP. Like the boss fights. I literally exploited the final boss by walking in and making him get off the minigun, walking out and making him get on the minigame, and then using chain shot every time it recharged. UGHHHHHH

#14 Edited by GeneralGrey (66 posts) -
@yinstarrunner: Indeed; have to agree to disagree.  I love Mass Effect 1 to death, but definitely had much  more fun gameplay-wise with Mass Effect 2. 
 
@ArbitraryWater said: 

" The solution: DON'T HAVE GAMES THAT USE DICE ROLLS TO DETERMINE ACCURACY IN WHAT OTHERWISE APPEARS TO BE ACTION. Just do the thing where your gun does less damage and has more recoil or spread or something if you don't put any points into it. Sure, it's just as incredulous and game-y, but the difference is that the gameplay is better because of it. "


Exactly! 
And yeah, I gamed the hell out of the final boss too.  Hit them with chain shot, then hid under the platform until it recharged.  Repeated this 2 or 3 times and I was golden - not too much fun though.
#15 Edited by Tennmuerti (8059 posts) -
@GeneralGrey:
Hate to be a party pooper but there are no dice rolls involved in AP shooting mechanics.

Your bullet spread (recoil/control + accuracy) is simply increased/decreased and the targeting reticule reflects it at all times.
More points in the weapon simply reduces the spread as does waiting before firing. (damage is also increased)  
( @ArbitraryWater: exactly as you say you want it, by the way)

Also pistols are inherently inaccurate weapons beyond a short range compared to assault rifles, if you want to apply real life logic.
Unlike in most shooters the first bullet is simply also affected by the spread in AP, which by the way is more realistic since just because it is your first bullet out of the gun does not make it 100% accurate.   
#16 Posted by GeneralGrey (66 posts) -
@Tennmuerti: While there may be no formal dice-rolling going on in the background, accuracy still feels remarkably arbitrary to the point where it seems largely random.  Since the bullet does not go precisely where you are aiming, there must be some variable determining where within the enormous targeting zone the shot goes and  whether that shot is a hit or not.  I am referring to this variable as a dice-roll.  Sure this effect is mitigated by keeping the targeting reticule fixed on a target for a substantial amount of time, but in a firefight situation with numerous enemies moving fairly rapidly,  this approach is not particularly viable. 
 
Again, I don't really want real-life logic in terms of weapon performance.  I simply want performance to be adequate for dealing with the various encounters within the game in a decently fun way.  I understand that pistols are not long range weapons.  My complaints in this regard are limited to enemies within, say, 5 to 15 feet.  This should be well within the range of any agent skilled enough to be inducted into Alpha Protocol.
#17 Posted by SSully (4152 posts) -
@GeneralGrey: I think you have very valid complaints. If a game presents itself as a shooter, then it should feel like a shooter. I felt like that in Mass Effect 1 so many times. Sure i still had a great time with it, but to say i wasnt frustrated sometimes would be a lie.  
 
Mass Effect 2 obviously fixed those shooting problems while maintaining RPG elements that mattered. I think when an RPG tries to be like a shooter they need to make it a shooter with RPG mechanics built around it, not the other way around. Mass Effect did this by making your leveling up have to do with you're powers and other traits, not the accuracy of your weapons.  
 
If Obsidian were to make another AP they could do the same thing, but to a greater extent. AP has a ton of interesting things to work with, tech, explosives, stealth, etc. When making a character they should have the player pick a main class for their character (ex: stealth, advanced weapons, tech) and then a secondary specialty. When playing the game they will have full access to their main skill tree, and a modified and smaller skill tree for their secondary specialty. Also after they pick two specialties, they should pick one type of weapon class to master, or maybe streamline this by implementing it into the specialties like in mass effect 2. With this kind of system then the player has 3 different aspects to focus their upgrading on. All skill points can be used on their skill trees, and they can also use points to upgrade and buy new weapons(most likely with a different point pool.)  
 
So with this they can provide compelling RPG elements with skill trees, moral system, weapons upgrades, and everything else, but also giving the player simple shooting elements that just work. No dice rolls, or funnel accuracy. That is how my dream AP atleast. 
#18 Posted by captain_clayman (3320 posts) -

this is why borderlands is awesome.  a hit is a hit, but each hit doesnt to a specific amount of damage.  and you're not really a super soldier or a super spy so its not completely ridiculous that killin dudes is kinda hard in the beginning.

#19 Posted by GeneralGrey (66 posts) -
@SSully: I'd play that in an instant!
#20 Posted by Tennmuerti (8059 posts) -
@GeneralGrey said:

" @Tennmuerti: While there may be no formal dice-rolling going on in the background, accuracy still feels remarkably arbitrary to the point where it seems largely random.  Since the bullet does not go precisely where you are aiming, there must be some variable determining where within the enormous targeting zone the shot goes and  whether that shot is a hit or not.  I am referring to this variable as a dice-roll.  Sure this effect is mitigated by keeping the targeting reticule fixed on a target for a substantial amount of time, but in a firefight situation with numerous enemies moving fairly rapidly,  this approach is not particularly viable.  Again, I don't really want real-life logic in terms of weapon performance.  I simply want performance to be adequate for dealing with the various encounters within the game in a decently fun way.  I understand that pistols are not long range weapons.  My complaints in this regard are limited to enemies within, say, 5 to 15 feet.  This should be well within the range of any agent skilled enough to be inducted into Alpha Protocol. "

Just like in any modern shooter all bullets fired are spread across the area of your targeting reticule, just like hip fire in MW2 for example or hipfire in Borderlands.
The only difference is that in AP there are no iron sights like in an FPS game and  the first bullet fired obeys the same laws as the ones that follow.
 
I provided a logical explanation for you in regards to the initial inaccuracy of the pistol because that was one of your arguments why you accepted this system in F3 for example.
#21 Posted by Jimbo (9799 posts) -
@GeneralGrey said:
" Thanks for commenting!  Didn't actually expect anyone to read my rambling :) 
 
@Jimbo
said:
" ME2 worked for me because it felt like it was just turning a bad shooter into a good shooter. I never really felt like AP was supposed to be any kind of shooter."  
I'm not sure how AP can be taken to be anything but a shooter; its gameplay core is third person, over the shoulder shooting."
This I disagree with, and is subsequently why I disagree with the rest of your argument - I don't think your position is invalid, I just disagree with it.  I mean technically yes, AP is third person and your character shoots a gun, but by that metric you could describe Dragon Age (1) as a third person sword fighting game.  Personally, I'd describe the 'gameplay core' of Dragon Age as ability management, and I think the same applies to Alpha Protocol.  Obsidian were definitely guilty of making it look too close to a bog standard TPS though to the point where that's how most people wanted to play it (and it's arguable that they should have just made that game instead, though personally I wouldn't have preferred it).
 
Alpha Protocol must be one of the most divisive games in recent years (which I think is great), and the split seems to be decided by how people approached it.  Those that wanted it to be a shooter were disappointed that they didn't get one, and those that treated the combat like more traditional RPG combat seem to have enjoyed it.  If you treat it as a shooter then the scenario you describe is indeed terribly unfair, but if you treat it as an RPG (like it says on the box) then the reason you had trouble with that specific scenario was because you'd (at least started) speccing your character towards being very strong at dealing with a totally different type of scenario.
#22 Posted by GeneralGrey (66 posts) -
@Jimbo: I see your point, though I still have a problem with designating "ability management" rather than ability usage as gameplay.  I'm not so sure about how to accurately describe Dragon Age in these terms since there are various options for how to play the game (i.e. swords, spells, etc.) and you have different characters providing different roles.  You're not really locked in to a certain way of playing the game like you are - to a certain extent - in Alpha Protocol.  I'd really have to think for a bit on this. That said, I'd certainly say that its core gameplay mechanic is some form of real-time, strategic combat since that is what most characterizes how the game actually plays. 
 
All that aside, I think you hit upon my only real problem with Alpha Protocol in particular (a point I was trying to make in my initial post) here: 
@Jimbo
said:
" Obsidian were definitely guilty of making it look too close to a bog standard TPS though to the point where that's how most people wanted to play it (and it's arguable that they should have just made that game instead, though personally I wouldn't have preferred it).  Alpha Protocol must be one of the most divisive games in recent years (which I think is great), and the split seems to be decided by how people approached it.  Those that wanted it to be a shooter were disappointed that they didn't get one, and those that treated the combat like more traditional RPG combat seem to have enjoyed it.  If you treat it as a shooter then the scenario you describe is indeed terribly unfair, but if you treat it as an RPG (like it says on the box) then the reason you had trouble with that specific scenario was because you'd (at least started) speccing your character towards being very strong at dealing with a totally different type of scenario. "
Obsidian made a game that looks and feels like something it is not.  I didn't necessarily want it to be a shooter going in, but the in-game HUD and the situations that you are presented with throughout the campaign pretty much scream "THIS IS A SHOOTER."  As such, it's difficult to blame someone from approaching the game like they would a standard TPS.  If Obsidian wanted their game to be considered anything other than a TPS, they shouldn't have made it look so much like one.  In the end, though, I suppose you're right in saying that it comes down to a difference in player-preference. 
 
I too love that AP is so divisive as it gives us gamers the opportunity to have discussions like this one (which I am greatly enjoying by the way - GB community is pretty incredible).
#23 Posted by audiosnag (1604 posts) -

I'm not a fan of that mechanic either. It just results in frustration. i don't understand why you can't have your stats tied to damage done as opposed to accuracy. Borderlands does a great job with that. The way alpha protocol is set up, the reticule almost seems redundant. Why not just point in the general direction of an enemy or have some sorta soft lock on. 

#24 Posted by AlexW00d (6231 posts) -

Alpha Protocol isn't dice-rolly at all if you play it correctly. As you have said, you use the pistol, as did I. If you make use of the skills they give you, mainly the one that increases your accuracy the longer you hover over a target, then you should be able to kill dudes with ease. 
Only when treating this game like it is Gears of War or some other mindless third person shooter are you going to fail.

#25 Posted by GunslingerPanda (4692 posts) -

 How did Bioware address the problems of ME1?  They took their game that looked, acted, and felt like a shooter and they made it a shooter.  BAM!  Instant fun.     

Raging so hard at this. 
 
RPGs probably aren't for you. Go back to Gears of War and Call of Duty.
#26 Posted by GeneralGrey (66 posts) -
@GunslingerPanda:      I like RPGs fine, thank you very much.  I'd just prefer it if they didn't try to pass themselves off as shooters when they're not.  I absolutely love Mass Effect 1; I just find Mass Effect 2's gameplay far more fun.  That's not to say it's better from an objective standpoint - just more fun for me.  Really not worth raging over.
#27 Posted by Tennmuerti (8059 posts) -
@GeneralGrey said:

 You're not really locked in to a certain way of playing the game like you are - to a certain extent - in Alpha Protocol.  I'd really have to think for a bit on this. 

Actually one of the great things in AP is that almost any character build works as long as you don't spread your skill points across many abilities (which is true for almost any rpg).
You can play as a stealthy spy with a pistol. Or go balls out guns blazing with assault rifles. Even shotguns are very viable once you level them up. Or create a fully melee dude, that also works. Even traps and grenade tech build is possible. Game can be even completed with 0 kills.
In fact in that scenario you described about protecting the dude and waves of enemies coming (i assume you are talking about the level in Moscow), if one places a bunch of grenades as explosives and  hacks some turrets the fight is infinitely more manageable.
 

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