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Posted by Lies

Yup, still on the scale kick.

Today let's consider two similar but separate games.

Mass Effect

The start of something

Bioware's loosely disguised Star Wars universe comes into being with several hundred thousands of words of backstory in the Codex, and a stats-based RPG combat system that looks deceptively like an action-based third-person shooter. The game is pitched from the start as an integral part of a trilogy, with the concept of choices that will carry over from one game to the next being undoubtedly the core of the pitch. It's an ambitious project to announce all at once, a project of a scale the videogame industry has not heard of before, and hasn't heard the equal of since. The game releases to critical acclaim on strong world-building, characters, and a memorable climax, despite gameplay that is considered unrefined by both RPG enthusiasts and shooter enthusiasts.

Alpha Protocol

PC box art (cropped)

Continuing their recent trend of iterating and refining on formulas pioneered by RPG powerhouses, Obsidian Entertainment comes through shortly after the release of Mass Effect with a game that sounds strikingly similar to Mass Effect. A third-person espionage RPG with a stat-based action combat system of the type that looks like a typical third-person shooter but plays disturbingly unlike what you might expect, a focus on dialogue and character, and a promise that the actions of the player character will return to them in meaningful ways. Unlike Mass Effect, Alpha Protocol's game designers are contained to a single game to execute this vision. Alpha Protocol releases to middling reviews and little commercial success, and is widely considered a missed opportunity.

Sound Seriously Similar

So we've got two very similar products, designed and developed with similar mindset and ethos. The typesetting on the logos even looks similar. And yet, as we know, Alpha Protocol languished in obscurity while Mass Effect has launched a hundred-million dollar franchise that extends far beyond the reaches of our own personal medium, into toys and comics and anime and iPhones and on and on. But as any forum will tell you now, post-Mass Effect 3, Bioware didn't deliver on the initial promise and premise of the original game. In a wide swath of the gaming population festers a sense of being duped, or lied to.

There's some solid writing throughout the Mass Effect trilogy, no doubt, and even in the (recently) rather reviled third game, climactic moments such as Rannoch and Tuchanka stand out. But it's all rather pointless, as we know the story arc in its entirety now, and it's easy to see where the idealism behind Mass Effect was abandoned and the realities of modern game development encroached. Mass Effect succeeds in many areas, including "visceral" combat and interesting companions, but the soul of the project at its genesis- the core creative idea of the project- never really survived, because the scale of the project was such that it would simply be uneconomical to implement it. It's interesting that Rannoch and Tuchanka are the spots people tend to be brightest about that game, because those are the two spots where your decisions from previous games can actually affect the available outcomes. The soul of the original game peeks through at these points. The idea of choices with consequences comes through only twice in Mass Effect 3. In other areas people slot in and out if they are dead or alive, but that is not a consequence. The plot continues almost the same regardless. That is window dressing, and it's not what you were sold when you bought Mass Effect. Those are soulless changes.

Alpha Protocol has a soul. Alpha Protocol has a soul precisely because its developers were held accountable and forced to prove themselves first. Obsidian gave its developers one game. One nice tight package, any ideas or concepts they wanted in the game had to get in the game or go forever. Obsidian didn't have half a decade of releases to fill out. They had a game, and they delivered on the promise in a way Bioware never could. By limiting scale they were able to execute successfully on the core idea of their game.

Alpha Protocol packs so many systems into such a short, solid game; it's actually kind of shocking how much variance there is in it. The heart of Alpha Protocol is the dialogue system: giving the dialogue system the teeth to actually affect things. The dialogue system in Mass Effect never gives you much of a chance to change anything beyond your paragon and renegade meters, with the exception of a few pre-set story beats. Alpha Protocol has no meters. Your actions result in consequences, sometimes immediate and sometimes considerably later. Think something is wrong with someone? Shoot them, blow your cover in the city, and miss that mission. Make a choice your handler doesn't like? Lose bonuses and find them less helpful in the future. Don't want to rescue the bitch who sold you out? Leave her alone and ride off into the sunset with your psychopathic buddy. Unable to make a decision quickly? It gets made for you, and you have to live with the results. Actually read the codex? Be able to use information from the dossiers in conversations. Accept the company line or toe it by asking questions? Alpha Protocol fractures out in some fantastic ways, and delivers on the initial premise of Mass Effect in a way that the trilogy never did.

Scale and business crippled Bioware almost from the start, but because of the very nature of Bioware's original idea, it was impossible to see how things would play out until we had the third game in our hands, by which point it would be too late. A clever model that was sold well, but not the best for delivering a quality piece of art or entertainment. Alpha Protocol failed commercially because it got messy, and it looked too much shooter and played too much RPG. Mass Effect always looked shooter, but as the scale widened the RPG elements narrowed, and they found massive commercial success, and critical too. But their million dollar juggernaut was sold on a false premise.

And Alpha Protocol delivers on that premise. So maybe next time you're looking forward to a huge ambitious project, consider if there isn't a smaller game that has already done it best.

Posted by FluxWaveZ

It's a shame that the gameplay mechanics of Alpha Protocol were lacking because, otherwise, it is an amazing experience. I have never played a game before that took the player's actions (and not simply prompted ones or actions resulting from dialogue) so significantly. Mass Effect, with its three games, did not even achieve Alpha Protocol's level (which was most likely because of its scale, as you discussed). Plus, it was an RPG in a setting that has, surprisingly, been barely explored, at least in the genre.

It's a real shame that this game won't see a sequel.

Posted by GunslingerPanda

Both good games but I much prefer Alpha Protocol. In some ways it's what ME2 should have been.

Posted by Sackmanjones

I enjoyed alpha protocol but man between all the awful technical issues and terrible gameplay it was really a love hate relationship. And those boss fights... Shit man. I just think Mass Effect was overall better and got consistently better with each iteration (that's right I'm a fan of ME3) add in the amazing universe and diverse characters ad you have a winning formula. But your right that the choice stuff in AP was cool and impactful . I especially liked the timer they threw in to increase tension. I'd really like to see another attempt with AP but as it stands Mass Effect deserved a sequel more than Alpha Protocal.

Posted by Praxis

I think you're right that a lot of Mass Effect 3's failings can probably be traced back to BioWare being hamstrung by the sheer enormity of what they were trying to do, though I don't agree with some of the language you're using here. Calling Mass Effect a "loosely disguised Star Wars universe" is unnecessarily reductive, and saying that BioWare's "million dollar juggernaut was sold on a false premise" is a gross exaggeration. There's a big difference between failing to achieve what you set out to do and actively deceiving people.

Posted by Lies

@Praxis said:

I think you're right that a lot of Mass Effect 3's failings can probably be traced back to BioWare being hamstrung by the sheer enormity of what they were trying to do, though I don't agree with some of the language you're using here. Calling Mass Effect a "loosely disguised Star Wars universe" is unnecessarily reductive, and saying that BioWare's "million dollar juggernaut was sold on a false premise" is a gross exaggeration. There's a big difference between failing to achieve what you set out to do and actively deceiving people.

Bioware certainly grew it in their own direction, but you can very clearly draw out the connection between Bioware's work on KOTOR and their work on Mass Effect. KOTOR was a universe they created almost wholecloth- despite it technically nesting in the existing SWU- but one they couldn't continue to play around in due to LucasArts. So they took their lessons, gathered some from other notable franchises starting with the word Star, and set out to make their own thing. Mass 2 and Mass 3 are considerably more unique in terms of presenting interesting corners of the universe, but the series has always worn its inspiration on its sleeve, I'd say. "Loosely disguised" is playing with hyperbole a bit, yes ;)

Mass Effect 3 has an entire game mechanic built around deceiving people into thinking their choices matter (War Assets [the flavor text in the War Assets is some of the best writing in Mass 3, btw]), and the marketing and PR leading up to the third (and second, to a lesser degree) game emphasized choice as well. It's a core tenet of the series. I'd argue intentions don't matter-- players bought in to mass Effect half a decade ago due to the promise of and hints at a continuous, evolving, interactive story that spanned a generation. I did, at least. I guess I shouldn't presume to speak for everyone, but I feel like my sentiments aren't uncommon.

Deceptive marketing isn't new or unique to Bioware in any sense-- this is just the first time I've ever seen it on such a large scale. And I find myself back to railing against scale. Didn't even mean to do that.

Posted by Jimbo

I'm glad they tried what they did with Mass Effect and think it's one one of the most commendable projects to come out of a major developer in years. That said, it did lose its way as a trilogy. ME1 was an ok game and a great first act, ME2 was a great game and barely even exists as a second act, and ME3 was a good game and trainwreck of a third act. ME2 deserves its share of the blame, because it just left ME3 with far too much to do. They should have realised after ME2 that they were going to need two more games to tell the rest of the story in anything like a balanced and satisfying manner.

Posted by Delta_Ass

Alpha Protocol had terrible gameplay. Mass Effect did not.

Posted by Jimbo

(new post because lol ipad formatting). Dragon Age may be too far gone to salvage at this point, but they need to realise that if they can't quite pull off game-carry-over narrative when it's designed into a trilogy from the ground up, they definitely aren't going to be able to do it well on the fly in Dragon Age. DA is another great universe for games, but those games need to be narratively self-contained. Tell a great story, give the player choices that really make a difference (to their character and story, not necessarily the whole universe all the time), and the when the credits roll, move on.

Posted by WarlordPayne

I agree that Mass Effect collapsed under its own weight at the end, it was probably just too damned expensive for them to make the hard choices that they needed to make.

However, Alpha Protocol deserved its low scores. I love AP to death but where Mass Effect's combat was kind of bad Alpha Protocol's was all the way bad. The skills were also unbalanced and ridiculous and the stealth mechanic was busted.

I really wish Obsidian would just design and write a game and let someone else make it. After New Vegas and Alpha Protocol it's obvious that they are talented writers and can design an amazing game, they just seem unable to execute on it.

Posted by Rhaknar

just played (finally) Alpha Protocol and apart from a couple of horrible bosses which I had to cheese to beat (hey its Human Revolution all over again) I loved the game. I played full stealth tho, rarely used guns, which are pretty shit like most people said

Posted by Taku128

Man, I fucking loved Alpha Protocol.

Posted by Praxis

@Lies: Okay, I can at least see where you were coming from with the Star Wars comment now. I think the two of us likely differ in why we were disappointed with Mass Effect 3, though. The biggest issue for me was the fact that the entire game felt somewhat rote. They seemed to be just hitting the points they needed to hit in order to close out the trilogy, which, again, is likely a consequence of the colossal corner they painted themselves into with the previous two games. I think BioWare has been pretty consistent in how it has handled player choice over the past ten or so years, so that aspect of the game never really rubbed me the wrong way. I also found the disproportionately large backlash against the game's ending to be somewhat mystifying, as the game quite honestly has bigger problems than that. I think you could make a compelling case that BioWare's style of player choice is uninteresting or even flawed, but I don't think there's any deception there.

Edited by Guided_By_Tigers

Chain Shot was totally overpowered though.

Posted by JeanLuc

@Jimbo said:

(new post because lol ipad formatting). Dragon Age may be too far gone to salvage at this point, but they need to realise that if they can't quite pull off game-carry-over narrative when it's designed into a trilogy from the ground up, they definitely aren't going to be able to do it well on the fly in Dragon Age. DA is another great universe for games, but those games need to be narratively self-contained. Tell a great story, give the player choices that really make a difference (to their character and story, not necessarily the whole universe all the time), and the when the credits roll, move on.

I believe that's what Dragon Age was originally meant to be. Each game would be its own story within the universe. The success of Mass Effect 2 changed that and created an expectation that all BioWare games would have that carry over narrative. That's why all the "consequences" of your choices from Origins seemed really weak in DA2. Because I don't think they were ever meant to be there.

Posted by Sweep

WHY DON'T YOU WRITE A GUIDE ABOUT IT, HUH, LIES?!?

Dick.

Moderator
Posted by Brodehouse
@Jimbo Completely agree about Dragon Age. It's pretty clear that when they started work on that (before Mass Effect, even) the save-carryover thing was just a twinkle in Casey Hudson's eye. The ending goes into detail on everything in a way that is too far-reaching and final in a lot of cases that they couldn't possibly account for them and still build a meaningful story.

It's hard to say which is the right direction. An intensely variable and branching narrative, but when the sequel comes out, it selects a canon and 'your' game is gone. Or a flowing narrative with more minor variations and branches, but that continues 'your' version of a narrative that spans games. The Witcher does the former, there are 14 endings to the Witcher 2, they're not going to account for those in the next one, they're just going to build a new full narrative. Mass Effect does the former, and the problem is you just can't end that. At least not in the span of one game.

I wonder if ME3 would've somehow been better if they spread it across a couple games. The Rachni thing could've had the same weight as the genophage, the fall of Thessia/Palaven could've been as explored as the Rannoch section. You're right, they just gave themselves too much to do in 30 hours.
Posted by TheDudeOfGaming

I really liked Alpha Protocol. Sure, the combat was iffy, and the stealth mechanics weren't that great, but the story, choices and characters were awesome. BioWare? Well, lets just say I won't be buying their games for the foreseeable future.

Posted by AngelN7

I think the scale in the Mass Effect games do reflect the nature and the limits in game design but I don't think things got "too big" for them, you can't make giant cities populated by aliens in games but you can give those few aliens a bit more of detail if you build into what they are and where they come from and what's their role in that universe. To me star wars is even weaker in that regard, when you see aliens, worlds and different cultures they feel like backdrops when people say stuff like "loosely disguised Star Wars universe" to reffer to Mass Effect it makes want to scratch my head . That universe ( Mass Effect) is to me much more developed than any other sci-fi universe other than maybe Star Trek. I don't know anything about many races and their history in Star Wars like I know in Mass Effect (I know why the Krogans are like they are is not just to fill the big grumpy dumb alien trope) who's that guy piloting the Falcon with Lando at the end of Return of the Jedi? , from what planet those aliens playing intruments in Jabba's palace com from? do all of their species are known to be musicians?.

Is like that universe is there to be a scenery for the main story about the human Jedi , the universe might be huge with a long story yet we don't know it nor they make us to care about it , we just have token aliens for several scenes to fill the requisite to say that "we have a universe".

When talking about choices and choose your own adventure style games I will criticize Mass Effect when someone else does something similar with a similar scale and does it better so far I haven't seen any game to try the "make your own story" while Mass Effect didn't reach what most people were hoping for , to me it did exactly what I thought it was going to do given the limits in game design.

Posted by Hailinel

@AngelN7 said:

I think the scale in the Mass Effect games do reflect the nature and the limits in game design but I don't think things got "too big" for them, you can't make giant cities populated by aliens in games but you can give those few aliens a bit more of detail if you build into what they are and where they come from and what's their role in that universe. To me star wars is even weaker in that regard, when you see aliens, worlds and different cultures they feel like backdrops when people say stuff like "loosely disguised Star Wars universe" to reffer to Mass Effect it makes want to scratch my head . That universe ( Mass Effect) is to me much more developed than any other sci-fi universe other than maybe Star Trek. I don't know anything about many races and their history in Star Wars like I know in Mass Effect (I know why the Krogans are like they are is not just to fill the big grumpy dumb alien trope) who's that guy piloting the Falcon with Lando at the end of Return of the Jedi? , from what planet those aliens playing intruments in Jabba's palace com from? do all of their species are known to be musicians?.

Is like that universe is there to be a scenery for the main story about the human Jedi , the universe might be huge with a long story yet we don't know it nor they make us to care about it , we just have token aliens for several scenes to fill the requisite to say that "we have a universe".

When talking about choices and choose your own adventure style games I will criticize Mass Effect when someone else does something similar with a similar scale and does it better so far I haven't seen any game to try the "make your own story" while Mass Effect didn't reach what most people were hoping for , to me it did exactly what I thought it was going to do given the limits in game design.

Uhh...dude, all of those questions you have regarding Star Wars have answers. Try reading up on the Star Wars expanded universe sometime, because in terms of the amount of stories and detail, it fucking embarrasses Mass Effect.

Edited by jkz

@Hailinel said:

@AngelN7 said:

I think the scale in the Mass Effect games do reflect the nature and the limits in game design but I don't think things got "too big" for them, you can't make giant cities populated by aliens in games but you can give those few aliens a bit more of detail if you build into what they are and where they come from and what's their role in that universe. To me star wars is even weaker in that regard, when you see aliens, worlds and different cultures they feel like backdrops when people say stuff like "loosely disguised Star Wars universe" to reffer to Mass Effect it makes want to scratch my head . That universe ( Mass Effect) is to me much more developed than any other sci-fi universe other than maybe Star Trek. I don't know anything about many races and their history in Star Wars like I know in Mass Effect (I know why the Krogans are like they are is not just to fill the big grumpy dumb alien trope) who's that guy piloting the Falcon with Lando at the end of Return of the Jedi? , from what planet those aliens playing intruments in Jabba's palace com from? do all of their species are known to be musicians?.

Is like that universe is there to be a scenery for the main story about the human Jedi , the universe might be huge with a long story yet we don't know it nor they make us to care about it , we just have token aliens for several scenes to fill the requisite to say that "we have a universe".

When talking about choices and choose your own adventure style games I will criticize Mass Effect when someone else does something similar with a similar scale and does it better so far I haven't seen any game to try the "make your own story" while Mass Effect didn't reach what most people were hoping for , to me it did exactly what I thought it was going to do given the limits in game design.

Uhh...dude, all of those questions you have regarding Star Wars have answers. Try reading up on the Star Wars expanded universe sometime, because in terms of the amount of stories and detail, it fucking embarrasses Mass Effect.

Truthfully it's hard to compare. Because the Mass Effect games, and the Star Trek universe, had a lot more time and space to develop and expound on more specific and quirky details of their universes than the span of 6 films. And if you DO include extended universe content, then I feel like that may tip the scales in the opposite direction in the same regard.

Posted by AngelN7

@Hailinel: You mean the universe with less than 10 years doesn't compare to the 30+ years universe with interpretations in almost all media? shocker! . Why should I care about that universe when the main series (the movies) doesn't do a good job to establish itself , as far as details is concern Mass Effect goes for a less is more wich I think is why is not only more consistent but more interesting than anything in Star Wars wich is pretty much revolves arround Jedi , Sith and the Force everything outside that is just there to call itself "Sci- Fi" puppet aliens and civilizations with no backstory included.

Edited by Willtron

@FluxWaveZ said:

It's a shame that the gameplay mechanics of Alpha Protocol were lacking because, otherwise, it is an amazing experience. I have never played a game before that took the player's actions (and not simply prompted ones or actions resulting from dialogue) so significantly. Mass Effect, with its three games, did not even achieve Alpha Protocol's level (which was most likely because of its scale, as you discussed). Plus, it was an RPG in a setting that has, surprisingly, been barely explored, at least in the genre.

It's a real shame that this game won't see a sequel.

Basically. And I think, even with its shit gameplay, Alpha Protocol is a much better game than Mass Effect. It just did consequence so much better. And the story was incredibly intriguing.

Honestly, setting Alpha Protocol to easy, or having the 'right' build? Easily makes all of the gameplay annoyances moot.

I also don't think scale hurt Mass Effect that much. I think the team did a fantastic job establishing races and tensions between races. I think that the writers did an amazing job giving a solid amount of history that spans centuries to a damned video game series. And it all is rich and it's great. The stories of the games themselves? Eh. Not the best, in my opinion. They just feel a bit overdone. I think there's fantastic detail in the series, though. Alpha Protocol did a solid narrative better because it didn't have to focus on scale so much. It's an interesting trade-off, really. I think both games have their ups and downs. I also think you can do scale and effective narrative amazingly well, too. I just don't think the Mass Effect writers could pull both off because they were lazy. It wasn't because of massive scale that they failed with affecting narratives.

Posted by Vinny_Says

Alpha protocol had a shitty story full of idiotic cliches and completely idiotic moments. Had it had a decent story I would perhaps consider it an "average game" at best. I'm not going to come here and defend Mass Effect's story either, but at least it had solid enough gameplay to engage the audience.

What really rustles my jimmies is how you claim Obsidian's game has more soul because there was only one game. Let's get this straight: had Alpha Protocol been backed by a major publisher like Microsoft (and later EA) I'm pretty sure things would have developed differently. Had Alpha Protocol somehow sold a million copies you could bet your ass a sequel or trilogy would immediately have been put in production.

Bioware knew it had something special in the works, even if it were to take 3 games to complete. Obsidian knew it had a bad copy of Bioware's project in the works. That's the short of it.

Posted by believer258

I don't think a project as ambitious as Mass Effect is doomed to fail. I think that the original idea, world, universe, and people behind it all got switched up and changed around a good bit and I think it lost focus. The games, universe, and plot threads should have been written down and planned back-to-back first, and then developed back-to-back. Mass Effect 2 adds very little to the overarching plot in my opinion; there are many sprinklings of details all through Mass Effect 1 and 3, but 2 feels more like a bunch of characters fighting off one menace in one game. It's almost as if Mass Effect 2 is its own game and story that's barely connected to 1 and 3. This screams to me that they didn't really plan the whole thing correctly, they just decided they'd finish one and then start on 2 instead of having the plans already laid out.

It's not impossible. The scale wasn't "too epic", the people behind it just weren't fully prepared for what they were stepping into. And, in my opinion, 3 turned out all right. The ending is all right. It isn't horrible; it's not great and it certainly leaves one a bit wanting but you've got three games of mostly good writing and mostly great characters so I'm not complaining. But then, I don't exactly adore the way FMA ended so maybe I just don't bank on endings being pitch-perfect if the rest of it is great.

On a final note, Mass Effect always reminded me far more of Star Trek than it did Star Wars. Nearly every alien is humanoid, you're a captain of a ship, said ship is very iconic, etc. I can kind of see the Star Wars comparison, but I don't think that influence is as strong as Star Trek's was on the series.

Edited by Turambar
@AngelN7 said:

@Hailinel: You mean the universe with less than 10 years doesn't compare to the 30+ years universe with interpretations in almost all media? shocker! . Why should I care about that universe when the main series (the movies) doesn't do a good job to establish itself , as far as details is concern Mass Effect goes for a less is more wich I think is why is not only more consistent but more interesting than anything in Star Wars wich is pretty much revolves arround Jedi , Sith and the Force everything outside that is just there to call itself "Sci- Fi" puppet aliens and civilizations with no backstory included.

Without the codex, Mass Effect lore is just a whole lot of jargon with some rote exposition.  Movies don't have the luxury of a codex.  Further, it is far easier to pump information into a game than a far more time constrained feature film.
Posted by AngelN7

@Turambar said:

@AngelN7 said:

@Hailinel: You mean the universe with less than 10 years doesn't compare to the 30+ years universe with interpretations in almost all media? shocker! . Why should I care about that universe when the main series (the movies) doesn't do a good job to establish itself , as far as details is concern Mass Effect goes for a less is more wich I think is why is not only more consistent but more interesting than anything in Star Wars wich is pretty much revolves arround Jedi , Sith and the Force everything outside that is just there to call itself "Sci- Fi" puppet aliens and civilizations with no backstory included.

Without the codex, Mass Effect lore is just a whole lot of jargon with some rote exposition. Movies don't have the luxury of a codex. Further, it is far easier to pump information into a game than a far more time constrained feature film.

The codex is part of the game though that's just a book of the universe and its backstory is not the same as saying "read the star wars books they explain where all the aliens come from" ... I doubt it by the way because in Star Wars there's no backstory and when they decide to dwell into those we got the prequels (the clone wars is the only important event in Star Wars that has some backstory and even then we only know that is a battle of 2 empires where clones and droids fought eachother) you cannot compare both universes as one is clearly beyond the media were it start it were as the other is just getting started and the same can be said about a videogame in tearms of laying down information hell the movie is just there to explain stuff where the gameplay comes first the story in videogames. At least they explain the jargon in Mass Effect wich is just sci-fi technobable but at least is there in the games and is just as important as the main theme/plot of the games.

Posted by xyzygy

When you said "... it's easy to see where the idealism behind Mass Effect was abandoned and the realities of modern game development encroached.", I realized that that is one of the most well worded statements that describes the series to me. Well written!

Posted by doobie

@GunslingerPanda said:

Both good games but I much prefer Alpha Protocol. In some ways it's what ME2 should have been.

in what ways

Posted by Hailinel

@AngelN7 said:

@Turambar said:

@AngelN7 said:

@Hailinel: You mean the universe with less than 10 years doesn't compare to the 30+ years universe with interpretations in almost all media? shocker! . Why should I care about that universe when the main series (the movies) doesn't do a good job to establish itself , as far as details is concern Mass Effect goes for a less is more wich I think is why is not only more consistent but more interesting than anything in Star Wars wich is pretty much revolves arround Jedi , Sith and the Force everything outside that is just there to call itself "Sci- Fi" puppet aliens and civilizations with no backstory included.

Without the codex, Mass Effect lore is just a whole lot of jargon with some rote exposition. Movies don't have the luxury of a codex. Further, it is far easier to pump information into a game than a far more time constrained feature film.

The codex is part of the game though that's just a book of the universe and its backstory is not the same as saying "read the star wars books they explain where all the aliens come from" ... I doubt it by the way because in Star Wars there's no backstory and when they decide to dwell into those we got the prequels (the clone wars is the only important event in Star Wars that has some backstory and even then we only know that is a battle of 2 empires where clones and droids fought eachother) you cannot compare both universes as one is clearly beyond the media were it start it were as the other is just getting started and the same can be said about a videogame in tearms of laying down information hell the movie is just there to explain stuff where the gameplay comes first the story in videogames. At least they explain the jargon in Mass Effect wich is just sci-fi technobable but at least is there in the games and is just as important as the main theme/plot of the games.

The codex is also something that's completely optional that not everyone bothers to read. To say that Mass Effect does better than Star Wars when they aren't even the same medium is laughable. It's the apples to oranges comparison.

Posted by laserbolts

Playing Alpha Protocol was just not fun enough for me to bother continuing any further. Torturing myself just to get to the story bits just wasn't worth it for me. I at least found mass effect's gameplay tolerable.

Posted by Oni

@Jimbo said:

(new post because lol ipad formatting). Dragon Age may be too far gone to salvage at this point, but they need to realise that if they can't quite pull off game-carry-over narrative when it's designed into a trilogy from the ground up, they definitely aren't going to be able to do it well on the fly in Dragon Age. DA is another great universe for games, but those games need to be narratively self-contained. Tell a great story, give the player choices that really make a difference (to their character and story, not necessarily the whole universe all the time), and the when the credits roll, move on.

Seeing how ME 3 turned out, I agree completely. The idea of a trilogy where all your choices matter is very nice, but it's simply not economically feasible in AAA development, as we've seen. ME3 probably put a bullet in that happening again any time soon. It's much more satisfying when you feel like all your choices mattered in that game itself, and in its ending. Whereas with ME it always felt like "Oh man this'll be cool in the next game", but then mostly it kind of... wasn't.

Posted by AngelN7

@Hailinel: You were the one who brought the whole "Mass Effect embarrasses itself in front of Star Wars" wich my point was to use Star Wars as a refence rather than compare them, where scale is not in issue in the Mass Effect universe because they go into that much detail for their different civilaztions and cultures also the ""loosely disguised Star Wars universe" was brought by the OP wich is kinda funny when it was Bioware who made Knights of the Old Republic one of the better pieces of story in theSstar wars Universe wich of course is on a completely separate medium something Mass Effect hasn't had the chance to explore and expand it's lore.

Posted by Hailinel

@AngelN7 said:

@Hailinel: You were the one who brought the whole "Mass Effect embarrasses itself in front of Star Wars" wich my point was to use Star Wars as a refence rather than compare them, where scale is not in issue in the Mass Effect universe because they go into that much detail for their different civilaztions and cultures also the ""loosely disguised Star Wars universe" was brought by the OP wich is kinda funny when it was Bioware who made Knights of the Old Republic one of the better pieces of story in theSstar wars Universe wich of course is on a completely separate medium something Mass Effect hasn't had the chance to explore and expand it's lore.

You were the one that suggested that none of the questions you brought up about Star Wars had answers. I told you that you were wrong and explained that the Star Wars universe is a lot deeper that you give it credit for. Also, Mass Effect has expanded its lore outside of video games. What do you think those novels are? And saying that KOTOR is one of the better pieces of Star Wars is entirely subjective; you're only framing your arguments in a manner that gives Bioware the best light in all circumstances.

Posted by Encephalon

Truly, Obsidian is the scrappy hero of the modern role-playing genre.

Posted by AngelN7

@Hailinel said:

@AngelN7 said:

@Hailinel: You were the one who brought the whole "Mass Effect embarrasses itself in front of Star Wars" wich my point was to use Star Wars as a refence rather than compare them, where scale is not in issue in the Mass Effect universe because they go into that much detail for their different civilaztions and cultures also the ""loosely disguised Star Wars universe" was brought by the OP wich is kinda funny when it was Bioware who made Knights of the Old Republic one of the better pieces of story in theSstar wars Universe wich of course is on a completely separate medium something Mass Effect hasn't had the chance to explore and expand it's lore.

You were the one that suggested that none of the questions you brought up about Star Wars had answers. I told you that you were wrong and explained that the Star Wars universe is a lot deeper that you give it credit for. Also, Mass Effect has expanded its lore outside of video games. What do you think those novels are? And saying that KOTOR is one of the better pieces of Star Wars is entirely subjective; you're only framing your arguments in a manner that gives Bioware the best light in all circumstances.

Heh you would either win or tie... of course is subjective do I have to finish every post with in my opinion? and I don't think I'm wrong, where Star Wars uses other media to explain the stuff they left out of the main series (the movies) and build backstory Mass Effect uses other media ( comics , books) to tie those stories into the main series it expands the existing one brought by the games instead of building it to make a universe that should have been there from the beginning , hell I'm not even saying there's something wrong with the narrative or the way Star Wars portraits it's story but to me Mass Effect does at better job than it even when SW is an older more established franchise , my arguments are being framed in a manner that gives Bioware the best light? what's that even mean should I just change my opinion because someone else doesn't think their work is good? I'm statting my opinion should I include a jab to their fails and mistakes just so is passable for those who don't like it?.

Posted by Hailinel

@AngelN7 said:

@Hailinel said:

@AngelN7 said:

@Hailinel: You were the one who brought the whole "Mass Effect embarrasses itself in front of Star Wars" wich my point was to use Star Wars as a refence rather than compare them, where scale is not in issue in the Mass Effect universe because they go into that much detail for their different civilaztions and cultures also the ""loosely disguised Star Wars universe" was brought by the OP wich is kinda funny when it was Bioware who made Knights of the Old Republic one of the better pieces of story in theSstar wars Universe wich of course is on a completely separate medium something Mass Effect hasn't had the chance to explore and expand it's lore.

You were the one that suggested that none of the questions you brought up about Star Wars had answers. I told you that you were wrong and explained that the Star Wars universe is a lot deeper that you give it credit for. Also, Mass Effect has expanded its lore outside of video games. What do you think those novels are? And saying that KOTOR is one of the better pieces of Star Wars is entirely subjective; you're only framing your arguments in a manner that gives Bioware the best light in all circumstances.

Heh you would either win or tie... of course is subjective do I have to finish every post with in my opinion? and I don't think I'm wrong, where Star Wars uses other media to explain the stuff they left out of the main series (the movies) and build backstory Mass Effect uses other media ( comics , books) to tie those stories into the main series it expands the existing one brought by the games instead of building it to make a universe that should have been there from the beginning , hell I'm not even saying there's something wrong with the narrative or the way Star Wars portraits it's story but to me Mass Effect does at better job than it even when SW is an older more established franchise , my arguments are being framed in a manner that gives Bioware the best light? what's that even mean should I just change my opinion because someone else doesn't think their work is good? I'm statting my opinion should I include a jab to their fails and mistakes just so is passable for those who don't like it?.

Is English not your first language? This is a serious question.

Edited by AngelN7

@Hailinel: No is not if you didn't get my point then that's a shame , we wouldn't have agreed in anything so it is for the best that I couldn't get my point across in the comment.

Posted by Demoskinos

God Alpha Protocol was awesome. The dialog system was way better than Mass Effect. It put you in the moment and made you chose something instead of debating all of your options. Also, being "nice" to everyone wasn't always the answer the fact that people responded a number of ways depending on their personality was great.

Online
Posted by ArbitraryWater

But... that's all that Alpha Protocol has going for it. Sure, your choices do have a notable impact on how people react to you, but that's it. The gameplay is pretty terrible (making a boss battle against a coked-up russian mobster with a taste for bad 80s paraphernalia a negative experience is just... unfortunate) and I found most of the characters to be kinda bland and unlikeable, wrapped around a plot that feels like a bad amalgamation of modern espionage cliches. I can see why people could like it, but there's too much concept and not enough execution for my tastes.

Edited by Lies

@Sweep said:

WHY DON'T YOU WRITE A GUIDE ABOUT IT, HUH, LIES?!?

Dick.

REMIND ME OF MY LOST LOVE MORE

Also there are still no guide quest so I mean what's the point? I should go yell at coonce for tha... now I'm sad.

But true story I've played two games this year and they were Mass Effect 3 and Alpha Protocol.

Posted by hbkdx12

I first bought and played Alpha Protocol in December 2011 on the whim of another duder after having gone through most of the standout titles that i bought that year and it was my game of the year (next to Saints row and Batman: AC) even though it came out the year before.

The game does the RPG elements pretty wonderfully which most people agree on. People have a heavy knock against it for it's gameplay which i don't particularly understand. In the past 8 months i've played this game through more times than i can remember and i don't know how people can consider the gameplay "broken" as i've read in some places, as long as you actually commit to a certain playstyle and build. You can't play that Jack of all trades bullshit like you can with other games where you end up becoming this versatile powerhouse that's proficient in every single thing. If you want to go loud and heavy, dump all your points into shotguns and Assault rifles and forget the stealth and vice versa. People suggest that playing full stealth is the only way to enjoy the gameplay and although i find full stealthy to be the most fun, I've never comitted myself to a certain build/playstyle and left feeling like the gameplay wasn't rewarding and enjoyable.

Posted by connerthekewlkid

@AngelN7: @Hailinel: i assume thats youve never played or read a star wars comic book because they always find a way to connect them to the movies

Posted by Terramagi

The only complaint I have ever had against Alpha Protocol was that every mission played out the same. I wanted more... James Bondy shit. I wanted to walk into a party, have a conversation with the villain in plain sight, everybody talking mad shit to each other's face but knowing they couldn't touch the other.

Well, that DID happen once, in Rome. And it was AWESOME. I just wanted more of it.

Posted by BlackLagoon

@Terramagi said:

The only complaint I have ever had against Alpha Protocol was that every mission played out the same. I wanted more... James Bondy shit. I wanted to walk into a party, have a conversation with the villain in plain sight, everybody talking mad shit to each other's face but knowing they couldn't touch the other.

I believe the Rome sniper mission was originally intended to be a party you attended James Bond style, but they had to scrap it because of changes to the story and managed to hastily repurpose it for the final game.

Posted by Roger778

Alpha Protocol is a really good game, and I'm glad I own it. But, I have to say in my honest opinion, that I think the Mass Effect trilogy are the best games I have ever played. The story that spans into three games, is awesome, the characters are great, the decisions are tough to make, and getting to see how they turned out in the later games is a wonderful feature.

The first Mass Effect had a strong Role-Playing system, in where you could become a jack-of-all-trades type character if you trained all of your skills. I still love the other two games, but my only complaint is that I wish Bioware could've somehow managed to keep the Role-playing elements intact, instead of just streamlining them down to simple choices on how to level your Shepard. I did however thought the combat, which is still fun to play in the first game, was nicely refined in Mass Effect 2 and 3.

With the extended cut for Mass Effect 3 downloaded and filed in my X-Box 360's hard drive, I'm ready for a new journey with a new Male shepard I created.

Edited by TPoppaPuff

This blog contains several huge points of contention. I'll list each one point by point as best I can. (Possible spoilers)

  • The Mass Effect trilogy delivered on 98.5-99% of its original promise. The only place it stumbled was the very, very end of the game after your final encounter with your mentor and your rival. Certainly the previous hundreds of hours of doing things absolutely right are not nullified by the last ten minutes of the final game. Yes it is disappointing it didn't end in a better handled fashion, no doubt. But people really need to put it in perspective. I'm not going to join the frenzy and say that the dinner was ruined because the last roll was stale after a 30-course meal comprised of the best entrees to be had. Let's put things in perspective.
  • " In a wide swath of the gaming population festers a sense of being duped, or lied to." These are the same idiots who sue makers of ceiling fans because there wasn't a warning against throwing their small child into the fan (true story). The self-righteousness and insane expectations of certain gamers, many included in the group mentioned are simply pathetic and should have no objective bearing on the assessment of the success of the Mass Effect franchise. The extremists are extremists for a reason, and their opinions should not be taken as law.
  • The consequences of Mass Effect 2 directly correlate to the outcomes of the entirety of Mass Effect 3. Garrus and Tali can die in ME2 and the emotional connection to either of those characters is directly connected to the entirety of ME3. I cared that they were just there in ME3 because of ME2. That may be "window dressing," but if it creates a better emotional resonance as much as anything else that is possible in storytelling then certainly its impact is greater than you suggest.

    Furthermore, these are what people claim to be highlights of the third game, not "the only good moments." I could create a nested list of moments that I felt were great that came about because of my decisions from the prior to games were reflected but this post would likely never be completed. Amongst them are the outcome of Kelly Chambers, Thane, and Jack. The storyline of Kelly didn't even take place on screen, but carried much more emotional creedence than 99% of all games can muster at all. Thane already made me care about him, and the fact that he was there at all was dynamic, but don't forget that the other major character in that story was his son. Having success in both the loyalty mission and at the final of ME2 means that moment played out uniquely to me. I haven't looked up how that scene plays under other circumstances, but I have a hard time imagining it carries just as much weight with his son if the loyalty quest was not successful. And Jack's brief moment at the bar where you go to the dance floor and she says "Shepard, everybody knows you can't dance!" That is a great little hidden moment; a scene that only works because the buildup to the punchline was subtly set up after 4 1/2 years. Those moments simply can't exist in a time as brief as as a singular game. Of course, that moment could have really been with anybody, but that moment doesn't exist unless she exists, unless there's a stand in for Jack in that scene (I doubt there is). And those are only a couple of the moments that I thought of in an instant that are memorable and played out because of my previous decisions. Who knows how many great moments I could list if I sat there and thought long and hard about it. Does Alpha Protocol have highlights as well? Absolutely. If I wanted to whittle it down to just two highlights of that game then you can make the same argument against it as you can ME3, but that's silly because there are several more just like with ME.

    And also I must remind you that Tuchanka is a culmination of several factors from ME1&2. My decisions were directly impacted by my relationships with certain characters. One of the most heartbreaking, memorable, and emotionally captivating moments in gaming (your last encounter with Mordin) simply DID NOT EXIST for a ton of gamers. The fact that Wrex was there influenced how I came to my decisions.
  • Purely from a story perspective, I can see the argument that decisions have more diverse outcomes in Alpha Protocol. I can certainly see the perspective that because it is a much, much, much smaller scale story that they did execute more perfectly. It is simply way easier when there's much less at stake. You only have to account for so few things (relative to ME). But the payoff isn't as strong if you're invested. If a game hits 100% of it's roleplaying but the story is only 40% of what is possible in a story then it only has a 40% payoff. Now if a game hits even just 60% of it's roleplaying but is 100% of what is possible in a story (like a cohesive story, final ten minutes aside, written out over the course of three games) then it has a 60% payoff; 1 1/2 times more payoff than the other. So yes, while you can certainly say that Alpha Protocol might have created the feeling that your decisions had a more substantial impact on the story, the story just isn't as meaningful because there is a lot less at stake. You're not as emotionally invested in the characters because you haven't had as much opportunity to interact with them. The outcome doesn't mean as much because you haven't lived in the world nearly as long. You don't care about your character as much because you haven't been given the opportunity to care as much. The core idea of their game is executed more successfully, but the scope is exponentially smaller.
  • One can make an argument that Alpha Protocol decisions are equally restrictive as those in Mass Effect 2 or 3. The story of ME2&3 have your decisions inevitably lead to the same path but you go down that path your way. You're going from A to B, but the way your character does it is dependant on you. In Alpha Protocol, you're still going from A to B. There are spots that you may look at or cut off, but you're still going from A to B. Closing a door in AP doesn't open another because it that door never really interferes with your critical path. It doesn't let you really take seperate paths, it just gives you options of straying slightly off the beaten path or not before you inevitably turn around and get back onto that path.
  • Mass Effect 2 was game of the year on several sites. Many will argue it is still the pinnacle of roleplaying in games. That's not because of the opportunities that ME3 represented, it's because that game alone delivered on story, roleplaying and gameplay. There was no long-con or clever ruse Bioware played; they simply created the best game the industry had to offer at the time. Mass Effect 2&3 are quality pieces of entertainment. For you to say otherwise is absurd. Mass Effect 2 was considered by many the MOST quality piece of entertainment.
  • You can argue to an extent that Alpha Protocol failed commercially because of outside reasons like marketing, etc. but that only goes so far. It was not a universally accepted critical success either. The gameplay was outright atrocious even compared to the original Mass Effect and even other similar minded games like Oblivion and Fallout 3. It was in many cases flatout broken. It was janky as hell and proned to glitching. The game design itself was a mess that lead to clear min/maxing which took any sort of strategy or unique gameplay out of equation. It was a straight up chore to play through, often leaving players frustrated and angry. At best it was boring, but players played it in spite of the game because the story was good enough. It looked like a shooter and played like ass. If it looked like an RPG that wouldn't have helped the game, because the gameplay still played like ass. Mass Effect 1 was janky, but used its traditional-combat-RPG elements much better than Alpha Protocol ever came close to. Mass Effect 2&3 cut the wheat from the chaff in terms of its combat, making the combat about strategy and execution rather than about pure level gaining and number crunching.

    It's disheartening to see yet another fan of the genre not understand what makes an RPG and RPG. If you think RPGs are about numbers and xp, then you don't understand what makes an RPG. A role playing game is defined by its ability to have you the player have a specific part in the universe your avatar inhabits. That means letting the player have some sort of say in the outcome of his journey and creating a universe that feels alive and real that actual people, orcs, mutants and aliens would live in and inhabit; something Bioware, Obsidian, and Bethesda are all among the absolute best at. That does NOT having anything to do with lots of meaningless numbers or antiquated combat mechanics that were designed specifically around a) catering to an audience that was not as proficient at using the controller; and b) the technical limitations of the platforms of the time, which was almost 30 years ago.
  • Alpha Protocol came out six months after ME2, therefore it is literally impossible for it to have "already done it best." As a standalone product, Mass Effect 2 is a much, much better game that delivers on the premise both of them share that your choices matter. Mass Effect 1 and 3 in this context are just supplemental extras. And really, that's the only point that matters.

I understand that somebody can absolutely love Alpha Protocol and even passionately hate the Mass Effect games; that's an opinion anyone is entitled to and there are a number of legitimate reasons for doing so. But no one can legitimately argue that Alpha Protocol is an objectively stronger game than the Mass Effect 2&3.