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Alpha Protocol devs share how cutting features helped refocus development

From the espionage RPG's infamous minigames to a scrapped parkour mechanic, Obsidian devs explore what went right and wrong when creating Alpha Protocol.
"The direction we were going wasn't something everyone was completely happy with so changing that around ... it really revitalized a lot of the team."

- Lead designer Tyson Christensen explains how cutting features led to more focused development.

In its original 6-page pitch, the developers behind Alpha Protocol had a solid idea of the spy RPG they wanted to make, but the team had a harder time nailing down the features and feel of the game once development began. 

In an in-depth interview with Eurogamer, members of the Obsidian team sat down to talk about how they eventually found the pulse for Alpha Protocol, all the while exploring what was eventually left on the cutting room floor.

The team shares how and why some features originally planned—like parkour movement options, longer mini-games, environmental interaction, chase sequences, and even a female protagonist option— were significantly altered or chopped after what lead designer Chris Parker described as a “big 'coming to Jesus' meeting.”

One feature that almost didn’t survive the big meeting was the mini-games throughout Alpha Protocol. While the team considered removing them from the game altogether to save on resources, a decision from Sega meant the mini-games were there to stay.

"We had these mini-games that were clearly not fun, nobody liked them,” explained Parker. “There were a lot of arguments about how to make them fun, but what we had to do was actually back up and go, 'No, they're not fun, let's throw them away and have them do this.'"

Matt MacLean, lead systems designer for Alpha Protocol, explains that the original mini-games were similar to how BioShock tackled hacking through puzzle games but instead ended up as “several minutes of 'this is a whole new game in and of itself.’” While the mini-games themselves didn’t get the ax, MacLean says that they were able to at least partially redeem the mini-games by making them shorter. 

The full interview over on Eurogamer has more examples like this and offers a practical look an how sometimes cutting features can help refocus a development effort

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