Eurogamer: Let's say I take the James Bond route and wink my way to success, wink wink - will I get a perk for that sort of behaviour?
Chris Avellone: Absolutely.
Eurogamer: What sort of replayability is there?
Chris Avellone: There's actually a lot of reasons. I would be very, very surprised if five people playing the game have the same experience. Secondly, there's a lot of different endings in terms of the combinations of all the choices you make throughout cause some pretty significant changes in the endgame. And also when you finish the game the first time, we actually allow a certain character background to be chosen if you played on the hardest difficulty. And that will actually change some of your dialogue options and some of the gameplay mechanics within the early levels when you play the game again. People will treat you differently, you'll get new dialogue branches, and hopefully players will enjoy that and be encouraged to play the game again just for that.
Eurogamer: How different are these hubs going to be? And what sort of freedom of exploration will we have in them?
Chris Avellone: Obviously you can choose whichever mission you want to go on. But there's an added feature that when you go to each mission you actually get a choice, when you get there, of a series of missions and which order you want to tackle them in. And you can choose those based on your expertise or what missions you want to go on. So if you're playing the James Bond suave character it may be more to your benefit or interest to go talk to contacts first and find out what they know about stuff and then use that to get the critical missions in each hub. Or the commando character may go on various assault missions to try and get the information they need. We made sure the players had those optional missions to choose from to open up the core missions.
Eurogamer: Speaking of James Bond: which is your favourite spy film?
Chris Avellone: Oh, wow, that's really tough. I think the third and fourth season of 24, actually, ended up being a pretty big inspiration, mostly because I've never seen... Keither Sutherland says very little yet somehow communicates a great deal with the urgency of what's going on, and that had a big impact on the dialogue in the game and how you could go through those missions and accomplish various things. And eventually how someone who can be such a patriot, how that can go so wrong when that's your sole focus. That was an interesting moral question whenever I'm watching that series.
Eurogamer: Funny you should mention urgency, because RPGs are usually terrible at it: they present an urgent overarching plot, but let you take as much time in hubs mopping up side-quests as you like. To what extent does urgency rule in Alpha Protocol?
Chris Avellone: We try and make sure that timed urgency only happens within dialogue situations and at certain key moments. We don't make that hit you every second of the game. The only game I've ever actually seen successfully pull off a time-limit for the overall game would probably be Fallout 1, and there was a huge controversy from players about whether they actually enjoyed that or not. As a game designer I loved it. As a player I can understand the frustration. I think when you introduce that mechanic if there's a way to reset that timer then that's okay, but Alpha Protocol isn't that kind of game.
Eurogamer: How important is the IP to Obsidian? Will it run and run and run?
Chris Avellone: We would love to continue the franchise. I think everyone who's been working on Alpha Protocol, even as we're working on this stuff for the core game, we see possibilities for future titles that would be pretty exciting to pursue.
Eurogamer: Have you, like a good spy film, left the story open for that?
Chris Avellone: Er... Yes.
Alpha Protocol is due out for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 in October. Check out our recent preview for more.