In a recent conversation with Playstation Blog, the good people at Ubisoft Montreal revealed some very interesting snippets of information regarding their upcoming game, Watch_Dogs. There was a lot of information fleshing out things we already know. Like hacking plays an important part of any mission, but how and what you hack varies massively. Examples sited include enormous, explosive distractions that take out multiple enemies, right down to something as simple as sending a text message to distract a security guard, allowing you to slip by him unnoticed.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the conversation was when talking to Animation Director, Colin Graham. He revealed, rather succinctly, that when it comes to Ubisoft’s approach to this game:
We support all styles of play […] Explore the game, as the more you do the more you’ll have fun with it.”
He goes on to explain that, whilst Ubisoft is a brand you can trust when it comes to stealth, they are supporting all out, guns blazing, frenetic action too! In their own words, ‘you won’t be punished for it.’ This is great news, as there are a lot of people who love perfect stealth runs in games, but just as many that prefer to get a little crazy in there. Even in the recent Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Ubisoft have started to explore the idea of multiple approaches to gameplay. The problem with that is Splinter Cell had its roots so firmly in stealth. Even though the game supported and even rewarded the fast and loud approach, it never felt like that was something Sam Fisher would have done. Maybe not completely narrative breaking, but a little jarring at times – coupled with the fact that the game actually gave you higher rewards for being stealthy.
Watch_Dogs, on the other hand, is a completely new IP. Aiden Pierce will not suffer from the historical trappings of the grizzled Splinter Cell protagonist. Aiden is a character gamers are yet to mold. So whatever approach you prefer will be the right one. For some that will still be the quiet as a shadow approach; others are going to blow some people up!
A further point of interest that arose from the conversation is the level of detail they’ve gone into the NPCs brains:
We’ve created a system for their mental state, so attacking one person in the street won’t necessarily result in the same response. If you smash their mobile phone before they call the cops, they may run, they may fight back and so on […] And panic can spread. If someone runs down a street screaming from what you did, others will become curious. Eventually those people will look for the source of that threat and it creates different reactions.”
Just as in real life, approaching an unknown person on the street can provoke wildly different responses depending on the person; depending on the day. Your own erratic actions within the game world, can spread quickly into panic for multiple characters. This could lead to streets being cleared, police being alerted or even an unexpected confrontation with someone who was not even your intended target. The potential for unpredictability is exciting to say the least. It also goes some way to explaining the well publicised delay the game has already suffered. With systems that are this sophisticated, it makes sense that Ubisoft Montreal wanted to make sure there was no point the AI would break down. They WANT us to mess with the AI.
One area that hasn’t had enough said about it so far, is multiplayer. Details are still trickling out, but no definite description of how this works has been offered yet. The impression given so far is that players will be able to infiltrate the game world of other players and hack them. Quite why we will want or need to do this hasn’t been made clear. By the sounds of it, this unorthodox system will link to aspects of the games narrative.
Colin Graham didn’t reveal any major new details, but did share an anecdote of scenarios that might play out through the multiplayer element of Watch_Dogs:
One guy playtesting was just walking down a street, then he suddenly took out his gun and killed someone driving in their car, without even profiling him. We asked why he did that, and he said that there’s no way a person would be driving a branded sports car in this poverty stricken area, so he must have been another player stalking him […] I love the systemic gameplay and that people are already creating their own anecdotes. That’s what makes the game special to me.”
Watch_Dogs is certainly shaping up to be an impressive and intriguing title. Having missed the PS4 and Xbox One launch it was originally intended for, the hype around this game is starting to build again. It is now free from the open world titles with which it would have been competing (Ubisoft’s own Assassin’s Creed IV and the long shadow cast by GTA V) and is scheduled for release at the end of May on PS3, PS4, PC, Xbox 360 and Xbox One..
More details will surely become available in the weeks before launch. This Dog is certainly one to Watch.
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