Ubisoft Q&A: WATCH_DOGS and the Power of a New Generation

In “WATCH_DOGS,” you are Aiden Pearce, a former thug that’s able to hack into anything and turn Chicago into your ultimate weapon. Check out the Xbox Wire interview below with developer Ubisoft Montreal’s Senior Producer Dominic Guay, Creative Director Jonathan Morin, and Lead Story Designer Kevin Shortt, and stay tuned for more news and insights from other renown developers of the hottest and most anticipated games coming to Xbox.

What are you most excited about for developing on new generation hardware?

Dominic Guay, Senior Producer: 
From the start, our mindset has always been to innovate. When you have the privilege to build a new IP, you need to push the envelope, to create a game experience that will surprise players. A new platform means we have even more options to innovate and to magnify our vision for the game. Being there at the beginning of a new generation, with a new IP, is a very exciting thing.

How will a new generation of hardware impact/change/revolutionize the future of your title/gaming

Jonathan Morin, Creative Director: 
I think people are already changing the way they play games. They are interconnected, they play something and they talk to a friend at the same time who might not even be using the same machine. That is what we want to tap into. We want to make sure players can play our game in different ways. We want them to consider the fact that other people are playing “WATCH_DOGS” elsewhere, in different modes, some in single player and some in multiplayer. 

Thanks to this new generation of hardware, for the very first time, I think players will feel that playing “WATCH_DOGS” is a lot like living in our day to day lives, with our phones, with our multiple friends everywhere in the world. We really want to make sure that for the very first time, players will be able to blur the line between any kind of modes a game can offer and create one single experience where connectivity is omnipresent.

The original demo showed a sprawling city with tons of interactive NPCs, how has the new generation affected the versatility with the environment?

Jonathan Morin, Creative Director: 
We really want to give “WATCH_DOGS” a serious tone; human dramas are a big deal for us. Video games tend to go very light on that type of subject, so we want to go deep. So if you cause a traffic light accident, we want to ask ourselves what is going to happen to the guy behind the driving wheel. We want to reach that level of detail.

Thanks to the next gen, we can push the limits; we can make the player believe that when he does something, there are causes and consequences. I think that for the first time, players will not only be in a city, they will feel that people live in that city. After all, every city is defined by its inhabitants. This is one of the things that new technology gives us: the ability to go even further. For the very first time, NPCs around you are no longer robots that follow a sidewalk. They are real human beings with their own lives.

Use of the cell phone by the main character in the demo seemed to be a core piece of gameplay, what are some of the uses that may surprise players? 

Kevin Shortt, Lead Story Designer: 
For “WATCH_DOGS,” we needed to pull off a credible, open-world Chicago. We’ve given players the ability to hack into any phone, any camera…any laptop. If they could do that, we needed to ensure there was a story on the other end as a reward. We worked very hard to ensure players will feel they are navigating a busy city of almost three million people who have a lot of stories to tell and all living their own lives; lives that can be explored at any point through the entire game.

Many of these stories will expose players to new opportunities that they can pursue on their own time. Real life has layers and depth, odd stories that intersect our lives. Stories that don’t always make sense… but can make us smile or cringe. 

The ability to enter other players worlds and hack them is really neat, are there any in-game benefits to connecting online and allowing other players to hack your world?

onathan Morin, Creative Director: In “WATCH_DOGS,” there is what we call “notoriety”. Part of it works like any notoriety you could think of in an online game but there is a special aspect to it that is quite unique to “WATCH_DOGS.” Part of it works more like a virus.  When you hack another player, you are installing a worm in his system and then you leverage part of his strength for yourself and he knows about it. So from that point, if this person grows in power, you do as well. Think about it for a second: if you work hard for your notoriety and you know that out there one guy is more powerful than you because he leverages some of what you worked so hard to get, how hard will you want to retaliate to break that link? In a way, when you hack a player, you don’t remove anything from him aside from his pride. He doesn’t lose anything, but he knows you are more powerful because of his effort.

So in a way, your hacking network the virus structure creates is similar to the notoriety you are used to on social networks, which again is a nice and elegant way to remember what “WATCH_DOGS” is all about: hyper connectivity.

Are there limits to the number of players that can hack into your world at any given time?

Jonathan Morin, Creative Director: How the Seamless Multiplayer works is that when your console is connected online, you are automatically in a “session”.  There could be millions of these occurring at once. What we are able to do is to dynamically merge and unmerge those sessions seamlessly. Players can free roam normally, going about their game and at some point they can either accept a contract or provoke a monitoring scan so that the next thing they know, their objective seamlessly involves another player. 

Once the situation is resolved, we are then able to unmerge both players, and they’re able to go about their game to pursue their objectives as they were. The beauty behind this is that we can control the pacing at which this occurs and we can give you tools to also control its flow. It is such a natural online extension of what “WATCH_DOGS” is all about in the end. If we say that everything is connected, we have to consider that everyone is connected too…