When writing the story for the upcoming “Watch Dogs,” how did Ubisoft create an exciting and compelling hacker story without becoming… well, any given computer movie from the 1990s?
They brought in an expert.
Vitaly Kamluk is the “security advisor” for the “Watch Dogs” script. And according to Kamluk, that involves a lot of telling Ubisoft, “Uh, no, it doesn’t work that way.”
When not educating the scriptwriters on the finer points of hacking, Kamluk is the Principal Security Researcher on the Global Research & Analysis Team for Kapersky Lab in Russia — meaning he investigates cybercrimes across global networks in a country with the best hackers in the entire world.
With someone who investigates people like “Watch Dogs” protagonist Aiden Pearce for a living advising them, Ubisoft’s managed to make the game pretty darned true-to-life. Kamluk said that Ubisoft is taking great steps to make the game feel more realistic, going so far as to focus on small details like accurate monitor screen displays (unlike, you know, any hacking movie ever).
But the challenge comes more in finding the balance between realistic hacking and fun gameplay. Kamluk points out that real-life hacking is far less enjoyable than any game — and way longer.
“Sometimes it can take several hours, or days! And that’s… no fun.”
When situations came up where Kamluk had critiques, Ubisoft took his advice and changed the offending bits around. In one instance, a mission that would have been a simple remote hack turned into one involving both said hacking, and infiltration into the building. Which — as it turns out — makes for a way better video game level.
Perhaps most crucially, Kamluk helped to educate the developers and writers about what all goes on in the current world of cybercrimes. Some of the events in “Watch Dogs,” such as emptying ATMS and taking control of traffic lights, are actually happening in Russia today.
Kamluk noted that “Watch Dogs” has the potential to be both dangerous and educational.
“‘Watch Dogs’ gives a lot of people the opportunity to feel what it’s like to have the ultimate [hacking] tool. You can break other people’s lives, and create human casualties. So we hope we also raise awareness and interest in implementing more secure systems. Cities are developing networks like those seen in the game — and when you have a city-wide network, security must be a focus.”
For more, take a look at our hands-on with the Watch Dogs single-player campaign.