It's been over half a year since Ubisoft's last E3 presser, but I've yet to see a game reveal, next gen or otherwise, that exceeds the publisher's Watch_Dogs in the "stand on table and wave your unmentionables around" stakes. (Capcom's Deep Down teaser at the Stayplation Four reveal is probably nearest the mark.) An open world adventure in which you can wirelessly hack Chicago's infrastructure using a smartphone, this sinisterly beautiful effort is at once tailor-made with cutting edge connectivity in mind and a critique of that technology's ubiquity.
Ubisoft has yet to tell the whole story about Watch_Dogs, and in some ways I hope they never do - far too many modern games (like Batman: Arkham City, for instance) have their guts torn out by marketing campaigns long before they hit shelves. Still, a little more info on just how the core concepts add up to a GTA 5 beating offering would be nice. As luck would have it, creative director Jonathan Morin and senior producer Dominic Guay have just released a new Q&A, shedding a few tentative rays on the game's open world and online systems. I've chopped out the new stuff and published it below, for your urgent consideration.
Ubisoft wants to debunk traditional morality systems
There's a "Reputation gauge" in Watch_Dogs which reflects how you approach both main story and optional missions, but it's no abstract BioWare-style exercise in karmic bean-counting. Instead, Morin hopes to interrogate how popular perceptions of an individual are shaped, while challenging players to deal with the possibility that their actions may be misconstrued.
"In WATCH_DOGS, every open world moment needs to be treated seriously," he wrote. "Every action the player takes will have a direct consequence. When you cause chaos, people will be endangered. The media will talk about it. They will influence how the population perceives your actions and it will alter your relationship with the world. In the game, there will be a Reputation System that will focus on the player's attitude towards collateral damages. Is he causing a lot of havoc that injures or kills citizens? Is he acting heroically or like a criminal?
"Each action will have Positive and Negative effects," the Q&A continues. "The player will choose how he wants to play and the game will not judge him. Our system will simply recognize the shades of greys our society is made of and reflect it back on the player. We are not building one of those yin and yang systems that always end up feeling gamey and out of place. Our Reputation System will focus more on how people in our society tend to forge their opinion and this is yet another fascinating subject in relation with our main theme: the influence of technology within our society."
Your narrative is as, if not more important than Aiden's
The main character is Aiden Pearce, "a man shaped by violence and obsessed with surveillance, who monitors his family 24/7 in secret to protect them from something that happened in the past." Sounds like there's the makings of a powerful story there... but the player's own choices as to larger questions will ultimately transcend Aiden's personal struggle. "Aiden doesn't intervene, the player does," writes Morin. "As you play Aiden Pearce, you will go from a personal mission to something far more important. Players will progressively live a clash between Aiden's drama and everybody else's problems.