Speaking to OXM at a Watch Dogs event this week, Ubisoft has discussed how exactly next generation versions of the game will differ from their homely last gen brethren. Long story short, it's the same game on Xbox 360, but the environmental trappings will be vastly more impressive on new hardware.
"It will not be different at its soul," observed creative director Jonathan Morin. "The whole experience has been built not for technology, it's been built to be an exciting experience game. And since we've been at it for four years, the programmers and everybody knew that we would want to release it on current gen too, so when we announced it there was already a plan."
The key differences, he explained, have to do with the processing-intensive real time effects that accentuate Ubisoft's sandbox. "Where there is a difference with next gen is stuff like the wind simulation, which is a lot more sophisticated, and the water simulation, the realisation of certain effects. So, it's the same core experience but magnified for the next-gen environment. People shouldn't anticipate any compromise on what Watch Dogs is at its soul for current gen."
Lead gameplay programmer Eric Baillargeon elaborated on this in a separate interview. "Like we've said before, when we built the new game engine we tried to make it scalable," he said, when I asked whether Ubisoft's tactic of working towards guess-timated next gen specs could lead to difficulties. "And it's up to us, when we're putting things in the game, to make them scale so that we can support a new generation of consoles.
"One example I always give is the living city, that's something we can play with depending on the consoles we're playing with. We've worked with what we can potentially synch up with future hardware, but we're not magicians, we can't read the future. So when we built the different tech inside the engine, we tried to make sure that it would fit current gen, next gen, maybe even next-next gen. Because we want it to be scalable enough to use for years to come."
"It's up to developers to decide what parameters we can expose, to make things easier on different platforms, because for us it's really important that it's the same gameplay," Baillargeon reiterated. "The game will be the same. What will change will be the richness of the simulation, the graphics for instance will be better, the simulation of the city will be different, but the essence of the gameplay, the core of it will be the same."
Lead producer Dominic Guay has suggested that next generation games can't just be about pretty visuals - you also need "fresh and innovative design". Watch Dogs hopes to offer both. Here's a massive preview for your attention.