Our recent trip to Ubisoft‘s massive Montreal studio yielded more than just a playtest and some rather surprising titbits - it also revealed that the open world action game and PlayStation 4 are far closer than you realise…
“Creating the game on PS4 was fascinating”
The design pillars that shaped PlayStation 4 (full marks if you can remember all five: Simple, Immediate, Social, Integrated and Personalised) just happened to be aligned with some of the core concepts of Watch_Dogs. Mainly, an easy to understand, personal, immediate and integrated multiplayer. “Seamless multiplayer within the single player of Watch_Dogs was highly valued between the companies,” explains Lead Game Designer Danny Belanger.
“Creating the game on PS4 was fascinating,” agrees Creative Director Jonathan Morin. “It was uncanny to see that Watch_Dogs was so close to what Sony wanted to do with the console. So Sony understood what we were doing with the game. We were a really great match.”
“PS4 gave us a chance to dream.”
The graphical grunt afforded by PS4’s muscular hardware shouldn’t be underestimated – especially when creating an open world game the size of Watch_Dogs. “The powerful technology helped us create a better simulation,” says Danny. “The water effects, the amount of people in the city, the quality of the lighting… it all brings us a step forward.”
“PS4 has really given us the platform to build a new type of game,” smiles Animation Director Colin Graham. “It gave us a chance to dream. From an animation point of view we’re always running out of memory, especially when you start developing towards the end of a console generation, so PS4 allowed things like reduced animation compression and more variety in civilians. From my point of view it’s a bit like working with an unlimited budget because we can’t fill the memory budget on PS4. It’s a really nice piece of hardware.”
Your DUALSHOCK 4 smartphone
As well as making you feel like a high tech genius, Watch_Dogs does something else rather clever – it turns the DUALSHOCK 4 wireless controller into an extension of Aiden Pearce’s city-shaking smartphone. And with a little tap of the touch pad you can bring up a map of Watch_Dogs’ cyber Chicago, which you can navigate by lightly brushing your finger over the touch pad’s smooth surface.
The touch pad brought the DUALSHOCK 4 wireless controller closer to being a game style smartphone with the ease of activation, moving around and navigation,” says Danny. “It felt very natural. It’s for comfort. The functionality of touching that most people have on their phone was something we wanted to replicate.”
“You’re going to surprise us with the SHARE button”
It’s one of the most discreet buttons on the versatile DUALSHOCK 4 wireless controller, but Ubisoft wants you to SHARE like there’s no tomorrow. “The more you play Watch_Dogs, the more exciting and personal stories are going to emerge,” says Colin. “I’m really interested to see the sort of stuff we’ll get through players using the SHARE button. The game is perfect for that. You guys are going to surprise us and do things with the game we didn’t expect. ”
I love the SHARE button,” says Jonathan. “I’ve always said that the next generation of gaming would be defined by the players’ behaviour. It’s no longer about graphics, it’s about the social media phenomenon. The SHARE button’s presence helps create a certainty that PS4 players would be receptive to our ideas in Watch_Dogs.”
And Colin has already had a few moments he wants to share… “The first time I came across these heavy duty guards in the game I think I crapped my pants,” laughs Colin. “I didn’t know what to do! I didn’t have a heavy enough weapon to take them on, so I started trying to hack anything nearby. I eventually knocked one over with a hacked steam pipe and then I ran over and frantically shotgunned him into submission.
“I also managed to hack a bollard and made a police car that was chasing me down an alley do a flip and a half,” he smiles. “It was a perfect, tight spiral – Olympic gold, 10 out of 10. I’m going to try and reproduce it when the game comes out so I can share it!”
For more on Watch_Dogs, check out our full reveal of the PlayStation exclusive content that you’ll only be able to play on PS3 and PS4 when the game launches on 27th May.