When Watch_Dogs was unveiled by Ubisoft at E3 2012, it successfully turned a lot of heads due to its impressive visuals and the showcase of a lead character manipulating technology to cause chaos. Since then we've been given a clearer picture, including the recent unveiling of the ability to interact with the game world on a smartphone app — this was demoed on the PS4 version, so it's not 100% clear that this will be included in the Wii U version. Hopefully, aside from an extra hour of story content on Sony's systems (which also happened with Assassin's Creed III) features like this will be applied across all platforms.
The overlying concept, however, of protagonist Aiden Pearce being able to hack connected devices throughout a futuristic Chicago is a bold one. As explained to Destructoid by the title's senior producer, Dominic Guay, the idea was driven by the technological evolution in real-life cities.
We were inspired by how technology had changed the way we lived our lives. How we were connecting with others — with information, with work — through computers but also smart phones. As we dug deeper into that vision we were interested in the vulnerabilities, the new types of flaws, and crimes, and hacks that were possible because of that. We continued to dig deeper and we finally discovered that we were gradually moving from smart phones, to smart cities.
Now smart cities are really happening in our world right now. Some are being built from the ground up in Asia, the Middle East, and in Europe. Even in established cities those technologies are being put in one step at a time, for good reasons. I mean if you think about it, city governments are the closest form of government for us to deliver most of the core services we need. Clean water, they gather our garbage, they give us electricity, transport systems, security — all things we need and that we need to make efficient. Now they use technology and connectivity to do that, and in smart cities they start intertwining those networks to make them even more efficient.
Naturally, this title taps into the potential vulnerabilities of an increased reliance on linked networks and systems, in this case the fictional ctOS, which manages all of those vital cogs in the city's processes. The open world aspect is said to be pliable for common hacks and interferences by the player, such as watching people through their webcams, snooping on text messages and more. While main missions are clearly being saved for a later day, hands-on reports of flexible sub-objectives in the environment include breaking into ctOS operating centers to secure a back-door hack and bypass security. Apparently the player can storm in with guns blazing or choose stealth, and shutting down these facilities gives Pierce greater access and hacking abilities in the relevant area.
What is perhaps intriguing, in terms of comments from Guay, is that Ubisoft is trying to keep the story progression fairly open to interpretation, so that its outcomes reflect the player's morality. You can hack or interfere in citizen's affairs as much or as little as you like, with the over-arching story apparently aiming to expose grey areas rather than a black-or-white perspective.
It's more your interpretation of the story that we want to change, than having like a black and a white ending. You know one is you become an angel, and the other one is you spend an eternity in hell [in other games]. That's interesting, possibly, but that's not really what we're exploring.
It's all going to be nuance, and how you perceive the story. Our creative director likes to say if you show a painting, two people can interpret it totally differently. Our hope is depending on how you play it and how we reflect your way of playing back to you, you will have a different interpretations of what just happened, and what was the actual story of Aiden Pierce. We think that's stronger than two different cinematics.
The latest gameplay trailer, released last week, is below. What do you think of these details and the concept behind Watch_Dogs?