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Published 1 year, 6 months ago

Games Ubisoft Published by J. Doe

Watch Dogs: Legion’s Clint Hocking On How Delaying the Game Let Innovation Flourish

Watch Dogs: Legion is coming on October 29, and Ubisoft Forward has given us our best look at the game yet since its initial reveal at E3 2019. Letting you recruit anyone and hack your way to freedom through a fully networked and automated near-future London, the game has undergone a lot of changes in the past year, many of them made possible by a seven-month delay from its original March 2020 release window. To find out more, we chatted with Creative Director Clint Hocking about what’s new, what’s different, and the changing role of permadeath.

Watch Dogs: Legion was one of several Ubisoft games that had its release date pushed back in late 2019. Was your team able to benefit from the additional time, or do something with the game that you wouldn't have been able to otherwise?

Because there was so much innovation in the game, so many different experiments, so many different iterations on Play as Anyone, after the game was delayed, we were actually able to look back at some of the things we wanted to do that we weren't going to be able to do. A few of those things were, first of all, a big improvement on Play as Anyone, which meant diversifying the kinds of properties that you would find on people in the world, but also, creating richer and more complex characters in the world, so that you really have a much stronger feeling of what you see is what you get.

Now, because we were able to add weapons to our melee system, a construction worker has a wrench as a melee weapon. This also means that many, many other people who would reasonably have melee weapons now have them. All kinds of different characters that would be able to use melee weapons, or who you see in the world, have them – an anarchist with a baseball bat, for example.

Were there any features that were shown earlier that you decided didn't work? Was anything taken out?

A good example is permadeath; the entire game was a permadeath mode, where if your operatives were killed, they were killed. So now it's opt-in from the start of the game, and if you play in permadeath mode, your operatives can be permanently killed. One of the benefits of that is that, now that it's an opt-in mode, it's even more hardcore: if you team-wipe, or if all of your operatives are arrested, or put in the hospital, or killed at the same time, it's actually game over.

Do you have a favorite character archetype to see beat the stuffing out of Albion guards?

CH: [laughs] You know, there's so many characters that I like. I actually found a roadie the other day, which is not like a super-incredible character, but it was a roadie, and this one came with a guitar, as well as quiet footsteps and a silent pistol. But it's cool that all of his pieces kind of makes sense in the fiction of the character, and that he's actually a really good stealth character, because he's quiet and he has a silent weapon.

How do you approach balance with so many possible character combinations? Do you prevent characters from having skills or items that might not be appropriate to their profession, for example?

CH: Part of the answer is, we build all of the properties for characters. We build properties, and then we allocate properties to characters in ways that make sense. But of course there are characters that have many properties, and so some of those characters are going to be more powerful.

Watch Dogs: Legion’s vision of the future seems pretty bleak, given the oppressive surveillance and corruption. On a personal note, has your outlook on the future brightened or darkened since you began work on Watch Dogs: Legion?

But to be completely honest, I think despite how complex – and in some ways, dark – many of the themes of the game are, working on the game has actually been inspiring for me, because I think that the important themes of the game aren't the dark ones, and the heavy ones, and the scary ones, and the authoritarians, and the opportunists, and the surveillance technology, and the economic strife, and the politics. Those aren't the important themes.

The important theme is people coming together and standing up for one another, and respecting one another, and treating one another as equals to work together to make a better future. And I think there is hope, and I'm glad that this game isn't just a big romp of action and violence against authoritarians. I'm glad that this message is there, because it seems really relevant today.

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Jul 15, 2020 at 12:26

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