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Games Ubisoft Published by J. Doe

404 Not Found - How One of Watch Dogs: Legion’s Most Memorable Missions Became a High-Tech Haunting

Coming Home, part of the 404 Not Found questline in Watch Dogs: Legion, is one of the game’s most unique and darkly memorable missions. Tasking you with investigating a long-neglected mansion owned by reclusive tech billionaire Skye Larsen, it doesn’t feature a lot of action or sneaking; in fact, apart from subduing a lone guard and hacking a puzzle to unlock the front door, the bulk of the mission feels like a calm scavenger hunt for key items that reveal more about Skye’s past.

WARNING: THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS FOR WATCH DOGS: LEGION’S COMING HOME MISSION AND 404 NOT FOUND MISSIONS. CONTINUE READING AT YOUR OWN RISK. Descending into the basement, you discover not a laboratory but a cavernous room, dazzlingly lit and built to look like a lush outdoor garden at twilight. At its center sits a picturesque cottage, the walls of which hide a series of increasingly macabre revelations meant to pull players first toward sympathy, and then toward horror. It’s not until the mission’s climax, in the cottage’s basement, that understanding finally dawns: you’re in a ghost story.

All-seeing AIs and AR reconstructions are commonplace by this point in the game, but here they’ve been used to create a tortured spirit and tell you her story.

What was the initial pitch for the Coming Home mission like? What did you want it to achieve?

Owen McIntosh: When we first came into making [the 404 Not Found] set of missions, we really wanted to make the whole mission line feel like this creepy tech storyline, to see just how far we could push it. We wanted you to come in and feel a little weird; something feels kind of off as you enter the mansion. We wanted it to be a little bit disturbing, and we wanted the player, as they were going through the mission, to learn more about Skye Larsen and really get a clear view of the threat she poses, and why they need to take her down.

How did that initial descent into the basement laboratory take shape, when you exit the elevator and discover a whole other house? What did you want players to feel, walking into that for the first time?

One of the things that makes that moment so striking is that it looks very different from the rest of the game. It's lit differently, and the cottage doesn't look like a lot of the buildings you see around London, even once you’re inside it. How much of what we’re seeing was created just for this area?

The house upstairs and the cottage downstairs used a lot of custom meshes to get that specific feel, because like you said, we didn't have it anywhere else in the game. And then the lighting in the holodeck-like area was juggling a lot of different pieces to try and get that really specific mood. For a long time, all the vegetation was holographic, but I think we actually ended up getting a much cooler look with the “real” vegetation, and with really intense and different-feeling lighting.

Did you encounter any pushback against the idea that those resources should be devoted to a relatively short, action-free mission, because it's very important to the story?

The cool thing with this one was, as we pitched this set of missions, we all knew this one sounded really exciting and really cool. And Clint [Hocking], our creative director, outright said this is one of the most important missions in the game for him. That made it feel a lot less scary to try and achieve, because so much of it was already in, and we all were aligned on how cool the mission was, and how important it was going to be. We all just went all-in on it from very early on, and then when we got to the last year of the production, this one was already just so fun every time we played it that every review just became about, “how do we throw more cool details in it and make it even cooler?”

Let's talk about what’s in the garage. You foreshadow it outdoors by showing the grave of Ada, Skye’s family dog, and then you enter and see this caged spiderbot making these pitiful dog noises. Why use a dog to set the stage for the bigger reveal?

Your reaction is, at first, empathy; you see the grave, and you're like, “oh, that's sad.” And then you see the dog, and you're like, “man, that is evil! That is evil with a capital ‘E!’” That was the point where we want you to be, like, OK, there's something super-twisted going on here, and this person that we've been following, we get why she's the villain. We get that there is no ambiguity here, this is the villain.

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Mar 15, 2021 at 09:49

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