Ubisoft had big and bright ambitions for Watch_Dogs, and while the game had great sales figures, some things didn’t quite pan out on the creative side (you can see what we thought here in our review). Ubisoft promises radical change for the next game in the series, and in a recent interview with CVG, Ubisoft Montreal’s Vice President of Creative, Lionel Raynaud admitted there were places where they fell flat, stating that although the game has its share of flaws, he feels that it was a success in establishing a franchise for the future.
“We had a lot of flaws in the replayability of gameplay loops and you could feel that the game was a first iteration. At the time, there was clear potential but it was not easy to know it was going to become the franchise that it is today… It’s the same thing with Watch_Dogs: it was difficult to do everything at the right level, which is why we took more time. The time we took was definitely useful – it allowed us to release the game without compromises and do everything that we wanted. We also kept parts of the game we felt didn’t fit with the original for the sequel.”
As far as the public’s less than stellar reception of the game, Raynaud believes that Ubisoft has succeeded in establishing “a brand and promise” for a series that he compares to the reception of the first Assassin’s Creed.
“There are flaws, obviously. We absolutely want to tackle these flaws and surprise players, and the way to tackle some of those flaws is going to be quite radical. There are parts of the game that will need to change… We have this ambition to have games that are worlds with systems that offer more agency and freedom for players, that allow them to discover the world in the way they want. We want them to be less narrative or character driven and more creative, with more choices for the player… This is quite a high ambition and will require us to develop technologies that we didn’t have for Watch_Dogs 1, but this combined with fixing and refining what worked well is probably the way to go for Watch_Dogs 2.”
One of the biggest challenges Raynaud and company face with expanding the series will be not just “righting the perceived gameplay wrongs” of the original, but also living up to the lofty expectations generated by the E3 2012 premiere showing of the game, which is one of the biggest things that many argue the game in its completed state failed to live up to.
“Very often it’s a positioning issue… that the way in which we have introduced the game or what we have shown promised things players didn’t see in the final version, and that was the thing they were after so we have to deliver that now… More than the fact that [the E3 2012 demo] was running on PC, it’s the fact that the scope and the scale of the final game presented more possibilities but also more challenges than the vertical slice.”
Despite those complaining about how the game didn’t live up to the hype, how the graphics were downgraded from what we were shown at E3, or how the driving mechanics were just awful, Watch_Dogs still sold 4 million units in its first week, and it was this commercial success that became an additional challenge in figuring out what elements of the game were not well received by the majority versus which were just complaints from a vocal minority.
“If you focus on forums and social media, that’s a very specific part of the spectrum of players… They tend to be very vocal, experienced players who influence a lot of the larger community, but they’re also quite different from what a mainstream player would say about Watch_Dogs… So we need to be careful not to change the things that most players liked, just because the ones who didn’t like those things are the most vocal.”
Rumors on changes to the game have been floating about since CEO Yves Guillemot discussed his thoughts on a sequel in June (just a few weeks after the game’s initial release), suggesting the game’s cast of characters could change or they could introduce a twist to the core hacking concept. Locations have been floated out from the next game taking place in New Jersey, to it becoming this epic globetrotting journey taking place across 9 different locations: Tokyo, Singapore, New York, Dubai, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Stockholm, Beijing and London.
Continued rumors mention more destructive weapons to rival Grand Theft Auto V, the tuned up graphics we were all expecting previously, and new side missions, activities, etc. such as visiting gyms and shopping in malls. Obviously, these are pure speculation right now as there are currently no concrete details for the sequel, but it is interesting to think of the direction the sequel, or the franchise for that matter, could go.
“When pressed about whether or not we’d see the not-very-well received Aiden Pearce again, Guillemot responded with: “I can’t say because I don’t know actually. We’ll see… We knew it would be polarizing; some people loved the characters and some didn’t. It was difficult to please everybody with that character. Now, having seen the reaction, we know what we will do next to improve that.”
It is certainly good to see that Ubisoft will not just rest on their laurels and simply plop a 2 in the title screen of a sequel. According to the company, improvements are forthcoming, and hopefully the things we did like will remain. What did you think about Watch_Dogs? Loved it, hated it, looking forward to the sequel? Let us know in the comments below.