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Watch Dogs’ Delay to May 2014 Explained by Ubisoft

March 7, 2014 Written by Jason Dunning

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Shedding some more light on the reasoning behind Watch Dogs’ delay from November 2013 to May 2014, Senior Producer Dominic Guay revealed on the Ubi Blog how it all came down to “polish,” offering up this example:

We produced an insane amount of animations and behaviors for the citizens of our Chicago. But once you do a lot of playtests you realize there are certain parts of the city where players go more than others. So [we] look at it and we say, ‘Okay, there’s all these things happening in the city that many players may never see, there’s those areas they’re going in, and maybe if we had more variety there it would be better.’ It’s impossible to plan that a year ahead. You need to do it, see it, make an adjustment, iterate on it. So we actually produced more content that would fit into the areas where the players went more, moved content around a little bit, looked at it again, played it again. Iterating on this huge of a game takes a while. It takes weeks for anyone to get through our game.

One of the features that needed more polish is hacking, which is an integral part of the Watch Dogs experience. For starters, speaking with Polygon, Guay said, “[Hacking] started to feel repetitive. The fantasy doesn’t make the AI feel alive. We knew some things needed to be upgraded, improved and polished; we weren’t happy with that.”

Lead Game Designer Danny Belanger then elaborated on how the in-game math was set too low when you try to hack any of the AI:

Let’s say there’s a 30 percent chance that there’s one. Well, you’re an unlucky guy and you get four missions with no AI that can be hacked. That’s not cool. For you as the player, that experience is not what we want, so we changed the math. We said, ‘Okay, we want a guarantee.’

Sometimes it was great, but then you could be the unlucky player who didn’t get the right math. Or you play with the system too much and you started seeing some repetition. So we added variety. We added lifelike reactions. Watch Dogs is very complicated. You can hack AI and [see] how do they react. You can do that in every mission and repeat it and repeat it, and at some point we weren’t happy with the variety. We wanted to make it better.

Back on the Ubi Blog, Guay revealed how “hacking has always been our core focus,” revealing that it’s “present if you’re in combat, if you’re driving, if you’re on foot, if you’re doing stealth, or even if you’re just hiding in a corner and doing everything remotely through cameras. Hacking is central to the way you can approach problems.”

Looking further at the original release date of November 2013 for Watch Dogs, Guay said they announced it “because we thought we would be done by then.” In fact, as of Spring 2013, they had the game playable “front-to-back.” Ultimately though, they needed to delay the game to add more polish, a decision Ubisoft understood and agreed with.

Also, if you saw Watch Dogs yesterday in the new trailer and were worried about any downgrades in quality, Ubisoft Communications Manager Gary Steinman said, “I had the privilege of playing the game, and I can reassure you that the graphics are up to snuff. The city is gorgeous in action, and the NPCs are lively and interesting. We’ll have more stories and videos in the coming weeks and months, so stay tuned. I’m sure you’ll see the game is shaping up to deliver what you’ve been hoping for.”

Finally, Creative Director Jonathan Morin confirmed on Twitter that there will be an 8-player free roam multiplayer mode in Watch Dogs.

Is Watch Dogs going to be the game that takes up all your time this Summer? Let us know in the comments below.