Who Watches the WATCH_DOGS?

You start as Aiden Pearce, a man shaped by violence and obsessed with surveillance. A man who monitors his family 24/7 to protect them from something that happened in the past. But unfortunately for Aiden, his family will get endangered once again. Forcing him to take justice into his own hands, Aiden will take his monitoring capabilities from one family house to an entire district, and then an entire city — Chicago. A city that is perfectly suited to illustrate the theme “Everything Is Connected” since in 2006,”Operation Virtual Shield” created the most extensive video surveillance network in the United States by linking more than 10,000 security cameras to a centralized monitoring system that captures and processes video feeds in real time.

So you’d be nuts to think this was a simple “point and shoot” video game. But you’d have to be even more crazy to pass up having those who created it explain what WATCH_DOGS is all about.

Man Cave Daily: What makes this game different?

Jonathan Morin, Creative Director: WATCH_DOGS will redefine how you interact with an open world. For the very first time, the city will become your weapon and to support that, our simulation of Chicago will offer unprecedented dynamism. This will have real impact on your experience. First, you will have real-time control over the city’s infrastructure: traffic lights, drawbridges, communications, L-Train and more. Using these will create ripples throughout the city that will impact the people around you and how you reach your goal. The media will talk about your actions affecting your relationship with the game world. It will bring city simulation to an all-new level. Secondly, you will have access to every mobile device, laptop and computer. Invading everyone’s privacy will organically lead you to all sorts of stories and gameplay experiences. Players are used to following the icons in open world games because they define where the action takes place. In our game, the action will shape itself as you discover it.

Danny Belanger, Lead Game Designer: And unlike games where you have to quit and go to the front end and select to play online, here we make it just part of the game — a seamless continuation of what the person is doing in the single-player mode. So the player doesn’t have to stop but can just jump into online or others can do this too and now it’s happening as he roams freely. So there’s no stopping the gameplay in order to select to play online, it’s just part of the game’s DNA and just a choice as to whether the player wants to do it or not.

MCD: Tell us about the gameplay.

JM: As the player progressively gets control of this system, he will go from discovering Aiden’s drama through the main missions, to getting involved in everyone’s lives. While the story and their missions unfold in a predefined sequence, the way players will play them and which side activities they will get into will change the way they perceive the experience. It is the player that will live this fascinating tragedy of being a modern vigilante within a realistic context. And the way he uses these will be completely up to him. All of it is systemically implemented within the game simulation.This is by no means a superhero game. We are exploring the vigilante role within a more believable world made of various shades of grey.

MCD: So is it mission-oriented or freestyle?

DB: With WATCH_DOGS, we intend to let the players express themselves. We are building an AI that supports stealth and shooting with the transitions required between the two states. This means that the player can take advantage of not being seen to engage into gunplay when he decides.That being said, players who prefer a more direct approach can totally run in and take care of business using a more action-oriented approach.

For the fighting itself, we are trying to have a more realistic tone where enemies feel more like real living people than “game ingredients.” Within the WATCH_DOGS universe, we have multiple types of enemies ranging from mobsters to the police force and these allow us to create interesting challenges without feeling too “unrealistic.” We also have a full range of weapons at the player’s disposal–from basic pistols to grenade launchers, these can be used anywhere the player wants and it can create quite the mess when a fight breaks out in downtown Chicago. It becomes even more interesting when you add the range of city hacks and vehicles the player can use in combination with his arsenal…you’ll be able to acquire high performance vehicles and customize their performance, even take over fire engines and garbage trucks.

MCD: It’s said that the graphics and animation are top-notch…

Colin Graham, Animation Director: It’s true! WATCH_DOGS has an unprecedented amount of animation to build both Aiden Pearce and the living city of Chicago. Over the past five years we’ve shot over 100 days of Motion capture for the gameplay team alone. This is spread between the Main Character of Aiden Pearce, the living city civilians and the enemy AI. Aiden Pearce’s animations were built from the ground up, he has approximately 4000 animation files in-game. Aiden has approximately 2300 navigation and interaction, and driving-related animation files and about 1700 combat-related files. Our AI enemy NPCs have a wide combat system, with several distinct mental states and in-depth reactions to hacking ingredients. The enemy AI has almost 4000 animation clips.

MCD: So the biggest different between WATCH_DOGS and previous games in the genre…

CG: …is how much animation is dedicated to the living city. Civilians of WATCH_DOGS Chicago have the greatest number of animations in our production. They can have occupational animations, conversations, interactions with the world and reactions to dynamic ingredients, a variety of reaction to various threats, and they come in a variety of sizes, attitudes with different clothing and props. There are over 5000 unique animation clips required for the living city civilian simulation. Overall there are more than 13,000 animation clips needed to bring WATCH_DOGS to life, mainly because the game is a systemic open world game that has to cover a massive amount of contexts with many random elements. WATCH_DOGS has more animation than any Ubisoft production to date.

WATCH_DOGS is available on PlayStation 3/4, Xbox 360/One, Nintendo Wii U and PC.

Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture. Visit his website.

Marshal interviewed a goddess in Why We Love Jaimie Alexander (and Lady Sif).

Courtesy of ABC/Disney

Flying cars are the valkyrie whip of choice.

More from Marshal Rosenthal

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