Watch Dogs is one of the big titles coming at the end of the year that will be releasing multi-platform as well as multi-generation. Not everyone is going to be racing out to pick up an Xbox One or a Playstation 4, in fact I’d wager that the sales numbers will favour the current gen versions more than the next gen at first. So there’s a natural curiousity about what the differences will be between the two generations, and Ubisoft have come out with answers.
Ubisoft is quick to talk about the features that make the current gen versions of Watch Dogs impressive, thanks to the Disrupt engine which was built specifically for the game. ‘Take the rain, for example,’ says Senior Producer Dominic Guay. ‘When the sky starts to open up, civilians will pull out umbrellas. The lights reflect off wet surfaces. We can see the wind shifting the direction of the rain and blowing debris around. Even leaves and trash on the ground will begin to appear damp and weighted down by moisture.’ That weather affects the people as much as it does the environment. If a bitter wind picks up, passersby will button up their jackets or wrap themselves up tighter.
Civilians will react as much to these changes in the weather as they will to more outlandish incidents. Ubisoft refers to it as a ‘ripple effect’. A car crash will involve some people injured, others coming to investigate, or reporting the incident to emergency services. They’ll also react directly to the actions of the protagonist, Aiden, in the game’s version of a morality system. If you play loud and violent, Aiden is going to be known by civilians. They might recognise him on the street, in part thanks to more coverage of his involvement on the news, and report him to the officials. How you play affects how these people see you, and how they see you affects how you’ll continue to play.
What does this all mean for the next gen versions? While the bigger civilian reactions will stay exactly the same, it’s the detail in those minor features that will be improved upon. It’s about scaling back, so all the features are there, but in a slightly less impressive way. There’ll be more people on the streets and in crowds. Animation Director Colin Graham believes that ‘the next gen is the real HD experience. You can zoom in another level. You can have better shaders, better simulation on the wind or the water, more particles, better atmospherics… Basically anything you can get with more computing power.’
The blog also takes the opportunity to answer some questions about the game’s more unique online components. Watch Dogs will allow other players to mess with your game world with much the same abilities as Aiden has, working to take you out as you wander the world. But Ubisoft assures players that this mechanic will not be used in story missions – which could have had massive trolling potential – and can also be turned off entirely, so you’ll be able to focus on the important bits without worry of interference.
I’m one of those people not in a rush to pick up a next gen console, so it’s nice to know that the differences between the two versions aren’t going to be much more than graphical.