After Watch Dogs received harsh reviews for a number of issues concerning diversity, Yves Guillemot, chairman of Ubisoft, addressed the problem by challenging his company to “spend more time on the worlds and characters in our games.”
“You will see more and more of this at Ubisoft,” Guillemot stated. “We’ll try to be less like we have been in the past with some characters. We’ll try to extend more diversity.”
Since then, Ubisoft has made efforts to follow that mantra and create a virtual world representative of real-world diversity. Their Assassins Creed titles include a DLC focused on the story of a Trinidadian member of the assassins, while Far Cry 4 includes an Indo-Asian lead.
But while they are making changes, there is still work to be done.
In an interview with Digital Spy, one of their studio bosses makes the assertion that there’s still a “lack of diversity” they’re conscious of. Enter the Blerd hero we’ve all been waiting for in the newest iteration of their record-breaking title, Watch Dogs. Watch Dogs 2 gives us a main protagonist who’s a young, Black hacktivist taking on a corrupt government that has framed him for a crime. Ubisoft’s tapped into the current dialogue regarding diversity, social justice, and fair treatment by police, which may mean things are coming full circle.
We spoke with Watch Dogs 2’s creative director, Jonathan Morin, about the game, the choice of a new character, and more.
Watch Dogs 2 comes out on November 15.
See the official trailer below.
What made you decide to create Watch Dogs 2?
Reading all of the comments and feedback from players after the first game was a very insightful and stimulating experience. We were excited with the possibilities of a second game so we could open up hacking more to let players express themselves further. It was only natural for us to continue our work at this point, and we knew from the get-go that hacking had to be more analogue this time around.
How long did this one take to make?
We have been working on this iteration for over two years.
What’s new in it?
Besides a new setting, story, protagonist, and more, Watch Dogs 2 will feature better driving, a more relevant narrative with a fresh tone, deeper hacking options, and an improved seamless online experience when compared to the previous game.
One of the new things that caught our attention is the new protagonist is African-American. What went into making that choice?
We needed someone who could speak about the Bay Area experience with authority, and Marcus’ perspective was so strong from the beginning that we knew we were on the right path with the character. We also needed a person with a believable cause that everyone understood, a person shaped by circumstances that few can control. It was vital that players understood why Marcus’ cause was both important and relatable.
Tell us about Marcus.
Marcus is a young, brilliant hacker who grew up in Oakland and experienced the injustices of the ctOS 2.0 system first hand. Now he wants to break the system wide open and give a second chance to the people who the system has wronged. He joins DedSec, a powerful group of like-minded hackers, and comes to care deeply about his friends. His charisma and wit make him a natural leader and his fearless attitude means he’s willing to take risks to get what he wants and isn’t afraid if it gets him into trouble.
What is DedSec?
DedSec a hacktivist group that is inspired by real-world hacker culture. DedSec was already part of the Watch Dogs universe in the first game and for Watch Dogs 2 we decided it was the time to take their role within the game’s universe a step further.
It seems while many games take an unrealistic approach, you strive to make Watch Dogs almost eerily realistic. Like you can open your window and that could be going on right now. Is that the angle you are going for?
Watch Dogs 2 is certainly inspired by real subject matters in the world today. Hacking is an especially hot topic right now with the current presidential elections in the U.S. Hackers have exposed flaws in the security of websites tech services that we all know and love. So yes, we are rooted in the daily news because we feel this is the best way to make Watch Dogs relevant to people. Our goal is to present these issues inside of an entertaining and compelling video game experience.
Maybe it’s just coincidence, but with all of the recent controversy with police and abuse of power, you have chosen an African-American protagonist to be this person fighting the establishment. Was any of that brought into the thought process when choosing the character?
Our intention is to include relatable and meaningful subject matter in order to create a deeply engaging experience that connects with the highly relevant theme of how technology affects the things we care about most in our daily lives so players can form their own opinions.
Ubisoft has had a track record of diversity in its games and not just having them in filler rolls or faces in the crowd. Is this a company philosophy?
We have a highly diversified and international team, so that diversity you see in our games is also a reflection of the Ubisoft community itself.
Back to the game… What can we expect from Watchdogs 2?
We paid close attention to players’ feedback from Watch Dogs 1 and have worked very hard to incorporate it as we build the next iteration in the franchise. Improved elements include: better driving, more highly relevant subject matters, more interesting and likeable characters, deeper and more creative hacking options, more choice on how to approach challenges, and more dynamism and variety in the game world. We have been hard at work to implement these elements and are excited for players to experience them for themselves in November.
In the trailer we see Drones, selfie sticks, and 3D printers. What other things can we expect to see?
There are a lot of gadgets to explore in this game. Yes, you can remote control drones but also every vehicle around you, including cranes, forklifts, and other machinery. You can call cops on anyone by changing their profiles or even manipulate rival gangs at the press of a button. You can scout the Bay Area and learn about its landmarks, or download the Driver SF app to make money while driving interesting characters around in San Francisco. And everything you do in the game either gives you followers or money which will always help your overall progression.
Are there any tie-ins to the first game?
DedSec was already part of the Watch Dogs universe in the first game and for Watch Dogs 2 we decided it was the time to take their role within the game’s universe a step further. They might be others but I will let players discover them for themselves.
The new game has a co-op mode. How does that work?
The online component of Watch Dogs 2 is seamlessly integrated with the single-player experience. The player will meet other friendly DedSec hackers while exploring the city and participating in optional DedSec events. This occurs without a loading screen or matchmaking request. The game does this quietly behind the scenes and feeds the player opportunities when they are nearby. If the player chooses to team up with another player he can play cooperative missions located throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Players will also be presented with online hacking opportunities in the world, which has received improvements from the first game. With the introduction of new hacking tools such as vehicle hacking and the flying drone, players now have more ways of manipulating the environment as either a hacker or potential victim. This breathes new life into PVP.
The world in your games is always so realistic. How do you go about your process of creating the world and the game itself?
We build these worlds through lots of research and outside consultation, taking inspiration from real-world events and groups. Then a lot of talented people put their heart and soul into making all of the details work based on the research. It varies from recording sounds within the city to use a real audio, to interviewing Bay Area residents to better understand their mindset. Building a city is not only creating buildings and streets, it is about those living there. In the end, a city’s identity is always defined by its citizens.
You also seem to have the hacker culture down to a science, not only making the game play realistic, but also immersing the player in the culture. How did you go about that?
We brought in outside consultation to inform us of the ins and outs of hacker culture and took inspiration from real-life hacker groups. We wanted to be as true as possible.
SOURCE: Digital Spy, YouTube | PHOTO CREDIT: Ubisoft Press