It’s been said by many that a delayed game is a good game, and Watch Dogs: Legion’s Creative Director Clint Hocking shares that sentiment. After its reveal at E3 2019, Watch Dogs: Legion has been confirmed to release October 29 of this year, after multiple delays. However, there’s clearly a very good reason for pushing back the release of the celebrated series’ third entry. Hocking discussed these reasons and more in an interview for the Ubisoft Blog.
Death is final
Ubisoft Toronto was able to tweak a particular mechanic they had in mind for the game: permadeath. “After the delay, there was a bunch of iteration, and that meant that some things got removed, some things got changed, and some things evolved,” says Hocking. One of the things tweaked was, in fact, permadeath. “There were some difficult design problems we were going to have to solve with that, and the way we solved it with the extra time was to make permadeath its own mode,” said Hocking.
The delay of the game gave the team time to make this an opt-in mode instead. Should you choose it, any operative you recruit in the game will be permanently removed from gameplay upon death. It’s an added challenge for the most intense members of the fanbase. “If you team-wipe, or if all of your operatives are arrested, or put in the hospital, or killed at the same time, it’s actually game over,” Hocking said.
For those who don’t select this mode, there is still risk involved with a character’s death, but it will not alter your game as drastically. “There were also characters who have a trait where they might die suddenly; we kept those in the game, and actually, even in the non-permadeath version of the game, there are some characters who are doomed, or who could die suddenly or randomly, or would be more likely to be killed from their injuries. But there’s a very small number of them, and they’re clearly advertised on their character profiles before you recruit them, and it’s impossible to have a team-wipe scenario, because of the way we’ve re-engineered the game system.”
Balance is everything
With a game that involves so many character options, balance is key (as well as extremely difficult to accomplish). Watch Dogs’ pushed back release served as an invaluable opportunity to hone in on the complex gameplay balancing. Hocking described this by saying “we build properties, and then we allocate properties to characters in ways that make sense. And then there’s a generative element to it as well. So it’s our responsibility to make sure that individual properties are as well-balanced as they can be.”
“Our answer to that is really more along the lines of, we think it’s fun to be able to do interesting and new and creative things and to play in different ways, and that is more important to us. That an outlying character might be more powerful than this other, much weaker character – we don’t think that breaks the game,” Hocking continues, “We think that just gives you more opportunities to engage with the game and be expressive in the way you play. I also think there is an enemy ramp-up, and the game definitely gets significantly more challenging as you move into the back half, which is sort of a little bit further than where the demo gets you.”
Make no mistake though, the developers haven’t shied away from enabling playable characters to be significantly weaker or stronger than others. It’s an important part of the player engagement that played a vital role in Ubisoft’s balancing.
For more information on the game’s innovation, check out the interview right here.
While you’re at it, take a look at Console Creature’s hands-on impressions of the game here.
Watch Dogs: Legion releases on October 29 on Xbox One, PS4, Stadia and PC. Fans can also benefit from smart delivery, carrying the current generation version of the game forward on to both Xbox Series X and PS5 if they choose.