Watch Dogs came out of cover last night and Ubisoft's open-world hacking game had a strong showing that built on the buzz of its surprise unveiling at last year's E3. Among the things announced about Watch Dogs was the fact that it would be debuting first on PS4.
Last June, Ubisoft kept mum on which platforms the game would be coming to. But they talked it up as next-gen then and it seemed to be just a matter of time until it was announced for Orbis and/or Durango. There's a reason Sony's upcoming console got preferential treatment, though.
"When we showed them the game, I think they understood immediately what the game was all about. They talked about hyperconnectivity too," said Watch Dogs creative director Jonathan Morin. "They talk about playing everywhere. They talk about being outside of their games and still being connected to the whole experience. I think because of those things and the fact that the players who buy that console will already be in that mode, there's going to be a natural extension of what Watch Dogs is all about on PlayStation 4."
Here's a conundrum, then: what if you own a PS3 and don't feel like upgrading to the PS4? Will you be getting a lesser version of Watch Dogs?
"No, I don't think so. I think it's more… I mean, of course, new machine means new tools and means an extension of the original vision. So, PlayStation 4 will be great for Watch Dogs," Morin told me. "That being said, I firmly believe that creating a game experience starts with what you want to do and achieve as a team. It has nothing to do with tools. The tools are there to facilitate certain things. So the same experience is there on the PS3 and other consoles. Players will have the same enjoyment; they will not feel any letdown."
Easy for Morin to say, sure, but he acknowledges that folks are going to be comparing the various versions of Watch Dogs. When I pressed him on what they'd see, he waffled on offering any kind of specifics. "Definitely, they're going to look at the differences. They're going to feel that maybe one way… where I think it's interesting for PS4, it's just a natural extension of what they [Sony] feel the future of experience will be. So just that means that the players who will buy the PS4 will have that state of mind; they will already be in that mode. So it creates an interesting ecosystem to experience Watch Dogs. But it's more on that [conceptual] level, I would say."
Got it. So, by virtue of plunking down their cash first, PS4 owners' minds might be more ready for Watch Dogs and its core concepts than current-gen players. And the game's feature — being able to hack the infrastructure of hyperconnected, electronically automated version of Chicago — was shown off on stage last night.
And, if you were looking carefully, you even saw some multiplayer.
At 4:12 in the demo video, you'll see the action zoom in on a security camera that appears to get hacked. Who's getting into the device's security code? It didn't look like Aiden Pearce was doing it. I asked Morin if it was another player jumping into the Watch Dogs demo. Here's that exchange:
Kotaku: I seem to remember that you guys talked about asynchronous multiplayer design at E3. Is that what we saw at the end of the demo, where the camera was being hacked?
Morin: Yeah, that's a nice observation. Not everybody picked that up. Watch Dogs is all about hyperconnectivity. To me, that has to mean all the time and anywhere. So yes, other people are out there all the time, when you don't expect it. Whether you're playing single-player or multiplayer, it's happening. You're saying asynchronous but it's much more real-time than that…
Kotaku: Because we saw a real-time demo tonight, right? What we saw was another player jumping into the game and affecting a certain part of the gameplay…
Morin: Yes, exactly. There's more detail to come on that.
Kotaku: And that was a camera being hacked. To help or hurt Aiden?
Morin: Oh, help! Or not! I think both are interesting questions. We'll let players do pretty much what they want on those terms. And I think that what's interesting is that since we're creating a fantasy that you can progressively control all of Chicago and monitor everything… if you can do that… you need to ask yourself if Aiden Pearce can do all of this, can anybody else out there do the same thing? And the answer is absolutely yes.
Kotaku: He's not a special snowflake.
Morin: He is not. [laughs]
If Ubisoft and Sony are to be believed and that was a live demo running in real time, people watching the PlayStation Meeting event last night got to see Watch Dogs make good on some of the jump-in-other-people's-games promises Sony made about the PS4. It was a moment you missed if you turned away, but those few seconds represent a big part of the next-gen's appeal. Let's see some more of that soon.