The four-year journey of Watch Dogs

By Andrew Yoon, May 10, 2013 6:15am PDT

Four and a half years ago, Ubisoft gave a simple, but daunting, mandate to its Montreal studio: make a new IP. And so, the team began work on "Nexus," the codename for what's now known as Watch Dogs.

With the freedom to create whatever they wanted, the team at Ubisoft Montreal flocked to the open world genre. "The two core things we knew from the beginning of our project was we wanted to create a new IP. That was the mandate we got from Ubisoft. And we wanted to be an open-world game because we think that's a great way to start a brand," senior producer Dominic Guay told Shacknews.

Starting with an open world design means that Watch Dogs shares many design cues from other games, namely Grand Theft Auto. And Guay admits that the team looks towards competing games for ideas. "It's true that there's games that have defined certain rules in open world games, and we're looking at all of them and we're influenced by all of them," he said. However, it wasn't long until Montreal discovered the idea that would differentiate Watch Dogs.

The codename Nexus came about because "it's the central part of an inter-connected network." While Ubisoft would have to figure out how that theme would materialize in the game, the team was fascinated by the notion of playing with an always-connected society.

Of course, technology was quite different four years ago, and to the team's surprise, many of their future-focused sci-fi ideas are already becoming reality. "What's funny is that we stretched reality a bit," Guay said. But once the game started to progress, "we started picking up research and articles that were moving in the direction that we aimed for and we said 'wow, reality is catching up to us and it's scary.'"

Even gaming technology has changed quite drastically in the intervening years since Watch Dogs' inception. Although Watch Dogs will launch on PS4, the central DNA of the game is still rooted in the current gen. "We wanted to support those platforms, because we wanted those gamers to play Watch Dogs," Guay said, adding "we're not going to ignore the 30 million people that have current-gen systems."

With its lengthy development time, Watch Dogs spent most of its production within current-gen pipeline. "We guesstimated that there would possibly be new hardware coming out," Guay admitted, which explains why the PC and PS4 versions of the game will undoubtedly run better than the current-gen versions--and why PS3 and Xbox 360 gamers won't necessarily miss out on the core gaming experience.

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