Ubisoft has been having a pretty rough year so far, from the somewhat lukewarm response to the much-hyped hack-'em-up sandbox Watch Dogs to the controversy over a lack of playable female characters in Assassin's Creed Unity and Far Cry 4. Those two games - along with Assassin's Creed Rogue - are both set to release this month and could easily turn the tide of opinion in Ubisoft's favor, but will upcoming open world shooter and new IP Tom Clancy's The Division repeat Watch Dogs mistakes?
Many of the complaints levied at Watch Dogs had to do with what was perceived to be a "downgrade" in the quality of the game's graphics between its 2012 demo and the final version that was released on consoles and PC. This was further compounded when PC modders managed to restore graphical effects left in the game's code that made it look much closer to the original demo, but which had been turned off by the developers. This in turn led the speculation that the PC version's graphics had been handicapped in order to be a closer match to the console versions.
In an interview with Massive's Martin Hulberg, Open World Games asked whether the version of The Division being released on PC would be downgraded to match the console versions, but Hulberg was insistent that each version is being developed to meet the maximum capabilities of its respective platform.
"Downgrading is a weird term to use. Obviously, we want to make a game that looks the best it can on its respective format, so Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. So I think the term downgrade is a bit confusing and weird because we're trying to get the most out of every machine we use. So Xbox gets its attention, PlayStation gets its attention, and PC of course will be able to cram it up a bit more depending on the hardware you have.
"We address every console, every platform as its own version. So we try to stay away from the thing where you go for the least common denominator and everybody suffers for it. We want to make a good experience on all respective formats."
The Division shares a considerable amount of common ground with Watch Dogs; both are new IPs, both are highly ambitious open world games, both represent Ubisoft's early steps into the new console generation, and both have been promoted to some extent on the strengths of their graphics. This is particularly true for The Division, which will be the first title to use Ubisoft Massive's Snowdrop Engine. Both games have also suffered from delays.
Hulberg's promise that The Division won't be downgraded on PC is pretty much to be expected, since saying anything else would be pretty disastrous from a PR standpoint. Of course, developers are caught in something of a catch-22 when it comes to questions like this, since it's impossible to admit that the PC version will be able to offer more without inadvertently implying that the PS4 and Xbox One versions will be inferior.
What's particularly interesting about Hulberg's response is his allusion to "the thing where you go for the least common denominator," since it implies that this is definitely a thing that happens in game development. That might be reading a little too much into things, since the interviewer's question was quite leading, but if "downgrading" is a common practice in game development then it's encouraging to hear that The Division won't be affected by it.
Tom Clancy’s The Division is currently targeting a 2015 release on PC, Xbox One and PS4.
Source: Open World Games