Most would agree that the biggest problem with Watch Dogs wasn’t the gameplay, it was the hype. When the game premiered – arguably too early – at E3 2012, it practically stole the show. The first trailer promised a fully interactive open-world that players could mold to their liking. The graphics looked stunning, with advanced bloom lighting, dynamic shadows, and moody weather effects. Coming out of E3, the community was buzzing: this was the next-generation experience players were waiting for. The future was only a few years away.
And then the trouble started. Like so many other titles, Watch Dogs suffered delays, missing the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 launch windows. And when the game finally came out, it looked different – not bad by any means, but certainly not as revolutionary as expected. A fan-made patch fixed some of the visual issues, but couldn’t remedy the lackluster story, repetitive mission design, or simple hacking mechanic. All in all, critics agreed that Watch Dogs was a fun, but flawed experience. Good, but not what gamers were hoping for.
Still, as a series, Watch Dogs has the potential for greatness, and creative director Jonathan Morin promises that 2014’s installment was only the first step. In an interview with GamesTM, Morin says that one of the biggest challenges in developing Watch Dogs was planning for the future, and “creat[ing] something that would make people dream about something else.” Morin and his team are striving to push the Watch Dog series further. When developing a sequel, Morin says, “You have to carry on taking risks. I will not do this job if there is no risk in it, that would just be boring.”
Morin has some ideas on how to do this, too. Watch Dogs 2 will likely include an expanded Profiler, which in the original game let protagonist Aiden Pearce view personal information on anyone, anytime, and allowed players to craft their own stories using procedurally-generated tidbits. The first game’s unique multiplayer option, which saw players invading each other’s games while trying not to get caught, will also return in an expanded form.
But Morin’s most excited about introducing new features, possibly things that were dropped from the game the first time around. That fits with earlier statements from Ubisoft’s creative vice president Lionel Reynaud, who claims that Watch Dogs 2 will offer players more choices, and fewer narrative restrictions.
Hindsight is twenty-twenty, after all, and Morin admits that the first Watch Dogs left some “room for improvement.” Next time, Morin hopes that his team can not only fix some of Watch Dogs’ flaws (say, its bland protagonist), but also deliver on the franchise’s true potential. The foundation is strong; now it’s time to build something worth remembering.