How A Watch Dogs Trailer Got Us Talking
Sometimes when the stars are aligned and the moon is at just the right position above the Earth, we at eGamer experience something transcendental in our staff emails. All trolling ceases and is replaced by coherent, well-structured discussion over this, that or the other topic.
Sometimes we think it’s interesting enough to share it with everyone, and so we have the reason for this article’s creation.
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Some background: It all began when our Community Manager, Sherwin, emailed a link to the new Watch Dogs trailer, which then got Azhar and I talking, in what started as a discussion focused around my weariness towards Watch Dogs and moved on to such topics as open world games in general, game stories and player choice, and finally, how on Earth I play games as a completionist who has no time to be a completionist. It was all so interesting that our
self-proclaimed ‘Executive Editor’ presiding officer of all things eGamer, Dean, figured it would make for an equally interesting article. At the risk of tooting our own horn, so to speak, I second that notion, and since he’s currently unavailable due to “studying for exams” and stuff, I figured I’d take the liberty of posting the email discussion on his behalf.
What follows is the thread of replies to an email with the trailer linked above, which you can watch through that link. Each reply is copied more or less verbatim, and I’m going to try my best to make this as neat and legible as possible in an article format. As you can tell by now, it’s also quite a long read, coming in at 4,400+ words. This means you should definitely set aside some time, or take this in parts, but we promise it’ll be worth it. Here goes:
I’m worried about this game. Ubisoft does not do open world games well enough, in my opinion. I will most likely play it and love it, but I expect a glitchy experience. Nothing can convince me otherwise, as pretentious as that might sound. Still looking forward to it, though, don’t get me wrong. But it’s like a dad awaiting the birth of their child, knowing there’s a high chance that child will grow up to become a junkie, or a whore, or worse… a Halo player. But more like a forgone conclusion. I mean, I have never played an Assassin’s Creed game for example, that wasn’t glitched in ways, but I still enjoyed the overall experience each time. That sort of thing…
But you loved Assassin’s Creed III….so why would you be worried?
The part I completely agree with you though is that Ubisoft don’t do open world games well. But I think for different reasons, and that’s because they don’t know how to do meaningful variety (at least from AC’s perspective) and fill a world with interesting, important things. Like Batman: Arkham City. Quality over quantity. Or BioShock Infinite. Of course I know it’s not open world, but it’s filled with a whole lot of things you wouldn’t call “necessary”, yet make the entire game so much more awesome.
Ever since Patrice, the design for AC has just been “throw a shit-lot in there and hope it works”. Terrible structure post-AC2.
I would hardly call BioShock Infinite a world with lots to do. Let’s see. I can explore and collect things from bins and abandoned stores, or I can move through an area with tears and fight things, usually sticking to just one or two tears because the others don’t help me based on where I am in that fight. There is also the odd optional area (three in total, through the game) where I must find an object later in the level and then return to an area to interact with another object and get a reward for it. Not exactly the height of keeping a player busy, but to its credit the story does that well enough already.
Further, I think that Arkham City was actually a case of quantity over quality, to the point that the sparse world of Arkham City felt oversaturated at times, and completely devoid of interaction at others. You meet how many super criminals in the world? Loads, right? But what purpose do any of them serve apart from distracting you for a short while? If you give them all your attention, you can be done with them in a matter of hours. Only the Riddler trophies will take you a while (I’m thinking tens of hours, here). And if you collected all the Riddler trophies, good on you, most of them only needed specific gadgets, not much else (although granted some required solid forethought) but what if you opted out of that because you don’t like playing the completionist? What do you have then? Random minions to beat up and a large world to glide around in. That’s about it.
With the Assassin’s Creed games, I have glitched in and out of the world on horseback from the very first game, and in cities which are still open world but somewhat less so than say, the kingdom areas of the first game, or the open area in AC3 the name of which I cannot suddenly recall, I have had a decent amount of things to do when not watching things appear and disappear before my eyes, or being hounded by those annoying beggars. In AC3 you might argue that the activities weren’t as necessary, sure, but I did them anyway. I got up to every view point, I collected glyphs where they were applicable, I bought shops and upgraded them where that applied, and so on. I went and liberated dens and forts. There actually was quite a bit to do, over and above the story itself. Fuck, some times I would get over the story in whichever game and go and collect feathers or flags. It was all up to my whims.
This game holds that potential, however I feel that Ubisoft enjoy showing us what they know will excite us, while hiding away certain truths. As an example, the first showings of AC made it look like an epic stealth action game, whereas the final product was hailed as a boring title by many, because it was just the same things over and over again. I liked that, others didn’t. Unfortunately, I haven’t picked up the latest Driver title so I don’t know how well that open world was done, however I have played prior titles, so I have yet more experience there.
I do remain hopeful, though. I just watch all these trailers and deep down, clench my heart and pray that what I see is exactly what I get…
For BioShock infinite, I wasn’t talking about lots to do. I was talking about a world that you want to explore. There’s hardly much repetitive about the world and its content. AC3 was an open world game, and I barely wanted to see what’s in the world. That’s all down to design. It wasn’t that BioShock had much to do, but it had PLENTY to see and discover, that you wanted to discover. AC3 had plenty, but collecting pages was hardly enticing.
Hmm, Arkham City offered New Game+, Riddler Challenges, Challenge maps, so I don’t think there’s much to debate about quantity. But within the actual game itself, for the Bat-nerd like myself, the cameos and side missions were very interesting to explore your first time around, and they added quite some intrigue to the game in the same way that the “Truth/Glyphs” and Altair’s armour added intrigue to AC2. That’s what I mean basically. Things in the world that make you want to explore it and stay there.
Maybe it’s just us, but out of the gamers I interact with, none could really tell me anything from AC3 that kept them invested in the world or interested to see it.
Hmm, with Assassin’s Creed I feel a lot of that plays to your natural tendency to be a completionist. But I’d like to ask how much value did you really get from those sorts of things? If we exclude achievements, I felt there was a bit too little reward or value to do anything really. But you did say in our last debate about it that sometimes not everything needs a point, and I can understand that, although I prefer to have meaningful variety over just “a bunch of stuff'”. Like bombs.
Fair play, there’s two ways to look at it.
I loved AC1 as well. I felt the story carried it through whenever the gameplay didn’t, and the actual assassination levels were masterfully executed. The build-up really did make them feel meaningful and great. I miss that.
i always found your glitch experience with AC interesting haha, I had the most glitches in AC3, then AC1. AC2 played smoothly, and AC: B was quite solid, as was Revelations. AC3 was the worst.
I think you’re right about Watch Dogs, it’s basically all hype now. But that will change at E3 hopefully when they show off an extended gameplay section.
I think I want to do that hype/avoid disappointment feature now :P
It’s interesting, I mean, we talk about a game where completion doesn’t really have much of a reward or effect, only we’re talking about a game. A game, meaning something where one could argue, neither does the content itself. It might seem instantly disagreeable since you come out with entertainment, immersion and an appreciation of what you’ve played, sure, but work with me for a moment:
A completionist such as myself or Marko will play a game to death, until we’re done with it. We will search out and explore every crevasse, cupboard or closet until there is nothing left to explore. When we achieve a game’s 100% completion statistic, there is this overwhelming sense of accomplishment and joy, that we might finally resume our lives, or in some cases, wonder what we did before we picked up that game. There are obvious exceptions to this rule, however they number in a minority.
Now your argument is that completion doesn’t bring reward, but it kinda does when you factor in a sense of achievement, actual achievements as well, and that relief when a game is truly complete. Not just the story mode, no, you’ve given a game your all. You’ve played it for all it’s worth. This is why I get upset when gamers criticise games where they go, “I played through half the story and it’s shit! What? What collectibles?” You’ve paid real money for your games, or whatever, maybe you got a review copy, but you won’t give it a chance? Granted not every game deserves a chance. Some games are of course beyond redemption, case in point Blackwater, which I gave three hours of my time before deciding there was nothing else the game could offer me that was worth my sanity. However in other games, even some that underwhelmed me (Halo Reach) or actually angered me (ironically, RAGE), I felt a need to continue onwards and by the end I felt better about it, knowing that I had justified my purchase and maximised my experience.
So completion does in fact have a reward. Sure it’s not as tangible as defeating the Riddler in Arkham City, or getting Altair’s armour in AC2, but it’s a different sort of reward, exactly the same as the one you get by playing games in the first place. The way I see it then, the criticism of game completion contrasts directly with gaming as a whole since you are calling out one person for feeling exactly the way you feel, only about a different aspect of a game. It’s a case of “I’ve finished a game” versus “I’ve finished a game’s story”.
Of course, none of this actually matters in the discussion about Watch Dogs except for this very simple question: How much can you think of in a GTA-like world with hacking, that you would consider to be worthy of exploration?
It might well be the case that we get a decent amount of exploration, such as with Sleeping Dogs where for some odd reason I really WANTED to go out and collect everything, or it might be a simpler case where it’s a populated but ultimately sparse world, where you are tasked with finding certain individuals to fulfill a certain quota or unlock mysteries a la web of intrigue in PROTOTYPE.
Sometimes as you well know, it’s not a case of what a developer shows us but rather what they don’t. That’s the long and short of my… let’s call it apprehension.
As for Assassin’s Creed III, I played through the story and always did the optional objectives. Not only did it look ugly when I couldn’t successfully complete an optional objective, but it obviously affected a later achievement. Effectively, this was just me challenging myself with each mission. Do X a certain way. Done. Most of the optional objectives actually aided the experience quite a bit, where I could have just walked up to a target and stabbed him but instead I snuck through bushes, climbed into a haycart, whistled to get a guard’s attention away from an area, snuck into that area and climbed a tree, progressed along trees and finally fell onto my target’s head with a blade, having not been alerted nor killed anyone. Dishonored style. It was rewarding and made me feel like a badass, at times. With regards to other collectibles, I mean, the only thing that really felt like work was revealing the entire map, because it required me to literally cover all that ground on foot, which as you can imagine, took a while. Hunting and completing the Encyclopaedia of the Common Man were both activities I did in between Homestead missions, each time I returned there. It was absolutely painless for the most part, and when it came to grind-y sections, where boredom threatened to take over, I put on a podcast and listened to it while playing, and any hints of boredom disappeared.
I would probably say that gaming is as much what you put into it as what you expect to get out of it.
In my case, I put in a lot and expect little.
Anyway coming back to Watch Dogs and how it could possibly learn from AC3 and Driver, I think the enemy of the open world is choice. Surprisingly. It’s when you offer alternatives that the player experience tends to differ. Not many people criticise BioShock Infinite’s ending, even though it’s quite controversial, yet how many criticised Mass Effect 3’s? Why? Because “choices don’t matter lol” etc. When you take Watch Dogs and offer players multiple ways to approach a situation, I’m betting that nine times out of ten, the player is going to either thumbsuck or take the easiest possible way. And why not? You will get the few such as myself who opt for a challenge and try to, for example, not kill anyone or not get detected or only interact with the target, etc etc. But if you give A, B, and C routes to a person, most of the time they will take the shortest, easiest one, because that’s human functionality. Effectively then, you’ve gone and convoluted your game with other options that nobody can take, and it ends up looking like fluff. Ubisoft are going to need to address that, or force more linear possibilities and take the inevitable criticism that comes with an open world experience lacking in choices. But Sleeping Dogs did it effectively, so it is possible.
HOLY SHIT I COMPLETELY DISMISSED FAR CRY 3.
Okay… I feel loads better about Watch Dogs now.
Good read all of that. I enjoyed it.
I was mainly asking because I read your column, and I’ve seen that you’ve had very little time for games as of late and maybe felt you were “giving up” core gaming, and it just got me wondering. I may not care about achievements, but I don’t shun them. I wasn’t arguing that achievements have no reward, I was talking about AC3 as an isolated example. Not just personal reward, but game reward I guess. I just can’t see myself giving that much time to a game, as I want to play everything and time is very little, as you’re experiencing this semester (according to your column) when priorities shift and new challenges come.
So when I sit down to play, I really want something meaningful and good. Not something that I have to invest a whole lot in to get something perhaps not worth the effort.
I look at it like my studies actually. It’s really not worth the effort to kill myself studying to get high marks for certain subjects (like Ecos or something I do once and never again), so I settle for 60s and even 50s in those cases, as long as I pass comfortably. Because the journey isn’t worth the end result (everything else I have to give up), especially with time as a factor.
Of course it’s different for everyone, and there may be so much value for you in completing a game. But I was very curious to see how you (a completionist) would be handling it now that you perhaps don’t have the time (or rather prefer not to make the time because there’s other things you need/want to do) to complete every game you play.
As for Mass Effect versus BioShock, you really can’t compare that because BioShock Infinite wasn’t personal. Player had no control. Mass Effect’s was just faulted writing, where BioShock Infinite had better execution.
I’d like to type a lot about Watch Dogs and good open world design, but then my email would become unreadable (in b4 it already is).
Mebe podcast debate that.
It’s interesting, I mean, on the one side I still want to play every game I can get my hands on, but on the other side, I know that I’m not going to be able to dedicate enough time to a game that asks for tens of hours from me, any more. A friend who commented on my column called it ‘mid-core’ where you want to play good experiences, not just casual games, but you cannot afford to spend hundreds of hours in a game. I have all the Skyrim DLC now, but I dare not start any of it until I am sure that I have all the time in the world to play the game.
If you look at previous games I 100% completed, I started ACIII during my study break in October / November and played it through some of my exams and it took me around three weeks to 100%. Far Cry 3 took me all of a few days because I was relentless, it being the Christmas period where I didn’t even need to do articles or anything. DmC, I still have a few more achievements for but I’ve acquired all collectibles and unlocked all difficulties (I just need to finish the game on Hell and Hell now) and then Adam wanted to borrow the game so I lent it to him. It seems that if I borrow a game, my propensity for 100%’ing is somewhat diminished, or rather dictated by time. I borrowed Hitman: Absolution and left a few achievements still locked because I didn’t want to keep the dude’s game forever.
As far as my current living state goes, BioShock Infinite took me all of three weeks, but would have taken me far less time if I obviously had more time to myself. I played through the game in three days, I think, while I was home with the chicken pox and so had nothing else to do besides articles, and then the second playthrough took a bit longer. I managed to complete 1999 Mode and get all collectibles with a very helpful guide courtesy Rudolf via Marko.
Tonight or tomorrow, I’ll probably start up Dead Space 3 or force myself to play more Dark Souls, because that’s game I have borrowed for far too long. Another game which will take hundreds of hours of my life away, that I just don’t have to give any more.
Anyway, I think that’s enough about completionism.
I do feel that it’s obviously different per person and a lot of what you take away from your experience of a game is dependant on who you are as a person. If you enjoy cheap thrills and instant gratification, if you long for an escape from your real life, if you owe more than just your entertainment to gaming, and so on. In my case, I grew up playing games and from a young age, I have had equal amounts of fascination and respect which have afforded me an understanding of games and how they work. It’s how, for example, I know that a game is just tricking me into doing something with clever placement of objects, or something to that effect. In any case, this then allows me to experience games basically half based on what they give me, and half based on how much I give the game.
I think the lack of time is not going to make me rush through games but rather put off games a lot because if I start it, I’ll want to 100% it, but if I don’t, or if I procrastinate, then I get away with it for the moment.
As for the Mass Effect / BioShock example, I actually think that you’re interpreting things more the way you want to, here, than the way I meant it. You could argue that in Mass Effect 3, the player had minimal control over the story and while it might have felt as if it was theirs, the truth is, it was BioWare’s story to tell and they just gave you some branching choices to make you feel involved. Likewise, BioShock Infinite poses you Irrational’s story, with equally minimal control on the player’s part except for a few meaningless choices. Clever, hey? That little metaphor. In both cases the story hits you hard, and in both cases you play other people. Granted in one you can actually see the person.
I’m actually interested in talking about Watch Dogs some more, but I know that you guys will probably be like, “Just shut up and let Ubisoft talk about it more when they want to, your discussion is pointless right now.” So fair enough. :P
I’d love to talk a lot about Watch Dogs, but I feel that would make for a good podcast discussion. We could really talk a lot about open world and that, and I feel the discussion would be all used up in this email. It’s something interesting to talk about now where there’s barely anything to chat about. So it’s not a case of waiting for Ubisoft so much that it’s “I want to bank this, it could be great”.
For Mass Effect/BioShock, true that you don’t really dictate the entire story, but I think to the player it feels very personal because you create your own character, romance your choice, (the fact that you actually make choices matters a lot to the player) and characters live or die through games depending on how you play.
But if we take a step away from the actual game itself, the outrage was a lot because of BioWare’s false advertising and lies, which can’t be defended. They really did lie, and they really did fail to deliver on what they hyped themselves and promised. And the reason we still talk about it is because it’s such a big wake up call to the industry on so many subjects, such as be careful how you advertise and what you say, the power consumers can have, and the debate of whether “editing” post-release is a good idea (which I still dislike).
Hmm, I think I get it a bit more now. For me though, I wouldn’t want to give up the games, as I really do want to play everything. If a game is good enough that I want to play it again (BioShock, Far Cry 3) I’ll wait for the time and then really devote to it and take my time with it.
I guess that’s the main topic of discussion. What makes a game valuable to you. There are naturally exceptions (such as gaming for escapism when you’re feeling down one day), but mostly I think there is a consistency behind how you value your experiences. I.e completion, or for me something good and meaningful that deserves credit and time (Unless it’s just an indie game or couch FIFA I’m casually playing),
Similarly, I do study games while I play them. Game mechanics, how things work, the story, all of it. And I think a combination of time (lack of it), desire to play everything and my personality has just set my standards really high and I’d rather get mild or good, casual entertainment from a TV show than a six hour average or decent game.
In many ways it can also be a bad thing that I don’t get the most possible out of every game I play, but I suppose that’s subjective.
Anyways, I’d like to chat about Watch Dogs and open world and Ubisoft in our podcast.
Fair enough, we shall leave it for the podcast then.
Just to offer one final commentary on the topic of games and coming back to them, I maintain that there are some games which I enjoyed thoroughly, which I never want to play again.
Right now, recent entries into this group include Far Cry 3 and BioShock: Infinite, the latter which I am still considering or not to get a season pass for.
They’re obviously good games, I did say that I enjoyed them thoroughly, and I will always have a happy place in my heart for them. But right now, I really want to play some more of The Orange Box, or Mass Effect. Fuck it, I actually still want to finish Batman: Arkham Asylum on Hard.
Sometimes a game can be adequately amazing and you feel a sense of finality, closure or what have you, where you are happy with your experience and can walk away from it knowing that you enjoyed it to its fullest. Other times it’s not the game at all, but just a fervent desire to experience more of that universe. A la Half-Life 2.
It might make an interesting feature, some day, if it hasn’t been extensively covered already.
And that was the discussion done. If you got to this point in the article then well done, and thank you for showing that much of an interest in our meanderings. Do note that we will in fact be continuing the discussion in the next podcast if you’re keen for more of our nonsense, so definitely keep an eye out for that.
Also, let us know what you think of all this and perhaps provide your own input and discussion in the comments below. Let us know if you’d like more of these behind the scenes insights into all things eGamer. We promise, it won’t always be like this. Most likely, it’ll be more trolling than anything else. Seriously, the other day Azhar emailed a picture of a Halo 4 console and called it the ultimate gift for me… but I digress.