Hype around the release of Watch Dogs: Legion has grown immensely this past year, especially with the innovative design to allow players to be virtually anyone in a fictional United Kingdom set not far into the future. Ubisoft looks to blow the minds of its players, and lead narrative designer Kaitlin Tremblay took the time to sit and chat with TheGamer at the recent Enthusiast Gaming Live Expo about what lies ahead.
What is your role within the development of Watch Dogs: Legion?
As a narrative designer I work as a kind of hybrid between a writer and a game designer. A lot of what I do is a combination of what a writer would do in terms of scriptwriting, writing text and all the kind of stuff that is player-facing, as well as working directly in our engine and our tools and doing part of the implementation of how we’re actually putting the narrative into the game.
Each project brings its own challenges and opportunities. What are you most excited about in terms of changing scope for the series compared to the previous games?
Our core gameplay experience is "play as anyone" and I am genuinely excited about what this means, because it means we’re not making a game with a set hero - we are letting players be the hero of their own story. And so, what this means is that all the characters in the world are characters. They have a voice, they have a personality, they have wants and desires and so being able to work on that system and in terms of like existing and writing and implementation of that has been really rewarding and I think its something that really makes Legion unique.
Along those same lines, Enforcer, Infiltrator, and Hacker are going to be the classes assigned to recruited citizens, are there other class designs that were proposed but were perhaps to difficult to implement, or maybe they were blended into the classes we see now?
As far as I’m aware we’ve only ever discussed the three different classes. We do have gameplay traits, and so characters will have some of their own inherent traits that they have like from their own lived experience, and that sort of helped round out how each character plays and helps each character feel different even within the same class.
How does the world compare in size in scope compared to previous games?
For me they feel, its hard to compare, they feel roughly the same, but London is so bursting with life, we have so many playable boroughs from actual London that feel is distinct from each other that every area of the map actually feels like its own place.
Travelling from Westminster to Camden, you feel that transition, so the map feels very alive, real, and big, because there is so much love put into each borough and making sure that that borough feels representative of what it is in the world. And then you see that reflected in the people, so people in Westminster are more likely to be tourists and kind more business versus Camden which has alternative flair to it and so its not only the map has all of these different boroughs that are unique and distinct from each other, the people within them themselves also add to that play. So, to the map and the world feel so full to me because it is.
Art and Games may not always be meant as expressions of a current political climate, but sometimes they are. As Legion presents a blockaded United Kingdom at a time with Boris Johnson is so close to clinching some manner of a Brexit deal, how do the parallels serve the narrative structure of the game now, considering that in another interview, Clint Hocking stated that London was chosen long before the Brexit debate existed. How has the current reality affected the development of the game?
When exploring what to do in Watch Dogs: Legion we really kind of wanted to look at one specific thing or one specific person or anything that’s one in itself, we really wanted to look at the context of what creates these kinds of situations, right? And so we’re more interested right now in how people respond to this climate, because we are a game about building a popular resistance movement, we’re looking at the consequences of these situations that have led to this kind of climate and how people respond and actually act together.
On that note, was the choice to go to the UK chosen for a specific reason aside from the political climate, for example, their extensive surveillance network of cameras and drones that have already been in place for some time?
The choice for London is multiple fold. London is one of the most watched cities and that really appeals to our theme of mass surveillance and emerging tech. We also wanted to go global with the brand and kind of take it beyond America, and London is such a striking city, it’s so iconic, and as you mentioned it is in a good place for exploring emerging tech. It’s also such a diversity as well. And so it hit all of these points for us that made it a natural setting.
Hypothetically speaking, where would you like to see the game set in the future?
Oh, that is something I do not have space in my brain for right now.
What part of the project are you most excited about?
I’m very excited to... play as anyone, I want to see who players are recruiting, and who players fall in love with. I want to see all of their weird and wacky team combinations, or their serious team combinations, I am really excited as play anyone and having worked on it as a narrative designer, but I’m so excited to see who fans are going to respond to and what it looks like when its in people’s hands.
This wraps up the interview with Kaitlin, and we thank her for taking the time to chat about the upcoming game, especially since it was among the craziness that was the EGLX event. Clearly, there is of course much to look forward too, especially for a game set within a fictional world that by complete coincidence is undergoing a similar political transition as the game. The core concept for the story may have been conceived well before the idea of Brexit was even formed, but it will be impossible to divorce the two once the game releases and the actual government there has formed a formal exit strategy.
An interesting point to consider is that since the interview, Ubisoft has officially announced that Watch Dogs: Legion will be delayed from its original launch date of March 3, 2020, to sometime after April. This can be attributed to the poor critical and commercial performance of Ghost Recon: Breakpoint. In that instance much of the criticism was levied against the manner in which microtransactions were implemented into the game. A delay in the release of Watch Dogs: Legion may indicate that a similar type of microtransaction process was planned and now being reconsidered to avoid a similar response from the consumer base.
Source: Kaitlin Tremblay