Watch Dogs’ citizen profiler has proven to be one of its more divisive systems. While some dismissed its randomised text descriptions as shallow, player mileage seemed to vary according to the leaps of imagination they were prepared to take.
Creative director Jonathan Morin wants to push that “space for interpretation” in the sequel, and build on Watch Dogs’ foundations for “systemic contextual narrative”.
“You can humanise the people around you,” he said of the game’s successes. “That I definitely see as the beginning of something that is quite unique and could push the industry forward.”
Morin said the gaps in information from the profiler provided “space for expression” - a reason for players to care about NPCs.
“There’s a trap of trying to take that and making it so precise then there's no space for interpretation anymore,” he told Digital Spy.
“I think that would make us lose something. We need to find the right balance where we need to push that further, without closing the door and making a crafted story.”
Morin refers to the approach rather vaguely as “systemic contextual narrative” - and says that Ubisoft Montreal’s team is exploring the possibilities of it right now.
“We’re trying crazy stuff,” he said. We're trying not to fall into that trap of, 'Oh we've tried that in the past, it's not going to work'.
"If you want to push something forward, then you can think you know better than the first time around. Sometimes it's true, [but] sometimes you don’t want to break the possibilities too soon. So that's pretty much our state of mind now, to make sure we can explore fully the possibilities before we start pretending we know what we're doing.”
I was a fan of the profiler - it was a little like giving Dishonored’s secret-telling heart a squeeze once every few seconds, for the entire game. And the more absurdly juxtaposed the randomised personality traits were, the more intriguing a character became. But our Fraser wasn't quite so wholehearted a fan of Watch Dogs. How did you find it?