Watch Dogs Legion: Ubisoft’s Sean Crooks details changes to ‘play as anyone’

Watch Dogs Legion has finally been confirmed for a 29 October release date, and Stevivor sat down with Lead Producer Sean Crooks to discuss changes made to the game’s ‘play as anyone’ system.

Recalling that Associate Producer Shelley Johnson told us late last year that “there are so many GDC talks to come from this game” and that Ubisoft Toronto “innovated across so many axes to make [the system work],” we asked how the system had evolved since.

“[We’ve tried to] find the best elements that we feel would give the player the best experience, that’s kind of been what we’ve tried to focus on over the last 12 months since we had it at E3 last year,” Crooks said. “Back then, we were using RPG system but we’ve completely switched it to more of an action-adventure. Now we have a whole bunch of new abilities, properties on characters… we moved away from stats. You can find people with particular gadgets on them, people that have paintball guns, or wrenches that they can use or crowbars or other times a melee weapons.

“You can now find with a weapons in general, in the world or abilities on people, such as people who become stronger when they’re drunk,” he continued. “We’ve moved a lot away from kind of granular differences between people and really embraced that people want… meaningful and playstyle differences that were greater around the characters. That’s a lot of the feedback we had last year and that’s where we’ve pushed play as anyone over the last 12 months.”

Players will be able to recruit up to 40 NPCs-turned-DeadSec agents, and each will have their own positives and negatives, depending on your then-objective. Provided you’re not in a combat zone, you’ll be able to switch between each of your recuirts without a cooldown penalty.

“One of the big [pieces of] feedback we had was players wanted… their jobs to mean something and matter. At last E3, people would leave that jobs as they joined DedSec. Whereas now we introduced mechanics such as uniformed access,” Crooks continued. “So now, if you were a construction worker or an Albion officer, or a police officer or what not, you can now use that job as a way to enter locations and be more stealthy and create less conflict in those locations.”

Crooks also confirmed that players can game the system, using profiling techniques to build the recruits they’re specifically looking for.

“If I take a street artist, they could have a gas mask, so they have protection from gas bombs and stuff like that. They’ll have spray can takedowns, they’ll have paintball guns and paint grenades, for example. And that’s kind of a character with a lot of ability stack. Those are harder… to find. Whereas at the other end of the spectrum, I could… profile someone and they’re a nail manicurist and they have a paint grenade because obviously they have a bag full of paint, right? They have nail polish.

“It’s about exploring the world, looking for these fantasies and looking at what combination of these different properties you can find that you’d like on people.”

If you’ve read Joab’s latest preview, you’ll already know that he found grandmas to be few and far between. I couldn’t resist to ask Sean if that was truly the case.

“They’re reasonably rare and can also depend on the properties that they carry,” he replied. “In some ways we’re at the mercy of the game world. For example, if you take London, let’s take Shoreditch in London. It’s a quirky area, lots of street artists, lots of underground instals and things like that. So if you go to the Shoreditch in the game, the game knows that that’s an underground/street artist district with its flavour. So it says, ‘I need to spawn lots of street artists and cyber goths and body mod people and stuff like that in this area.’ Those types of people… tend to have a set of jobs because there’s a lot of pubs and counterculture in Shoreditch so they’ll have more of that kind of stuff.

“The world is based on the kind of demographics and distribution in real-world London,” Crooks continued. “If you go to Shoreditch you’re not going to see as many grandmas, or if you go to the finance sector in City of London, you’re not going to find that many grandmas, right? But in other areas of more suburbs, you might find some more. So it’s actually based on… geo-like location properties and what we call census data about who lives there and why they lived [there] and what jobs were available there.”

Watch Dogs Legion heads to Windows PC, Xbox One, PS4 and Stadia where available on 29 October, and Xbox Series X and PS5 when the next-gen consoles become available.

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About the author

Steve Wright

Steve's the owner of this very site and an active games journalist for the past ten years. He's a Canadian-Australian gay gaming geek, ice hockey player and fan. Husband to Matt and cat dad to Wally and Quinn.