Stevivor recently sat down for a chat with Watch Dogs Legion Creative Director, Clint Hocking, to discuss Spiderbots, Sam Fisher and the idea of the game as a London simulator in the time of COVID-19.
Steve Wright, Stevivor: I wanted to kind of start off with the Spiderbots ’cause I hadn’t seen a lot to do with them [before this last preview session]. Admittedly, they were probably my favorite bit of the time I just had with the game.
Clint Hocking, Creative Director, Watch Dogs Legion: So there’s a lot going on with Spiderbot. Spiderbots are part of our our in-world fiction, right? There’s this idea that you know, IT departments are using them to run network cable, through cable racks and in vents. The [ones you encountered in game play are] called vent doctors… and we use them in lots of places for gameplay puzzles and… finding collectables.
But DedSec also has Spiderbots that they’ve stolen and hacked and kitbashed. There’s two different kinds that you can purchase and unlock. One of them is the Stealth Spider, or the Infiltrator Spider… and it has a cloak. It can also do what we call the facehugger-like takedown. It can climb up people and clamp onto their face and then discharge its battery and and take people down that way.
The other one is, well, I think we call it the Turret Spider — it’s a combat spider. It can’t climb on people or do takedowns, but it can deploy a turret that can be used to support you and protect you. You can also control remotely as a weapon to suit your purpose.
Stevivor: Something I’ve just been completely oblivious to, is Zero Day. I always just thought Albion was the big bad, but playing today made me aware of this new group. It seems to me like Zero Day attackers are hackers like DedSec, but bad. Is that accurate, or oversimplifying it?
Hocking: I mean, Zero Day is sort of the main villain. It’s a new thing we’ve sort of unveiled this year. As we’re getting close to launch, we’re [slowly unveiling] what Zero Day is up to and how they frame DedSec for the attacks that wiped out the original Dedsec London. Finding out who Zero Day is and why they did what they did — and how they did it — is the core mystery of the game.
Stevivor: Right now I think it’s safe to say that a lot of Ubisoft games can kind of be critiqued as a map with, like thousands of icons on it, and in some ways that kind of gives people like some paralysis of choice. Have you tried to address that in Watch Dogs Legion?
Hocking: [It’s not as much as a concern] as we don’t have as many high-level icons. We have lots of collectibles and they all have little icons, but you really only see him when you’re close to them.
When you realise that every single person in the world can be recruited and has a mission, it’s almost like when you’re walking down the street. Every single person that you see is an icon, right? If you engage with recruiting and you want to build your team and get cool people, you can do that.
You can be like, ‘this guy is really cool but this person’s got a cool car and has driving [skills] so I should take this loser off my team and get her’. Then you get her and then you’re like, ‘oh she’s really cool but that guy’s a getaway driver and he comes with a cool car, and evasive driving’. Then you realise how much the game can suck you in. It’s like it’s like a collectible card game, or Pokémon. You can get really absorbed into trying to get the coolest people all the time.
Stevivor: Well, I’ll tell you what: I had a spy in my roster (see one Henry Mukherjee, above) and he was all well and good. His car is amazing. I was just blowing up things for fun, but I was very prepared to kick him off my roster just ’cause I didn’t like the way his voice sounded.
Hocking: That’s usually the way I do it. I usually try to talk with people first — ’cause you can start recruiting people remotely without meeting them — but I usually like to talk to them first, like a job interview, and see if I get a good vibe from them.
Stevivor: And I guess the backdrop of London also helps with [a lack of choice paralysis] as well. I literally just pulled down a cargo bot and climbed on and just went down the Thames for fun. I guess COVID-19 is probably helping you guys in that aspect. Did you think a lot of people are just going to kind of use Watch Dogs Legion as a London simulator?
Hocking: I mean, I hope so. I I like to. Sometimes I just walk around and just profile people to overhear conversations and see what’s going on. The city is really rich and it’s got a lot of texture and flavour and culture. I really just enjoy being in the world so I hope people will enjoy that too.
Stevivor: Now I doubt you’re going to be able to say much about the story surrounding [original Watch Dogs protagonist] Aiden [Pearce], but it must be nice for Ubisoft to return back to him in some way in Legion.
Hocking: Yeah, for sure. It’s several years later and you know Aiden’s a complex guy with some problems, so we wanted to sort of revisit him and and see how much — or maybe how little — a guy like that will change over the course of a decade or so.
Stevivor: I know this is starting to feel like a fantasy draft, but I reckon [Splinter Cell protagonist] Sam Fisher is pretty near and dear to your heart. Does Rainbow Six have a monopoly on him, or do you theoretically see him being able to work in the world of Legion?
Hocking: I mean, I don’t even know if he has a driver’s license.
Stevivor: Well, he could just hack and and get one, I’d assume.
Hocking: Oh, that’s true.
Many thanks to Clint for his valuable time.
Watch Dogs Legion heads to Windows PC, Xbox One, PS4 and Stadia on 29 October, then on 10 November for Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X, and finally whenever the PS5 is available.