Clint Hocking breaks down how they made everyone and their mother a playable character.
Watch Dogs Legion is a game built on the premise that you can play as anyone. A hefty promise to be sure, and one they are building up more and more, promising that your pool of recruits can be literally limitless. But how exactly did they come to make every NPC potentially playable in the game? Creative Director Clint Hocking breaks down the tech behind it.
In an interview with Gamasutra, Hocking said that the team came up with a system they call census. The game generates NPCs, and once selected by the player, the census system will attach a profile and backstory to that NPC. He zeroed in on a groundskeeper and how the system will adapt the NPC into that backstory.
“The most important thing about census is that it allows us to spawn NPCs in the world just like you do in many other games, but then when you profile those NPCs the relational database is able to fill in the blanks on who they are and sort of generate them in real time and then make them persistent and keep them in the world.
“So if you see a groundskeeper trimming hedges in a park, and he has a certain ethnicity, when you lock on to that person and profile them, he’s going to have a name that reflects the ethnicity that you saw and he’s going to have an animation set based on how he was animating, he’s gonna have a job that says groundskeeper and it’s going to be at a certain time.
“And then because he’s a groundskeeper, he’s going to make a certain amount of money which means he’s gonna be allowed to live in certain neighborhoods, and because of his ethnicity will navigate to a different part of those neighborhoods depending on where the different communities live within London. Then he’s going to have certain friends and activities maybe he’s an outdoorsy guy. He has an outdoor job so he may be more fit and have a gameplay trait that reflects higher health or higher agility or something like that.
“All of these things are internally in sync and coherent so that every NPC feels real and credible. Then when you recruit them, they get their own narrative persona, their own voice, their own animations, their own fighting style if they do melee…all of those things are again, coherent with that guy that you first saw trimming a hedge in the park when you were walking by and caught your eye for whatever reason.”
Boy, talk about ambition. We’ll be keeping continued coverage on the game, which you can keep track of here. Can it really back up these incredibly lofty ambitions and make a game that’s compelling and fun to come back to? Well, we will see when Watch Dogs Legion releases March 6th, 2020 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC and Stadia.