Mathieu Leduc Co-art director
How do you keep a game’s art direction contemporary and stylish over a fiveyear period?
To be honest, when we started, we had some cool ideas we had to let go… But it’s funny that like five years ago we started tackling those things and the present is really catching up fast. Back then, we had some really cool ideas about surveillance and stuff like that, but now everything’s catching up too fast, so that at the end we have to adjust some elements and some graphical ingredients also.
How did Watch Dogs’ art directors help inform development on the new Disrupt game engine?
It’s a collaboration between us, the other directors, and the programmers. At the beginning, we had this idea of creating a realistic open-world game with a nice level of detail based on a contemporary city, so right off the bat we established what should be the key ingredients we should play with and which sort of engine should we be working on. You know, you can drive at high speed, so you have to build a good streaming system, and so on. [Artwise], it was mostly based on Chicago’s weather, getting the East Coast mood.
Did Assassin’s Creed inform your work on Watch Dogs?
For me, Assassin’s and Assassin’s II were a bit different. Those were fantastic fantasy games; they were not based on realistic, contemporary cities, [which are] so much harder, because people already have references in their heads for comparison. We were able to invent some stuff to show people things they probably don’t know about, but generally building contemporary Chicago and trying to make it look as realistic as possible comes with a good share of challenges. We can have a good, realistic render, but after that we just play with variables, the atmosphere, tweak the mood. But for me it was really about – and this is where I really think Watch Dogs is distinctive – the edgy aesthetic, playing with the ASCII stuff and the UI stuff. We really wanted to make sure we didn’t have a sci-fi UI. We wanted to base it on homebrew stuff, like the NFO files… All those little elements can be edgy enough, and when you mix them with stylisation, narrative, characters, environments, art and graffiti – when you put everything in the mix – it becomes something much more. Yes, it’s realistic, but it’s still a mood, still has flavour.