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.

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