Watch Dogs Legion: You can play as 9 million different characters (or more)

We had a great time playing Watch Dogs Legion during E3 2019 last week, but when we were finished playing, we had a couple of questions about the game.

We caught up with Shelley Johnson, associate producer on Watch Dogs Legion and talked about the evolution of the franchise, more hacking, and how many possible NPCs you could play as in the game.

How did this idea of no main character, and being able to be anyone in the game, come up after Watch Dogs 2?

When we think about the Watch Dogs brand and the evolution of the brand from the kind of hacker activist collective of the previous Watchdogs, we wanted to be sure that we kept the idea of a team. And when we took that to the next degree we wanted to see ourselves within that team. We wanted to be able to bring to the player an opportunity to not just act as a team but to build a resistance that best reflected who the player actually was. That mean offering a wide breadth of opportunity for the player.

What's the timeline for Legion? How long is it after Watch Dogs 2 or is it like a standalone within the same universe?

Obviously it's an evolution in the brand, so it's the next in the series. We imagine a kind of near future. We don't actually paint a specific point in time. The impact of technology is such that we for some players they may feel like the type of technology that they see within the game is very near future for others they may feel that as much more fantastic. So we don't actually pinpoint a specific time in the future but it's a near future London.

The big feature of Watch Dogs Legion is the ability to play as any of the NPCs in the game. There are a lot of NPCs in the game. Is there any sort of limit to how many you can play as or is it unlimited?

There isn't a limit. It can be anywhere between thousands to millions.

Wow.

One of the numbers that was floating around at one point was 9 million. They’re procedurally generated characters. So we've spent four years building the technology to be able to deliver on this promise and that includes the ability to piece together this huge city of characters as far as animation, dialogue, census data, like all those bio pieces that you see when you profile somebody, faces, character kids, all of this comes together to produce a unique character every time.

One thing I noticed kind of different from previous games was sort of the lack of hackable options in the game. You can still hack people, cars, and cameras but I didn’t see any traffic lights, manholes, it just seemed like a bit less than before.

As I said, we've kind of evolved the hacker activist collective promise into something that is, because of the player experience with the world we’ve created, that's more about a popular resistance. There is more about hacking into people's lives than it is about hacking the world around me. However, having said that, ctOS, the Blume technical ecosystem still exists and will have all sorts of options to be able to hack things as the game progresses. We’re in alpha build right now, but there will be and there continues to be a lot hacking for the type of player that is looking for the hacker experience.

I also noticed drones play a much bigger role in the world this time too. Wifi drone, cargo drones, assault drones are all over the city. Are you guys kind of predicting the future here?

It was Ubisoft Montreal actually, they really took point on this, one of our partners, obviously with a game of this size, It's so enormous, we work very very closely with out with our partners at the different studios. They really ran with the drones like we have a lot of options, it's a lot of fun. You mentioned the hacking aspect, you'll be able to hack the different drones to do different things. I don't know if you played around with that.

I did, I had to drone drop one of the little explosive cargos and got everybody's attention. And I also noticed each of the characters have perks. Are you guys getting away from the skill tree aspect and going with a handful of perks?

The demo version is a smaller version of the overall game. It’s just a slice of what you can expect in the game. The perks and the traits that you'll see, the solar traits as well as the team traits, these are things that continue to grow.

So if I had a favorite character that I want to just keep playing with, I can continually upgrade him?

Yes, that's it is like an RPG to a certain extent, there’s RPG-like elements. So you'll be able to level up your characters over time that includes the perks for sure.