Watch Dogs Creates a Sense of Hyper Reality

Watch Dogs has been the talk of the town in the gaming world lately.

Going into E3 this week, I’m reminded of when I first saw the Watch Dogs game trailer at the show in 2012. I knew it was going to push the limits of immersive game play.

Throughout the game, it is clear that the game developers spent their time on detailing the environment to create an enhanced reality of virtual Chicago landscape. The cityscape in the game sets the tone for the environment, down to the shadows and lighting effects that are specific to the changing weather patterns. The level of interactivity throughout the game is as good as it gets. I personally like how you can switch on your Swiss Army knife of a cellphone to more game play options (hint: you’ll instantly get useful information on anyone in the immediate area and you’ll find yourself standing and looking around quite a bit between missions).

Watch Dog has haptics (as any good game would); and the audio and haptic vibration effectively submerge gamers into the environment. Gamers experience an array of sounds from ambient wind and thunder, to industrial city sounds of cars, alarms, weapons, gates, forklifts, breaking glass and bursting steam valves. The haptics goes beyond the standard “crash – impact.” You can feel the difference between fully colliding with a car versus slightly grazing one on the freeway. The ability to sense your car shift gears, land after being airborne, and bump into someone on the street, only gives you additional feedback to enhance your game play. I believe that any type of overt feedback, and haptics in particular, is an added advantage to a gamer’s game play because it sharpens your ability to react.

The gaming world is turning into a virtual world with visual vastness, multiple interactive possibilities, rich audio and rumble feedback, enticing gamers to happily give up hours of real world time. Okay, so maybe not such an arduous task. But between us gamers, we can’t argue that we don’t enjoy this new virtual world. Watch Dogs effectively reminds that it is still possible to improve the game design to be much more realistic, and more importantly, to expect more of this to come in the next generation of game titles.

We know that visual elements will continue to improve, and with virtual reality headsets, like the Oculus Rift (which is being tested by everyone from aging vets to traders), I expect to see much more development in this area over the next few years. Game audio elements will also expand beyond what is used today. We have games, like Dead Rising 3, that uses the Xbox Kinect microphone to lure zombies into traps using your voice. It shows an area full of innovative potential for different types of game control, to create interactions beyond the gamepad.

In the area of haptics, we’re investigating how we can make better game controllers, whether it is peripherals or personal devices. With the broader range of distinct feedback, cues, “feels” that we can create with today’s haptic technology there is still a lot to explore.

We’ve been using the same two motor rumble pads to feel our games f-o-r-e-v-e-r. Now that gaming platforms are redefining itself, the time is right to crack open the casing and take a second look at what is next.

Imagine if you could feel the hacking missions in Watch Dogs with subtle tactile feedback, like a safe cracker feels tumblers in a safe. Or imagine feeling a crisp click as you unlock a door instead of the typical slower rumble of today’s rumble pads. If our game controllers made game interactions feel more like our real life experiences, we’d become more connected to these virtual worlds like the one in Watch Dogs.

Watch Dogs is only one representation of the growing world of immersive game play. Ubisoft has done a good job to create something more than just a game, they’ve created a worthy experience. It is time to ask, what else can we do? Let me know what you think by contacting me at @BobHeubel