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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Ubisoft Weighs in on Watch_Dogs Drama

Ubisoft has finally commented on the ongoing controversy about Watch_Dogs' graphical downgrade. We will start off with a quick recap, just in case you have had no access to the internet for the past month...
Watch_Dogs was released May 27th. Pre-release there was much talk about how the game looks nowhere near as good as it did at E3. This is, unfortunately, par for the course at this point in the industry. PC players are promised a patch to make the game run more smoothly since it is pretty badly optimized for an okay looking game. 

Talk still revolves around how the graphics have been downgrade but Ubisoft denies that this is the case at all, despite the fact that it, clearly, is. The patch to better optimize the game for PC never comes and old game files are dug up that prove that the game has been downgraded and that you can re-enable the settings that were used during the E3 demo. 

Pair that with the fact that the optimization patch which was promised to come on May 31st STILL hasn't arrived, people are not happy. 

Then the conversation switched to 'why?'. A few suggestions were offered, one being that they were paid off by Sony and/or Microsoft to make the game look more like the PS4/Xbox One. I don't think that is the case at all. I could be wrong but, as Hanlon's razor says: 'Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity'.

I think the case is that they simply didn't have time to make it as polished as they would have liked to, despite the 6 month delay that it already got.

What makes this case so particularly irritating is Ubi's handling of it. Whoever does their PR really needs to be fired. When you are faced with screenshots clearly showing the graphical downgrade and you deny it... that is bad. When you are shown side by side screenshots AND config files that clearly show disabled features from the E3 demo and you STILL deny it, that is unbelievable stupidity. On the other side, however, if the PR person had come out and said "yes you are right there was a downgrade, we made decisions during development that favored speed over quality" stock prices would plummet and they would get fired. Rock and a hard place indeed.

Now, however, Ubisoft have come out with a statement on the whole fiasco. They said:

"The dev team is completely dedicated to getting the most out of each platform, so the notion that we would actively downgrade quality is contrary to everything we’ve set out to achieve. We test and optimize our games for each platform on which they’re released, striving for the best possible quality. The PC version does indeed contain some old, unused render settings that were deactivated for a variety of reasons, including possible impacts on visual fidelity, stability, performance and overall gameplay quality.
Modders are usually creative and passionate players, and while we appreciate their enthusiasm, the mod in question (which uses those old settings) subjectively enhances the game’s visual fidelity in certain situations but also can also have various negative impacts. Those could range from performance issues, to difficulty in reading the environment in order to appreciate the gameplay, to potentially making the game less enjoyable or even unstable.
Thanks for playing Watch Dogs and believing in our vision. Stay safe on the mean streets of Chicago." 

This is such a politician's response... There comes a time when you drop the PR bullshit, put your hands up and say 'we fucked up, we did what we could and it's clearly not where we want it to be. Let us work with you guys and better the experience'. Boom, problem fixed. ish.

Granted that I am only one person and so you can take this with a grain of salt. I have been using the 'mod' to revert the game to the graphics shown at E3 and I have experienced no performance issues at all, in fact the game runs smoother when driving now and the DOF stops me from seeing those nasty pop in textures.

Guys, you fucked up and that's fine, everyone does. Let's just admit it and see how the game can be done better.
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