When cars slip, they leave tire marks. In a game like Driver, are an aesthetic touch, part of the inherent comfort of the handbrake curve. But these dark shadows on the road also tell a story. From the tire marks, you can determine the speed of the vehicle when it started to slide and its final direction of travel – long after the car itself has disappeared into the distance.
The story of Driver’s transformation into Watch Dogs and the subsequent rise of one new Ubisoft franchise while the old favorite withered takes place long ago – more precisely after ten years. Memories are vague and one source contacted Gameerror originally stated that Watch Dogs’ reference to Driver was a city myth. However, look closely and you will see traces of tires: eloquent brands that show us how one of the best-selling series has been replaced by another.
When Ubisoft was contacted about this work, he declined to comment. However, North American president Laurent Detoc gave an interview to IGN in 2013, in which he revealed that the studio was originally building a different game for Watch Dogs. “They were working on the drive engine, we had a driver’s license,” he said. “At some point, that changed.” That’s at least three years ago, and then the Watch Dogs project reused some of the work done on this drive engine. “
As Detoc says, the game was initially focused on management until the regrouping of the team led to a new creative director and a restart of the project. The result was an open world game in which much of the action took place on foot.
“I wouldn’t say Driver became Watch Dogs because that’s not true,” he added. “That’s not really happening.” It happens that the game will be canceled, and then you take pieces of this game and create a new one. “
However, the story that Gameerror revealed is slightly different. Speaking of three sources – one working for Ubisoft, the other a former Ubisoft executive and the third creator of the original driver, Martin Edmondson – a picture of a game that gradually and organically grew beyond the driver’s license and gave birth to the Watch Dogs Series we know today.
“The game, which was released as Watch Dogs, began life as a sequel to the Driver series, but has always been largely what you see in the final product,” says an Ubisoft source. “It’s always been a modern age, she has had walking, parkour, fighting and driving, everything in the big city of the open world, and the main hook has always been modern technology and hacking.” After a while of trying to fit this concept into the Driver franchise, it was decided to turn it into its own, new IP. “
The publisher typically encourages a single game to restart the series, and if it proves successful, it builds on that foundation. But Ubisoft was working on two different visions of what a Driver could be at the same time. One, led by Edmondson in the UK at the historic Driver Reflections studio, was subtitled San Francisco. Brave and nostalgic, he locked players inside the car, just like the original from the 90’s – but allowed them to switch between vehicles using a funny and fantastic concept called “shift”. Players would float without a body around the city to own more drivers and talk to their passengers.
While San Francisco’s development was underway, a team led by veteran Far Cry 2 Jonathan Morin at Assassin’s Creed Ubisoft Montreal deployed and created his own sequel Driver. The thoughts had no bearing on the story left out by the characters in the series, such as secret policeman Tanner, his partner Jones and the villain with a shotgun Jericho – although it wouldn’t be the first Driver game to do so.
“Remember, at that point, we had already taken Driver to Tanner and Jones using Parallel Lines, which was set up in the mid-1970s and half in the 00s,” said Ubisoft. Driver: Parallel Lines from 2006 also featured segments of foot and shooting in the style of GTA. Although Ubisoft Montreal had never done Driver before, its interpretation of where the series could go was based on what came first.
The Montreal team clearly remembered the history it had entered and consulted the creator of Driver on his professional topic: handling a car. “We were working on Driver: San Francisco and I remember being sent an early preview from one of the Ubisoft producers just to give feedback,” says Edmondson. “It has nothing to do with the game and all the hacking stuff Watch Dogs was about, but only with the manipulation models.”
The demo included a ride around the city. Edmondson commented on the feeling of cars slipping around and was told that the player would be able to hack traffic lights and other elements of the world. “It was a very, very early door then,” he says. “It was so rough that the cars weren’t even properly structured.”
Edmondson doesn’t remember if the project was created as a Driver at the time, but he knows he didn’t use any code from Reflections – just the expertise of studying muscle cars rocking around corners. Then Edmondson bowed his head and got San Francisco out the door.
Driver: San Francisco launched in 2011 with glowing reviews but weak sales. According to a former senior Ubisoft employee, it was a death knell for the series, “definitely the end of the road for this franchise.”
The same source states that the Ubisoft Montreal driver demo was redesigned in response and focused on its hacking imagination: “They just did their own thing and convinced Yves [Guillemot, Ubisoft CEO] it could take the place of a driver with low sales of “his own GTA”. “
A source from Ubisoft questions the timing, suggesting that Driver Ubisoft Montreal had already turned into Watch Dogs before San Francisco was released. However, he agrees that hacking was an aspect that moved the project to a new territory of the series: “It took too far from what looked like a Driver. They could not adapt this concept to franchises. “
Both point to the same example for explanation: the transformation of the planned sequel Prince of Persia to Assassin’s Creed, a few years earlier in the same studio. “It’s really the only way to get a new AAA IP there,” said a former Ubisoft executive. “Start with a brand and use this budget to create demos and spins.” Watch Dogs was Driver, Assassin’s was PoP. “
A source from Ubisoft suggests that this is a common way to start new series across the gaming industry. “Developers like to work on new drives and new settings without restriction,” they say. “Business loves the security of creating a continuation and expanding the franchise with a loyal player base.” Sometimes a team pushes the boundaries of the franchise too far, and if it can persuade the business to get behind its concept, a new franchise is born. “
Reflections eventually contributed much more than feedback to Watch Dogs. Later in development, the studio dealt with all the interiors of buildings in open Chicago, plus art for vehicles. He designed driving missions the most. Watch Dogs cars have a dangerous sense of weight and exciting momentum that shared critics at launch, but it’s clearly Driver.
In fact, once you know you’re looking for them, you can see driver’s tire brands everywhere in Watch Dogs. Like Tanner before him, Aiden Pearce confines himself to an annoying motel room when he is not at work and has a reputation as a driver for the criminal underworld – “the best driver in Chicago.” Missions tend to be tackled in high-speed chases with kamikaze cops, in which you have plenty of opportunities to smash police cars against hacked bollards and be rewarded with slomo, a movie crash camera. Watch Dogs even updated the secrecy of the vehicle, as Driver had first imagined – asking players to stay in the streets, hide in garages and kill the engine as a last resort in the ditch to avoid the authorities. For the series, it was obviously a darker and louder vision than Driver: San Francisco, but no less valid.
Morin remained in the position of creative director until the end of the project and in 2016 he continued in the role of Watch Dogs 2 – a rare game in the open world, which is more than a summary of its parts. The following also included considerations that created a more sensitive and crowd-friendly manipulation model.
It would be natural for Driver fans to feel upset about Watch Dogs. The driver has been sleeping for ten years and shows no signs of recovery. While Reflections still exist in Ubisoft and contribute to game propulsion models such as Ghost Recon, San Francisco has not been released as a major big-budget gaming studio. Watch Dogs, meanwhile, received a new entry from Ubisoft in Toronto just last year.
The bonus was again the sequel Driver, which became Watch Dogs. If sales in San Francisco really condemned this series, then Ubisoft Montreal found a way for Driver to live in the DNA of a new game with a different name. Call Marcus Holloway’s phone in Watch Dogs 2 and you’ll see that his taxi mission app is called ‘Driver SF’ – a pretty sweet tribute to the series that may be gone, but it still informs Ubisoft games today.
“I don’t think so.” [Driver is] too restrictive, ”says an Ubisoft source. “There are a lot of things you can do about it and different stories you can tell.” But at the heart of every Game Driver must be about driving and genres based on fashion. Now is not the time for new driving games, but who knows in the future. “