The exciting life of a games journalist mostly consists of playing cool, unreleased games before the everyman gets the chance, and colluding with publishers to give better scores than they objectively deserve. That’s a fact. But sometimes, very rarely, we also get to witness great things. Great, confusing, utterly unbelievable things. Like the time Massive Entertainment decided to replace the Division 2 Gamescom 2018 demo with an hour-long presentation about their approach to world design. I’m not even joking.
When I walked into the conference room in Cologne that fateful day, I was expecting to get some time alone with the game. I was ready to settle for a hands-off demo or video presentation, though. What I wasn’t ready for was getting a lecture from the ridiculously handsome associate-something about all the intricacies of recreating Washington DC in a video game.
Division 2 Gamescom 2018 Report
It’s a little worrying that Ubisoft and Massive didn’t have any actual gameplay ready at Gamescom, since the game is due in about six months. You’d expect at least a video of the thing in action. Instead, they opted to have someone from the team talk to us about how the sausage is made. The game will take place six or seven months after the first one, in Washington DC. They reason they choose to put some time between the two was twofold – first of all, it would give The Division as an organization time to mature. It’s not an emergency response to an abrupt threat anymore – it’s a serious, coldly planned effort to retake the city. We will see this change reflected in the types of enemies we fight, as well as the kinds of missions we undertake.
The second reason has to do with the cycles of nature. The additional half a year put DC in a state of more serious disrepair, and the summer brings nature’s first attempt to reclaim what’s hers. Don’t expect giant vines and packs of wild boars across the city, but expect a lot more grass and a few fawns here and there.
There was also talk about serious mapping software that allowed them to recreated Washington DC 1:1. So before going all in with the trash heaps, car wrecks and vigilante vegetation, they first made a completely faithful model of the capital city. One of the other journalists present at the lecture asked whether it would get the same treatment AC Origins had with the Discovery Tour, but all we got were non-committal answers.
The lecturer mentioned how they sent a team of audio engineers to capture the ambiental sounds of different parts of Washington, in order to make an authentic aural landscape. They’ve also enlisted the help of various first responders (police, coast guard, fire fighters and such), who worked on the game as consultants, offering valuable information on how the city would most probably behave in the situation the game will expose it to.
It seems like no expense was spared when creating the game’s world. That’s laudable. It really is. But the first game wasn’t dragged down by an inauthentic city – it was hampered by impotent gunplay, uninspiring quests and a story that was hard to care for. And none of those issues were adressed by our charming host with the thick French accent and piercing emerald eyes.