Ubisoft: Watch Dogs PC Options Disabled for Performance Reasons

We’ve all seen the E3 footage of Watch Dogs from E3 2012 and were blown away by the level of detail in the graphics they showed us. Then, PAX East 2013 and we see more of the same. E3 2013 showed us even more of this beautiful looking game. Now, moving forward to 2014 and Watch Dogs is finally released on all platforms. On the consoles, the game looks just like you would expect of a console game running in a fixed resolution and locked settings. That is, I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with that, but as a PC Gamer, I was a bit disappointed.

For PC Gamers, a computer isn’t just another gaming platform, it’s a customized battlestation that is tuned to run the games at settings that are well above what you would expect to see from a console game. When Watch Dogs was released, it was then revealed that the settings that made the game look beautiful in all of those gameplay trailers they threw at us at PAX and E3 for the past 2 years were disabled.

But, as any PC gamer expected, the modding community came through. A modder on Guru3d going by the name TheWorse, went digging through Watch Dogs’ files and discovered that those wonderful settings that made the game look like it did in those E3 demos were still in the code, just toggled off. So, he flipped them on and released the changes to the world. The community showed off the screenshots and trailers of their gameplay using the new settings showing that, for the most part, had little to no performance hit and the game looked a lot better.

Then, the community waited with baited breath to see the reaction of Ubisoft and what they planned on doing about the “leaked” functions. Would they release a patch that removed them from the files forcing users to go without the updated graphics? We didn’t know, and many folks on communities were advising others to disable Steam’s automatic update function to prevent them from doing just that.

Conspiracy theories arose around the internet about why these settings were disabled from the final version of the game. Some suggested that it was intended to “level the field” so the console games didn’t look terrible by comparison to the PC version. Whatever the reason, the settings were disabled and for the PC gaming community, disabling settings outright is considered a big no-no. PC gamers love settings. They allow the game to be tweaked to a customized level that helps balance smooth framerates with image quality based on hardware they have, not what the game developers expect you to use.

Today, we finally received an answer from Ubisoft’s PR team. It wasn’t a patch that removed the settings from the files, nor did they condemn those who used the changes. It seems that the settings were disabled because of performance issues on PC builds they tested the game on.

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 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 stay safe on the mean streets of Chicago.

-The Watch Dogs Team

So there it is. Ubisoft says that they only disabled the settings because of performance reasons. I’m not saying the game looks terrible. If you crank the settings up to ultra, it looks almost like the E3 videos, but there are still effects missing. It feels misleading to show one thing then sell another, regardless of how minor the differences are. As a PC gamer myself, this reason they gave still doesn’t make sense to me. Why completely disable these effects if they only affect certain users and not others, as demonstrated by how many folks have downloaded the mod and use it without issue? While that is their official response it seems awfully vague as to why they would just outright disable options instead of keeping them in with a warning that your game may be hit with performance issues by enabling them just as is done with Anti-Aliasing.

You can download the mod here or here.

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4 Comments on Ubisoft: Watch Dogs PC Options Disabled for Performance Reasons

Michael

On June 20, 2014 at 11:23 am

What does Ubisoft mean by, “The mod in Question”?

A mod is user generated content. This content was not created it was disabled.
Its like when people found out there were hidden characters in Street Fighter 4 which were on the disc but later was made into DLC.

I believe that this was the reason behind the disabled option. It was planned as DLC.

SweetPea

On June 20, 2014 at 1:39 pm

@Michael

No, there’s no way Ubisoft planned to sell graphics settings as DLC.

Jeff Mills

On June 20, 2014 at 2:42 pm

A mod is anything that changes the experience of the game.

In this regard, the modification was the settings being re-enabled through the use of two additional files you added to your games’ root directory.

Mr Glassback

On June 21, 2014 at 5:49 am

Makes no sense whatsoever.
Having more settings available to each user makes it easier to configure the game to run at its best on each individual rig. Yet they claim the best way is to downgrade the game for everybody.
I call b******t.