Tom Clancy’s: The Division — Demo Analysis (E3 2013)

Narration, scenario and interaction modalities

The first revelation — Presented by the creative director of Massive Entertainment, Nicklas Cederström, the first exclusive gameplay of The Division introduces the generative coordinates of the fictional world: a devastating pandemic born in New York caused a humanitarian crisis by reducing the city to a state of anarchy. In an urban war scenario, the only hope of safety is represented by the agents of the Strategic Homeland Division, in charge of restoring order and investigating the origin of the pathogen. See the official E3 presentation

This document examines the first gameplay of Tom Clancy’s: The Division (Massive/Ubisoft, 2016) considering its communicative function and other primary information elements. The research considers the product and its materials by studying the creative choices, the informative properties, the modalities of visual representation and promotion.

1. Analysis

Introductory note: Tom Clancy’s: The Division (Massive Entertainment/ Ubisoft, 2016) is set in New York after a devastating pandemic originating from contaminated money spread during Black Friday. The city is now in total anarchy, with quarantine areas and criminal groups fighting to survive. While the situation seems now irremediable, special agents of the government’s Strategic Homeland Division (SHD) join forces to save the survivors and regain New York, investigating the mysterious cause of the pandemic.

During the official presentation of Ubisoft (E3 2013), the game session is anticipated by a prologue that tells the background of the pandemic and the various sentences of crisis linked to a scenario of total collapse.

Global collapse — (11 June 2013) In an interconnected world, the complexity of telecommunications, transportation, and security systems highlight the high risk of a rapid and uncontrollable total crisis. Tom Clancy’s The Division’s first promotional video (P. Clair, 2013) metaphorically testifies to the infrastructural fragility of contemporary society, simulating the devastating and irremediable consequences in the event of a total crisis.
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1.1. Summary of the narrative structure

Examining the gameplay, the narration consists of 7 main information elements:

  1. Scenario
    (Brooklyn, New York)
  2. Presentation of the protagonist
    (Nick) + ally (Bronson)
  3. Geographical context
    • Map view
    • Objective decision (police station)
  4. Urban exploration
    • Meeting infected civilians;
    • Meeting with allied subject (Megan)
  5. Police station attack
    • Encounter with enemies (criminals)
    • Meeting with allied subject in support (Chris)
  6. Building exploration
    • Release of allied subjects (hostage police officers)
    • New automatic weapon discovery (performance improvement)
  7. Reaching extraction point
    • Signaling with the flare gun (waiting for helicopter arrival)
    • Attack of another group of hostile players
    • Full Manhattan map view (game world)

1.2. Information elements

By examining the game session, we can identify the primary, fundamental information elements and determine the first cardinal coordinates of the world of The Division:

  1. Location
    The view of the Brooklyn bridge introduces the geographical location: New York (the opening track is Snow Snow Snow by Danny Fromajio).
    The presence of waste, ruined buildings, abandoned cars, stray dogs, unrest and gunfire, testify to the civil crisis and the current condition of urban guerrilla warfare.
  2. Character
    The protagonist, Nick, is waiting for his friend Bronson, intent on checking an abandoned shop. Back on the street, Bronson invites Nick to check the map for information on the area.
  3. Technological context
    The protagonist activates a digital clock used as an augmented reality device that allows you to view different sections (map, skills, inventory, help, social, options, crafting).
  4. Geographic navigation
    Once the map command has been selected, a holographic projection is displayed around the protagonist, which allows rapid exploration of the surrounding locations, with sounds, live visual elements and interactive symbols.
  5. Main mission
    Once the destination (a nearby police station) is selected, the two agents set off. As they move, on the left side of the road they meet two civilians on the move, identified by a tactical sensor as infected subjects.
  6. Collaborative experience
    In addition to Nick and Bronson, Megan’s female voice, via radio, anticipates their meeting near a potentially explorable underground construction site.
  7. Interaction and customization
    Arrived at the entrance to the courtyard of the police station, the three agents are coordinated to attack a group of armed criminals. It is an opportunity to show the available technologies (relating to the skill section in the multifunction watch) and the related tactical and interaction possibilities. After the killing of the criminals, the protagonists free some police officers locked up inside. Exploration of the building leads the protagonist to the discovery of a new automatic weapon.
  8. Open ending and expanded context
    The final achievement of the extraction point (90 seconds waiting to be picked up by a helicopter) and the subsequent attack underline: the existence of a central base for SHD agents; the possibility of other areas of armed intervention; the presence of other groups of hostile subjects; the vastness of the explorable territory and its narrative richness.

1.3. Primary information elements

Briefly, 5 key elements can be identified:

  1. World
    • United States, New York, Brooklyn.
    • Urban guerrilla warfare
  2. Protagonists
    Agents of a government emergency division (Strategic Homeland Division) against various antagonistic subjects.
  3. Technology
    • Multi-function clock (holographic map, power up inventory, tactical information displays, skill system, allies profile);
    • Sensors (chemical, environmental, medical scan)
    • Drone (armed and with enemy detection sensor)
    • Portable turret-machine gun (tactical accessory)
    • Proximity mine (tactical accessory)
  4. Human groups
    • Civilians (infected)
    • Criminals
    • Police officers
  5. Interaction
    • Free exploration (open world)
    • Collaborative experience (multiplayer)
    • Experience points (progression system)
    • Skill system (progressive and customizable)
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Abandoned cars, looted shops, rubbish and unrest define the urban guerrilla scenario in New York.
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The augmented reality system for information includes the display of: magazine, ammunition, energy, experience points, active abilities, any allied subjects with their energies and abilities.
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The augmented reality holographic map allows an exploration of the urban environment by including the display of dynamic information with interactive and sound elements.
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Decided the destination on the map, Nick and Bronson walk to meet Megan (allied subject).
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The thermal sensor supplied to the agent identifies an infected civilian from a distance.
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The meeting with Megan takes place near an underground construction site, alluding to a further explorable environment.
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By scanning the lifeless body of a police officer, the artificial intelligence system detects a head injury.
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The environmental scan sensor sends an impulse to the surrounding area to identify enemy subjects also present inside buildings.
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In a dedicated section it is possible to change the tactical equipment and the numerous skills available based on operational needs and personal preferences.
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Bronson places an automatic machine gun turret against enemies. The skills available therefore also include mechanical devices to increase the offensive abilities of the agents.
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If necessary, the agents can send a healing energy impulse remotely by recovering energy points.
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The sudden arrival of an ally remotely controlled drone hints at compatibility with mobile devices, differentiating combat tactics and operational possibilities.
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The proximity mine, previously activated in the skill section, allows ranged attacks by autonomously reaching the enemy subject.
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Using a position sensor, the drone identifies the enemy subject behind an obstacle making it visible to agents.
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Inside the police station, the artificial intelligence system acquires information from a paper map, updating the agent’s digital map.
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In the police station armoury, the officer discovers a new weapon. The possibility of a highly diversified arsenal outlines the infinite possibilities of tactical customization, geographical research and the increasing level of difficulty in fighting enemies.
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The extraction point requires a waiting time of 90 seconds before being picked up by a helicopter.
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The final satellite view emphasizes the geographical and narrative diversification within the open world of The Division.

Study method and sources
This document is the result of a compilation process created with scientific and accessibility requirements. Special care has therefore been devoted to coherently structuring the texts and analysis sections, to selecting functional visual devices, and to providing verified information by correctly citing sources of documentation, with the final objective of sharing useful material for the purposes of study, criticism and information.

Legal notice
The iconographic material, the trademarks (registered or unregistered) and all the information reported as being in any case protected belong to the respective owners. The internal use of protected material responds exclusively to a scientific and cultural intent.

The author releases the document through the license:

  • Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0.
    This allows third parties to share the published material indicating the origin, respecting the same type of original license and prohibiting the use for commercial purposes.

Contacts
Humenhoid is a creative research unit specialized in immersive entertainment and transmedia storytelling, with focus on cinema, tv series, and video games.

For information, communications or proposals for collaboration write to
Enrico Granzotto | e@humenhoid.com | Humenhoid.com

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    A comprehensive case study on information management and narrative design in the Alien (R. Scott, 1979) and Prometheus (R. Scott, 2012) interconnected franchises (120 pp; available upon request)

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I’m a creative research unit specialized in immersive entertainment and transmedia storytelling with focus on cinema, tv series, and videogames | humenhoid.com

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