GTA V Development
Rockstar North began to develop Grand Theft Auto V in 2009, following Grand Theft Auto IV’s release. Development was conducted by a team of more than 1,000 people, including Rockstar North’s core team and staff from parent company Rockstar Games’s studios around the world. The proprietary Rockstar Advanced Game Engine (RAGE) was overhauled for the game to improve its draw distance rendering capabilities. The Euphoria and Bullet software handle additional animation and rendering tasks. Having become familiar with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 hardware over time, Rockstar found they were able to push the consoles’ graphical capabilities further than in previous games. Analyst estimations place the game’s combined development and marketing budget at more than £170 million (US $265 million), which would make it the most expensive game ever made at that time.[j]
The open world was modelled on Southern California and Los Angeles, and its design and in-game render constituted much of the game’s early work. Key members of the game world production team took field research trips throughout the region and documented their research with photo and video footage. Google Maps projections of Los Angeles were used by the team to help design Los Santos’s road networks. To reflect and reproduce Los Angeles’s demographic spread, the developers studied census data and watched documentaries about the city. The team considered creating the open world the most technically demanding aspect of the game’s production.
A fundamental design goal from the outset was to innovate on the series’s core structure by giving players control of three lead protagonists instead of one. The idea was first raised during Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas’s development, but contemporaneous hardware restrictions made it infeasible. Having developed two Grand Theft Auto IV episodic expansion packs featuring new protagonists in 2009, the team wanted to base Grand Theft Auto V around three simultaneously controlled protagonists. The team viewed it as a spiritual successor to many of their previous games (such as Grand Theft Auto IV, Red Dead Redemption and Max Payne 3), and designed it to improve upon their gameplay mechanics. They sought to improve the action gameplay by refining the shooting mechanics and cover system, and reworked the driving mechanics to correct Grand Theft Auto IV’s difficult vehicle controls.
After an audition process, Ned Luke, Shawn Fonteno and Steven Ogg were selected to portray Michael, Franklin and Trevor, respectively. Their performances were mostly recorded using motion capture technology, but dialogue for scenes with characters seated in vehicles was recorded in studios instead. The game is the first in its series to feature an original score, composed by a team of producers collaborating with each other over several years. Licensed music provided by an in-game radio is also used. The team licensed more than 241 tracks shared between fifteen radio stations, with an additional two stations providing talk radio. Some of the tracks were written specifically for the game, such as rapper and producer Flying Lotus’s original work composed for the FlyLo FM radio station he hosts.
The game was first announced by Rockstar Games on 25 October 2011. They released its debut trailer one week later, with an official press release acknowledging its setting. Journalists noted that the announcement ignited widespread anticipation within the gaming industry, which they owed to the cultural significance of the series. The game missed its original projected Q2 2013 release date, pushed back to 17 September to allow for further polishing. To spur pre-order game sales, Rockstar collaborated with several retail outlets to make a special edition with extra in-game features. They ran a viral marketing strategy with a website for a fictional religious cult, “The Epsilon Program”, that offered users the chance to feature in the game as members of the cult.
The city of Los Santos being rendered on the PlayStation 4 on the left, and the PlayStation 3 on the right. Improved texture effects, lighting and draw distances are visible on the PS4 version.
A comparison of the PlayStation 4 (left) and PlayStation 3 (right) versions of the game. The enhanced re-release features greater draw distances and higher-resolution textures than the original versions.
A re-release of the game was announced for Microsoft Windows (PC), PlayStation 4 and Xbox One at E3 2014. This enhanced version features an increased draw distance, finer texture details, denser traffic, upgraded weather effects, and new wildlife and vegetation. It includes a new on-foot first-person view option, which required the development team to overhaul the animation system to accommodate first-person gameplay. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions were released on 18 November 2014. The PC version, initially scheduled for simultaneous release with the console versions, was delayed until 14 April 2015. According to Rockstar, it required extra development time for “polish”. The PC version is capable of 60 frames per second gameplay at 4K resolution, and the Rockstar Editor lets players capture and edit gameplay videos.