What Makes the Technology in Grand Theft Auto V So Great

Shamus Young

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What Makes the Technology in Grand Theft Auto V So Great

After attacking the fundamentals of GTA V last week, Shamus goes into what makes the game so technologically superior to some of its contemporary games.

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TiberiusEsuriens

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It has always been said that Open-World-Sandbox games more or less always get a free pass on graphical fidelity and over-all quality. Bethesda's Fallout and Elder Scrolls routinely get mocked at for their incredibly broken glitches and bugs but we love them anyways because they are such a rich experience we're willing to pay that price.

We're accustomed to thinking not just that things don't have to be as clean as a trade-off for simply rendering more things, but that things PHYSICALLY CAN'T look as good because there's simply too much to render or calculate. Rockstar has used GTA every few years to simply laugh at every other developer and say "That's not true at all."
 

vun

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Eh, it seemed to struggle quite a lot on the 360. Not seen it in action on the PS3, but the 360 version could've been made in powerpoint for the few frames it managed to squeeze out when moving around town. Not to mention pop-in that was about 5 minutes late to the party.
 

TiberiusEsuriens

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vun said:
Eh, it seemed to struggle quite a lot on the 360. Not seen it in action on the PS3, but the 360 version could've been made in powerpoint for the few frames it managed to squeeze out when moving around town. Not to mention pop-in that was about 5 minutes late to the party.
It's doing a LOT better on next gen, and undoubtedly will on PC too. Along with better performance, the upgraded version also greatly increases the amount of wildlife and pedestrian/vehicle traffic. (so you don't have to run around the entire city to find a car to jack)
 

vun

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TiberiusEsuriens said:
vun said:
Eh, it seemed to struggle quite a lot on the 360. Not seen it in action on the PS3, but the 360 version could've been made in powerpoint for the few frames it managed to squeeze out when moving around town. Not to mention pop-in that was about 5 minutes late to the party.
It's doing a LOT better on next gen, and undoubtedly will on PC too. Along with better performance, the upgraded version also greatly increases the amount of wildlife and pedestrian/vehicle traffic. (so you don't have to run around the entire city to find a car to jack)
Oh, I'm not saying it's not doing well on more recent hardware, but the 360/PS3 version, the one that got all the awards, is basically like a slideshow when you're driving anywhere.
 

Joabbuac

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vun said:
TiberiusEsuriens said:
vun said:
Eh, it seemed to struggle quite a lot on the 360. Not seen it in action on the PS3, but the 360 version could've been made in powerpoint for the few frames it managed to squeeze out when moving around town. Not to mention pop-in that was about 5 minutes late to the party.
It's doing a LOT better on next gen, and undoubtedly will on PC too. Along with better performance, the upgraded version also greatly increases the amount of wildlife and pedestrian/vehicle traffic. (so you don't have to run around the entire city to find a car to jack)
Oh, I'm not saying it's not doing well on more recent hardware, but the 360/PS3 version, the one that got all the awards, is basically like a slideshow when you're driving anywhere.
Seemed pretty smooth on 360 to me... To say it looks "like a slideshow" is a total lie.
 

deathmothon

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I was resisting getting into the next gen consoles, but my roommate bought the PS4 bundle and I had to play the one game I'd been looking forward to. I wasn't disappointed. The attention to detail in that game is insane. Orders of magnitude better than anything else I've ever played. The only detail style complaint I had was the rearview mirror doesn't work in first person mode. Everything else was top notch and made me "wow" more than once.
 

vun

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Joabbuac said:
vun said:
TiberiusEsuriens said:
vun said:
Eh, it seemed to struggle quite a lot on the 360. Not seen it in action on the PS3, but the 360 version could've been made in powerpoint for the few frames it managed to squeeze out when moving around town. Not to mention pop-in that was about 5 minutes late to the party.
It's doing a LOT better on next gen, and undoubtedly will on PC too. Along with better performance, the upgraded version also greatly increases the amount of wildlife and pedestrian/vehicle traffic. (so you don't have to run around the entire city to find a car to jack)
Oh, I'm not saying it's not doing well on more recent hardware, but the 360/PS3 version, the one that got all the awards, is basically like a slideshow when you're driving anywhere.
Seemed pretty smooth on 360 to me... To say it looks "like a slideshow" is a total lie.
I've seen the game run on 360, framerate is ok when you're indoors, but when driving around it is far below what I'd consider acceptable. And that's not just because I'm used to a billion fps from pc games, even my brother, an avid 360 gamer, finds the framerate drops ridiculous.
 

sXeth

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deathmothon said:
I was resisting getting into the next gen consoles, but my roommate bought the PS4 bundle and I had to play the one game I'd been looking forward to. I wasn't disappointed. The attention to detail in that game is insane. Orders of magnitude better than anything else I've ever played. The only detail style complaint I had was the rearview mirror doesn't work in first person mode. Everything else was top notch and made me "wow" more than once.
The rearview was literally the first thing I noticed in first person mode, lol. It becomes a glaring problem once the car chases begin and you kind of need to know where the guy trying to kill you is while driving.
 

Marley

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You should watch the GTA mythbusters series if you havent already, the level of minor details they worked into the game is incredible. (for example a cars exhaust pipes can ignite gasoline trails if it backfires) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvEp11B83wM&list=PLVSZoKmDBr8UdW2MjaDo5uZ8ESO68Bdrk
 

Errickfoxy

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This article makes me think about something I noticed last night while playing Sleeping Dogs. There's lot of detail and the shops look unique... but it was bothersome when I noticed the same Italian restaurant three times on the same street. Other storefronts were repeated on that street too, and not in the reasonable "Starbucks across the street from a Starbucks" sort of way. It was the only real marring detail to an otherwise beautiful Hong Kong.
 

Kahani

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TiberiusEsuriens said:
We're accustomed to thinking not just that things don't have to be as clean as a trade-off for simply rendering more things, but that things PHYSICALLY CAN'T look as good because there's simply too much to render or calculate. Rockstar has used GTA every few years to simply laugh at every other developer and say "That's not true at all."
Not really. There are plenty of games that look significantly better than GTA in various ways - most modern FPS games have far better character models, racing games generally have much more detailed cars not just in terms of graphics but also in handling, damage and so on. GTA5 certainly looks good for what it is, but it could easily have looked a hell of a lot better if they'd sacrificed scale for detail. Ultimately there can really be no sensible argument about it - if you spread your resources over more things, they won't get as much attention as if you focussed those same resources over fewer things. Until we hit the point of perfect photorealism where further gains are physically impossible, that is always going to be true. There will certainly be an issue with diminishing returns before then (and many would argue we're well past the point where the returns justify the extra effort), but as long as we're short of perfection finite resources will always force a compromise between scale and detail.
 

Steve the Pocket

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Makes me wonder why Rockstar doesn't just offer their engine to other developers to license. Hell, I wish every developer that went to the trouble of making their own engine offered it to license, but especially the ones that are undeniably amazing. An engine good enough at optimization to run an open world game should have no real shortcomings for any other genre either; at worst it might be overkill, and they could counter that by making their price flexible depending on what sort of game is being made with it.
 

CrystalShadow

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It's a difficult problem, absolutely.

But many of the technical features that allow an engine to do this and not fall flat on it's face come from flight sims.

While the level of detail in older sims maybe wasn't quite with it, we've had sims that allow free flight without loading across the entire planet since at least 2000, if not earlier.

The advantage a flight sim has is you rarely see that much stuff up close.
The disadvantages are numerous. You cannot really predict WHAT a player may be close to (and need to see in high detail) all that far in advance.

The viewing distances are insane. At a moderate altitude, you could need to render just about everything in a 30 km radius all at once.

There's rarely any obstacle large enough to block the field of view by much...

On the ground, the same general techniques kind of work, but you get other problems.
Typical viewing distances are much shorter, but the detail requirements for objects near the player shoot up dramatically.
Many more things can block the field of view (and reduce the rendering requirements), but in open worlds the end result is much less predictable performance.

It's definitely a very tricky thing to pull off without it ever failing...
 

Neurotic Void Melody

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Joabbuac said:
vun said:
TiberiusEsuriens said:
vun said:
Eh, it seemed to struggle quite a lot on the 360. Not seen it in action on the PS3, but the 360 version could've been made in powerpoint for the few frames it managed to squeeze out when moving around town. Not to mention pop-in that was about 5 minutes late to the party.
It's doing a LOT better on next gen, and undoubtedly will on PC too. Along with better performance, the upgraded version also greatly increases the amount of wildlife and pedestrian/vehicle traffic. (so you don't have to run around the entire city to find a car to jack)
Oh, I'm not saying it's not doing well on more recent hardware, but the 360/PS3 version, the one that got all the awards, is basically like a slideshow when you're driving anywhere.
Seemed pretty smooth on 360 to me... To say it looks "like a slideshow" is a total lie.
I have this on the 360 and it runs fine. Seems like either a faulty xbox or unnecessary naysaying, to me.

Marley said:
You should watch the GTA mythbusters series if you havent already, the level of minor details they worked into the game is incredible. (for example a cars exhaust pipes can ignite gasoline trails if it backfires) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvEp11B83wM&list=PLVSZoKmDBr8UdW2MjaDo5uZ8ESO68Bdrk
Yes, i agree, the wealth of tiny systems of detail is something to marvel. I'm i sucker for details and physics, which this game has me looking for most of the time. Even the ticking of the cars as the engine cools. Or the way that female pedestrians grow more on edge if you keep following them, just like how they react to me in life! *Nervous cough*
 

Elijah Newton

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Man, it's nice to see this article. Like Shamus I do similar detail hunts, trying to piece together how they handle texture mapping (my knowledge is amatuer hour at best and dated at that). More often I find myself in the ass-end of nowhere?

a) trying to figure out how on earth they justified this level of detail on parts of the map which probably won't ever be seen. I'm delighted / astounded they did it but there must've been some interesting goal-setting meetings on design.

and

b) wondering what their production cycle (or whatever it's properly named) was like to manage bringing together all the assets (models, textures, Q/A, revisions, etc) for something of this scope.

I'm open to any suggestions for how I could find this sort of thing out. It's purely idle curiosity on my part and, I dunno, is there some sort of industry publication around which details this kind of thing? (not to knock the Escapist, but neither it nor other game sites I'm aware of get into the nuts and bolts of things)
 

Zagzag

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Charcharo said:
How come a bunch of mostly drunk Ukrainians with a budget of 3 Adidas tracksuits are still unsurpassed in Video Game AI, warts and all?
Were we playing the same STALKER here? I love the games to bits, but I'd hardly say there's anything revolutionary in the AI.