"Way Beyond Anything We've Done Before": Building The World Of "Grand Theft Auto V"
On Sept. 17, gamers will finally get to explore Rockstar Games' latest gargantuan open world. How the hell did a studio in Edinburgh build the most ambitious digital recreation of Southern California ever attempted? To find out, we asked Aaron Garbut, the man behind the look and feel of every modern Grand Theft Auto.
Even elements like the radio and their ads have an influence on the map. We have just kept layering detail, variety, and depth over the world. It's an interesting and exciting thing for me: Creating a brand-new environment but ensuring it has the sense of place and history and layering to feel right. We've tried to push exploration in a way that we've never managed before. It's always been a feature of the game and it's always been very much front and center in our minds when we've built the worlds, but we've just never had the ability to go as far as we've done this time. We've really pushed verticality. Most blocks are fully accessible from ground or roof, and you can climb around them and get between lots of the buildings at roof level. It adds an entirely different aspect to the game. The GTA games have always been, to me, at least as much about past cultural representations of a place as about that place itself. What are the cultural and imaginative representations of California (whether in movies, fine art, music, street art, etc.) that are/were important to you and your team? And how do those influences express themselves in GTA V? AG: I've always felt we base our games on the way a place lives in your head rather than the real place, the way it feels in your memory after you've left it, where it mixes in with art, TV, music, and films you've seen. Where it stops being glass and tarmac and instead becomes something more, something less tangible but far more visceral. Where it's more about the emotions the place stirs in you, the ones that a film or a piece of music could have planted there. I don't think I can narrow that down into specifics. For me at least, the world we've built is a huge melting pot of ideas and imagery that have come from literally everywhere and anywhere.