Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Interaction Q&A

Our final interview with Rockstar details the level of player interaction that you can expect to find in the world of Vice City.

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With the release of Vice City only a few days away, anticipation for this sequel to last year's Grand Theft Auto III is at an all-time high. And it's easy to see why. Aside from being an incredibly fun and addictive game, GTAIII, with its living, breathing city, was also immensely immersive. The world of Liberty City was designed in a believable manner--people scurried along sidewalks, traffic clogged the city streets, and airplanes streaked across the sky. And yet, your character played an important role in Liberty City, as he was able to interact with almost anyone or anything that crossed his path. The designers at Rockstar are taking this kind of interactivity several steps further in Vice City. To find out exactly how, we sat down with the company's development director, Leslie Benzies.

GameSpot: We've seen Tommy in various outfits in previous coverage of the game. How exactly do the costume changes work? Can you just change at will?

Strangers will greet each other on sidewalks.
Strangers will greet each other on sidewalks.

Leslie Benzies: You are introduced very early to the concept of changing clothes, and as the game proceeds, the choices obviously become wider. I'm not going to tell you much more, but I will say that changing your clothes isn't just a hygiene thing, and it may be the '80s, but it isn't always pure vanity either.

GS: It's been reported previously that gunfire can flatten tires in the game. How does this affect a vehicle's handling? Do different surfaces (grass, sand, and so on) have an impact on a car's handling?

LB: Have you ever tried to drive a car with the tires shot out? It really affects the handling. The car is much slower and more difficult to manage--not ideal for an escape vehicle. Driving on different surfaces also affects the way the vehicle handles. For example, driving on the beach is scenic, but it will slow you down.

GS: Grand Theft Auto III's radio commercials were full of fake Web sites for the products and services invented for the game. Since we're talking about 1986, you can't really get away with having a ton of URLs related to the game. Is there anything in the game that replaces the concept of fake Web pages?

LB: Of course.

GS: With so many objects in the world to interact with, what does it take to balance and test a game this large prior to its release?

LB: A lot of time and a lot of work! Obviously we have to test all the game scenarios hundreds of times, but also every inch of the city has to be covered. Imagine getting in and out of every car a thousand times, talking to every pedestrian, hitting every wall, knocking over every lamppost, and shooting every object hundreds of times and you will start to get an idea. Luckily, we have a lot of very good people who don't need much sleep!

Wild in the Streets

GS: Obviously, you can buy weapons from Ammunation. Can you buy things from other stores? Can you give us some examples?

LB: Definitely. Vice City has a selection of retail outlets, and there are plenty of things to spend your hard earned cash on. For example, I'm sure you've seen some of the tools, like the hammer and the screwdriver. These shouldn't be too hard to pick up around town.

GS: Do the inhabitants of Vice City speak to one another?

LB: Oh yes, the inhabitants of Vice City are very vocal with one another. They like to pass the time of day, talk about the weather, and hurl insults at one another constantly. One of the things we really felt made Liberty City come to life were the pedestrians and their interactions with one another. In Vice City, the pedestrians are even more chatty, and there is an enormous amount of pedestrian comments, so you are always hearing new things as you walk by them or see them talking to each other in the street. It really brings out the humor of Grand Theft Auto and gives the city its own life, since they talk to one another whether or not you are listening. What the people say also reflects the city and the era they are living in. The things they say and they way they speak is very '80s, and it ranges from bubblegum sweet to dark and twisted.

A flat tire can ruin anyone's day.
A flat tire can ruin anyone's day.

GS: Apart from among those who move in the Vercetti circles, is there much crime in Vice City? Do regular pedestrians commit crimes?

LB: Crime is rife in Vice City. It may seem like a sunny, beautiful, and pleasant place to spend time, but if you hang out on the streets for a while, it won't be long before you witness the aggression that these people feel toward one another. Fights break out in the street on a regular basis, and carjackings are the latest craze--everyone's into it. But regular people don't get away with crime. The cops will chase them, too.

GS: We noticed that while you are inside the hotel lobby, for example, you could look out the window and see what's going on outside. So the interiors aren't a completely separate, cut-off environments? The world of Vice City still exists outside?

LB: Yes, it's really important that Vice City feels like a living, breathing city, and that when you go inside you aren't completely cut off from the environment you just came from. It's not a totally separate, artificial environment that loads. We wanted the interior environments to still feel like they are a part of Vice City and connected to the world outside, so life still goes on while you are inside, and the pedestrians still talk to each other, chase each other, beat each other up, take each other's cars, crash their own cars, and generally go about their business while you are inside.

GS: How hard was this to do?

LB: Very. Because basically everything is happening all the time. Nothing ever stops.

GS: We've heard that there are more than 8,000 pedestrian comments. Which one is your favorite?

LB: That is an impossible question to answer. Everyone will have his or her own, and mine changes on a daily basis.

GS: Thanks for your time, Leslie.

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