Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Physics Q&A

We talk to Rockstar senior programmer Alex Roger about the physics engine in the forthcoming Vice City.


Grand Theft Auto fans who are looking to get another fix of a life of simulated crime are waiting with bated breath for the late-October release of Vice City. The game takes the car-stealing, drug-running, and mayhem-causing gameplay from the original Grand Theft Auto III and infuses it into a 1980s Miami. It's enough to make Don Johnson proud. But Vice City won't be the same old GTAIII in a new setting. Nearly every aspect of Grand Theft Auto III--from updated graphics to a larger arsenal--is being revamped for this sequel. The same goes for the physics engine, the abstract piece of technology that made the simple act of driving cars so much fun in the last game. How will the changes in GTAIII's physics affect Vice City's gameplay? We sat down with Alexander Roger, a senior programmer at Rockstar North, to find out.

With some fancy driving, you'll be able to pop cars over on two wheels in Vice City.
With some fancy driving, you'll be able to pop cars over on two wheels in Vice City.

GameSpot: Will gamers notice any changes between the car physics in Vice City and those in Grand Theft Auto III?

Alexander Roger: Hopefully they will. The car physics have actually changed quite a bit since Grand Theft Auto III to accommodate the handling characteristics of a much wider range of vehicles and to suit the new levels and driving conditions of Vice City. In addition, new maneuvers, such as driving along on two wheels, are now possible, thanks to the improved physics model.

GS: What has been done to the game's water and boat physics? Will boats factor more heavily into the game, given the game's seaside locale?

AR: One of the biggest differences from Grand Theft Auto III is in the wider range of boats available to the player, so the water and boat physics were redesigned to permit different styles of boats. The other target was to make the boats much more responsive and maneuverable, to take into account the varied waterways and range of boat missions available in Vice City. The result is that the boats and the areas of water available on the map are much more fun to play with and have become a much more integral part of the game.

GS: How much will the character physics change from the previous game?

AR: The character physics have now been updated to work with the new skinned animation system. This has enabled us both to increase the range of abilities available to the character, as well as improve the accuracy of many aspects of the gameplay, such as weapon-hit detection.

GS: To scale, how far will the main character be able to jump this time?

AR: The same as in Grand Theft Auto III, really. The player can jump approximately 5.5m horizontally and 1.1m vertically.

GS: And how fast will the fastest car go?

AR: Approximately 211kph (131mph) on the flat, though one of the motorbikes can go faster if you're good at riding it.

Slam the motorcycle's brakes too hard, and you'll be eating an asphalt sandwich.
Slam the motorcycle's brakes too hard, and you'll be eating an asphalt sandwich.

GS: Will there be many insane stunts? What kinds of crazy car physics will we see here? Flips? Spins?

AR: All the stunts available in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City are produced directly as a result of collisions and the physics engine, so any stunts are really down to what the player can manage given the layout of the map. I'm sure there are plenty of new combos to be found!

GS: How will motorcycles control compared to cars? Will the cycles be looser and faster?

AR: In general the big motorbikes are pretty fast compared to your average car, as you would expect, though not necessarily in terms of normal top speed. The primary advantage of bikes, however, comes from an increased level of control in terms of balance and grip, and the ability to fit through narrow gaps. On the other hand, the player is much more vulnerable than when protected in a car, so bikes require a higher degree of skill to use to their full potential. As with the cars, there's a large range of abilities across the bikes available in Vice City, and they each have their own specific strengths.

GS: Sounds great. Thanks for your time, Alexander.

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