It's been a long road, but Grand Theft Auto V is finally coming to PCs next week. As well as the requisite improved graphics we all expect from the PC version, Rockstar is throwing some new features into the game, including a ton of visual options and a host of new additions and improvements to the editor mode.
We spoke to the team at Rockstar North to find out more about the PC version, including why there was such a huge focus on making the game run at 4K resolutions, why the PC version always lags behind consoles, their thoughts on modding, and more. Answering our questions are Phil Hooker (director of technology), Klaas Schilstra (director of engineering), Adam Fowler (technical director), John Macpherson (lead gameplay designer, Rockstar Toronto), and Alex Hadjadj (technical director: graphics).
The team has taken some extra time to finish the game for PCs. What areas were you focusing on most?
Rockstar North: Our focus was to make the game run well on a wide range of hardware so that as many people could experience the game as possible. In order to do that we spent a lot of time working on making various different aspects of the game scalable and accessible to the player. There are over 25 parameters you can tweak that can optimize graphics and performance. The game will automatically optimize the settings for your hardware when you first start it up, but you have a great deal of freedom.
The Rockstar editor is another huge addition that required opening up large parts of the game for manipulation by the player, and separate from that we had to pay specific attention to keyboard and mouse controls across all of the various gameplay mechanics and also to making everything play and feel right at 60fps.
What have you been able to do with the PC version that simply wasn't possible with consoles? Visuals are obviously one area, but are there others people may not immediately notice?
Alex Hadjadj: It really comes down to the overall experience and the customizability we are offering the player. The most striking aspect is the ability to run the game at 60 frames per second, and to view the game in 4k resolution. Other improvements are more subtle--the addition of the population density slider means players can alter the traffic population of the city. Also, when pushing settings at the high end, a lot of the effects in the game, like reflections, skins or depth of field are more subtle and realistic than on console versions.
Why was it important to get the game running at 4K 60fps, given its likely only a small percentage of the audience will be able to run it at this resolution?
We want to deliver something for all different kinds of PC players, from those with modest rigs right up to the hard core who immerse themselves in really high end systems. It is a fun challenge for us and it is well worth it as the game looks absolutely stunning.
Do you think PC GTA players have different expectations than console ones? What do you think players who only play on PC are looking for?
PC players want the freedom to set their game up in a way that maximizes the opportunities their system provides, so the main thing we have focused on is flexibility, with a lot of graphical and control options so people can customise the game and play it as they want.
Specific to the PC edition of GTA V is the Rockstar Editor, but we still don't know a lot about it. Can you walk us through it?
John Macpherson: The Rockstar editor in GTA V is a massive expansion from the video editor we had in GTA IV. The GTA community is incredibly creative and we wanted to give them a much more advanced set of tools to work with. With the Rockstar editor in GTA V, players can capture and manipulate game footage at will.
We’ve increased the number of options available so that players can manipulate film speed, depth of field, different kinds of camera positioning and the various blends between them, filters, and more. We have also expanded the ways that players can manipulate sound on their movies. Within the editor, players can add and edit multiple radio tracks to a single video, choosing from the huge range of score composed for the game as well select songs from the GTA V soundtrack and even in-game advertisements.
On top of all these additions to the editor is director mode. This gives players the opportunity to play and record their own scenes using any actor from GTA V including story and Heist crew characters, people on the street and even animals. As you play through the GTA V story, more and more character options will open up for you to use. You can also get them to speak specific lines of dialog or perform contextual actions, opening the door for amazing possibilities. You will also have control over details like time of day and weather, "Wanted" status and pedestrian density. Some of the classic cheats will open up too, bringing a ton of cinematic possibilities.
Once you’re finished, you can now share your videos directly to YouTube, and we will be working to support community creations through events and contests.
Can players expect GTA V DLC/updates to be released simultaneously across PC and console?
We plan to deliver updates to PC and consoles simultaneously. There can be occasional variations in timing based on specifics from one console to another but PC will not be on a separate timetable to other platforms.
Generally, why is it that GTA games for PC historically launch after the console versions? Is it Rockstar's long-term goal to eventually release GTA games across console and PC simultaneously?
It comes down to bandwidth. We want each version of the game to be the best it can possibly be, and that means having the core members of the original GTA V team working closely with the best PC developers from across all Rockstar studios--the same crew that did great work on the PC versions of Max Payne 3, L.A. Noire and GTA IV. Essentially, a large portion of the team that worked on GTA V for PS3 and Xbox 360 also worked on the PS4 and Xbox One versions and all of the GTA Online content, including Heists. Since the new generation console versions and the PC version share similar architecture, the team also continued to work on the PC version. With each version adding features and requiring the focus of the same key people, that takes time. However, the result is a PC version that draws from a huge pool of knowledge inside the team to deliver a game of the highest possible quality in every way. We’re really excited for people to play GTA V on PC, it is the ultimate version of an amazing game.
GTA V made big strides in terms of presentation with the first-person mode; but now that it's coming to PC, what are your thoughts about gamers creating an Oculus Rift VR mod? Is this something Rockstar has experimented with internally?
VR is an exciting technology but we don’t have any plans to support it right now. We will however, be supporting 3D from day one.
The team at Rockstar North has now been working on GTA V for 5+ years; what keeps you enthusiastic about the project this long after you started working on it?
We released GTA V on PS3 and Xbox 360 18 months ago and since then we have extended GTA Online multiple times, released builds on PS4 and Xbox One and are about to release the PC version. If we had been doing straight ports of GTA V, I don’t think it would have been as much fun for the teams. But in the last 18 months with each release we have been adding major new content and features. First person changed how we viewed the game. Heists was a major new online component. I’m really excited to see what the GTA community can do with the Rockstar editor. And with each release the visual look of the game has improved drastically, you can’t not get excited when you see the game running on a 4k screen at 60fps.
Modding took off for GTA IV PC. What are you doing to support modding for V? Is there anything within the game that supports it?
Since GTA Online has such a massive and vibrant community, our primary focus is making sure that nothing detracts from that experience or has a negative impact on the overall community of players.