Development of Grand Theft Auto V

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The development of Grand Theft Auto V began after Grand Theft Auto IV's release in April 2008. Rockstar Games released Grand Theft Auto V on 17 September 2013 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, on 18 November 2014 for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and on 14 April 2015 for Microsoft Windows, as the fifteenth entry in the Grand Theft Auto series. Their flagship Scottish studio Rockstar North oversaw the work, sharing it with other studios around the world. The development team considered the game a spiritual successor to many of their previous projects like Red Dead Redemption and Max Payne 3. Grand Theft Auto V was unexpectedly announced in 2011; it was heavily promoted and widely anticipated.

Rockstar overhauled their proprietary Rockstar Advanced Game Engine (RAGE) to increase its draw distance rendering capabilities. The game uses the Euphoria and Bullet engines for further animation and environment rendering tasks. The developers tried to use all of the potential power of both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, having become familiar with the systems' architectures over several years. The development team conducted extensive field research in Southern California while creating the game's open world, set in and around Los Santos, a fictionalised depiction of Los Angeles.

Grand Theft Auto V is the first game in the series that allows players to control three protagonists, to distinguish the game from its predecessors and let players explore the open world with fewer constraints. The team used motion capture to record the facial and body movements of the characters. Like previous games in the series, Grand Theft Auto V has an in-game radio that can tune into fifteen stations playing more than 241 tracks of licensed music, as well as two talk radio stations. The game also features an original score composed over many years by a team of five music producers.


Rumours and announcement[edit]

During an earnings call in September 2009, Take-Two Interactive's CEO Strauss Zelnick was asked about Grand Theft Auto V, the purported next game in the Grand Theft Auto series. He replied:

"We're not going to announce it, we're not going to announce when we are going to announce it, and we are not going to announce a strategy about announcing it or about when we are going to announce it either, or about the announcement strategy surrounding the announcement of the strategy."[1]

That November, vice president of Rockstar Games Dan Houser discussed with The Times his work on the series and the process that would be undertaken for the next Grand Theft Auto game. He expressed plans to co-write a thousand-page script and said that, when developing a new game, the company typically created a city and then from that developed the lead cast.[2][3] In July 2010, Rockstar North posted seven job advertisements related to a new title. The company wanted to recruit environment artists, physics programmers and character animators—the latter advertisement asked for recruits with "professional experience developing a third person action game". Some journalists wrote that the job listing was indicative of Grand Theft Auto V's existence.[4] In June 2011, anonymous sources allegedly close to the developer told GameSpot that the title was "well under way", with a release date likely in 2012.[5]

Rockstar Games first confirmed the game's existence on 25 October 2011 in an announcement on its official website and Twitter feed.[6] The share price of the publisher's parent company Take-Two Interactive subsequently increased seven percent.[7] Journalists said that the announcement of Grand Theft Auto V ignited significant anticipation within the gaming industry, which they ascribed to the cultural significance of the Grand Theft Auto series.[8][9][10]


The game was extensively marketed through video trailers and press demonstrations. On 3 November, a week after the game's announcement, the debut trailer was released. It is narrated by one of the protagonists, Michael De Santa (Ned Luke), and depicts the open world accompanied by the song "Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake" by English rock band Small Faces.[11] A press release published the same day confirmed that the game would be set in an open world recreation of Southern California—including the city of Los Santos, a fictionalised depiction of Los Angeles.[12] Almost a year later, Game Informer magazine ran a cover story on Grand Theft Auto V for their December 2012 issue.[13] Rockstar intended to release the game's second promotional trailer on 2 November. However, these plans were hampered by Hurricane Sandy, which cut power supplies to Rockstar's New York offices.[14] The trailer was eventually released on 14 November; it introduces the lead protagonists' back-stories and features the song "Skeletons" by American musician Stevie Wonder.[15]

To unveil the game's cover art, Rockstar contracted artists to paint a mural on a wall in Manhattan, New York on 31 March 2013,[16] followed by the artwork's digital release on 2 April.[17] The artwork showed English model Shelby Welinder portraying a blonde beach-goer.[18] Three trailers were released on 26 April, each focusing on one of the game's protagonists—Michael De Santa, Franklin Clinton and Trevor Philips. The songs "Radio Ga Ga" by English band Queen, "Hood Gone Love It" by American rapper Jay Rock and "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way" by American musician Waylon Jennings are used in the Michael, Franklin and Trevor trailers respectively.[19]

A trailer released on 9 July 2013 features Grand Theft Auto V's first gameplay footage. It demonstrates the shooting and driving mechanics and the player's ability to instantaneously swap between characters.[20] The game's online multiplayer mode Grand Theft Auto Online was unveiled in a trailer released on 15 August. The video displayed activities from the mode, including bank heists, small robberies, "traditional" game modes, purchase of property and bicycle-riding.[21][22] The final pre-launch trailer was released on 29 August; it was intended to be a television advertisement.[23] The song "Sleepwalking" by American band The Chain Gang of 1974 was used in this trailer.[24]

Viral marketing strategies were used to promote the game. Visitors to the website of The Epsilon Program—a fictional religious cult within the Grand Theft Auto universe—were offered a chance to register for that group. After filling in an online membership form, the terms and conditions revealed that the site was a casting call for five people to appear in Grand Theft Auto V as members of the fictional cult.[25][26] The official Grand Theft Auto V website was redesigned on 13 August 2013 to show a preview of activities and locales within the game's world and an examination of the lead protagonists' stories.[27] More information was released on the website on 24 August,[28] 6 September,[29] and 13 September.[30]

To encourage pre-order sales, Rockstar collaborated with several retail outlets to provide special edition versions of the game. The "Special Edition" includes a unique case packaging, a game map and unlock codes for additional content in the single-player and multiplayer modes.[31] The publisher also collaborated with Sony to release a 500 GB PlayStation 3 console, which includes a copy of the game, a 30-day trial membership for the PlayStation Plus service and a set of Grand Theft Auto V-branded headphones.[32] All pre-orders of the game granted the purchaser an access code for the Atomic Blimp, the in-game aircraft.[31] GameStop also held a promotional raffle for the game, wherein customers had a chance to win an actual Bravado Banshee sports car (the game's counterpart of the Dodge Viper). Rockstar collaborated with West Coast Customs to build the vehicle.[33]

Editions of Grand Theft Auto V[34]
Features Standard Special Edition Collector's Edition Re-release
Game disc Yes Yes Yes Yes
Access to Atomic Blimp Pre-order only Pre-order only Pre-order only Yes
Steelbook with "V" logo artwork No Yes Yes No
Blueprint map (Los Santos and Blaine County) No Yes Yes No
Special ability boost No Yes Yes No
Stunt plane trials No Yes Yes Yes
Bonus outfits, tattoos, etc. No Yes Yes Yes
Additional weapons No Yes Yes Yes
Security deposit bag No No Yes No
Grand Theft Auto V key No No Yes No
New Era cap No No Yes No
Custom Grand Theft Auto Online characters No No Yes Yes
Unique vehicles and garage property No No Yes Yes
Rockstar Editor No No No Yes

Shortly after the game's release, an application called iFruit was released for iOS devices; this allows players to customise vehicles, create custom license plates and teach Franklin's dog Chop new tricks, which unlocks additional in-game abilities.[35] Upon its launch, some users reported problems connecting to the application's servers;[36] these problems were resolved with an update on 25 September 2013.[37] iFruit was released for Android on 29 October,[38] and for Windows Phone devices on 19 November.[39]

Delays and leak[edit]

Grand Theft Auto V did not meet its original projected release date of March–May 2013. By 30 October 2012, promotional posters had spread to the Internet and a listing by the retailer Game had leaked the projected release date.[40][41] Rockstar announced that day that the game's release was scheduled for Q2 2013, and the company began accepting pre-orders on 5 November 2012.[42] On 31 January 2013, the company announced the game's release date had been postponed until 17 September of that year. "It simply needs a little more polish to be of the standard we and, more importantly, you require", Rockstar stated in a press release.[43] It was released in Japan on 10 October 2013.[44] The Microsoft Windows version, initially announced at E3 2014 as scheduled for simultaneous release with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions, was delayed three times: first to 27 January 2015,[45] later to 24 March 2015,[46] and again to 14 April 2015.[47] According to Rockstar, the game required extra development time for "polishing".[45][46][47]

On 23 August 2013, reports said that some European PlayStation 3 users who had pre-ordered Grand Theft Auto V were able to download parts of the game, including its soundtrack and some character dialogue.[48][49] Details of the game were leaked later that day and on following days before Sony removed the pre-order file from the European PlayStation Network and released an official apology to Rockstar and its fans.[50][51] In response, Rockstar stated it was "deeply disappointed by leaks and spoilers being spread in advance of the game's launch".[52]



The player character parachuting in a mountainous valley. Light particles, reflections and shadow effects are clearly visible.
Development was conducted on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 systems simultaneously. Overhauling the Rockstar Advanced Game Engine allowed the developers to render particle effects with greater detail than in Grand Theft Auto IV.

Preliminary work on Grand Theft Auto V began on Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360,[53][54] shortly after the release of Grand Theft Auto IV in April 2008,[55] but later gave way to focus more on the consoles before returning greater focus to the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows versions.[53][54] Rockstar North, the core 360-person team behind the game, co-opted studios owned by parent company Rockstar Games to facilitate development between a full team of over 1,000.[56] These included Rockstar San Diego, Rockstar Leeds, Rockstar Toronto, Rockstar New England, and Rockstar London.[57] Technical director Adam Fowler said that, while development was shared between studios in different countries, the process involved close collaboration between the core team and others. This was necessary because many mechanics in the game work in tandem, which would have created difficulties if studios did not communicate with each other.[58]

Like other projects since Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis (2006), the game uses the proprietary Rockstar Advanced Game Engine (RAGE) to perform animation and rendering tasks, and the Euphoria and Bullet engines for further animation and environment rendering tasks.[59][60] By 25 August 2013, development of Grand Theft Auto V stopped as the game was submitted for manufacturing.[61] Media analyst Arvind Bhatia estimated the development budget for the game exceeded US$137 million,[62] and The Scotsman reporter Marty McLaughlin estimated that the combined budget of the development and marketing efforts exceeded GB£170 million (US $265 million), making Grand Theft Auto V the most expensive video game ever made.[63]

The team found they could render the game world with greater detail than in Grand Theft Auto IV because they had become familiar with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360's hardware. Art director Aaron Garbut said that while the ageing hardware of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 were tiring to work with, the team were able to render lighting and shadows in detail while "maintain[ing] a consistent look".[64] Vice president Dan Houser agreed with this statement and felt that working on Grand Theft Auto IV with relatively new hardware was difficult, but added, "now we know what the hardware's capable of, so it's become a lot easier to move things along and a lot more fun, too".[65] The PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions fit onto one Blu-Ray Disc; Xbox 360 copies of the game are distributed on two DVD discs and require an 8 GB installation on the HDD or external storage device;[66] while the Microsoft Windows version takes up seven DVD disks.[67] The team asserted that any differences between the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions would be negligible.[68]

Design goals[edit]

Grand Theft Auto V's multiple protagonist design was envisioned to improve the series core mechanics. The team sought to innovate game storytelling and negate stale familiarity by not evolving the gameplay's core structure.[69] "We didn't want to do the same thing over again", said Houser.[13] The idea was first raised during San Andreas's development, but contemporaneous hardware restrictions made it infeasible.[70] Garbut explained, "It didn't work from a tech point of view because the three characters need three times as much memory, three types of animation, and so on".[71] After Grand Theft Auto IV's release, the team developed The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony, episodic content packages that followed new protagonists. The three interwoven stories received positive remarks, so the team structured Grand Theft Auto V around this model.[72]

A single-player story revolving around three lead protagonists was one of Grand Theft Auto V's earliest design objectives. Garbut felt that such a deviation from the gameplay's core structure was a risk, and recalled team concern that a departure from Grand Theft Auto's traditional, single lead character set-up "might backfire".[73] Early game conceptualisations would have told three separate stories through different protagonists. Later, Grand Theft Auto IV's stories inspired the concept that story trajectories would meet throughout the game. Eventually, the concept evolved into three interconnected stories that intertwined through the game missions.[74] According to Benzies, the team made the multiple character formula "integral to the structure of the gameplay as well as the narrative".[75] Houser opined that Grand Theft Auto V is their "strongest plotted game because the characters are so intertwined" and that the "meeting points [between the characters' stories] are very exciting".[76]

Grand Theft Auto V's central story theme is the "pursuit of the almighty dollar".[77] Missions follow the lead characters' efforts to plan and execute complicated heists to accrue wealth for themselves. The team focused on money as the central theme in response to the 2007–08 financial crisis, as its effects turn the main characters back to a life of crime.[78] "We wanted this post-crash feeling, because it works thematically in this game about bank robbers", Houser explained.[79] The positive reaction to Grand Theft Auto IV's "Three Leaf Clover" mission—in which an elaborate heist is coordinated and executed by lead protagonist Niko Bellic and accomplices—encouraged the team to develop the story around the heists.[80] Houser said that while "Three Leaf Clover" was well-received, the team had not captured the thrill of the robbery to their best abilities and wanted Grand Theft Auto V to achieve it. He explained, "We wanted to have a couple of really strong bank robberies ... It felt like that was a good device that we'd never used in the past. Repeating ourselves is a fear when we're doing games where part of the evolution is just technological".[81]

Research and open world design[edit]

Initial work on Grand Theft Auto V constituted the open world creation, where preliminary models were constructed in-engine during pre-production.[73] The game's setting is the fictional U.S. state of San Andreas and city of Los Santos, based on Southern California and Los Angeles respectively.[82] San Andreas was first used as Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas's setting, which featured three cities separated by open countryside. The team thought that the ambition of including three cities in San Andreas was too great as it did not emulate the cities as well as they had hoped.[83] Houser felt that "to do a proper version of L.A. ... the game has to give you a sense of that sprawl—if not completely replicate it", and that dividing the budget and manpower between multiple cities would have detracted from capturing "what L.A. is".[13] Garbut said that PlayStation 2 era technology lacked the technical capabilities to capture Los Angeles properly, such that San Andreas's rendition of Los Santos looked like a "backdrop or a game level with pedestrians randomly milling about".[13] The team disregarded San Andreas as a departure point for Grand Theft Auto V because they had moved on to a new generation of consoles and wanted to build the city from scratch. According to Garbut, with the move to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 hardware, "our processes and the fidelity of the world [had] evolved so much from San Andreas" that using it as a model would have been redundant.[13] The team's focus on one city instead of three meant that they could produce Los Santos in higher quality and at greater scale than in the previous game.[13]

The summit of an in-game mountain with eight billboards displaying letters spelling out the word "Vinewood"
Having conducted field research throughout Los Angeles during development, the team reproduced landmarks such as the Hollywood Sign, depicted in-game as the Vinewood Sign.

Los Angeles was extensively researched for the game. The team organised field research trips with tour guides and architectural historians, and captured around 250,000 photographs and many hours of video footage.[64] Houser said, "We spoke to FBI agents that have been undercover, experts in the Mafia, street gangsters who know the slang—we even went to see a proper prison". He considered the open world's research and creation the most demanding aspects of the game's production.[55] Google Maps and Street View projections of Los Angeles were used by the team to help design Los Santos's road networks.[84] The team studied virtual globe models of the city, census data and documentaries to recreate its geographical and demographic spread.[13] The team opted to condense the city's spread into an area that players could comfortably traverse, and captured "the essence of what's really there in a city, but in a far smaller area", according to Houser.[85] The New Yorker's Sam Sweet opined that the "exhaustive field work ... wasn't conducted to document a living space. Rather, it was collected to create an extremely realistic version of a Los Angeles that doesn't actually exist. The map of Los Santos is familiar but its contents are condensed".[86] Garbut noted that Los Angeles was used merely as a starting point and that the team were not "dictated by reality" while building Los Santos.[73]

Research for the game took the team to California's rural regions; Garbut recalled a visit he took with Houser to Bombay Beach that inspired them to set Trevor's initial story against the Salton Sea, known as "Sandy Shores" in the game.[73] The open world includes vast tracts of countryside around the city proper.[87] The team wanted a large world without open, empty spaces, and condensed Southern California's countryside into a diverse and detailed playing space.[64] The game world covers 49 square miles (130 km2)—about an eightieth of Los Angeles County.[86] Its scale is greater than Rockstar's previous open world games; Garbut estimated it is large enough to fit San Andreas, Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption's worlds combined inside.[76] To accommodate the world's size, the team overhauled the RAGE to improve its draw distance rendering capabilities.[13] The large, open space necessitated the re-introduction of fixed-wing aircraft, omitted from Grand Theft Auto IV because of its relatively smaller scale.[88] "We wanted somewhere big [to let players] fly properly", Houser explained.[72] The team populated the world with wildlife; lead producer Leslie Benzies felt that "because of the scale of the map and the different kinds of areas involved, a countryside without animals would feel quite hollow".[75]

Gameplay design[edit]

The development team found that players experienced greater freedom when controlling three characters in missions. Lead mission designer Imran Sarwar felt they opened up more strategic manoeuvres. He cited a combat scenario where Michael sets up at a sniper outpost and provides covering fire for Trevor, who makes a frontal assault on the enemy position while Franklin manipulates flank points.[89] Benzies felt that character switching streamlines the interplay between free roam and linear mission gameplay, as it eliminates San Andreas's cumbersome long distance drives to mission start points. Players may "explore the whole map without having to worry about the long drive back", according to Benzies.[75] Houser noted the mechanic's use during missions negated long drives as well.[13] The open world's dynamic mission content is a feature borrowed from Red Dead Redemption, where it was received positively. Dynamic missions present themselves while players explore the open world, and may be accepted or ignored. The team implemented dynamic content all throughout the open world. In Los Santos for example, players may encounter an armoured van and try to intercept it to steal its contents.[13]

The team overhauled the game's shooting and driving mechanics to match the standards of its contemporaries. Public reception to the team's previous games (such as Grand Theft Auto IV, Red Dead Redemption and Max Payne 3) was considered during the process.[90][91] To increase the pace of shootouts, the team removed hard locking—a central mechanic in Grand Theft Auto IV that instantly locks onto the enemy nearest to the crosshair. Associate technical director Phil Hooker found hard locking "too disorientating" and immersion-breaking, "as you didn't have to think about enemy locations".[92] He said that Grand Theft Auto IV players "just rely on holding and shooting until a target is dead", so Grand Theft Auto V introduces a timer that breaks the lock on a target after a few seconds.[92] The team refined Red Dead Redemption's cover system for the game, with increased fluidity moving into and out of cover.[92] Regarding the reworked vehicle mechanics,[91] Houser felt the game took influence from racing games and corrected Grand Theft Auto IV's "boat-like” driving controls.[13]

Character development[edit]

The team wrote each character to embody a game protagonist archetype; Michael embodies greed, Franklin ambition and Trevor insanity. Houser felt Michael and Trevor were written to juxtapose each other, with Michael "like the criminal who wants to compartmentalise and be a good guy some of the time" and Trevor "the maniac who isn't a hypocrite".[65] He considered that the three lead characters helped move Grand Theft Auto V's story into more original territory than its predecessors, which traditionally followed a single protagonist rising through the ranks of a criminal underworld.[65] Ned Luke portrayed Michael, Shawn "Solo" Fonteno portrayed Franklin and Steven Ogg portrayed Trevor. Fonteno first became aware of the acting job through his friend DJ Pooh, who worked on San Andreas and was involved in Grand Theft Auto V's music production.[93] When Luke's agent advised him of the casting call for Grand Theft Auto V, he initially did not want to audition for the part because it was in a video game. After reading the audition material and learning more about the project, he became interested. He reflected, "I went immediately after reading the material from 'I'm not doing it' to 'nobody else is doing it'. It was just brilliant".[93] During the initial audition process, Ogg noticed an on-set chemistry between him and Luke, which he felt helped secure them the roles.[94] "When [Luke] and I went in the room together we immediately had something", he explained.[95] While the actors knew their auditions were for Rockstar Games, it was not until they signed contracts that they learnt it was a Grand Theft Auto title.[93]

Work for the actors began in 2010.[93] Their performances were mostly recorded using motion capture technology.[83] Dialogue for scenes with characters seated in vehicles was recorded in studios.[96] Because the actors had their dialogue and movements recorded on-set, they found their performances no different to film or television roles. Their dialogue was scripted such that they could not ad-lib; however they sometimes made small changes to the performance with directorial approval.[96] To prepare for his role as Michael, Luke gained 25 pounds and studied Rockstar's previous games, starting with Grand Theft Auto IV. He considered Michael's characterisation to be an amalgamation of Hugh Beaumont's portrayal of Ward Cleaver in the American sitcom Leave It to Beaver (1957–63) and Al Pacino's portrayal of Tony Montana in the 1983 film Scarface.[93]

Ogg felt Trevor's characterisation developed over time. He said, "Nuances and character traits that began to appear—his walk, his manner of speech, his reactions, definitely informed his development throughout the game".[95] Ogg cites Tom Hardy's depiction of English criminal Charles Bronson in the 2008 biopic Bronson as a strong stylistic influence.[95] He opined that while Trevor embodies the violent, psychopathic Grand Theft Auto anti-hero archetype, he wanted to evoke player sympathy to Trevor's story. "To elicit other emotions was tough, and it was the biggest challenge and it's something that meant a lot to me", Ogg explained.[93] Fonteno felt that growing up in South Los Angeles and being exposed to drug trafficking and gang culture authenticated his portrayal of Franklin. "I lived his life before ... He's been surrounded by drugs, the crime, living with his aunt—I lived with my grandmother—so there was a lot of familiarity", Fonteno said.[93] Having not worked as an actor since portraying Face in the 2001 film The Wash, he sought counsel from Luke and Ogg to refine his acting skills.[93]

Music production[edit]

Grand Theft Auto V is the first game in the series to use an original score.[97] Music supervisor Ivan Pavlovich commented that creating the score was "daunting" because it would be unprecedented for a Grand Theft Auto game.[98] Like most previous games in the series, Grand Theft Auto V also contains licensed music tracks provided by an in-game radio. Pavlovich said the team did not want the original music to detract from the use of licensed music, but rather to accompany it.[99] To work on the score, Rockstar engaged The Alchemist, Oh No and Tangerine Dream with Woody Jackson, who had collaborated with the team on Red Dead Redemption, L.A. Noire (2011) and Max Payne 3.[100] In collaboration with each other, the team of producers composed twenty hours of music which scores the game's missions.[101] In addition, music plays dynamically throughout the game in both the single-player and multiplayer modes.[72] Pavlovich felt that at times, Rockstar gave the team missions to score but that some of the team's music composed for no specific purpose influenced other missions and provided inspiration for further score development. He described a "stem-based" system that was used to make the music fit dynamic factors in the game; after a piece of music was assigned to a particular mission, the team composed music to underscore outcomes the player could make after completing it.[98]

Flying Lotus (left), Nate Williams and Stephen Pope of Wavves (top right), and DJ Pooh (bottom right) in a recording studio working on Grand Theft Auto V's music

Early in the game's development, the music team were shown an early build of the game before working on the score. Their work was mostly complete later in the game's development but they continued composing until the final build of the game had to be submitted for manufacturing. Edgar Froese, Tangerine Dream's founding member, was not initially interested in being involved in producing music for the game. After he was flown to the studio and shown Grand Theft Auto V, he was impressed by the game's scale and cinematic nature, and changed his mind. Froese's first eight months of work on the score produced 62 hours of music.[98] He recorded with Tangerine Dream in Austria but further work was conducted at Jackson's studio in the United States, which The Alchemist and Oh No also used.[99] Jackson learnt that the composers would be building on each other's work and expressed concern that the finished product could be disjointed. His initially provided score for Trevor's missions, citing The Mars Volta and Queens of the Stone Age as stylistic influences. After sending his work to the other members of the team, Jackson was impressed by Froese's contributions to his work. "Edgar evolved the music, made it into a whole other thing", he said. Froese had taken Jackson's hip hop-influenced work and interpolated it with a funk sound. Froese and Jackson also sent their work between The Alchemist and Oh No, who heavily sampled their work. The Alchemist opined, "We were sampling, taking a piece form here, a piece from there ... We pitched stuff up, chopped it, tweaked it. Then we chose the tracks that worked and everyone came in and layered on that".[98] DJ Shadow then mixed the team's creations together and matched it to the gameplay.[98]

In developing the radio stations, the Rockstar team wanted to reinforce the game's recreation of California by licensing tracks they felt imparted an appropriate "Cali feel". About the inclusion of the pop station Non-Stop-Pop FM, Pavlovich said that "the first time you get off an airplane in L.A. and you hear the radio and the pop just seeps out ... We wanted that. It really connects you to the world".[98] He felt that licensing music for the game involved a greater discernment than in Grand Theft Auto IV because the music in Grand Theft Auto V played a greater role in generating a Californian atmosphere.[98] Pavlovich said, "It reflects the environment in which the game is set".[99] Initially, the team planned to license over 900 tracks for the radio but they refined the number to 241.[98] The tracks are shared between fifteen stations; the radio also includes two talk-back stations[101] and a radio station for custom audio files on the Windows version.[102] Some of the tracks were written specifically for the game; for example, rapper and producer Flying Lotus hosts the station FlyLo FM, which includes original work he composed for the game.[101] Pavlovich commented that for each radio station, the team would develop an understanding of where the station's music was going and select a DJ to host it. Each station's DJ was selected to match the genre of music the station hosts; in developing Los Santos Rock Radio the team licensed classic rock tracks and chose Kenny Loggins as the station's DJ.[98] Pavlovich felt that striking a balance between the radio and the score was a meticulous process. He cited a mission template as an example in which the player would drive to an objective while listening to the radio; the score would begin once the player left the vehicle and moved into the next stage of the mission.[99]


The city of Los Santos being rendered on the PlayStation 4 on the left, and the PlayStation 3 on the right. Improved texture effects, lighting and draw distances are visible on the PS4 version.
A comparison of the PlayStation 4 (left) and PlayStation 3 (right) versions of the game. The enhanced re-release features greater draw distances and higher-resolution textures than the original versions.

At E3 2014, a re-release of the game was announced for Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. This enhanced version of the game features an increased draw distance, finer texture details, denser traffic, upgraded weather effects, and new wildlife and vegetation,[103] as well as a new on-foot first-person view option.[104] Animation director Rob Nelson said that a first-person option was raised during development on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, but that the consoles' relatively smaller banks of memory were already being pushed, such that adding new first-person animations would have inhibited the open world render. According to Nelson, the first-person view required more development effort than simply repositioning the camera, because of the need to adapt combat to a different view. The weapons were upgraded to a higher resolution, and new animations including weapon recoil, reload and switch were added. "I think we created 3,000 animations on weapons alone", said Nelson.[104] The re-release features more than 100 new songs across the game's radio stations. Players may transfer characters and progression of Grand Theft Auto Online between some platforms and gain exclusive content.[103]

There's something incredible about running around this world in first-person, glancing down at Trevor's hands, now your hands and seeing the tattoos, the dirt under his nails ... And then with a click you're in third person and there's your character again in front of you—it's a whole other new experience.

Aaron Garbut, Rockstar art director, IGN, 5 November 2014[105]

Art director Aaron Garbut said that the enhanced version's graphical upgrade came largely from the addition of first-person.[105] Remodelled cars feature interior effects including functional speedometers, fuel gauges and dashboard handbrake lights. The team added new particle and lighting effects, "like fireflies at night in the countryside, or ambient light pollution over Los Santos at night", according to Garbut. Red Dead Redemption (2010) inspired the team to add more vegetation to "break up the hard edges [and] straight lines" of the open world.[105] The original version's vegetation was replaced with more detailed equivalents in the enhanced version. An upgraded weather system lets tree branches and leaves blow realistically in the wind. The team hand placed weeds along fences and walls, and placed grass over many of the open world's terrains. They then layered flowers, plants, stones, leaves and litter over the grass. An upgraded screen space ambient occlusion system renders dynamic shadows that may cast through weather effects including volumetric fog, and particle effects including light reflections in water bodies or neon reflections in cars at night. The ambient light pollution over nighttime Los Santos may dissipate in poor weather. A dynamic depth of field system sharpens and softens images to emulate camera autofocus, and improved shaders produce new colours in skin and terrain textures.[105]


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