When it debuted in 2013, Grand Theft Auto V was a technical marvel. The massiveness of Los Santos coupled with the city’s density offered the most accurate representation of a Los Angeles-style city in gaming. GTA V’s rerelease on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One allowed Rockstar Games to push its technology a little further. However, Red Dead Redemption 2 will give the studio the chance to truly explore what current-generation hardware can accomplish. This evolution, according to Rockstar, is evident throughout every facet of Red Dead Redemption 2.
Graphics Technical Director Alex Hadjadj told VG247 that the things the team learned while developing GTA V on PS4 and Xbox One affected how Rockstar approached development on Red Dead 2.
By starting with a game designed for last gen, and pushing it as far as we could, we got a better idea of what was achievable on this generation of hardware. Once screen resolution, texture size and draw distances were defined in a sustainable way, it highlighted the areas we needed to focus on for the next big step–things like a global lighting solution, atmospheric effects, or post processing and presentation.
The two game worlds are vastly different, as GTA V has its bustling metropolis while Red Dead Redemption 2 features a vast wilderness and smaller settlements. Yet, Klaas Schilstra, Director of Engineering, noted that the beginnings of the tech powering Red Dead Redemption 2 were present in the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One iterations of Grand Theft Auto. Schilstra explained,
RDR is slower paced than GTA, but it’s also deeply textured and extremely detailed. That came through in the graphics in general as Alex [Hadjadj] said, but also in the detail of what the scene contains. For GTA, we needed a crowd to walk the streets. For RDR, we had to have a populated town of recognisable [sic] individuals, and each character in that town needs to do be believable, and seen to be doing something meaningful. It’s possible to recognise [sic] the beginnings of this in the technology for GTA 5, but at the same time every one of our systems has evolved beyond recognition to make RDR possible.
This particularly applies to AI and how players will interact with various NPCs. Rockstar notes that great care was taken when making these interactions. The way people react to the behavior of Arthur Morgan and their fellow NPCs will make it feel more immersive. Still, Rockstar wasn’t sated with mastering AI on this level alone. Rockstar North’s Director of Technology, Phil Hooker, noted that this same attention to detail also affects RDR2’s wildlife.
Because you can do all these things with the people in the world, you expect to have similar interactions with the law. And because you can do that, then you expect some interaction with animals in a similar way, so animal calls or petting a dog makes sense.
We wanted to have that feeling of interaction and consistency applied to everything. As soon as we went to a certain level on this game in some areas, we realised [sic] we had to go that far in a lot more areas in order to make it feel like you were in the world and that the world felt believable to you. Maintaining that level of consistency across so much of the game, through the missions, into the camp, to the people in the camp to everything else out in the wider world, I think, means that you believe this world is really there.
Rockstar on How GTA 5 Technology Evolved in Red Dead Redemption 2
Red Dead Redemption 2 will release on the PS4 and Xbox One on October 26, 2019.