Robert Tamayo


GTA Definitive Trilogy: Draw Limits

I haven't played the GTA remastered trilogy yet, and I generally hear good things about the gameplay. The main criticism of the game is coming from people pointing out its silly graphics. I'm not sure how they remastered it, but in some cases, the remastered graphics are noticeably worse than the originals.

This is especially apparent in the San Andreas remake.

When I played San Andreas in my teens, the world felt massive. It was the size of 3 Grand Theft Auto games in one. Instead of just one city, the game featured 3 cities. There were also tons of freeways and desert areas that made the game feel even larger.

However, that was all just an illusion. The game is actually pretty small. The cities are only a few blocks, it seems. The buildings are pretty short, and there isn't much distance between each city. There are screenshots of people viewing all 3 cities from the top of a mountain or large building. It's actually kind of sad to see, because it breaks the illusion of the original game.

Hardware Limitations as Game Design Inspiration

Game developers are constrained by hardware and software limitations. They couldn't make 3 full-size cities at the time. So instead, they used lots of fog effects to hide the background. This made the game feel larger, because you couldn't see everything at once.

In the new remakes, they removed the draw distance, as that's no longer a limitation. The result is a game that goes against the key decisions at the time and breaks the illusion of a large game world. The analogy is as if you could slow down a magician's hands to see how he pulled off a trick or if you made the hat transparent to see where the hidden pockets are.

Also, as someone familiar with the real locations on which the game is based, I'm aware of the terrible smog problem in Los Angeles and the excessive fog in San Francisco. You really can't see farther than a mile away at times. The original game was correct to make visibility limited at a distance, and when I was playing the game at the time, I felt like it was a cool effect they added in on purpose; I never thought it was something they needed as a hardware limitation.

Bodybuilders put their thumbs inside their fists to make their arms look bigger when posing. In a similar way, game designers add fog to make the game world feel bigger and more mysterious. As with my games, the limitations of what I have to work with often lead to key game design decisions. Limitations often lead to design inspiration. Taking those limitations away can take away part of the actual game.

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