Rockstar talk 4K, PC performance and more

It’s taken years, but Grand Theft Auto 5 is almost out on PC. How have Rockstar gone about developing the ultimate version of the game? What can we look forward to from the video editor? Is the game locked at 60fps? We sent Rockstar a few questions to find out. Unless otherwise credited, our queries were answered by a group of Rockstar North developers, including. director of technology Phil Hooker, director of engineering Klaas Schilstra and technical director Adam Fowler.

PC Gamer: Can you talk about the team Rockstar has working on the PC version? How long have they been at Rockstar, what have they worked on before?

The team working on the PC version of the game was a large percentage of the original Grand Theft Auto team augmented by members of the Rockstar studios that specialise in PC development. These were the developers who had worked on the PC versions of GTA 4, Max Payne 3 and LA Noire. Many of them are Rockstar veterans.

Since the latest round of consoles have an architecture similar to PC, this is also the same team that worked on the PS4 and Xbox One builds of the game. Essentially, we pulled the right people from all the Rockstar studios to create a global development team with the deepest base of knowledge of both GTA and PC development. It really was a team effort to deliver something of the highest quality as possible in every area from visuals, audio to tuning gameplay feeling and features.

PC Gamer: When was the decision made to bring GTA 5 to PC and when did work start?To what extent were you thinking about PC during the development of the 360/PS3 versions? Was the game created to be cross-platform from the start?

We were always going to bring GTA 5 to PC. We planned from day 1 for a PC build and we made technical decisions based off the fact that we would be doing a PC version of the game. While we started development of the PC version quite early, we decided to focus the bulk of our attention on the PS3 and XB360 versions first in order to push that as far as we possibly could before turning our attention to the PS4 and Xbox One versions, and then using the shared architecture underpinning the new consoles to help ourselves ramp up into the PC version and push the game as far as we possibly could knowing we would have the opportunity to make the game look and feel better than it ever has.

PC Gamer: How did the process of bringing GTA 5 to PC compare to previous Rockstar games on PC, like GTA 4, LA Noire and Max Payne 3? Was there anything different this time around?

Kevin Hoare—president of Rockstar Toronto: The process of bringing GTA 5 to PC was most similar to our last PC title, Max Payne 3. Our process of bringing titles to PC has evolved over the years. We knew that we would eventually create a PC version so early development was done in parallel with the console versions. In fact, some of the early preparations we made for PC, like 64 bit & DX11 support, paid off very handsomely when the PS4 and Xbox One architectures were announced. That early work made the process of transitioning to the new consoles a lot easier and allowed us to hit the ground running. The artists also prepared for PC by authoring their source art at PC-ready resolutions, even though we had to use massively reduced versions for the PS3 and XB360.

It is still amazing to think how we took a last-gen game that, at the time, was something we were extremely happy with in terms of looks and performance, saw new console versions of that world and were blown away at all the added detail we could show, and now we get to see that same game scale to 4kat 60fps, which is just beyond anything we have experienced as developers. We have aimed to retain that ability to scale the performance for the PC game so players with different hardware platforms can benefit from that as well.

PC Gamer: The minimum and recommended specs for recent AAA PC-titles for many modern games are much more demanding, yet the specs for GTA 5 are quite low in comparison. Which resolution and frame rate are the recommended specs based on? Are the recommended specs for playing it in 1080p / 60 fps? Which specs do you need to play it in 4k resolution and 30/60 fps, and what is the optimal way to run the game?

Kevin Hoare: One of the lessons we have learned over the years through Grand Theft Auto IV and Max Payne 3 on PC was that people want the freedom to configure their system to suit their preferences. So our focus for Grand Theft Auto 5 was to ensure most people could run the game comfortably, and provide a wide range of options to tailor your experience to your system.

We based our recommended spec on hardware that we knew could comfortably achieve 1080P resolution at 60fps.

To run the game on a 4K display at 30fps, you’ll need at minimum an AMD HD 7870 or NVidia GTX 760 with 2GB of VRAM.

To be able to run the game at 4K resolution at 60fps you’ll need a high-end SLI or Crossfire setup.

The optimal way to run the game will depend on an individual’s preference. Some people may want to dial the settings down to hit a really high framerate, while others may appreciate a slower framerate with the graphical settings dialed way up. Overall, with so many variables in various CPU/GPU configurations and depending on game settings, frame rates will vary widely.

PC Gamer: Do you think getting to experience that environment in 60fps makes a difference to the way the game feels?

Absolutely, as developers we’re always trying to balance between high framerate and the quality of features and visuals we can pack into the game. PC has allowed us to deliver both so you can feel and see the game in a different light. It really allows you to appreciate the subtleties and detail that’s already there in all features form vehicle handling, to impacts, to explosions, weapon handling etc… everything.

PC Gamer: Is the frame rate locked at 60 fps?

The target framerate for the PC build of the game is 60fps, when you start up GTA 5 for the first time it chooses settings to maximise the framerate and visual quality on your PC. These are simply recommendations though, and players can change these to whatever they want. We will never be able to guarantee the framerate when someone decides to push their texture, shader or post-fx quality to a level that their PC can’t support. That said, if your monitor and PC support it you can choose to run at even higher framerates.

PC Gamer: GTA 5 supports 4K resolution on PC – how much of a big deal do you think 4K will be for players? Do you think it’ll transform the way they experience that world?

4k is an eye opener when you see if for the first time, it really does make you look at the world differently and in greater detail as you would expect. That said, you could probably say the same thing about a lot of the other high-end graphical options and ultimately it will be personal preference which particular resolution and graphical settings that each player decides to settle on.

PC Gamer: Can you talk about the range of PC-specific visual options in GTA 5? In the PS3 and Xbox 360 editions I was blown away by the environmental detail and water effects – how far can players push those options on high-end PCs?

Kevin Hoare: We opened up a lot of options, offering a broad range of settings that allow us to support more basic PC’s as well as being able to push the visual limits on the latest high-end, multi-GPU setups. There are incredible range of visual parameters for players to play with. Not only can you manipulate settings like textures, shaders and water quality, but we will give you the option to manipulate the quality of grass and particles, tessellation, reflections and Post FX, to name a few. We will also have a population density slider, allowing you to configure how busy the streets and sidewalks are and how busy the city can be around the player.

These settings not only allow the player to adjust graphical options but also some gameplay-oriented options as well. We obviously support high resolution displays and high resolution shadow and reflections maps, as well as many of the common graphical settings. This would include things such as AA filter type and level, level of anisotropic filtering, SSAO options and so on. Some of the graphical enhancements available exclusively to PC include contact hardening shadows, enhanced light ray volumes, particle system shadows, etc. We expose separate render quality settings for the various game components such as shadows, reflections, grass, water, tessellation level, post-fx etc., which have all been enhanced for PC. We’ve increased the variety and population density of vehicles and pedestrians and allow the LOD draw distances to be increased. All of these enhancements bring the quality of the visuals to an entirely new level and give the player very fine grained control of all the settings.

PC Gamer: Can you talk about the development of the Rockstar Video Editor for GTA 5? What are the differences between the version for GTA 4 and this one?

John Macpherson – lead gameplay designer, Rockstar Toronto: The Rockstar Video editor in GTA 5 features a number of significant improvements. This starts at the recording level, where players now have the option to start and stop their captures at will. We have also added a brand new feature known as “Director Mode”. This gives users the ability to play and record using any actor from GTA 5 such as story and heist crew characters, members of the ambient population and even animals. Wherever applicable, those characters can then speak and perform contextual actions at will. This radically increases the possibilities for creativity.

Certain world settings such as the time of day and weather can also be adjusted. In addition to this, a host of cheats are available in Director Mode to further enhance cinematic efforts.

On the editing side of things, GTA 5 now allows players to add and trim multiple radio tracks to a single video. Scored music is also available as are numerous in-game commercial recordings. A new suite of custom filters have been added along with custom post effects tuning. Players can add and customize depth of field effects in their videos now as well. For camera edits, additional targeting and blend options have been added for greater control over shots. Final edits can now be shared directly to YouTube and entered into upcoming Social Club contests.

For more, read our hands-on preview with GTA 5 running at 4k and 60fps. In addition, here’s everything you need to know about GTA 5, and why not check out the latest batch of sweet GTA 5 PC screenshots.