Grand Theft Auto V's Art Director on Creating Los Santos: "I’d Never Want to Rebuild a City"

One amazing aspect of both last year’s Grand Theft Auto V and its predecessor, Grand Theft Auto IV, were the size, scope, and detail of each game’s cities. Los Santos was a huge draw for me personally when I played through GTA V because there were many times where I could stand on the street and feel like my character was indeed part of a larger, living, breathing human city.

From Midnight Club to their latest GTA iteration, I have always wondered about the process and scope of an undertaking that involves building a city – a very similar replica at that – from the ground up.

In a recent interview with Edge, Rockstar North Art Director Aaron Garbut commented on the process of building a city, and how it precludes the developers from actually creating a 100% replica of the real thing. “I’d never want to rebuild a city. I think that would be a lot less satisfying both for us to build and for the player to play. In a lot of ways, it would be less convincing, too. At least that’s how I rationalise it to myself,” Mr. Garbut explained, “we take the feel of a city, the one we get through visiting and through experiencing it our whole lives through media, and build that. We compress, we edit, we emphasise certain things and we end up with something that in some ways, I think, feels more like the popular perception of the place than the actual city. Only because the popular perception isn’t the real city, if that makes sense.”

Having lived in New York my whole life and visited Los Angeles three times, I can personally confirm Mr. Garbut’s ideals. The cities are not replicas, though they do contain recognizable landmarks and are structurally similar, without looking like Google Maps.

Grand Theft Auto V was developed by Rockstar North and published by Rockstar Games on September 17th, 2013 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Grand Theft Auto Online launched on October 1st, 2013.

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David Rodriguez

David has been a gamer since childhood and enjoys games that are able to deliver fun and intricate gameplay alongside compelling and emotional narratives. He's also a huge fan of film, television, comic books, and literature. David has his B.A. in English Language Arts from CUNY John Jay College.

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