So a couple of people asked me to elaborate on why GTA V is so amazing in a technological sense. So I did. This might be a little unfair, because GTA V is the only urban sandbox game to make the jump to current-gen consoles.
Still, all of this was basically true when comparing (say) GTA IV to Saints Row The Third, so it all evens out.
While running around the city, I ran into this bit of sidewalk, which gives a little clue as to how they cram so much detail onto mundane surfaces without blowing their texture budget:
That little pair of symmetrical cracksHint: The character seems to be looking right at them. in the sidewalk is a pretty interesting clue as to what they’re doing. I knew they couldn’t be doing this through brute force. It would be completely absurd to try and make these gigantic textures for sidewalks and roads. What I’m guessing we’re seeing is some base texture: Grass here, concrete 1 here, concrete 2 here, and so on. Then there’s an additional layer of “decals” to add cracks, spots, depressions, etc. Here the artist used the same decal twice, and flipped one of them?
Also, the sidewalk seam on the right side of the screen (right above the words) looks odd. Maybe we’re supposedly seeing the grout or mortar or whatever that crud is between sidewalk tiles. But my eye is telling me that’s really two decals that are overlapping when they probably shouldn’t be.
Anyway. You could achieve this a lot of different ways. The point is that the sidewalks blend two layers of information together to make a whole that is greater than the sum of their parts. I described a similar concept in my FUEL video, only this time it’s being used for texture data instead of topography.
 Hint: The character seems to be looking right at them.
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