Grand Theft Auto Trilogy: Derision Edition

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Nov 16, 2021

Filed under: Rants 83 comments

On the podcast yesterday, we talked about the controversy with the GTA Definitive Edition. For the record, I have not personally experienced the games for myself, so my complaints are based on reports from other people.

This puts me in a really annoying position as a critic. On one hand, I’ll get Rockstar apologistsA dying breed, no doubt. But they do exist. insisting that the controversy is all blown out of proportion and that I shouldn’t be talking about it if I haven’t experienced it first hand.

But if I had bought the game, then I’d have a different group of people yelling at me: “What did you expect? If you were dumb enough to believe Rockstar’s lies and give them your money then you got what you deserved. If you’re dumb enough to fall for this, then I can’t trust you as a critic.”

So you can either be too uninformed to write useful criticism, or you’re unqualified to be a critic. In choosing between these two equally obnoxious fates, I took the one that didn’t cost me $60.

However, the situation is even worse than I reported yesterday.


On Sunday, this video caught my eye:


Link (YouTube)

Apparently, the shovelware dev that threw this mess together wasn’t paying attention, Rockstar didn’t audit their work, and publisher Take-Two didn’t bother double-checking anything before shoving the game out the door in time for Christmas. As a result, they accidentally released a bunch of internal script files and tools. Also, they accidentally included some music tracks that Rockstar no longer had a license for. The tracks were disabled so they wouldn’t play in-game, but they were still part of the download. Also, remember Hot Coffee? Those files were also somehow included with the Definitive Edition.

You might remember that a few years ago, Rockstar foisted their stupid minimum-effort launcher on everyone, effectively Trojan Horsing their platform into all Steam users. Imagine if Gears of War 5 came to Steam, then a year later Epic made it so that launching GoW5 would actually just launch the Epic Store, which you could then use to launch the game. This strategy is what economists call a “dick move”.

This would be bad enough, but then they never bothered to DO anything with the launcher, leaving this sad, pointless, zero-feature launcher as the front end of their billion dollar game franchise. I know I often complain about how under-baked the Epic Games Launcher is, but the Rockstar Launcher makes the EGS look like Steam.

This sort of thing isn’t new, of course. Rockstar has been giving the finger to their PC customers for over a decade now. I mean, remember THIS bullshit?

Good thing they added SecuROM. It would be dangerously irresponsible to only have three layers of pointless DRM on this thing.
Good thing they added SecuROM. It would be dangerously irresponsible to only have three layers of pointless DRM on this thing.

But when they screwed up and included all those extra files in the Definitive Edition, this behavior came back to bite them in the ass. They didn’t have a way to cleanly un-do that. If they’d left things alone, then they could have used Valve’s existing, stable, high-speed, feature-rich platform to push out an update to remove the offending filesThe consoles have versioning and update systems comparable to Steam. or take the game down, or whatever they needed to do. But they had placed their game out of Steam’s reach. As far as Steam was concerned, your “game” was just the Rockstar Launcher. The actual copy of the game itself is invisible / untouchable to Steam.

So Rockstar had to take down their entire platform on the PC while they worked on an ad-hoc patch to clean up this mess.Which was pointless of course. Interested Parties had already datamined and captured the files and put them on the torrents. Apparently the people at Rockstar don’t understand how the internet works. They never got around to implementing rudimentary features like offline mode, which means this move took down all of their games. For three days.

This wasn’t a single mistake, this was a long series of cut corners and gross irresponsibility, and in the end their customers were the ones punished for this outrageous behavior.

And all of this from a company that made a billion dollars last year selling shark cards to teens to feed the toxic cesspool of cheating and abuse that is GTA Online.

And speaking of…

Shark Cards

No, we're not exploiting young people for money. We're SATIRICALLY exploiting young people for money. Totally different.
No, we're not exploiting young people for money. We're SATIRICALLY exploiting young people for money. Totally different.

These would work as satire if it was something that existed within the universe that NPCs like Jimmy would buy, in order to mock him for being a mindless consumer. I mean “Shark Cards” is just one step away from calling them “Whale” cards. The supposed “satire” is blunt to the point of being insulting.

But no! These are real cards that they sell to real people for real money, which impart actual gameplay advantages! That’s like Facebook openly referring to their users as “Products” within the public-facing Facebook UI. Shark Cards aren’t a satire of nakedly predatory microtransactions, they’re just a really brazen example of the form.

I bring this up because Rockstar made a billion dollars last year from these stupid cards. With that kind of dosh rolling in, you’d think they would have a relaxed attitude towards doing this remaster. Cutting corners on this project is like a billionaire refusing to take his kids to the doctor because he wants to save money . The amount of money is so trivial, and the possible risks are so needless. Just pay the money. You’ll never miss it!

Aged Poorly

These three different images represent different versions of the game. Rockstar pulled the first one from stores and unleashed their legal team to make sure that the third one got taken down, all so they could sell us the second one.
These three different images represent different versions of the game. Rockstar pulled the first one from stores and unleashed their legal team to make sure that the third one got taken down, all so they could sell us the second one.

The irony of all of this is that the GTA trilogy has aged really well in terms of visuals. Those chunky models and low-pixel textures still have a lot of charm. If there needed to be a re-release, it should probably be focused on compatibility and interface concerns. Maybe add support for modern resolutions, offer a control layout that mimics the inputs of GTA V, add some cheevos, and patch a few bugs. A lot of this work had already been done for earlier PC releases of the game. We just needed to migrate that stuff to the current-gen platforms.

But Rockstar wasn’t doing this to preserve their legacy and make sure these classic games were available to the next generation. They were looking for a way to get their existing fanbase to buy the game again. So they decided to sell us a visual refresh. But then they outsourced the project to a mobile developer and didn’t bother to check if the resulting port actually accomplished that goal.


Link (YouTube)

Here is a collection of gripes I’ve encountered over the last few days. I’m sure this is just a subset of the whole:

  • Old character models have their skeletons deformed into horrific proportions. Other characters have WIDE OPEN EYES, creating a weird dead-eyed effect reminiscent of Mass Effect Andromeda. This isn’t just the uncanny valley, this is the uncanny abyss.
  • Somehow, this new version struggles to hold a steady framerate on modern machines. The game seems to have these odd lurches every once in a while, as if this was running in a language with garbage collection. (It isn’t.)
  • The fog is just gone. This is really bad in San Andreas, where the fog was needed for both artistic and practical reasons. One, the orange fog was part of recreating the LA smog that gave the world its personality. Two, the fog existed to hide how small the world was. It’s really weird when you can see that all of San Andreas is just a couple of miles wide, and “Mount Chiliad” is basically a big hill. If nothing else, there should have  been an option to re-enable fog.
  • Too many input problems to count. Lots of little headaches and oddities. You can watch this speedrunner trying to make sense of the inputs to get a sense of all the ways in which the current system isn’t just different, but demonstrably worse than the original.
  • The lighting is a disaster. Some cutscenes and locations are too dark. Many interior spaces have flat lighting with no contrast.
  • Numerous signs are misspelled or misplaced, like the burger place where the menu board shows pizzas, or the pizza place where the six-panel menu board now repeats the same panel six times.
  • New bugs! One speedrunner couldn’t pass a particular mission because a scripted explosion was killing him in a cutscene.Something like that. I couldn’t totally follow the discussion.
  • Expanded bugs! In the old versions of San Andreas, having a high framerate would make you swim more slowly. Now you always swim slowly, regardless of framerate.
  • LOTS of little attention-to-detail mistakes. Bump maps that don’t match the texture, parking lots nonsensically covered in grass, weird collision on objects, stretched or misaligned textures, and LOD objects that vanish up close.

It’s not like these problems are hidden in the obscure corners of the world. Many of these are incredibly obvious. And yet the developer never caught them, Rockstar never caught them, and the publisher never caught them. It feels like this thing passed through three companies without anyone doing any QA testing.

While the visuals of the originals have aged gracefully, one thing that didn’t age well is this quote from Strauss Zelnick, president of publisher Take-Two:

Remastering has always been a part of the strategy. What we’ve done differently than the competition is we don’t just port titles over. We actually take the time to do the very best job we can making the title different for the new release for the new technology that we’re launching it on.

So what we have is a “Definitive Edition” of a classic game that is the absolute worst version of the game, and this version is now the only one for sale on any platform. The old versions have been pulled from store shelves and the various user-made beautification mods have been lawyered out of existence.

Like I said on the podcast, it really lights my fuse when these games begin sneering their disjointed high-school level criticisms of “capitalism”. It’s like Harvey Weinstein complaining about women in Hollywood not getting enough respect.

Just shut your mouth, Rockstar. You’re not just part of the problem, you’re at the forefront of making the problem worse. You’re not allowed to be sanctimonious about capitalism, you hypocritical goddamn vultures.

 

Footnotes:

[1] A dying breed, no doubt. But they do exist.

[2] The consoles have versioning and update systems comparable to Steam.

[3] Which was pointless of course. Interested Parties had already datamined and captured the files and put them on the torrents. Apparently the people at Rockstar don’t understand how the internet works.

[4] Something like that. I couldn’t totally follow the discussion.



From The Archives:
 

83 thoughts on “Grand Theft Auto Trilogy: Derision Edition

  1. Arstan says:

    Well, at least we can still play old GTA SA.
    The (pirate) translation for the game in Russian was so hilarious, it generated quite a lot of memes.
    “POTRACHENO” and “Ohladi trahanje, ugleplastik” (no cyrillics on shamusyoung.com for me) are the most famous :)

    Well, might as well play it, instead of that “Derailed edition”.
    Comes well into the line of great refurbished titles, like “Warcraft 3 : Refunded”
    and Starcraft: “We just updated the graphics, and that’s all you gonna get”

    1. beleester says:

      I’d leave the Starcraft Remaster out of this – if they had changed one line of the actual game mechanics, the fanbase would be up in arms at Blizzard trying to “fix” a game that’s been played competitively for over 20 years. Updating just the graphics was the right move.

      (Actually, the remaster apparently fixes the glitch that made Valkyrie frigates sometimes fail to fire their missiles, which could have implications for the meta!)

      1. Arstan says:

        Ah well, i guess you are right. It’s just since i am not even close to SC1 competitive gaming, my preferences would be a total rehaul – basically, almost SC2, with new pathfinding, re-worked campaign with new cutscenes, etc

        1. The Elusive Man says:

          I’m certain you already know about this, but just in case; the Mass Recall mod is exactly what you call for here. Starcraft 1, remade in Starcraft 2’s engine.

          All the campaigns, all the levels. Units edited to behave, look, and sound like their old counterparts. Exacting attention to detail. As well as a slate of new in-engine cutscenes to add to the flavor. It’s absolutely astounding.

          There’s obviously some hiccups and regularities, but because it’s a fan-made project instead of the product of a billion dollar company, we can cut some slack.

      2. Chris says:

        The fix is just the sprite limit being higher. Valks would sometimes not fire, however this only happened if there was already a lot going on, which rarely is the case in competitive 1v1. The reason valks are used more often now is that people got used to using a patrol bug that allows the valk to move while shooting, instead of being frozen, ready for scourges to kill it.

      3. Awetugiw says:

        There were still a few quality of life changes that could easily be made. For example, I don’t know whether the remaster does this, but giving an option for grid hotkeys would be (or is, depending on whether it is in the remaster) useful.

  2. Chad+Miller says:

    I didn’t watch that full speedrunner video, but I did skip to the end and find myself surprised at how long the credits seemed to run. So I skipped back to before the credits and found that they were twice as long as they were supposed to be, because the game crashed while the player was watching them.

    1. Christopher Wolf says:

      That is hilarious.

  3. ContribuTor says:

    I don’t get the Cyberpunk 2077 comparisons that are all over the press for this game.

    Cyberpunk 2077 was a bold, ambitious vision to revolutionize what games were that they attempted to lovingly craft and failed spectacularly at in the end.

    GTA:DE was a simple cash grab attempting to cash in on nostalgia by doing a quick brush up on already existing and working assets that fell flat on its face.

    Projekt Red attempted this and airballed it.

    Grove Street/Rockstar tried to tie their shoelaces, knotted them together and fell on their face.

    1. Chad+Miller says:

      Most of the time I’ve seen the comparison it’s making this exact point to point out that despite how much the CP2077 launch was botched, CDPR still comes out ahead in contrast. Especially since a Rockstar higher-up had criticized Cyberpunk when that was still in the news.

      1. Asdasd says:

        I think the biggest point of commonality is simply that the internet loves a dogpile. That it might or might not be warranted is a secondary consideration.

        1. Trevor says:

          Absolutely. When something that has been hyped up fails, there’s nothing that the internet loves more than to pile-on.

          I hadn’t been paying that much attention to this – work has been really busy and I have enough games in my queue that I’m not looking for more. I literally knew that a GTA Remaster was coming out and that’s it.

          I saw some of the criticism, but there are so many YouTube videos out there about any kind of media that are 0.9/10! Utter and Complete Failure! Legacy Ruined!!! WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?!? that it’s just noise and I tune them out. I’m grateful to Shamus because this article actually puts into perspective the poor quality and the missed opportunities in a non-sensational way.

    2. Ninety-Three says:

      Cyberpunk was trying to be an open-world crime and driving sandbox set in a city. GTA is an open world crime and driving sandbox set in a city. The comparison is pretty natural.

      1. Arstan says:

        That’s like saying that LADA and Alfa-Romeo are bad cars because of their reliability, completely disregarding the difference. But then – what is internet is good for, if not for that?))))

        1. Ninety-Three says:

          If, as above, you frame things as about the virtuousness of the developer then sure, the comparison falls apart. But if you’re capable of interpreting commentary about the game as about the game then there are significant common elements between the rushed, glitchy, open-world shooty-drivy sandbox games.

          1. John says:

            That seems about right to me. As far as I can tell, the major gameplay difference between Cyberpunk 2077 and the various Grand Theft Autos is that Cyberpunk has combat mechanics that are somewhat more RPG-ish. Otherwise, the differences between the two would seem to be largely in setting and presentation.

            1. Rho says:

              I must disagree with this (respectfully; this is not a sneer).

              GTA and CP77 use many of the same tools but with wildly different goals. For example, I will also disagree strenuously with Ninety-Three statement below, quote “The ambition is that they were clearly trying to make a world much closer to GTA, but ran out of time to implement that.”

              That’s not true, even if there was magically infinite time and budget. What CDPrjektRed intended was totally unlike what GTA wanted. The tools are often the same or similar, but the desired end state was not. I would suggest the difference is having two teams of builders in paris. With similar materials and equipment one of them makes the cobblestone Champs Elysee. It’s a beautiful boulevard that stretches from monument to monument, but the road itself is both linear and technically a means to an end. The other constructs Notre Dame, a monument that one can explore and experience different events inside. This is not a comparison of value or quality but the subjective intent of the creators.

              There is some amount of open-world chaos in CP77, yet that’s clearly not the point or the focus of the game, and I don’t think it’s an accident that the police-response system was considered such a low priority that it wasn’t made realistic for the released version. You can go through the entire game without triggering such a response, and ti would be a completely consistent and worthwhile experience. I’m not sure the same could ever be said of GTA where from the beginning the point kinda was the chaos itself; the linear missions and characters being in some ways toys to experience and contextualize that chaos.

              Anyway, that’s my $0.02.

              1. John says:

                I was on the verge of writing a very long response to your comment, but, after much consideration, I don’t think that we actually disagree. I’m not denying the differences in presentation and tone and you don’t appear to be denying the similarities in gameplay. I’m not sure which game you think is the Champs Elysee and which is Notre Dame du Paris, but we seem to have accidentally achieved consensus despite ourselves. Huzzah!

                1. Rho says:

                  Well, it’s possible I misinterpreted your remarks.

      2. Mephane says:

        Cyberpunk never tried to be that, never intended to. There are even quotes from before release clearly saying that it is not supposed to be a GTA-style sandbox. The problem was that the marketing campaign totally let people believe that it was.

        (That a myriad of technical problems especially on last gen consoles and weaker PCs.)

        1. Liessa says:

          Sums it up. A few of the devs did try to dampen down the insanely high expectations when they realised things were getting out of control, but most of them just ran with it. It didn’t help that the pre-launch publicity explicitly promised features that weren’t in the final game, such as a police response that differed according to district (apparently; I haven’t played the game myself). It also sounds like a lot of the original design was scrapped to put more focus on Johnny Silverhand when they managed to get Keanu Reeves for the role.

        2. Chris says:

          I haven’t played cp2077 yet, but all of the complaints I’ve seen about it that aren’t bugs or performance issues would apply equally to Witcher 3 (no GTA style minigames, noninteractive NPCs, a focus on the main plot line over random diversions, etc). It seems like most of the people complaining about gameplay went in expecting GTA5 With Cybernetics, rather than SciFi Wild Hunt.

          1. EOW says:

            pretty much this, this is the whole problem.
            I went in knowing what to expect. CDPR’s strong suit is stories with deep lore, great characters and amazing writing.

            Really, my worry, assuming they haven’t bailed on the game, is that they are wasting time on pointless stuff like police chase and other shit that will never win people back instead of doubling down on what’s good with the game.

    3. Dreadjaws says:

      They’re both extremely hyped game releases that showed carefully designed trailers that picked the best looking parts, avoided letting the users know about the actual quality of the game before launch day and obviously were buggy as hell. The actual content of the game is irrelevant. The fact that they deliberately launched a broken product and dared to charge full price for it while hiding its true nature for the consumer is where the similarities lie. The comparison is very apt.

    4. EBass says:

      Sorry, I can’t agree with this. What dissapointed me most about cyberpunk was how, at it’s heart, how unambitious a game it was. The gameplay isn’t half as emergent as prey or deus ex, the world isn’t as interactive and alive as gta or elder scrolls, the story isn’t as mallable as say mass effect. Where exactly was it ambitious?

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        The ambition is that they were clearly trying to make a world much closer to GTA, but ran out of time to implement that.

      2. EmmEnnEff says:

        > Where exactly was it ambitious?

        In the same place that Witcher 3 was ambitious – scale.

    5. Ivan says:

      The points about both being in a horrible unfinished state that should have been caught but wasn’t, and were released anyway because the executives making decisions didn’t care and wanted that quick revenue spike… is a pretty big commonality they share.

    6. Mousazz says:

      Grove Street/Rockstar tried to tie their shoelaces, knotted them together and fell on their face.

      Heh. This sentence gets a funny double meaning since Shamus linked to DarkViperAU, whose video bashing the Youtuber The Quartering spawned a meme where DarkViperAU shouts how one of The Quartering’s defensive statements against DarkViperAU’s previous criticism of him is that he isn’t completely braindead, to with DarkViperAU responds: “Well, obviously, you have to know something about something, or You COULDN’T TIE YOUR SHOES!!! *desk slam*”.

      However, I guess War Drum Studios, Rockstar and Take-Two Interactive all fail to pass that incredibly low standard.

    7. Cubic says:

      LOL, I was ready to let them grab my cash just one last time*, but this just seems too embarrassing to fall for.

      * Especially if they had modernized the controls of GTA III into, say, those of GTA LCS.

  4. Inwoods says:

    One of my absolute favorites. How does this even happen? Wiggling your car makes the model grow larger over time:

    https://twitter.com/DarkwingDust69/status/1459929293023236096?s=20

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Gotta say, this one beats it, for me.

      Though the car thing is pretty amazing. “How does this even happen?” is spot on.

    2. ivan says:

      Apparently this is a bug in the original version too. So, ya, video poster may be misrepresenting things in this particular case.

      1. tmtvl says:

        Yeah, why would they fix bugs in the original for the remaster? It’s not like they’re gonna sell it for the price of a full game. And besides, Rockstar is a small indie, they don’t have the money for that.

      2. Chris says:

        From what i got it was a bug with using the car crusher in GTA3. And this is a new error which feeds of the same buggy code.

    3. Chris says:

      My wildass guess is that the game misinterprets the wiggling as moving the camera closer to the car and therefore scales up the car model to make it appear nearer.

  5. Mintskittle says:

    Don’t let those hating on you for buying bad games get you down, cause that’s content for the blog. If you did buy the GTA demasters, that three whole games to tear down for many weeks/months of blogposts. In fact, maybe you should go buy it. I’d read those posts.

    1. tmtvl says:

      Nah, RS doesn’t deserve Shamus’ money for what they’ve done.

      1. aradinfinity says:

        So what you’re saying is, he should pirate it.

  6. Dreadjaws says:

    Typolice:

    So what we have a a “Definitive Edition” of a classic game that is the absolute worst version of the game

    Should be “is a” instead of “a a”.

    But if I had bought the game, then I’d have a different group of people yelling at me: “What did you expect? If you were dumb enough to believe Rockstar’s lies and give them your money then you got what you deserved. If you’re dumb enough to fall for this, then I can’t trust you as a critic.”

    I don’t think this makes much sense. If you’re buying a game with the express intention to review it then no one would be complaining. Now, if you decided to buy it just for kicks, particularly when you famously don’t really care much for the DIAS style of gameplay of these entries then sure, even I’d be questioning your sanity.

    That being said, now that the cat is out of the bag, buying the trilogy would be pointless. You’d be deliberately rewarding a company for a product that you know to be terrible and since the gameplay and story remain the same (and you’ve already discussed the bugs) you probably wouldn’t have much new insightful commentary to offer on them (particularly since you can still go back to the originals if you come up with new things to discuss).

    In any case I’d say that anyone who bought these games for non-reviewing purposes after all the bad signs of late were just setting themselves up for disappointment. Even if the bugs didn’t exist and models were upscaled properly they’d still wouldn’t look as good as the modded originals. And if you’re one of those who thought about buying it to support the developers… Oh. Oh, you poor thing.

  7. Raion says:

    I have old unused Humble Bundle keys for GTA III-VC-SA which, for the longest time, were next to worthless.
    My time has finally come, soon I’ll be rich. Thank you Take Two /s

    1. RFS-81 says:

      You joke, but the prices for Silent Hill 2&3 discs were pretty outrageous last time I checked. I mean, you won’t be rich rich, but there’s a chance that they’ll actually become worth something.

      Speaking of Silent Hill, I think Rockstar actually managed to beat Konami in having contempt for their own games. Konami lost the final revision of the source code for SH2 and 3. Rockstar presumably still has it, but allowed THAT to happen anyway.

  8. TLN says:

    This one is one of my favs because it so clearly shows that whatever team was put on this, they obviously don’t even understand the context of anything they’re supposed to do nor is anyone checking their work.
    https://i.imgur.com/i8IXixJ.jpg

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      This is less of a problem of they not understanding the context and more of them being lazy devs who just used some polygon upscaling software on models without realizing how many things were going to be affected. It’s the equivalent of taking a document that’s written in all caps and using the “Sentence case” tool in it, thinking that’s going to make all sentences properly written, but not realizing that many sentences have characters that should stay in uppercase other than the first one (such as every “I” when subjects are talking about themselves), and that a few starting characters should stylistically stay in lowercase (such as URLs).

      This is amateur work at best. The devs being used to mobile games doesn’t excuse such lack of basic understanding of tool use. I don’t know how they thought they could get away with this. I guess their confidence is inversely proportional to their skill.

    2. Alan says:

      That one seems… suspicious. The texturing one the right nut is gone, but the left nut seems to have the old texture and maybe the old geometry.

      1. Dreadjaws says:

        That’s what she said?

        1. Lino says:

          Oh, I do NOT want to be in a situation where she… or anyone else would say that. That sounds… well inconvenient to say the least!

          1. BlueHorus says:

            Gotta watch the geometry on those nuts’ textures…you can have all sorts of problems with them rapidly popping in and out.

            (Also related: While looking up synonyms of ‘glitch’ for double entendres, I see that you can apparently use both ‘kink’ and ‘howler’.
            Insert your own double entendres below!)

  9. Grey Rook says:

    I have to admit, the more I hear about the modern GTA games, the happier I become that I never got into the series past the demo of the first game. Saints Row is so much better.

  10. Lino says:

    Typolice:

    So what we have a a “Definitive Edition”

    Probably should be “is a”.

    1. Lino says:

      D’oh! Dreadjaws already pointed that one out! Sorry :/

      1. BlueHorus says:

        Careful – too much of that kind of thing and the Typolice Police’ll come for you…

  11. Ander says:

    The dev probably was aware of at least many of the issues but didn’t want to halt development/release. It’s not good; in fact, that’s more concerning. But, well.

  12. The Rocketeer says:

    This seems very out of character for Rockstar. I mean, the last thing you can say about their games is that they aren’t willing to spend time and pay attention to details.

    I don’t know if they’ve done any large-scale remasters in the past, though. Maybe they really did just get caught off guard assuming this would be a lot easier than it was, but of course that doesn’t explain not catching the debacle in progress or responding to it the way they have.

    My guess is that a small number of key figures in the company, namely the Housers, have all of the pull when it comes to creative work and can demand all the time and attention they want for their projects, and when none of them are involved, they basically fall back on this mode.

    1. Thomas says:

      It was outsourced to the development studio who made the mobile versions of the three games. That developer decided to use the mobile games as their code base and port that instead of using the original versions of the game.

      My guess is the Housers weren’t involved at all. This is the money making arm of the company whose job it is to generate capital for the Housers to spend obsessing over every minute detail of GTA6. Time spent talking to the money making arm is time not spent obsessing over GTA6.

      I also think, although the mobile studio is clearly not very competent, that they were probably given a relatively tiny budget. They had to port three games to _13_ systems, thats a lot of work. Someone decided that high quality upgrades of three games as large as the GTA games would have to sell too many copies to break even, so they went for the cash grab.

      And the mobile company probably seemed like the easy option – they don’t need to refamialiarise themselves with the code right? But nope they manage to make the game look worse than if they’d done nothing at all.

      1. Thomas says:

        Sorry I wrote this sleep-deprived. I realise I just repeated what I’d just read in Shamus’ article!

  13. Functional_Theory says:

    The higher-res models are *literally* just slapping the Blender subdivision surface modifier +2 over the original meshes and calling it a day. That gets you the “definitive” meshes, down to every vertex.

    1. bobert says:

      How does that even work?

      Say you bisect every edge, so every tri becomes 4 new smaller tri’s…

      Won’t the daughter-tris be co-planer with the mother-tri, so you model looks exactly as faceted as when you started?

      I guess you could move the new new vertices off the line they were born on, but how would the computer know where to put them without being told by the user?

      1. Functional_Theory says:

        I have no idea what black majiks they are doing under the hood, but my mental model is that it is something like an interpolating surface between the vertices. It’s not quite the same as a simple subdivision, which would work as you describe.

        https://docs.blender.org/manual/en/latest/modeling/modifiers/generate/subdivision_surface.html

        Is probably the best I can do. Seeing a video of it in action makes most sense.

        1. bobbert says:

          From the link, it looks like what they are doing is keeping the center of the pre-subdivision face, then hammering in the ORIGINAL vertices slightly inward. Interesting…

          Coming from a CAD-background, just modifying the original vertex placement on the fly feels like ultra-blasphemy.

          1. Functional_Theory says:

            It’s all part of the non-destructive workflow. So the idea is that you make a simple mesh that goes through a pipeline of modifiers (like this one) and results in the complex final mesh you want.

            Then, if later you decide you need to change something you can either change up the modifiers, or edit the simple ideal mesh, and the changes propagate through. If you edit destructively then going back and changing things is much harder.

            Once you’re happy with everything you can bake the modifiers in to be left with the complex mesh as raw vertices. I’ve rarely found this necessary though, as the renderer will take the modifiers quite happily.

  14. MelTorefas says:

    I have to admit, I read this post with something bordering on glee. It feels like it’s been quite awhile since we had an article taking a big game developer to task for making a terrible product (though I am loving the Prey series, so, not complaining). This “remaster” makes me really glad I have never been into GTA, though… and I thought Warcraft 3: Reforged was a disaster, sheesh.

  15. Damiac says:

    You didn’t even buy the thing you didn’t like to prove that you really didn’t like it and weren’t just pretending not to like it? Nice try! Everyone knows a true and honest critic gets a free advance copy!

    But for real though, it is wild how bad this came out. I believe I still have GTA:SA for PS2 so at least I can go back to the real version, but this vandalism of the past is horrible.

  16. Philadelphus says:

    Sounds like it’s certainly the Definitive Edition, all right, the Definitively Worst Edition.

  17. Dalisclock says:

    It’s hard to think the company that made RDR2 with it’s insane level of detail allowed this shit to happen. It does make a little glad I have VC and SA on disc somewhere, but honestly I’m not sure I’d ever play VC again because some of those missions were fucking BS(the driver mission, not to mention the stupid RC Helicopter one) and I never actually finished SA(I clocked out after reaching San Fierro).

  18. Lino says:

    I don’t really have a horse in the running. While I never owned any of these games, I do have very fond memories of GTA 3, and especially Vice City.

    [CRACKED OLD MAN VOICE] Back in the day, when I was but a wee lad, almost everyone had a computer at home, but Internet was still very expensive. So, if you wanted to play with your friends, you had to go to a computer club (or Internet cafés, as people these days call them).

    You payed 1 BGN (around 0.7 USD at the time) for one hour. But when you were done playing (or if you were playing alone), the customary thing to do was play GTA. No one played the story (because most of the people back then weren’t really good with English), we just caused mayhem, and tried to see how high we could get our “Wanted” meter. One time in Vice City, I managed to get mine all the way to 4/5! Good times!

    Now, give this poor old man a dollar, and I’ll tell you about a Bulgarian show from the 90’s where they basically did a Let’s Play of Mist (and other adventure games), and you could call in and talk to the hosts as they were playing the game! What did you say? Hey, where’d you all go? Ah, these young whippersnappers! No respect for their elders……

    1. Galad_t says:

      what’s the show’s name, I don’t think I’ve seen it? :D

      1. Lino says:

        Here is the only episode I managed to find online. Here’s an interview with the creator (who passed away four years ago) where he says that as far as he knows, there are no surviving archives of it anywhere.

        It was called “Night MIST”, and it began in 1998 on MM – one of Bulgaria’s first ever music channels. It ran in the 11 PM time slot. The very first episode ran until 5 AM, because there were so many callers. According to the interview above, before making the show they wrote to Sierra asking for permission, and Sierra agreed, saying they had never heard of anything like that ever :D

        If you’re interested, I could whip up some subtitles for the show itself. Cool highlight – the first caller – a regular, who won a prize some episodes ago – asks what happened last night, since he fell asleep “because I was really tired. So dumb!”

        While I never caught “Night MIST” during its heyday, during the early aughts (2003 and onward), I watched
        “Gamers Show” on one of the cable networks. They were more focused on reviews. Unfortunately, I can’t find any recordings from it. Only this snippet which is part of show that makes fun of bloopers made during news and talk shows…

  19. RO635 says:

    I remember when GTA V came out on PC (after a some delays, IIRC), I said I was going to wait until it was on a Steam sale to buy it. Finally a Steam sale came, and when I checked the store the game was delisted and replaced with a version that comes with the Shark Cards, with an original price of $90. And it was 33% off so the game was on “sale” for $60.

    Felt like a scummy bait and switch to me so I decided not to buy the game. Haven’t bought any Rockstar products since then either, though they’ve made that pretty easy by not releasing much (not interested in Red Dead).

    Kinda sad to see how far they’ve fallen.

  20. Rariow says:

    As someone with about as much insight into how games programming works as I do into how to do neurosurgery, a feature I want in every single “definitive edition” is a toggle between the classic graphics and the new visuals. As far as I see it it’s a win-win in that you basically get to sell the customer an extra visual style for free (in that there’s no need to design the look of anything), and players who don’t like how your remake looks can just play the game that got popular enough to be remade in the first place. Plus, for someone like me who’s interested in gaming history and would like a taste of how these things looked back in their heyday it’s super interesting – half the reason I stuck with the Master Chief Collection is constantly switching artstyles to see how they differed, and I found the way the atmosphere of Diablo 2 is completely different between remade and modern very cool as well.

    That said – I have no idea how technically challenging implementing something like that is. It feels like it must be a nightmare since you essentially have to load in two different sets of textures and lighting information and everything else you need to make the game look the way it does, and then somehow manage to make the transition between them seamless. On the other hand I’m pretty sure all the texture sata in the original Halo could fit in the remake’s texture data for Cortana’s left pinky, so maybe it’s not that hard? I don’t know, all I know is I think it’d make for objectively better products and get rid of a lot of the complaints people have if it were implemented. Also it’s cool and I like it.

    1. Philadelphus says:

      As someone who has merely dabbled in game creation but programs for a living, I’d rate it as “maybe not impossible, but almost certainly a ton of extra work” depending on the game and the nature of the remaster.

  21. Smith says:

    Like I said on the podcast, it really lights my fuse when these games begin sneering their disjointed high-school level criticisms of “capitalism”. It’s like Harvey Weinstein complaining about women in Hollywood not getting enough respect.

    Especially when they couple it with their equally sophmoric puns. Oh, you called your satire of Facebook “LifeInvader”? You have a high-end fashion chain called “fuque”? A watch billboard that says “STRAP ON TIME”?

    Very clever, Rockstar. Real cutting satire there. Applause, applause. /s

    Well, at least we have Saints Row for actual wacky open world crime hiji-oh, right.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      So…I wouldn’t say that Saint’s Row’s satire was much better than that, honestly…

      I do get the impression that that Saints Row definitely didn’t take itself as seriously as GTA, but then again, I haven’t played a GTA game in roughly a decade…

      1. Smith says:

        Honestly, I just wanted to make a joke about the next SR game’s direction. Which seems to be, well, GTA Online. You and your crew of stylishly attired rebels fight other gangs for control of a city.

        Keep in mind that I haven’t paid a second of any of these games.

        1. Syal says:

          You and your crew of stylishly attired rebels fight other gangs for control of a city.

          That sounds exactly like Saints Row 1 through 3.

      2. Geebs says:

        Saint’s Row is SNL and GTA is Viz. They take two completely different approaches to not being funny.

    2. Cubic says:

      What is the world of GTA except sophomoric jokes?

  22. Whisky Tango Foxtrot says:

    Imagine if Gears of War 5 came to Steam, then a year later Epic made it so that launching GoW5 would actually just launch the Epic Store, which you could then use to launch the game.

    That’s only appropriate, isn’t it? I still remember buying Half-Life at retail, and then having to stop playing it a year or two later when Valve pushed a patch that made it dependent on Steam.

  23. Redrock says:

    To me the fact that the old editions were pulled from the stores is easily the most egregious thing here. I wrote a column for a Russian outlet a while back about the problem of game preservation and this whole Definitive Disaster is a perfect example. And video games are basically the only medium suffering from that bullshit. Apart from the whole Lucas edits thing in Star Wars and probably a handful of other cases, it’s easy to find, purchase and run any version of any movie, TV show, music, book, you name it. Sure, something like the original version of Stephen King’s The Gunslinger might be a little trickier to find, but far from impossible. And, crucially, you’re likely to have all the hardware you need to run it pre-installed, so to speak. But with old games it’s either the Jolly Roger path, or trying to cope with the whims of publishers and copyright owners, and that way madness lies.

    1. Cubic says:

      ‘They’ do pull books from the bookstores without compunction.

      1. Redrock says:

        Yeah, but you can often get an e-book version or a used copy. I’m not saying it’s not an issue for other media, but nowhere is it as widespread and egregious as in videogames.

  24. Cubic says:

    By coincidence, while replaying GTA LCS, I encountered Shamus’s 2007 fulmination against the GTA LCS Salvatore car crusher mission, “Grand Theft Railroad”. (https://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=1084)

    I can now report that, au contraire, I just managed to solve it in a different way.

    1. Obtain sniper rifle before mission.*
    2. Start mission. Follow the crook to the blind alley and watch cut scene. The car for some reason waits a while in the alley before starting its journey. Exploit this.
    3. Go to the alley entrance and take out your rifle. I put a shot through the windshield of the car (driver side), after which the crooks in the car got mad and ran out towards me.
    4. Shoot the crooks.
    5. Drive Salvatore back to mansion. The end.

    * I’m not sure the rifle is required to do the rest, but it was convenient. I got the sniper rifle the long way, by island hopping and gathering many packages, but maybe it can be found somewhere too.

  25. Chad+Miller says:

    Some good news: They’ve been shamed into putting the originals back up and giving them to people who bought the remaster: https://www.rockstargames.com/newswire/article/393o373751k48k/a-note-from-the-rockstar-games-team-re-grand-theft-auto-the-trilogy-th

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