The decision to implement Grand Theft Auto V’s three-character system—now regarded as one of the best additions to the series—was a “leap of faith,” according to art director Aaron Garbut.
“[Having] multiple characters was a leap of faith,” Garbut told Edge in a recent interview. ”It was an interesting idea, and it felt like we could do interesting things with it, but it also felt like a change to the core of the game that might backfire. I think it really worked out.”
Garbut also provided insight into Rockstar North’s design approach to GTA games, stating that the first and biggest priority is the creation of the world, the city (or cities, as once was the case). According to Garbut, a portion of preproduction is dedicated to the art team to allow them to construct a “white box” city—that is, one in which all the systems are tested (feel of the roads, look of the skyline, et cetera).
“The world is built first, then missions, then structure and story, and all the time all our systems are developing and changing,” Garbut said. “Each of these things influences the others massively, so each needs to adapt to the others. We are always playing and refining, adjusting each element of the game to play better with the others. We’re rarely throwing away content; it’s more about adapting plans and constantly looking ahead with a clean slate, rather than sticking stubbornly to old decisions.”