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Analysis of GTA V's graphics


Miss Darko

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First off, I'd like to acknowledge this as my introduction to the community (Sorry it got off a bit rough with me posting this thread prematurely earlier; I swear I'm not an amateur at this foruming thing! tounge.gif). I know it's a bit odd that my first post is a thread, since that's often a sign that the member will be the type that starts topics constantly at a whim, with little to no forethought. That's not my usual behavior, so no need to worry about that; I normally just respond to threads and rarely start my own, but I haven't found many opportunities to really expand on an existing discussion in a meaningful way.

 

I have, however, noticed many comments since the trailer came out (not necessarily on these forums) that the graphics seen in this trailer are exactly the same as those in GTA IV. Now, those who have paid close attention to the trailer know this is not the case due to some significant improvements, but I did get interested in exploring exactly in what way the graphics in GTA V will differ from those in GTA IV.

Before I get started, I will also acknowledge that this thread's existence is a little iffy, because a lot of my analyses and observations and such could probably fit into the GTA V Trailer Analysis thread, but I would hope that this in-depth look at the game's, well, look, could spark some decent discussion on its own and also expand into any future releases of game footage. If the mods and members in general really feel this only belongs in that thread, then of course simply close it and I'll move on, posting this on the GTA V Trailer Analysis thread instead.

 

Alright. Now I know graphics aren't really a huge deal. GTA V could look exactly the same as GTA IV and still be amazing. Hell, it could even look worse and still be the best game ever. But graphics do matter to some degree, and it's clear many would be disappointed if there were no improvement from the last iteration. Since this game is in the same generation as GTA IV, the graphical improvements are not as immediately obvious as, say, the difference between GTA IV and GTA: San Andreas. The improvements are more subtle, and perhaps more difficult to appreciate. However, at closer inspection, they really do make a big difference. I'll elaborate:

 

user posted image

Dem trees.

 

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Dat landscape.

 

The landscape, of course, is more of an example of just better overall level design; that is, it's not so much about better polygon count or better textures, but rather the fact that there are mountains like that at all, so that improvement alone doesn't have much to do with this topic. However, that screenshot showcases a lot of the stuff I'm going to be talking about.

But let's get more specific. Look again at those screenshots, with their trees and shrubbery. Compare that to GTA IV:

 

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Hell, compare that to Red Dead Redemption:

 

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It's not even a fair comparison to GTA IV, but the fact that it holds up better than RDR, a game that takes place almost exclusively in a natural environment, says something. But trees and shrubbery aren't the deal-breakers here, they're just the first things I noticed when watching the trailer. The next thing I noticed was the pedestrians.

 

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These random pedestrians are rich in detail, for which my crappy screencaps simply do no justice. Here's a look at GTA IV's pedestrians for comparison:

 

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Well, it's kind of hard to tell from this shot, but those who have played GTA IV know that the pedestrians in the game lacked detail. Their faces had an odd, muddled look to them (which is understandable, since you don't normally get a close look at their mugs) and their clothes didn't seem separate from their bodies... although, to be fair, that was a problem for the main character models as well. They weren't bad, really, but there are noticeable, significant improvements on the look of character models in general. In GTA IV, the character models rather stuck out as being fake looking with the iCEnhancer graphics mod, while everything else looks almost real. I think in GTA V this imperfection will still be present, but less noticeable.

The animations that the pedestrians employed were also quite varied and nuanced, with each character having a different gait, walking animation, and even implied relationships. However, there's no telling at this time whether these animations were just for the trailer or if we'll be seeing stuff like that in the game (it stands to reason that, if you've already made the animation, you may as well put it in the game, but they may be omitted for whatever reason).

 

I'm going to move on to some of the more subtle improvements. The first one: the sharper shadows.

 

user posted image

 

I'm not sure if GTA IV's really soft shadows bothered anyone else, but one thing is for sure: they weren't very realistic for the lighting conditions in most of the game (direct sunlight or streelights). Red Dead Redemption fixed this problem pretty quickly- the shadows looked more realistic, and also, there were more of them. What I mean is that almost all sources of light gave off shadows in RDR. In GTA IV, only the sun and certain interior lights gave off shadows. Even the streetlamps didn't give off any shadows when driving or walking under them. Again, not sure if it bothered anyone else, so I won't pretend I'm speaking for everyone when I say this was a complaint of mine. Not a huge one, but it was there.

What I've noticed is that a lot of open world games don't have as realistic a play of light and shadow as RDR did. Stand near a fire, or a lamp. Knock a lamp down, notice how you can change the atmosphere of a room very quickly just by moving a lamp. The play of light and shadow is very important in terms of creating a convincing world, and I think RDR just about nailed it. GTA V has seemingly followed through with these improvements and thus will be more believable and have a stronger atmosphere.

 

Next up, the draw distance:

 

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It looks as though we may be able to see pretty much clear across the map, although the one side may be quite faint from the other end (it really depends on how big it is). One thing is for sure: the draw distance is quite impressive. How does it compare to GTA IV?

 

user posted image

 

GTA IV's draw distance did seem a little short to me at the time, and even more so now. This screenshot is clearly taken not too far from the towers of Algonquin, but the buildings appear to fade out quite quickly. At many points in the GTA V trailer, we see mountains in the distance, beyond the city limits. Assuming Los Santos is about the same size as Liberty City, or even bigger, we wouldn't be able to see those mountains from the city in GTA IV if they were the same distance away. Or, at least, not quite as clearly.

I have also noticed that the objects in the background seem to fade into the 'fog' at a more more gradual rate in GTA V, and blend into the sky more seamlessly as they fade out. Again, they've taken cues from what they've learned in RDR.

 

Thirdly, I want you to look at this screenshot again:

 

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Now, look at this one:

 

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And then this one:

 

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There was an important graphical advancement that L.A. Noire had, other than the MotionScan thing. It's this:

 

user posted image

 

Team Bondi licensed the Lightsprint SDK global illumination middleware for L.A. Noire. Global illumination* basically simulates the way light bounces around and colors bleed onto other surfaces when the light rays bounce off of one surface onto other surfaces in the area. Notice how the colors of the surroundings in these images are seemingly reflected onto the characters and objects in the scene. The green tint on the golf players, the beige underglow on the wind turbines. This is what gives the trailer its almost CGI-rendered look at times (especially with the shot of the hikers in front of the mountain, in my opinion.)

Obviously, neither GTA IV nor RDR had this particular advancement, and this is, I think, what will be one of the most under-appreciated, yet awesome, improvements GTA V will have over GTA IV. It's very subtle, yet it breathes so much life into the world.

 

*I know now that I used incorrect terminology to describe this effect. A better explanation of it can be found near the end of this post.

 

There's one last thing I want to go over before I conclude the analysis (or rather, a string of graphic-related observations I had while watching the trailer), and that is the issue of the LOD.

One of the really great graphical improvements I noticed was the kick-ass LOD.

 

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Those trees go on forever. There's no pop-in during the trailer. Level of detail is somewhat distinguished from draw distance in that, while you can see a mountain from the other side of the map, you generally don't expect to see all of the trees, shrubs, and little details from that distance. GTA games get a lot of flak for having some annoying pop-in. While reading around, I've noticed people saying that such a high LOD would be impossible for this generation with those graphics, and I'm thinking they're right.

I'm not expert on the subject, but RDR has some of the best graphics I've seen in an open world game, and objects pop in left and right when I'm riding around on my horse. Even if you can see a very far away tree, you'll notice it won't start casting a shadow until you get closer.

 

However, while a portion of those people are using that as a basis for the belief that GTA V will be a next-gen game (I'm using weasle-words because I don't feel like finding the sites again, but I did see posts to that effect), I think that's ridiculous. Even discounting the fact that the graphics would be way better on greatly advanced hardware, the fact that this is a trailer alone pretty much explains it. Having pop-in would look bad for a trailer, so they disabled the limited LOD while making the footage because they won't have to worry about compromised performance on the high-end computers they develop the game on (I'm not sure if the way I'm describing it is technically accurate, but I think you get my point).

Which means, of course, that the LOD won't be as flawless in the finished game as in the trailer, unless you have an awesome computer and they provide options to set your LOD to that degree.

 

I'm mentioning this because I wanted to acknowledge that what we're seeing in the trailer may not entirely represent what's in the finished product, so I suppose we'll have to take some of these with a grain of salt, so to speak. However, it does seem like we'll be getting a game that's both fun and pretty damn good to look at, too. It's an improvement not only over GTA IV, but also RDR and L.A. Noire, yet it also uses the features that those games added to R*'s repertoire: improved lighting and shadows, better terrain, godrays, global illumination, etc. I don't think we'll be seeing MotionScan (the faces just don't look that detailed), but GTA V really doesn't need it anyways.

EDIT: Obviously since I don't know all the technical details of graphics and such, I've gotten a few points wrong. Someone much more knowledgeable posted to correct these inaccuracies as well as adding his own input, which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. So I have decided to add his post to mine as an addendum of sorts so as to clarify a few points and prevent people from wasting time making corrections that have already been made:

 

Good thread but I have to clarify a few things here, anyone interested in reading this post will gain some extra understanding on how games are made and why some of the things they previously thought were correct, are actually wrong.

 

Firstly, I'll begin with the cutscenes vs real gameplay visuals vs CG debate

 

R* games have a track record of using the in-game graphics engine to create cutscenes, you only need to compare the trailers of past games such as GTA SA, GTA IV, RDR to see that the actual game looks exactly the same if not better upon release. In addition R* don't make use of CG renders when creating trailers, they always make use of their in-game graphics engine.

To the people saying the GTA V trailer is a CG render, you obviously haven't seen what average looking CG looks like,  lol.gif Even, average CGI renders look better and more advanced than the GTA V trailer, not to mention great looking advanced CG. The mere thought that the GTA V trailer is CG render is utterly impossible. It looks FAR too bad to be CG essentially.

 

You can forget about the use of CG within the GTA V trailer, and even if most of the footage is cutscenes, just remember R* use their in-game engine to depict cutscenes. What that trailer looks like IS what GTA V looks like.

 

Secondly, the topic of PC graphics or console footage?

 

What people need to understand is companies want to showcase their game in the best light as possible, it is very likely that R* rendered that trailer on a PC, and therefore the visuals seen in the trailer will NOT be exactly the same on consoles. You don't have to be creating a PC version of a video game, to render trailers on a PC - Video games are MADE on high end PC's in the first place, console devkits are merely used when testing in order to make sure the game will run properly on consoles, devkits are for developers to know and understand the desired specs of the machine they are developing for, as well as how the machines architecture is set up. That said, all console games including console exclusivies are made on PCs, played on PCs and then finally tested on devkits.

 

Key point: You don't need a PC version to render stuff with PC graphical settings - It's done anyway. This is why the trailer might have been rendered on PC quality settings, even if the PC version comes out a year later.

 

Global illumination

 

What OP talked about in his very well written and detailed post (I enjoyed reading it) is not exactly correct. Global illumination is actually a blanket collection of lighting technologies that are used to make games look more realistic and detailed. Things such as ray-tracing, photon mapping and radiosity are methods of global illumination. What OP is referring to with the color bleeding and blending with the environment is actually radiosiity rendering. There are a few key points to understand with this, hopefully my explanation can be understood.

 

Radiosity is a relatively easy to implement lighting scheme, but it is expensive on the GPU and CPU of any computer system. 1, 2 or 3 lighting passes (passes are how many times the scene is rendered) is NOT enough to create a good looking effect, the first iteration or light pass will tell the developer how the scene will look after one light bounce, i.e. after light has flooded into the scene and bounced around the environment, this isn't enough. Multiple light passes are required until the scene looks any good. We're talking up to 16 light passes before it looks smooth and realistic. This is intensive on the processor and graphics card, because the scene has to be rendered multiple times in such quick succession.

 

Why is all that important?

 

Well real-time radiosity rendering is still in its infancy, most games don't make use of real time radiosity rendering because of how tasking it is, If I remember correctly BF3 uses some sort of quasi-radiosity in real time, but then BF3 is a graphical behemoth, and almost an indication of what will be possible on the next gen. GTA V to feature real time radiosity? IMPOSSIBLE. in a world as big and open as that, it will be impossible on current hardware. However what is most likely happening is the lighting passes has been baked into the frame, and as each frame is rendered it appears as if radiosity exists in real time, essentially the scene is 'faked' so to speak. meaning if you moved the position of a light source, nothing would change in the scene...Mirrors edge is one game that used baked radiosity. hmmmmmmmm, possible.

 

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~Baked radiosity

 

Hope this enlightened a few, anything you need explained further just ask.  smile.gif

Feel free to discuss other features that I may have (probably have) missed, or how you feel the trailer/ingame graphics discrepancy might pan out, or whether or not you even care about graphics in video games. Until next time.

Edited by Mr. Darko
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Nice topic, man icon14.gif . Indeed, V's graphics improved since IV or RDR. Now, it looks less blurry, more detailed, there are better colors also. Just great. Althpugh, remember, it's just a trailer...

"Życie ostre jak maczeta" (Life as hard as machete) - Waszka G
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They added the brightness and colors of the III era to the Realistic look of the IV era. Nice detailed analysis. icon14.gif

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In the trailer the graphics looked good. The cars, city and environment looked very detailed and clearly improved since GTA IV and RDR.

 

Good topic. smile.gificon14.gif

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Did you ever stop to think that maybe all the images in the trailer were taken from cut scenes?

user posted image
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Some may have, but GTA cutscenes typically use ingame graphics anyways.

Either way, the graphics are believable. I don't think they'd need to use CGI rendering or other tricks to make it look good. They probably just speak for themselves.

I do feel that many of the animations the characters in the trailer are doing were made specifically for the trailer, or cutscenes, or both.

Edited by Mr. Darko
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Nice thread. I especially like how you compared the environment upgrades to RDR, as this is pretty much what I'll be comparing it to. GTA IV's over 3 years old now, I think most of us realize its now quite outdated graphics-wise (at least in terms of the background, e.g. buildings/trees), especially the pathetic greenery that was in the game. It was almost PS2 quality. I like how you recognized that so compared it to a more recent R* game that I'm sure will have heavy influences on the rural GTA V areas.

 

Also, don't worry so much about getting chewed out for starting a thread, you basically had 2 long paragraphs simply defending why you felt it was ok to make it. A good thread OP will speak for itself (which this does).

 

 

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Yep, I understand that for sure, especially with all the newbies joining up (myself included) and starting multiple threads lately since the trailer broke.

 

And just to add on to my last post, I like all the attention to detail in the graphics. For me anyway, its a huge deal, I always notice the little things (and I'm noticing in recent games, R* does too). The little things make the game. Was just playing RDR last night, I love how well they did this, like that heat shimmer when you're in the desert, or small dust clouds kicking up everywhere. And like you mentioned, the shadowing. That game is a visual masterpiece.

 

I'm very interested to compare GTA V's rural areas (of which I'm assuming there will be a ton) with RDR. Actually I bet there will be a Joshua Tree area in V that will look incredibly similar to Gaptooth Ridge. It will be interesting to see how they built on the area visually.

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Did you ever stop to think that maybe all the images in the trailer were taken from cut scenes?

I think the only two cut scene in the trailer was the guy on the mountain and the jewelry store robbery.Most of it was based off game play like they usually show in GTA Trailer

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The footage in the GTA V trailer looks like cutscenes to me, so you can't really compare it to screenshots of actual gameplay footage in GTA IV. But in saying that, Los Santos does look a lot prettier that Liberty City.

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if we get the graphics on foliage as good as or better than rdr in the final picee during gameplay i'll be damn glad with the game graphically already.

 

 

ps. good post op

G1T
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Great topic. Believe or not, one thing that stood out for me in the trailer was the fact that the wind turbines have rounded 3D rivets! wow.gif

 

It is an incredible amount of detail, I just hope the final product compares. This is a mere trailer, afterall.

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Great topic. Believe or not, one thing that stood out for me in the trailer was the fact that the wind turbines have rounded 3D rivets! wow.gif

The rivets caught my eye as well. If they are going to go for this level of detail, I'm all for a smaller map. IV's Liberty City had too many places that felt underdeveloped and hurriedly thrown together; an afterthought just to make the map bigger. Of course, there were also the memorable spots that added to the believability and enhanced the whole experience - I expect much more of the latter with V.

oldschoolsigs22.png

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The rivets caught my eye as well. If they are going to go for this level of detail, I'm all for a smaller map.

oh come on. not a dozen detailed turbines with rounded rivets than a dozen square miles of playable area

G1T
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I did notice the graphics were already better when I looked at the potential MC(the 50 something year old guy looking at the skyscrapers), if you look closer at him you will notice he has a lot of detail compared to GTA IV's main characters.Reading this thread really allows me to appreciate the improvements,thanks for the thread!

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Enjoyed reading this! Great post! Always looking for something to satisfy my need to look further into GTA v and this was it!

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Great first post cookie.gif

 

 

There was an important graphical advancement that L.A. Noire had, other than the MotionScan thing. It's this:

 

user posted image

 

Team Bondi licensed the Lightsprint SDK global illumination middleware for L.A. Noire. Global illumination basically simulates the way light bounces around and colors bleed onto other surfaces when the light rays bounce off of one surface onto other surfaces in the area. Notice how the colors of the surroundings in these images are seemingly reflected onto the characters and objects in the scene. The green tint on the golf players, the beige underglow on the wind turbines. This is what gives the trailer its almost CGI-rendered look at times (especially with the shot of the hikers in front of the mountain, in my opinion.)

Obviously, neither GTA IV nor RDR had this particular advancement, and this is, I think, what will be one of the most under-appreciated, yet awesome, improvements GTA V will have over GTA IV. It's very subtle, yet it breathes so much life into the world.

 

The color bleeding light thing is called Radiosity. Its an interesting debate about the footage being created on a high spec PC for trailer purposes only and that the final game wont look like that because calculating light bounces takes up a huge chunk of the processing resources. It would take a multiple processors or at least hyper threading to calculate it all in realtime and the time increases the more bounces and passes you have. Im not sure current hardware can handle all this going on in GTAV not to mention euphoria and the animations which all need to run simultaneously to create the world.

 

The trailer to me looks real time apart from a few scenes I hope the consoles will look the same otherwise it would be misleading and will only cause disappointment.

 

But I think Rockstar know this and it was done on a console.

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Johnny Playert

GREAT topic man!! These are the kind of analysis' i pay most attention to. Nice man, and welcome to the board icon14.gif would you care to ellaborate with some more comparison pics? Really puts things in perspective smile.gif

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I've analysed the trailer many times over, and I think that the current consoles can't handle those graphics. Hell, my two week old custom built PC would probably struggle with even a fully optimised version. The Xbox 360 would be truly screwed when it comes to disk space to store the map AND the new graphics and textures.

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Did no one think about the flag waving in the air?? Thats an amazing addition to the graphics. I don't know how the consoles will handle such heavy graphics. PC users will have the last laugh though. biggrin.gif

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The rivets caught my eye as well. If they are going to go for this level of detail, I'm all for a smaller map.

oh come on. not a dozen detailed turbines with rounded rivets than a dozen square miles of playable area

Have you seen the trailer? There's quite a bit more in Los Santos than a few turbines. What I posted was simply my opinion on quality over quantity. Maybe get your head out of your ass and read the entire thing, instead of knee-jerking to the first sentence.

oldschoolsigs22.png

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For the people saying about most of the shots being cut-scenes - it doesn't matter. In the past, all GTA trailers and cutscenes are rendered in real time in-game. So if something looks great in a cutscene, that is what it looks like when playing. Because it uses the in-game world and graphics to create it, only thing different is the actions which are scripted. So the animations may not be as great as seen in the trailer, but of course they will have improved considerably though. However, for example the two females turning to look at the males when jogging is most likely scripted. As well as the three people on the mountain, because obviously a normal ped wouldn't just be on a mountain holding hands and turning to look at the camera. So it's most likely scripted.

 

I'm sure alot of cutscenes were used, because that's how you show off all of the action. Just moving a camera around the city watching the peds do their thing wouldn't be as impressive. But just because the stuff is taken from cutscenes doesn't mean the game world won't have that kind of detail when playing, cause like I said, it's all in-game.

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kietotheworld

Your key flaw is the assumption that they'll have done all that trailer on a 360 or a PS3, they won't, they'll have done it on an absolute f*cking monster of a comupter to make look as good as possible. The reason it has a rendered CG look isn't a fancy new graphical innovation, it's the fact that it is rendered CG.

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Great topic, I was expecting something more technical but it's ok so all the people can understand.

 

GTAV graphics are another level compared to GTAIV, so this is way I think they'are using a new version of RAGE probably a work in progress of the next gen version, like other companies are doing (Crytek with the Cryengine 3,Dice with bf3 )

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For the people saying about most of the shots being cut-scenes - it doesn't matter. In the past, all GTA trailers and cutscenes are rendered in real time in-game. So if something looks great in a cutscene, that is what it looks like when playing. Because it uses the in-game world and graphics to create it, only thing different is the actions which are scripted. So the animations may not be as great as seen in the trailer, but of course they will have improved considerably though. However, for example the two females turning to look at the males when jogging is most likely scripted. As well as the three people on the mountain, because obviously a normal ped wouldn't just be on a mountain holding hands and turning to look at the camera. So it's most likely scripted.

 

I'm sure alot of cutscenes were used, because that's how you show off all of the action. Just moving a camera around the city watching the peds do their thing wouldn't be as impressive. But just because the stuff is taken from cutscenes doesn't mean the game world won't have that kind of detail when playing, cause like I said, it's all in-game.

Agreed. Actually I just went on youtube and re-watched the 1st trailer to GTA IV for comparison, and - though pretty much everything in that trailer are cut-scenes too - they for the most part look the same as the gameplay itself in that game graphics-wise, just more zoomed in.

 

Agreed that some of the animations in the trailer are probably just for the trailer (girls checking out guy, guy hammering in real estate sign, etc), but in terms of graphics, that's pretty much what its going to look like. Which of course, is awesome.

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No talk of the sky? The sky is much more improved. GTA IV just used gradients to make the sun and sky and a noise texture to generate clouds. The sky feels much more dynamically generated with those particle effects for clouds. And the sun actually shines.

 

I also like how they laid down on the color correction and desaturation, now the world has depth.

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