On September 18, Rockstar Games suffered a major hack that resulted in the leaking of over 90 videos and images of an early version of the upcoming Grand Theft Auto game, commonly called GTA VI.
For any company, that would have been an astronomical breach, and it was even more remarkable considering it happened at such a notoriously guarded company as Rockstar.
In the days that followed, the developers were quick to come forward and offer their sympathy to Rockstar. After all, his game was shown prematurely in a rough state and, as a result, came under intense scrutiny from players. Many people unaware of the nature of game development mistakenly felt that this was quite revealing of how GTA VI will review the launch and condemn the game accordingly.
A message from Rockstar Games pic.twitter.com/T4Wztu8RW8
— Rockstar Games (@RockstarGames) September 19, 2022
Of course, anyone who’s actually remotely sane will know how ridiculous those comments were. The game was not ready to be shown publicly and should be at least two years after launch. Many of these gamers simply misunderstand how game development works.
But that’s a problem in itself. As I’ve seen all kinds of takes on the GTA VI leaking percolate, the one I have do not have much noticed is the fact that the gaming industry is too secretive. While so-called “fans” often don’t know a lot about games, did we think maybe game companies could do a little more to educate people?
When we talk about almost every other major art form, we know more or less how sausage is made. The way Marvel created comics has been well documented for years, novelists regularly share advice and discuss their writing processes, countless candid documentaries and reports on the making of great movies have been produced, and studios literally offer free tickets to the public to watch the live taping of TV shows. In other words, there is a level of openness at all levels.
Of course you always have dumb people saying unrealistic things like “Warner Bros. should recast Ezra Miller and redo everything the flashas if it were comparable to what Ridley Scott did when he replaced Kevin Spacey in a supporting role with the late Canadian actor Christopher Plummer in All the money in the world. There will always be unconscious people. But overall, there’s at least a broader understanding of how movies are made, and a similar thing could be said about other forms of media.
…except games, anyway. Admittedly, it is a nascent art form, especially in relation to literature or cinema. So it’s somewhat understandable that we don’t get as many behind-the-scenes looks with the games. That said, many companies don’t even try. As mentioned, Rockstar is infamously secretive, and it wasn’t until earlier this year that the company even admitted that GTA VI was being done. Elsewhere we will have games like Final Fantasy VII Remake and Bayonet 3 announced and then barely get a word about them for years. Of course, I realize that games are extremely difficult to make, and that no doubt introduces a lot of delays. However, not everyone understands this, so why not try to enlighten them? Even if you don’t have something major like a gameplay show, can’t you just get a developer to talk about it or pitch some concept art? Consider EA Motive of Montreal, which has put on some really insightful presentations on its dead space remake which provided clearly marked raw footage of the game with lots of developer commentary. It’s a fair compromise between showing lots of gameplay demos and saying nothing at all. Could this be possible with every game? Probably not, but that kind of transparency goes a long way.
I always think back to Final Fantasy XIV: A Kingdom Reborn. The MMORPG’s original release in 2010 was a disaster, and it wasn’t until director Naoki Yoshida arrived and, with the help of a talented team, that he painstakingly rebooted everything to critical acclaim. important. They’ve since built on that foundation with a host of beloved expansions and other updates. The end result is one of the most popular MMOs of all time that features a well-publicized positive community – something of a rarity in gaming.
It almost creates this notion that game developers are a mythical, alien, and unknown entity…
A big reason why it all happened is that Yoshida and his team are so willing to be transparent. He speaks openly to fans. He constantly provides updates on the progress of the game. He shows humility and promotes other games. He and the game’s composer, the masterful Masayoshi Soken, even tearfully revealed the latter’s private battles with cancer at a fan event. It’s something you don’t see with a lot of games, and it clearly makes a major difference. It shows people that real humans are doing these games and thus can lead to a greater sense of empathy. A similar romantic relationship between developer and fans can be seen with the creator of Super Smash Bros. Masahiro Sakurai, who has since launched a game development YouTube channel and, at the time of writing, has racked up nearly half a million subscribers in a single month.
But overall, the video game industry treats almost everything like a big secret, even in seemingly small and bizarre ways. In 2013, I was visiting family in Scotland with my mother. There we went to Edinburgh and, knowing GTA maker Rockstar North was there, wanted to check it out. Much to my disappointment, then, when I was not allowed in non-descript lobby to take a photo even from a distance near the large Rockstar logo. A colleague told me that a similar thing happened with him in Amsterdam with PlayStation’s Guerrilla Games, the maker of the Horizon series. Hell, a security guard at Nintendo’s Kyoto headquarters frantically chased us away when we took a few steps closer to try and get a selfie with the legendary game company behind us. (See image below for how far we were from the actual entrance.)
To be clear, I’m not saying we’re owed entry, some sort of tour or anything. Businesses have every right to remain closed to passers-by, especially considering how could protect developers from harassment. But this fear of letting people even enter a hall or other open space to take a picture is quite disconcerting. Is there some kind of thought that we will break in and steal game secrets? Why does a fan taking a simple photo with your company logo seem so important? It almost creates this notion that game developers are a mythical, alien, and unknown entity — kind of like a loot box. The global video game industry generates hundreds of billions of dollars a year, yet it’s treated like an illusory members-only club, almost like the stonemasons of The simpsons.
Forget putting a human face on otherwise monolithic companies – you’re barely allowed to engage with the companies themselves. (Not to mention that something like a selfie is basically free promotion in the age of social media). It’s in stark contrast to something like Hollywood. Companies like Warner Bros., Sony, Universal and Paramount all offer public tours of their studios. They openly invite people to come and see where and how their art is made, and that’s pretty awesome. Disney is a bit more restrictive, but even it offers tours through its otherwise non-public studios through its D23 membership program.
Now, to give credit where it’s due, there are developers doing stuff like this. Ubisoft’s Quebec teams, for example, allow schools to visit, which is a great way to showcase what they do while encouraging more people to break into the industry. Ubisoft Toronto went even further in 2018 by participating in “Doors Open Toronto” to allow anyone who registered in advance to visit its motion capture studio. In its comical way, the excellent Ubisoft co-produced mythical quest The series also explores various facets of game development. (However, none of this excuses the allegations of misconduct that Ubisoft continues to face). God of the war. This is all pretty rare, sure, but it’s certainly nice when we get it.
“Graphics are the first finished thing in a video game”
Here’s a Thunderjaw from an early version of Horizon: Zero Dawn pic.twitter.com/Xq6fw5fS0e
— Cian Maher (@cianmaher0) September 20, 2022
If there was a positive coming from the GTA VI leak, however, is that we have saw a number of developers lift the curtain a bit. After a particularly clueless social media commenter basically said “the graphics are the first thing“In development, all kinds of studios took to social media to provide specific examples of how this person got it wrong. Specifically, they decided to share previews of early development builds to give you a idea of how games significantly evolve over time. Some examples include Remedy (Control), Toronto DrinkBox (No one saves the world!), Turtle Rock (Back 4 Blood), people can fly (Riders), Media Molecule (little big planet) and massive monster (Worship of the Lamb). Honestly, it’s so refreshing to see this kind of franchise when it comes to games.
Now you will always have people who are ignorant – this is not exclusive to any media. But it’s the general reluctance to even try to inform some people that seems to be quite unique to games. On some level, I understand why companies often choose not to engage with fans, especially when they may be entitled to something as frivolous as a release date or art style. But I also can’t help but wonder how this kind of behavior could be reduced – even slightly – if companies didn’t treat their games like JJ Abrams-level mystery boxes. It is still early, but what we have already seen after the GTA VI The leak is a promising first step towards improving that, and hopefully we’ll continue to see that in the months and years to come.
Image credit: Blizzard