PS2 barely had 32MB of RAM, so Rockstar racked its brains to manage the huge traffic of GTA San Andreas

PS2 barely had 32MB of RAM, so Rockstar racked its brains to manage the huge traffic of GTA San Andreas
PS2 barely had 32MB of RAM, so Rockstar racked its brains to manage the huge traffic of GTA San Andreas

Obbe Vermeij, technical director of the company, has revealed the tricks behind the first sandbox

May 20, 2024, 16:00

Updated May 20, 2024, 16:07

That Rockstar Games established an open world model with the saga GTA It is obvious, but the enormous and hard work behind the fun is not so obvious. The studio’s developers had to work hard on the code to make a project of such magnitude work on a Playstation 2 and now we know more details.

Obbe Vermeij, technical director of the company from 1995 to 2009, was involved in titles such as GTA 3, GTA: Vice City and GTA: San Andreas. That is why he knows all the ins and outs of sandboxes inside out and regularly shares programming curiosities about them; On this occasion, it was the traffic’s turn.

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As Vermeij relates, it was difficult to deal with the just 32MB of RAM from the Sony console, so Rockstar had to “restrict the number of vehicle models used to just 8.” This explains how the system worked:

“My code would occasionally pick a car model to delete. Once there were none left on the map, that model was deleted and a new one could be loaded.

The code would choose a model appropriate for the area (sports cars in business districts, older cars in blighted areas, etc.).

Most of the time this worked fine.”

However, everything could go to hell or exceptions could be created depending on the multiple situations that can arise in a delivery of GTA. Here are some of the ones he details:

  • The more search stars we had, the more slots were occupied by police cars, SWAT vehicles and helicopters.
  • It is possible that for specific missions, level designers requested the inclusion of special vehicles.
  • It is necessary to attend accidents ambulances and fire trucks.
  • If we travel to a different area of ​​the map, the code takes some time to adjust the car models, so at first they do not correspond to that area.
  • You always had to keep in memory the last car the player drove.
  • Sometimes, only one or two car models would be shownwhich would result in an obvious lack of variety.
  • All the vehicles that we had stored in the garages would be excluded from the memory as soon as the doors were closed.

On the other hand, “pedestrian models were loaded and deleted in the same way” and Rockstar created a “generic looking character that seems appropriate in each area of the map. This model was never removed and was always ready to use.”

With all these tricks the limited system memory was managed perfectly, but it is not the only time that Vermeij reveals a curiosity. At the time, he also chatted about the mysterious planes that crash while we play.

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