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Devs show off how bad early game builds look after moans about GTA 6's visuals

A screenshot of an early build of Uncharted 4's car chase, showing untextured environments
(Image credit: Kurt Margenau)
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The GTA 6 leaks have gotten a few souls in a tizzy about the in-development game's graphical fidelity. Otherwise rational people look at leaked gameplay footage from a project that won't be finished for years, see the placeholder barks and Ken-doll textures, and conclude that, well, clearly this is representative of the final product.

Fortunately (or unfortunately if you were looking forward to an avant-garde, deconstructed GTA 6 experience) that's not the case. Early builds—even early builds of beautiful games—tend to look rough, and to prove the point, developers have been posting screenshots and videos of some of the biggest and prettiest games around in their earliest, ugliest stages of development. Take, for example, this video of an early build of Control shared by the game's lead designer:

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It's a rare glimpse into an aspect of game design that we don't often see. If games marketing had its way, we might all believe that videogames were delivered by storks, fully-formed and perfect. The fact that games, with very few exceptions, spend a vast chunk of their development time on the verge of catching fire might ruin the magic. Would Mass Effect's universe feel so majestic and impressive if you knew that, for a while there, Commander Shepard was running around in it without a head (opens in new tab)?

I mean, personally speaking, yes it would. I don't know about you, but the fact that basically every game that actually ships is something bordering a miracle makes them feel more impressive to me, not less. A video of The Last Of Us' Joel (opens in new tab) running around a map that looks like a PS1 level makes the final game look all the better, as far as I'm concerned.

The meme train keeps on rolling, and more and more devs are showcasing their rickety early builds as time goes on and momentum builds. If you fancy keeping track, you can check out this thread on Resetera (opens in new tab) that's trying to collate them all. Here are some highlights:

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I will leave you with this short video of a personal project of a Bungie senior designer; I guess some games actually do just look perfect right from the start.

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News Writer

One of Josh's first memories is of playing Quake 2 on the family computer when he was far too young to be doing that, and he's been irreparably game-brained ever since. Since then, his writing has been featured in Vice, Fanbyte, and the Financial Times. He'll play pretty much anything, and has written far too much on everything from visual novels to Assassin's Creed. His most profound loves are for CRPGs, immersive sims, and any game whose ambition outstrips its budget. He thinks you're all far too mean about Deus Ex: Invisible War.

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