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:
Since graphics are the first thing finished in a video game, and CONTROL won multiple awards for excellence in graphics, here is footage from the beginning of development :)Full video here: https://t.co/l2g7oPhtk7🔻 pic.twitter.com/cGnmJZXF5ESeptember 20, 2022
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:
"Graphics are the first thing finished in a video game" Here's a Thunderjaw from an early build of Horizon: Zero Dawn pic.twitter.com/Xq6fw5fS0eSeptember 20, 2022
"Graphics are the first thing finished in a video game" Here's what early versions of Cult of the Lamb looked like pic.twitter.com/F5EyEH6M9rSeptember 20, 2022
What art looks like for a video game in development. https://t.co/15bo6L6qMaSeptember 20, 2022
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.
Graphics are the first thing that is finished in a video game (footage from a personal project I was working on a few years ago before I started at Bungie) pic.twitter.com/Vw22EDn6yfSeptember 21, 2022