Like many, my first thought was seeing GTA 6 The leak was ‘fake’. The second is a flashback to the protocol that occurred when a leak or security breach, no matter how minor, occurred when I was on the development side of the industry: usually, angry-faced people burst into a room and demand that no one touch anything. . What was the third thought? music star, the king of image control and data flow, must do now. My mind raced to that sequence from The Bourne Identity, where a beleaguered CIA station chief demands to the agency, ‘Everybody up.’ Each, in this instance, is a handful of assassins, each with a name and an even colder motive.
As far as I know, Matt Damon isn’t involved, and Rockstar brass didn’t send Clive Owen to have a gun-point philosophical chat with the person responsible for the leak, as much as it probably would have liked. It did match up with the FBI, though, so maybe I wasn’t that far off. Either way, the response will be swift and all-encompassing, as happened with the closest thing I can remember, the Half-Life 2 leak. (And we all know what happened there.)
The reasons for such reactions are obvious. There is a huge financial element at play here. There are security concerns related to source code and other exposures that could well derail an entire project. And then there’s the reputational damage, which has already happened. Seconds after the leak, the internet was abuzz with people disappointed with how it looked. That looked like shit. That would be a huge disappointment if it looks like it, and what have the quiet, (lazy?) devs been up to so far?
These were some of the more obvious takeaways: at least the words make sense in order. Others felt as though they had rushed into the universe without regard for the senses or for discernment as opposed to reality. So what is that reality? Mainly, I’m amazed that any video game ever gets released, and if you saw what all your favorite games looked like just three months before they were released, you’d insist that some kind of stunning magic was done to make them last.
I know this because since 2007 I’ve worked as a writer on either direct games, high-profile or visible franchises/brands (including Battlefield, Harry Potter, Burnout, Half-Life, Total War, and others). In that role, I saw them in their pre-release state, mainly when a very nervous PR person begged you to remember. It is not finished. In part of my current role, I advise and advise on mechanics and mods for high-profile releases. Regardless of my job in the industry over these 15 years, one thing remains the same: making games is hard, and it either comes together in the end, or it doesn’t come together at all. The gap between success and failure, especially for so-called Triple-A, disappears.
As an example, in a shooter you played very well, the guns stopped working about two months before release. the gun In the other shooter, the weapons had no crosshairs until Dave went deep, so team members had to stick a small blue-tack in the middle of the screen to aim the gun. It’s a port of a game that’s been out for years, I should add.
In an admirably ambitious and completely overscoped open-world racing game that people are desperate for a sequel to (and I’ll never play again), even for playing it just months before its E3 playable demo – which in and of itself caused many, many lumps – was a challenge. Especially on the PS3, which at the time was like trying to program advanced graphics into a cashew. When, finally, a teammate and I crashed the E3 demo, causing the entire PS3 itself to become a crock, the pained wail would make Michael Corleone blush.
There are many more such stories. I once got promoted to Battlefield a few months before starting an ambitious turn-based strategy game, when I arrived for the night shift (people tried to make the release date 24 hours a day) and my boss said ‘You’ve been promoted. I left work and left the office.
The reason: multi-vientated naval combat, the main selling point, simply didn’t work. Every morning, at the end of said shift, I had to write the handover reports (to the incoming test teams as well as the development and production teams), telling them as diplomatically as possible that, yes, we are sorry to inform you that it is still completely fucked.
Guess what? Each of these games came out and, to a greater or lesser degree, bore little resemblance to how they looked literally weeks ago. (Some games, especially annual game titles, can change dramatically even between the review stage and release.) Some of them scored brilliantly, most of which you’ve played or heard of, and at least one of them caused a real problem on review day. An important magazine gave the game an 8 in August. A developer on the project said ‘I would have given it a 10’. Someone replied ‘That’s why people who make games don’t review them.’ Listen to Saloon Bar Fight Music.
Thankfully it calmed down before it got out of control. But this kind of emotional reaction wasn’t necessarily out of the blue, and it’s another part of the GTA 6 (or indeed, any game) leak that could have drastic and unseen consequences: these things aren’t made by robots, they’re made by an army of people who Motivation to do well is varied, but commitment and sacrifice are usually not.
Spending years of your life working on these things is exhausting, especially when it doesn’t appear to the outside world (or even some bean-counter in the production office) like any progress is being made.
So having 90 videos or so is, I imagine, shattering – especially when people who know nothing about it are giving it the boot. (An example of how online opinion can literally change in seconds: the top secret E3 trailer for a game I linked to went live at the show without any leaks. It had a long intro, and people in chat were literally saying ‘what the f*ck is this lol. ‘ When it’s expressed, the space dissolves. It’s a line.)
Thankfully, there’s been plenty of pushback on social media, with many game devs — both big and small — showing how Metacritic darlings dev looks. Whether it will be enough for rockstar teams, I don’t know. But, in my own opinion, what I saw looked really good, where it seems to be in the dev cycle.
And with that in mind, imagine what it will look like when it’s released in 2148.