Devs show what in-development games look like after GTA 6 leak

Over this past weekend, Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto 6 leaked, with 90 videos showing off in-development builds of the highly anticipated open-world game. Obviously, many aspects of these videos looked incomplete, which caused some people to immediately judge the final quality of the game, engage in lots of angry discourse, and reveal that they don’t quite understand how game development works.

One tweet, in particular, caught the ire of game developers as it claimed that “visuals are one of the first things done” and that the final year of development is “all backend stuff” like mission coding and debugging. Obviously, this couldn’t be further from the truth, as multiple elements of video games are created in tandem and rely on each other to be complete. For example, would you expect the visuals of a level to be complete before the design of that space and the missions that take place within it are finished?

To hopefully dispel some of that ignorance surrounding game development that surfaced following the Grand Theft Auto 6 leaks, teams big and small are giving glimpses at what their video games looked like during development, years before players ever got their hands on them. These are some of our favorites.

A Plague Tale: Requiem

"Graphics are the first thing finished in a video game"

Here, A Plague Tale: Requiem in one of its first build vs the upcoming release: pic.twitter.com/Ft4fUjjIoX

— Kevin Choteau (@KChoteau) September 21, 2022

A Plague Tale: Requiem is one of this fall’s most intriguing titles as it’s a sequel to a 2019 game about siblings trying to survive in a France embattled by the Black Plague, lots of aggressive rats, and the French Inquisition. Even as a sequel, Asobo Studios still had to craft a lot of A Plague Tale: Requiem’s adventure from scratch. Director Kevin Choteau tweeted out footage of one in-game sequence, where one of its first builds features work-in-progress character models of protagonists Amicia and Hugo running through an untextured, barren environment. Needless to say, this part of the game now looks gorgeous and very different from that early build.

Cult of the Lamb

"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/F5EyEH6M9r

— Cult of the Lamb 🙏🐑👑 OUT NOW (@cultofthelamb) September 20, 2022

Cult of the Lamb made a strong impression in August as a demented take on Animal Crossing, where players form a cult as they gather resources and try to take down gods. On Twitter, Massive Monster and Devolver Digital showed an earlier build of the game where everything doesn’t have the final game’s beautiful hand-drawn aesthetic quite yet. Still, you can see the building blocks of something promising that would entertain a lot of people.

Pikuniku

Here's what early versions of Pikuniku looked like pic.twitter.com/9d7ty3o3gP

— Pikuniku ✨ (@PikuNikuGame) September 21, 2022

Pikuniku is a boldly designed and colorful adventure puzzle game released back in 2019. Its vibrant visuals and distinct character designs helped the game stand out, but those had to be lovingly crafted and refined. A tweet from Sectordub and Devolver Digital demonstrates that even Pikuniku’s visuals weren’t the first thing completely finished and were much more basic during development.

Cursed to Golf

This is what @CursedtoGolf looked like for a LONG WHILE, before we got close to making it look like a game…

Games come in all shapes & forms before they hit your console/PC. Could be right up until the very week of launch before even a "Press Start" is added👀 #gamedev pic.twitter.com/u1u7beYMnV

— Liam Edwards ⛳️ CURSED TO GOLF OUT NOW⛳️ (@LiamBME) September 21, 2022

If you need yet another example of how game development is a very iterative process, a tweet from Chuhai Labs’ Liam Edwards showed off early footage of the studio’s golf roguelike Cursed to Golf. You see the basic gameplay of this creative 2D golfing game in action, but the visuals of each level are very clearly incomplete. We even see visual tests that serve as a midpoint between what players will recognize and what the final game will look like.

Deliver Us the Moon

"Graphics are the first thing finished in a video game"

We present you early versions of Deliver Us The Moon aka "The Michelin Man" vs finished game. pic.twitter.com/NY3PlzqJCA

— KeokeN Interactive🐧 (@KeokeN) September 21, 2022

Even something as crucial to a game as the design of the main character might not be one of the first things finalized. Case in point is KeokeN Interactive’s in-development screenshots of Deliver Us the Moon, a sci-fi puzzle game from 2018. In early builds of Deliver Us the Moon, the main character was an untextured white character model that the developers lovingly named “The Michelin Man” due to his bumpy design. Obviously, the stars of this game looked a lot cooler (and more scientifically accurate) when Deliver Us the Moon was released.

Railbound

"Graphics are the first thing finished in a video game"

Here's how Railbound looked before we announced the game; in January (3 months before), Feburary (2mo) and March (1mo): pic.twitter.com/JoTAyGbYFZ

— Afterburn (@AfterburnGames) September 21, 2022

Even just months ahead of an official reveal, a video game can look very incomplete. Railbound is a simple but enthralling puzzle game where players must set tracks that ensure that carriages are attached to a train in the right order. It is one of this month’s most charming games and features a distinct cel-shaded visual style that developer Afterburn had not yet implemented just three months before the game’s reveal. Afterburn released a series of images revealing what the game looked like as the team crafted puzzles during development, with the style Railbound players will recognize taking shape just a month before the game’s reveal in April 2022.

Control

CONTROL – Early Production Footage (Finished Graphics)

Finally, we have Control, Remedy Entertainment’s critically acclaimed action game from 2019 that features gravity-defying combat and lots of trippy environments. It’s a beautiful game, but it didn’t always look like that. Control lead designer Paul Ehreth posted a YouTube video featuring footage from early on in Control’s development. It’s got solid bones that show a lot of promise, but it also easily demonstrates how game development is not a super linear process and that everything for certain parts of the game isn’t all finished at once.

While sharing the video on Twitter, Ehreth clearly explained the most important thing that players should take away from all of this GTA 6 leak discourse. “The best thing to come from all this silliness is the awareness that every game, no matter how good it ends up, starts as a fragment of broken junk,” Ehreth said. “It’s all the years of hard work from the team, building and refining it that makes it great.”

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