Rumor Control Volume 1

Rah! So here we are with only two weeks left until San Andreas hits store shelves in North America. While we impatiently wait for these last thirteen and a half days to crawl by, the levels of excitement and anticipation amongst fans will surely climb right through the roof. And as the excitement builds, the amount of rumors and speculation will likewise grow exponentially to match. Because of this, we felt it might be a good time to bring some of the more persistent rumors into the light of day, and see what they’re all about. A brief search through pretty much any message board across the intraweb will turn up any number of strange and unfounded rumors about various features in the game. For now, I’m just going to touch on a handful that are frequently repeated, or may otherwise leave people confused in two weeks when they finally see the game in action. (Note: this post is kind of long, so be sure to hit the “read more” link for the rest)

Rumor 1: Driving schools, driving stats, and car handling, oh my…

Over the weekend, many of us read in horror as Gamespot told us how the driving schools and stats would affect the overall handling of all the cars. The general consensus to this revelation was a resounding “WTF” at the implications that either A: the player’s ability to handle cars would be handicapped from the start, or B: that the actual car handling would change throughout the game. Perhaps the biggest concern was that the latter would mean cars would eventually behave like the “perfect handling” cheat from the previous games, thereby taking all the fun out of, say, power-sliding a Manana through a group of peds. Then of course there were the general fears that artificially boosting the handling would make they player’s actual skill quite pointless…

But before grabbing my torch and joining the angry mobs of villagers inevitably descending upon Rockstar North, I figured I’d put GTANet’s rather nice contact list to good use. So, I fired off an e-mail to someone in-the-know, and asked what the hell was going on with this wacky driving stats nonsense, and whether or not it mucked about with the actual vehicle handling. Here’s the relevant bits from the reply which can be published:

Don�t worry about it. The driving skill doesn�t actually change the handling of the car. It will open [possible spoiler removed] and some smaller things but the handling of the cars doesn�t change. You are right; this would have been very shit indeed.

Unfortunately, the source here must remain anonymous, but I can say without a doubt (and to say the least) that they know precisely what they are talking about.

The bottom line: Nothing to worry about here. It appears Gamespot simply misinterpreted and exaggerated the crap out of what they saw (or didn’t see, rather) during their brief non-hands-on demo of the game.

Rumor 2: Ragdoll Physics versus Impact Animation

The whole ragdoll/impact animation controversy is probably the number one rumor about the game circulating the intraweb right now at any given time. Whenever the topic pops up, there’s almost always a few people who chime in to say that Rockstar officially announced there would be ragdoll physics in the game. These comments generally come with some sort of bizarre “proof” that it’s in the game; such as saying the clip of CJ playing basketball (?!), or the bit with the explosion at the end of the second trailer are somehow examples of ragdoll in action. Then there’s the scores of people who claim that Rockstar will have “lied to us” if the feature is not in the game. So what’s the deal with the ragdoll then?

Well, for starters, nobody at Rockstar has ever gone on record to say that ragdoll physics are in the game. Full stop. We’ve read all the print and online previews of the game here at GTANet, and have yet to see anyone at Rockstar mention it. When talking about the upgrades to player/ped animations, Dan Houser and the other Rockstar rep’s have consistently said the game will use “impact animation”. The only time the term ragdoll has come into play has been when the gaming press have tried to assume and explain what they think “impact animation” really means. Now, being that ragdoll physics are just that- physics- and not animation, why would they use one contradictory term in place of the other? Furthermore, I’ve contacted a few people at Rockstar Games and Rockstar North to inquire about the ragdoll/impact animation enigma, and each time was met with an official (and off-the-record) “Wait and see” reply as to what impact animation really is.

The bottom line: Nobody knows for sure just yet. Rockstar has never said that ragdoll equals impact animation, or if there would be ragdoll physics in the game for that matter. So don’t get your hopes up.

Rumor 3: The size of the map

I had a go at trying to clarify how big the map really is a few weeks ago. Mind you, it was a speculative piece based on coordinates found on the official Flash map, but I never got orders from above to kill the article, so perhaps I was rather close. Anyhoo…Whatever the case, one thing is for certain: There’s still a number of people out there with outlandish misconceptions on how big the map will really be. The official PR line is that San Andreas is “between 4 to 6 times bigger than Vice City”. Many a fan (and magazine editor) assume this means one could fit VC’s entire map end-to-end across San An four to six times in either direction. However it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that doing that would end up with a map between 16 to 36 times bigger than Vice City. What, with length times width equaling area and all.

The bottom line: Yea, the map will be bloody huge. Just don’t expect it to take hours to drive across.