GTA 6 new engine rumors mean more than just improved visuals

Rockstar’s got some big changes a-brewin’.

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GTA Online
Rockstar Games

After years of rumors and leaks, earlier in 2022 Rockstar Games finally confirmed GTA 6 is in development. That doesn’t stop the rumor mill, however, as the latest in the long line of rumors comes from Rockstar insider Chris Klippel, who claims that Rockstar is using a new version of its in-house engine, known as RAGE (Rockstar Advanced Game Engine).

Klippel is a French journalist who previously reported the existence of Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy a month before Rockstar officially announced it. While the most notable thing about a new engine might seem like a graphical overhaul, the change could actually lead to something much more vital for Rockstar’s future.

RAGE is a proprietary engine that Rockstar first used for a 2006 game most people may not even know about —Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis. Since then, Rockstar has retooled the engine over and over, using it on nearly every new release, including Grand Theft Auto 5 and Red Dead Redemption 2. Rockstar has done an impeccable job of updating the engine, and no one can deny the jaw-dropping visuals of the studio’s recent games. A lot of the systems underneath, however, have started to show their age. Even the Red Dead 2 sports the same clunky movement systems and shooting as games the studio made more than ten years ago.

The same could be said for mission design, which continually feels flat and uninteresting. The bulk of missions in both GTA 5 and RDR 2 consist of “go somewhere, kill enemies, rinse and repeat.” Rockstar is great at telling stories and creating vast open worlds, but the core design could benefit from updating and expansion to make these core gameplay elements feel more unique and less formulaic.

Rockstar’s RAGE engine was first introduced with Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis in 2006.

Rockstar Games

In the most basic of terms, a game’s engine serves as the framework for everything. In an interview with OXM, CD Projekt Red’s tech team explains it as such:

“A game engine is a platform for your game to run on; to load the world, place you in it, and accommodate your stay. There are many kinds of engines. Depending on your game’s requirements, each one will differ in how much work it actually does. They render (display) the world, calculate physics, play sounds and more. Engines are all the code that is not specific to your game and can potentially be reused in a different title.”

A lot of developers choose to use mass-marketed engines these days, namely the Unreal Engine. Still, developers like CD Projekt and Rockstar develop their own engines in order to more closely align with in-house goals and design philosophies.

A massive update to the RAGE engine gives Rockstar a significant opportunity to rethink the core of how its games work. It’s the perfect time to tighten up controls or even reimagine them completely. Rockstar has never been afraid to try ambitious new ideas, like instant character switching in GTA 5. An updated engine provides even more opportunity to put complex systems in GTA 6.

Despite dramatic visual innovations, Red Dead Redemption 2 still sports controls and mission design that are beginning to show their age.

Rockstar Games

Another recent rumor claims GTA 6 was delayed to address criticisms with the main mission design of Red Dead 2. While an updated engine isn’t going to magically fix core design issues, not being bound by an archaic engine might just be the nudge Rockstar needs.

GTA 6 stands to be one of the biggest game releases of all time, and Rockstar wouldn’t need to change much at all in order to make it sell millions of copies. However, if the rumors are to be believed, it seems like the developer is putting a lot of effort into updating its systems and making GTA 6 feel fresh.

Rockstar has always been a cutting-edge developer, but if GTA 6 ditches a lot of the archaic systems of the past, it could truly be something incredible.

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