How Additional Aerodynamic Drag Helped Make GTA III Work on PS2

The PlayStation 2 was a revelation when it hit the market in 2000, and yet by modern standards, it’s almost hopelessly weak. In fact, it’s so under-powered, Rockstar developers had to pull every trick in the book to make Grand Theft Auto III even work on the platform.

The story comes to us from developer [Obbe Vermeij]. He explains that the PlayStation 2 couldn’t keep the entire open-world game map in its tiny 32 MB of RAM. Instead, models had to be streamed from the DVD drive as the player moved around the world. However, even the DVD drive wasn’t fast enough. If the player moved too quickly, they would outpace the system’s ability to load new assets, and the world would fall apart. Roads would vanish, buildings simply wouldn’t appear before the player passed by them.

According to [Obbe], getting around this challenge was the job of one [Adam Fowler]. He notes that even optimizing the layout of data on the DVD wasn’t enough to help. Nifty hacks had to be employed to slow the player down. Road networks were changed to stop the player speeding towards areas that needed lots of new models. In other areas, vehicles in the game would experience a nearly-imperceptible 5% increase in air drag to dull their speed. This was chosen as a more invisible solution; cutting engine power directly was audible to players as the audio changed.

It shows you just how hard developers had to work back when resources were far more constrained than they are today!

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