Rockstar on Hip-Hop Licensing Difficulties and GTA IV’s Soundtrack
While I plan on writing a long feature to disagree with Ron’s assessment that GTA IV isn’t the type of game that deserves a 10/10 score, I’ve yet to see anyone criticize the game’s soundtrack. And how could they? With 214 songs and some brilliant writing, it’s perhaps the most flawless aspect of the game. MTV’s Stephen Totilo seems to agree, and he recently spoke with Rockstar’s Ivan Pavlovich, who was in charge of the game’s soundtrack.
Pavlovich explained the difficulties with licensing hip-hop music – there are so many people involved, which make the songs much more difficult to get the rights to. Just check out the last few pages of the game’s manual for an idea of the hurdles involved with assembling the game’s soundtrack.
Design breakthroughs presented some new opportunities. “This is the first GTA where you can actually find out what song you’re listening to while you’re playing the game,” Pavlovich explained, noting that all a player needs to do is send a text message from GTA IV protagonist Niko Bellic’s in-game cell phone to get a text back with the info. A Rockstar-run Web site called the Rockstar Social Club can even track players’ favorite songs and direct them to a custom Amazon.com playlist where they can buy the music. (The developers had considered letting Niko go to an in-game music store but scrapped that.) Also new: The songs in the soundtrack don’t always play in a set order anymore. Many of the stations randomize the playing order. There are even multiple DJ intros to songs, just to mix things up.
One thing Pavlovich wasn’t aware of was the exact design decision that ruled out an in-game MP3 player. It’s really too bad, as it would’ve been great to listen to the radio even on foot, but it’s not like it’s all that difficult to jack a vehicle.
It is called Grand Theft Auto, after all.