The character research for Grand Theft Auto V spanned more than 100 days and included interviews with FBI agents, and former members of the Mafia, says Rockstar’s Sam Houser.

Speaking with The Guardian, Houser said the team spent at a minimum 100 days taking in Los Angeles and its various locales. “Out and about, all night long with weird people, strange cops showing us around, a lot of first-hand research.”

“We spoke to FBI agents that have been undercover, experts in the Mafia, street gangsters who know the slang – we even went to see a proper prison. These poor buggers in the middle of the salt flat desert, miles away. It was eye-openingly depressing.”

The game’s three character approach also allowed the developer to create more nuanced portraits, added Houser. “Having three protagonists allows us to create nuanced stories, not a set of archetypes. Rather than seeming like you’ve got this super-criminal who can do everything effortlessly, they’re all good and bad at different things.”

On retired stick-up man Michael, Houser added, “We liked the idea of a protagonist retiring with a family, and how awful that would be. We’ve never done anything like that and you don’t really see it in games – to feed into these concepts of parenting and pseudo-parenting.”

Grand Theft Auto V will be released on the 17th of September for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.