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Until GTA III, in-world time in GTA games remain static, with all locales in Grand Theft Auto 1 and the Grand Theft Auto: London expansion packs taking place in the day, while Grand Theft Auto 2 can be set to be played in a perpetual day or night at the player's choosing (this applies to the PC and Dreamcast versions only; the PlayStation version takes place only in the day). Grand Theft Auto Advance is the only GTA game after GTA III that follows the same arrangement, being set in a permanent day.
In the 3D Universe, time moves at a rate of one second in real time is one minute in-game, making one in-game hour a minute and one in-game day 24 real time minutes. The 24-hour clock is used, with a day beginning at 0:00 and ending at 23:59. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas introduced days of the week to the series (a feature which later returns in the HD Universe). The game tracks days and months of the year, but this is never used in actual gameplay.
Time incurs a large atmospheric impact, with both the physical and visual atmosphere of Grand Theft Auto cityscapes changing radically with the rising and the setting of the sun. Arguably, carrying out missions can be considered easier during daylight hours as visibility is increased; however, certain missions can only be initiated at certain times of day.
One of the major differences in the HD Universe is that time now moves at a rate of one in-game minute for every two real-life seconds. Therefore, one in-game hour is now two real-life minutes and one in-game day is now 48 real-life minutes.
GTA IV and GTA V
As time advances in the game world, many changes to the environment can occur. These changes are most prominent in Grand Theft Auto IV and include changes in traffic flow (generally more dense during the day, particularly during the "rush hour" periods), pedestrian density and pedestrian type. The shifts in pedestrian types vary throughout different Grand Theft Auto games and different districts within their environments. During the night, commonplace pedestrians such as businesspeople, shoppers and tourists will rarely spawn, and the density of homeless people, prostitutes and gang members will usually increase in more deprived areas.
In Director Mode, time can be "fine tuned", adjusting time by 10 minutes per 0.5 seconds. Time can also be set to pre-made options, such as "Dawn", "Pre-Dawn", "Morning", "Midday", "Afternoon", "Evening", "Sunset" and "Midnight".
Grand Theft Auto V rectified the issue of having to wait until a certain time to trigger a mission. When the protagonist steps in a mission marker, a brief time-lapse video will play before the mission begins.
In GTA Online, the time corresponds to every player in the session. Therefore if the time in one player's game is 22:00, then every player's game will be at 22:00. The time also remains live in GTA Online, so if one player leaves a session but returns ten minutes later, the game will have progressed by five hours.
The time of day can be altered in GTA Online missions, races, captures or an LTS. In certain missions, such as A Titan of a Job, Humane Raid - Deliver EMP, Humane Raid - EMP, The Pacific Standard Job and The Humane Labs Raid, the time will remain static.
- Grand Theft Auto V's time lapse sequence strongly resembles the one used on the television show Breaking Bad.