Following the release of Max Payne 3, which marked the partnership between Rockstar Games and Remedy Entertainment, both developers began to conceptualized a join project for the future. Remedy Entertainment's writer Sam Lake conceived the idea of a crime-themed game inspired by Rockstar's take on Max Payne 3, saying "In contrast to other stuff we (Remedy) develops right now, this one needs a larger canvas, that is why I decided to talk with Rockstar". Grand Theft Auto series writer, Dan Houser said that just like Lake, he was interested to emphasize the contrast of "truth and lie" featured in Max Payne 3 and Grand Theft Auto V into the series' next installment. Dan Houser and Lake chose confidence trick crimes as the next game's backbone, which Houser pointed as an overlooked element in video game's storytelling.
The game's early development began in late 2013, with staffs from Rockstar North and Remedy assigned. Rockstar intended to continue the numerical name for the project, which will be titled 'Grand Theft Auto VI. However, Remedy had requested Rockstar earlier to give their project an alternative name. The name Light & Shadow came from the idea of con-artists deceptive personality.
Both developers sent a team to Miami and the surrounding area in Florida to collect references for the larger rendition of Vice City and research the location's crime statistics, demography, and history.
Dan Houser described that Light & Shadow's plot is more mature and serious tone, akin to Grand Theft Auto IV, but with more variations. Houser and Lake used Hustle and Leverage, along with other films such as Catch Me If You Can as the story basis, with few influences taken from them. The two mentioned that real-life elements, like con-artist Frank Abagnale or the Nigerian Prince scam, were used for the story's major inspirations instead.
The writer team wanted to re-utilized the multiple protagonists system from Grand Theft Auto V. He believed that the features still have many unused potential that caused the previous game story feels polarizing. Taking example from Episodes of Liberty City expansions, the developers built the three protagonists' individual stories first, with several interconnected moments before adding a join arc.
In an interview with GQ, Dan Houser stated that the current cultural climate makes it difficult for him and Lake to insert satirical comments into the story. He said "in the next one, we tone it down carefully, so it wouldn't be out of date within two minutes".
In 2016, after the releases of Quantum Break, the game entered full development with Rockstar and Remedy developed a new game engine, a combination of Rockstar Advanced Game Engine (RAGE) and Northlight Engine, which known for it's high visual standard. Mikael Kasurinen, the director of Control said that Light & Shadow will have a slightly more advanced visual than Control.
Motion capture and voice work session began partially in late 2016 and finished in February 2020.
The developer team's main intention is to expand the use of multiple protagonists. In a mission, each character have their own objectives. This allows player to pick whoever protagonist they want to control without being interrupted by an automatic switches.
The game also re-introduce a revamped gold-medal challenges into each mission. The time-based objectives featured in several missions are removed before the release due to negative feedback from it's implementation in Red Dead Redemption II. All the challenges can be completed in separate plays, not only consecutively in a single play. In addition, this challenges are added after the main storyline completion, so the player can focus entirely on the story first.
With Woody Jackson committed to Red Dead Redemption II, Michael Hunter was rehired to composes Light & Shadow. This time providing full original score like Grand Theft Auto V. Hunter's previous works also used in the game soundtracks. Ivan Pavlovich also returned as music supervisor, focusing on in-game radio stations contents.
The total length of Hunter's score is ten hours, which includes the mission completion jingles. This musics only plays during certain sequences of missions, such as cutscene and chasing sequence. Background music in free-roam are removed. Player can disable the score from in-game option menu.
- 17-25 March 2019
Rockstar Games and Remedy Entertainment changed their social media logos and website's theme to black and white. A day later, the game was formally announced with a projected release in first half of 2020. Many fans were mistaken the game as Grand Theft Auto VI, but Rockstar clarified that the game is a spin-off, in the same manner as Vice City that was a part of the franchise's main series.
- September 2019
The entire Remedy staffs was reportedly had joined the production after finishing Control. The same month, Rockstar announced that the game had been delayed to 30 October 2020.
- 19 February 2020
The second trailer was released on February 19, 2020. The trailer focuses on the story and briefly introduce the three protagonists, who at that time not revealed full yet. Pre-orders were available the following day.
- March 2020
In March, the developers began to worked Light & Shadow from home due to COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the ongoing pandemic, Lake was assured that the game will arrive on October. In the same month, Remedy has requested Take-Two Interactive to take down various YouTube channels and social media accounts which spread fake information of the game.
- April 2020
The game was postponed once again until 18 December 2020.
- 12 June 2020
A trailer was revealed during the PlayStation 5 reveal event, which focusing on the story and introduce the protagonists. It was also announced that the game version for next-gen consoles will be released in 2021.
According to Bloomberg's Jason Schreier, Grand Theft Auto VI is already in "early development" in April 2020, six months before Light & Shadow release. Schreirer said that the game will single-handedly developed by Rockstar Games, without Remedy Entertainment espousal.