Improving Grand Theft Auto Online
To Build on an Already Great Idea
Several months ago one of the biggest video game booms of all time made its way to Xbox 360 and PS3 consoles worldwide. That game was Grand Theft Auto 5. Even if you are not a gamer you should be familiar with the series that, in recent years, has taken on a monumental level of detail and cinematic quality. With it, albeit two weeks after its release, came Grand Theft Auto: Online.
A self-proposed MMO (massively multiplayer online game) that has you take the role of an unknown street hood and work your way up the ranks of Los Santos' criminal underworld. Multiplayer isn't a new concept to GTA, what with the popularity of Grand Theft Auto 4's free roam mode which allowed for friends to goof off around the city in a lobby of up to 16 players. Even Red Dead Redemption, a game within the same vein as the GTA series, but made by a different Rockstar studio, carried the same principles of friends goofing off in a free roam environment.
GTA: Online is meant to be its own entity that, according to Rockstar games, will be built upon throughout its lifespan. However so far it has been plagued with glitches, hackers, modders, deleted characters, and delayed Heists. Within the last few months Rockstar games has worked hard to improve on Online with various patches and DLC packs. However these updates add minor improvements it still has a long way to go. It has been a rocky road thus far, but here are some ways of improving what has some grand potential under its big-budget roots.
This will be an article that is updated over time. With the news of the impending Next Gen version of Grand Theft Auto 5 the following suggestions can be applied to either. If some of these are somehow not possible with Current Gen technology then forgive my enthusiasm for improvements.
September 1, 2015: Now that the PC version is out if anyone reads this you might be able to take some of these ideas and make mods out of them? Feel free to.
I Wasn't Aware You Could Keep a Bounty by Exiting After You Die
Free Roam: The Hub World That Connects Everything
(Please note these are only suggestions and they do not actually reflect the quality of the game nor is this an attempt to criticize the work Rockstar put into their game. All of the features within this article are just observations and ideas that I have had from my time playing Grand Theft Auto 5 and Online. At the time this article was written, Patch 1.16 had already been released.)
Free-Roam is the hub in which players goof off with up to 15 other people around the state of San Andreas. There are a number of activities that players can take part in. Mostly it involves killing each other, but that’s not the most of it. Rockstar have taken a huge step forward since GTA4 and even Red Dead Redemption in giving players something to do outside of Missions, Deathmatches, Races, etc. where we have ways of making money while we mess about with our friends. There are plenty of things that could be added and others that need to be fixed. The following are some fixes and additions that could make Free-Roam more active and for that matter fun. Rather than grinding missions, we should be able to make a decent set of coin by messing around in Free Roam.
Do I Have To Participate?: The Free Mode Events are a great addition and so is the VIP Organizations and money making abilities. However if I'm in the middle of collecting Checkpoints (Free Mode Event) and I fly over or drive through an Executive Search radius (VIP Work) why does the progress made in the Free Mode Event get cancelled out? There should either be an option to ignore VIP Work, or better yet, let us do both at the same time. Multi-taskers would love that... but probably not the CPU.
Airstrikes need a fix: There seems to be a lot of time between making the call to Merryweather and actually getting the Flare in our hand. Even when we toss it enemy players know what’s coming and are long gone before the Jet shows up. The Flare should be taken out all together and replaced with a laser designator or a beacon that sticks to surfaces. People use Airstrike mainly against Tanks and the beacon should stick to it so that the missiles can properly hit them. As it stands now Airstrike is a waste of $8,000.
Add in animals to Free Roam: I mean they work in Single Player. Animals were in Red Dead Redemption’s Multiplayer. Everything runs on the same engine? Some people have even found dead sharks in Online. I don’t remember coming across deer so often in Single Player that it would make my game lag, I suppose Online runs on a different frequency than Single Player does, but I can’t see why animals would be a game breaker. Players could get together to go on unofficial hunting trips and add an extra layer of things to do in Free Roam. (Apprently the next gen version will have animals in free roam, still Xbox 360 can’t handle that?)
Open the Casino and Racetrack: The community has been going on about this for almost as long as they have debated Heists. This could also be a place where a Heist could go down, but the main benefit would be to add gambling to the game. Poker games, slots, Blackjack, horse race betting, and whatever else you guys can think of. I’m not sure of the legal ramifications of having both in-game currency purchasing AND simulated gambling in the same game, or for that matter where Microsoft and Sony stand on something like that. However there’s nothing saying that the Casino and Horse Track cannot be added to Single Player where Shark Cards don’t come into play. This would also be a good opportunity to add horses to the game. People have already found the sound files for them and I personally was half expecting them be to copy/pasted into the game from Red Dead Redemption.
The ability to own business properties: Similar to how it works in Single Player but hopefully with a smaller price tag. For example the Golf Course would be 15 million rather than 150. However there should be other properties that are not available in Singe Player, and I suppose the ones in SP should not be available to players in Online. It wouldn’t make sense for both xxXX360noscopeurmomXXxx to own the same bars that Franklin/Michael/Trevor will own later in the game’s timeline. These businesses would generate a small sum of money each real-time week. The amount of money the player gets is based on how many businesses they own and how many “side missions” they have done within that week for the business. We can make use of the E-mail app on our phone and get tasks to do while in Free Roam. Perhaps once every 24 real-time hours like Simeon’s car texts. These tasks could range from delivery missions to protection sweeps like in Single Player. Also to add a competitive edge to these side missions other players could intercept out vans and delivery trucks (if they see someone driving with them) and get a sum of money for delivering the goods to a designated criminal warehouse. If they kill use while fending off a gang attack at one of our businesses, they get a reward for helping the gang. It would give us an extra thing to do in Free-Roam along with High Priority Vehicles, Crate Drops (provided they’re fixed), Armored Cars, and Gang Hideouts. Also it would be a nice way for players to generate extra money.
Hiring an Assassin: A passive ability you can call from Martin, or Lester, who sends a hitman after the selected player. Except they can invade private lobbies (sort of like Hackers in Watch Dogs). The Assassin sets up in the general area of the player. If the player can get away without getting sniped, or shoots the Assassin, the offending player gets a refund. Only works for one kill while they are in another lobby (Public or Private).
More water based activities: Free Roam lobbies could have Scuba Gear and deep sea salvage side activities. You know the hidden cases that are underwater in single player. These could be added to a Free Roam lobby, but placed in random spots each time you join a lobby, and only at certain times of the day. To make the hunt worth it the cases could contain up to $10,000 or less. Also some crate drops could occur on the water. Would give boats more of a use.
The ability to repaint aircraft and boats that we own: This isn’t really a must have but it would be cool if we could repaint our aircraft and boats by taking them somewhere, or through the Pegasus phone menu. We can already choose our color at the beginning of races. Actually why not just randomize it? That would be the easiest solution.
Let us Rob Banks: The Flecca Banks where there are people waiting in line for a teller could be another place to rob. They could be coded to give out the same payouts as Armored Cars, with money bags popping out of safes. Speaking of safes what about the ones in the back of some convenience stores? In order to keep this activity from making Convenience Store robberies obsolete, there could be a big cool-down period. Like 24 hours in-game (48 minutes real time) before we can rob the safe location again.
Ability to send phone pictures through text massage ingame: I guess there’s an argument for “there’s no way we will be able to do this on current gen tech” but it would still be an awesome feature, and a hilarious one.
Parachute delivery: Kind of like an Ammo Drop but leaves you a parachute nearby. I noticed a lot of the parachute spawns were taken out in next gen*. (Parachute respawns MIGHT have been re-added with Lowriders update... maybe. If not please just add them as part of the new Ammo section of the User Interface.)
General Improvements (Multiplayer and Single Player)
Free Mode in online is only a portion of what can be added to or fixed with the game. Single Player still needs some fixing too.
Boats Need An Anchor: You know when you exit your boat during rough water and the waves seem to drift boat far off from you? This was an issue in classic GTA games too. How about the ability to press Right on the D-pad to drop an anchor. There doesn't have to be an animation, just code the craft to stay put where it is.
A “Roof” option for the Stallion: We all can’t hate a car based on a Cutlass. It would be cool if there was a “Roof” customization at Los Santos Customs. It would be easier to implement a “Roof” option than it would be to have four different purchase options on the San Andreas Southern Autos website; Hardtop, Softtop, Convertible, and… whatever the fourth one that everyone talks about. (THANK YOU ROCKSTAR <3)
The Dodo should spawn like a boat: The Dodo is one of the best new planes added to the next-gen version, it kicked as in Vice City and San Andreas too. A seaplane that can be landed almost anywhere. It can’t be spawned anywhere on the water, only at airfields. Technically it could be coded to spawn like a boat, it takes off good on the water. Of course only certain places on the water would be viable, I mean we wouldn’t want it to spawn down at the Marina, in one of the docks. At least have a spawn point at Paletto Bay, Del Pierro Beach, and the Zancudo River near the military base. At the very least Paletto Bay.
How Many Rounds Was That?: After patch 1.17, the Last Team Standing Update, a “rounds” system was added to LTS and versus missions. Not knocking it, but would be nice to know what round we are on apart from the notification that lasts for two seconds before another round begins. What about adding them between parentheses, next to the title of whatever creation we’re playing? So that when we press down on the D-pad it tells right at the top of the screen?
Bandana Masks (without hats): Yes we get one for Franklin in Single Player after beating the game, and it's green, but that's about it. These would be a good addition to the Masks for GTA Online, but with more color options.
Races That Last More Than 10 Minutes Are Pointless: There is a feature in Races that allow the host to make a lap Race anywhere between 1 and 99 laps. However the maximum payout for winning a Race caps at after 10 minutes. Races use to be rewarded depending on how long you were in them but now the new cap appears to be 10 minutes. Either the option to set a ridiculous amount of laps should be removed or the time-equals-payout system get replaced.
There’s An App For That: An app that goes in the lower right corner of the phone screen which opens a new screen containing space for eight apps (the square in the upper lefthand corner would return us to the normal cell phone screen). These apps could range from any number of things. Such as a Favorite Contacts app which allows us to streamline a list of five contacts to whomever we choose, we all already know Lester and The Mechanic will be in that list. A Maze Bank app that allows us to instantly open the Maze Bank website to deposit or withdraw our money from anywhere. A Merryweather app that instantly opens their interaction menu without dialing them up, etc. Unfortunately since Lester is not a major corporation I’m not sure how his could work. I suppose making our own LifeInvader page for our character(s) would hit a little too close to home?
A debt system: Where if a broke player blows up another player’s personal vehicle or kills them while Passive Mode they should be charged for it. Similar to how the GTA San Andreas economy worked at the casino. The player who blew up the PV will be in the red. Any money they make from missions and other activities would pay off this negative amount once you put it in your bank account. If they don’t have the money they should get charged regardless for that kind of behavior. They could probably implement this into the casino. It would combat against certain players who leave all of their money with a second character so that the owner of the PV they just destroyed has to pay for the insurance. Rockstar can also charge them for exploited money using this same system when they want to wipe their bank accounts. Money glitching is a serious issue and I’m tired of it just as much as the developers are. Every time I hear some squeaker he found a new money glitch it kills my enjoyment a little inside. (Yes I realize they fixed this in Patch 1.14 but I’m keeping it in. Just so everyone has an idea of how bad things use to be before I wrote this article.)
The beach area should be more active: New minigames involving surfing, volleyball, or putting the BMX parks to use would be a welcome addition. The point of them would to hopefully make the beaches look more alive.
Silencers are useless: This applies more to Onine than Single Player but it would be nice if Silencers actually had some purpose other than to make the gun sound quieter. Now I realize this isn’t Far Cry (for whatever good silencers do in THAT series) but how could stealth be better implemented other than “your dot just doesn’t appear on the radar”. For example police are a pain in the ass, any player will tell you that. How about toning down the “I just shot someone in the middle of nowhere with a silent pistol and got a wanted level” thing.
Single Player character abilities: We can get Trevor’s berserker ability through using Bullshark Testosterone but what about Franklin and Michael’s abilities? Here’s what they do. We get a special energy drink that allows us to use Franklin’s ability, maybe even add it as a powerup in a GTA Race. For Michael’s ability make it a pill we can buy from Brucie (sort of like the Adrenaline pill from previous GTA installments) that can make ourselves (and whoever else is in a close radius like in Max Payne 3 Multiplayer) go into a bullet time state. The only downside I could see to this idea is more opportunities for griefing.
Being able to select what personal vehicle we have during the mission (not just Heist) lobby: Especially for races too, I mean before we are put into the “ready up” screen. You know how we are able to select our beginning weapon in the upper right corner of the screen? We should be able to select our default starting vehicle there too.
Choosing a default radio station: I’m sure whoever is reading this wished I put it higher on the list. It would be cool if we could choose our default radio station when we get into our Personal Vehicles. I understand why it changes when we steal other cars, but it would be less annoying if the hard rock station wasn’t playing every time I ordered it from the Mechanic.
Personal Vehicle System In Single Player: I love the Single Player Story, I really do but the one thing that puts a hair across my ass is the way Personal Vehicles are handled. Online has a much better system. When I spend the money to buy a Bravado Gauntlet for Michael it would be nice to use that Gauntlet in place of his default Tailgater.
Underbarrel weapons: In next-gen version, with the ability to toss thrown weapons with a button push, an underbarrel grenade launcher or shotgun could function the same way.
Your Most Anticipated DLC/Update
Content Creator/Rockstar Editor
If there’s one thing I love doing in a game, it’s building my own maps to share with friends and the community. Tools like map editors and content creators don’t necessarily make me feel like a game developer but I do like crafting some kind f game mode. Sad thing is I seem to overdo it and spend more time building than I do playing them. Which was the case with Far Cry 2 and seems to be the case with GTA Online’s content creator. Except they have made it simple enough to make vast amounts of game modes and still have the desire to tear away and play other things. Unlike a map editor where you build something literally from the ground up you already have Rockstar’s map and you just use what you need of it, a process that can take all of your time and not always come out perfectly. I like Content Creator but it’s not perfect just yet.
We should be able to add a greater variety of vehicles to our Capture Creations: I suppose R* did it this way to avoid vehicles exploits, but in Capture Creator we only get a fraction of the game’s choices in vehicles. For example in the Super class the fastest car we can use is the Entity XF, but not the Adder. Would be nice if we could place DLC cars in our Capture Creations, especially a GTA Capture. Which reminds me.
We really need Mission Creator: Please Rockstar for the love of all that is holy! Please! Mission Creator is something the community really wants. Myself, and a lot of others, can understand that Deathmatches, Races, Captures, and Last Team Standing are a lot easier to program into the game, and get working, but Mission Creator would be the one thing that puts Content Creator over the top. I really hope that when/if Mission Creator is released we will be able to make long multi-objective ones like “The Los Santos Connection.” I’m sure there will be trolls who will make insane, damn near impossible ones. Kind of like a lot of Captures that I have played. I believe most of the community will make something worth playing.
New game modes, plus creating our own: We should be able to create own Last Team Standing matches, or make an option to turn our already created Team Deathmatches into LTS matches. If at someone Rockstar releases a Triathlon mode we should be able to make out own. Would be neat to see how that would work. There are quite a few places in San Andreas that could work for Survivals. However there’s the issue of being able to place spawn points. Since I have not developed this game, or know anyone personally who has, I am not familiar with the process of enemy spawns during the creation of a Survival mode area. I assume it’s a big red bubble like the Capture Creator’s spawn point maker? If that’s the case that could keep it from being too predictable. Then there’s the matter of vehicles and helicopters. Would we be able to select how many appear? Or how many enemies spawn per Wave? I’m probably thinking too deep into this. I suppose I should change the subject before I start to wonder how good Parachuting Creator would be…
Adding Vehicles to GTA Races: In a GTA Race players have the ability to exit their vehicle. Would it not be cool if we could set up our own free roam Races using Race Creator? Place a boat or plane near the starting grid. Then everyone tries to get to the checkpoint anyway they can. Allowing more freedom with Race Creator adds lots of possibilities.
Creating Our Own Free Roam Lobby: Remember back in the days of GTAIV when we were able to start our own Free Roam lobbies with blips turned off, no police, always raining/sunny/daytime? Of course GTAIV ran on a different set of systems and servers, and I AM NOT saying we should have the freedom to create lobbies with infinite RPG ammo and no friendly fire (yes I realize how retardidly fun those were sometimes). However letting players create a private Free Roam Lobby where they can turn off cops, or pepper certain areas with heavily armed gang members, I mean it was in the leaked “Free Roam Creator” coding. How about we make pedestrians hostile, and give them weapons, to make a faux zombie apocalypse/city-wide-riot scenario? “No that’s too exploitable!” Not if while in this Private Free Roam Lobby you can’t earn money or excessive amounts of RP. Plus turning off the ability to place Armored Cars, Crate Drops, etc. would combat against exploiters. This idea is just meant for a group of friends to goof off and allow players to craft their own experience.
Player carried props: No I don't mean the Props, as in scenery items, that were added with the Lowriders update. No I mean briefcases, Beverly's camera, coffee cups, etc. that are already present in character animations in single player. It would just bring some added life to scenes.
The ability to place AI Actors: Sort of like in Capture Content Creator how you can place AI characters in your maps to add opposition for rival players. Except in this case it would be someone to fight for our main character(s) in whatever scene we're trying to build. You know where I'm going with this. This would allow us to make more controlled scenarios.
(Note: Not all of these ideas are mine, some of these are suggestions found around the internet.)
“Police Pack”: DLC that adds Steve Haines or Dave Norton as a phone contact that give you a new string of Online missions. Plus vigilante free roam missions, Cops and Crooks game mode, police and law enforcement based vehicles customization, and the APC from GTA4’s The Ballad of Gay Tony DLC. Especially the APC, does anyone remember the “submarine” battles in the park?
Nautical/Martime DLC/Update: Purchasable yachts that players can own, with placement based on the lobby. Maybe even the ability to drive them where you want. Just picture the makeshift "pirate battles" players could have. Could bring back the hovercraft from San Andreas, and also everything mentioned in “more water based activities” above.
New vehicle customizations: Perhaps an entire DLC pack devoted to this. The option to heighten suspension for certain vehicle classes, especially Off-Road. Custom paint jobs and decals for other vehicle classes. Add Nitrus so that we can Boost outside of GTA Races, but regulated within Standard Races. Buy Nitrus Boosts like we could in San Andreas but only allow players to use it twice during Standard Races. Also like in San Andreas there should be a cool-down period between Nitrus uses. A lot of people say there should be Hydraulics added in. I think that would be cool too however it’s probably hell on the Euphoria Engine. Imagine doing some of the moves you could in GTA San Andreas but instead getting launched into the sky because of overly sensitive physics, or worse, getting no bounce at all. (Ok I was totally wrong about the physics, I'll leave that in still just so you guys can see how wrong I was lol.)
"Nostalgia Pack": Yeah I know we got the "I'm Not A Hipster" DLC but I'm thinking more of a throwback to Vice City and San Andreas. With Classic versions of the Infernus, Comet, Banshee, Fugitive, and other vehicles from the PS2 era but updated with HD graphics. M60 and Kantana as the added weapons.