Grand Theft Auto Online

By Shamus Posted Thursday May 7, 2015

Filed under: Game Reviews 58 comments

Way back in 2008 I wrote an essay contrasting cooperative/creative players with combative/destructive players. Roughly: Some of us sign on so we can build sandcastles, and the multiplayer exists as a way to collaborate and view each other’s work. Other people see multiplayer as a way to destroy other people’s sandcastles. A lot of games will focus on one or the other. (The Sims and Left 4 Dead are very collaboration-focused, while Quake 3 Arena or Battlefield are PvP focused.) Some games provide distinct areas for each kind of player. (World of Warcraft has both Roleplay and PvP servers.) The co-op players have their fun, the PvP players have their fun, and everyone goes home happy.

But some games are sociopathic in nature and are structured to lure the sandcastle-builders into a place where they can be prey for the sandcastle-crashers. This is GTA V Online. I’ve been playing GTA V Online with the rest of the castExcept for Mumbles. over the last week or so. Like the single-player game, it’s gorgeous, massive, lavishly produced, brimming with content, and aggressively obnoxious.

The most unforgivable sin here is that of excruciating loading times. GTA V already takes a nice long time to start up. Then it takes a really long time to launch into online mode. Then it makes you wait even longer so you can connect to an instance. Then there’s the actual loading screen proper where the game pulls art assets into memory.

I want to work on my stamina. If I play in the open world, people will just murder me. So the most “sensible” solution is to do a bike race. Alone. And then ignore the race and just ride around.

The gameworld is stupid. Have you ever found yourself driving around GTA V thinking, “Man, I love it if there were a dozen or so dudebros in here pointlessly trying to kill me whenever I try to accomplish anything, and if the screen was cluttered with a whole bunch of notifications telling me which random asshole killed whichever other random asshole!”? Did you ever think the game would be more interesting if you were pitted against a bunch of guys fifty levels above you, who have access to end-game equipment you aren’t allowed to buy even if you could afford it? And where there’s nothing really to be gained from killing someone? Does that sound like the multiplayer experience you’ve been longing for? No? Tough.

Oh, did you want to play in a private session with just your friends? In that case you have to wait for the loading to finish, then exit all the way back out to single player, enduring two long load times in the process. Then once you’re back in single player you can launch into a private session, which will drag you thorough all of that loading crap yet again. Then you send your friend an invite. Then they get to sit through one or two minutes of loading. And then they can’t connect for no reason because screw you and your desire to play with friends. Go play with the assholes! Let them shoot you!

Maybe your friend can host and invite you? Maybe you need to restart the game? Or they do? Hey, it’ll work eventually. Just fifteen or so minutes of loading screens and connection timeouts and the two of you can at last enjoy the bliss of not having to fight a tank every time you try to make a run to the store.

It’s assholes all the way down.

So maybe you’ll do a job together? Fine. But when the job is over it will dump you back into a random public world with all the assholes. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll wind up in the same public world, but we’ve had games where it split up our group when we left an activity together. And then if you want to be in a private world you’ll have to go through the tortuous loading screen ordeal again: Exit to single-player » load » Start new private session » load » load » invite friend » load » repeat until it works or you give up and just accept that you’re going to be randomly murdered once in a while.

But if you’re in the open world, then every time you try to do a job with your friends it will fill up the roster with randos. You can set it to private if you’re quick, but once a dude joins you can’t get rid of him, and it resets your matchmaking to open every time you move to a new job. Since most jobs are about three minutes of activity and two minutes of menu-shuffling and loading screens, keeping the randos out gets to be a pain in the ass.

We’ve found that by using randomized voting, it greatly decreases player’s ability to skip the parts of the game that suck.

Other gripes:

  1. When you’re done with an activity it keeps the group together, but instead of letting you choose your activity directly you have to vote on six randomly chosen ones. If you want to play something specific then it’s another round of loading screens for everyone as you disband and re-form the group.
  2. Don’t like all the deathmatch and you just want to level up your driving and athletic skills in peace? You can enter passive mode, which makes you unable to use (or even equip) weapons. The bullets of other players will pass through you. Sounds good, right? Except, they can still kill you by blowing up cars around you and you’ll be unable to defend yourself, so really the feature just makes you more helpless.
  3. Plus, other players can put a bounty on you. Having a bounty prevents passive mode. And since they have more money than they can spend and you’re a broke newbie who can barely afford bullets, they have yet another way to intrude on your game with little fear of reprisal.
  4. In the world with other people, the interface beeps incessantly with announcements for heists. It’s like getting a text every time someone posts an ad to Craigslist, even if you don’t care about Craigslist.
  5. You’re vulnerable to having your money stolen. So to protect your income you have to physically drive to an ATM or screw around with the awful web interface on your phone to make the deposit. (How are you depositing cash via a phone, anyway?) It’s not a game-breaking thing, but it is a bit of useless busywork required to keep the strong and rich from stealing from the weak and poor.
  6. You know what my favorite mission type is in the single-player part of the game? Rampages. You know what I’d love to play co-op? RampagesIt would basically be Payday or Killing Floor.. You know what mission isn’t available in multiplayer? Rampages.
  7. The game pays you for races based on how long the race takes. The longer the race, the higher the payout. The payout goes up every minute, so if you cross the finish line at 3:59 you’ll get (say) $2,500 but if you wait one second longer the first-place prize will be worth $4,500. This isn’t bad or broken, but it does seem like an odd choice. It means the fastest way of making money early in the game is to start a race with friends and have everyone sit around for four minutes before they start driving. Want to make even more money? All of you race alone, since then you can all come in “first place”.
  8. You can place bets in a race, but the interface never explains how bets work, what the payouts will be, or how things operate when some people don’t bet at all and other people bet different amounts.
  9. Before you jump down my throat to say that I’m doing matchmaking all wrong, let me point out that there are a lot of ways of doing things. If you want to start a race you can physically visit the race point in the world. Or you can arrive at it via post-race random selection. Or you can use the job menu. Or your in-game phone. Every method is a little different and there’s no clear indication of which one you’re “supposed” to use. Your phone actually has two buttons for starting jobs. One to accept random invites from randos, and another to throw you into a random job with randos. Neither button can set you up with friends.

You can play a specific job with random people, or a random job with random people, or a random KIND of job with random people. SO MANY WAYS TO NOT PLAY WITH FRIENDS!

  1. The police do “guilt by association”. If you’re too close to a troublemaker you can inherit their wanted level, even if you’re not doing anything wrong. This offers yet another opportunity for the strong and wealthy to grief the weak and poor, since a jackass with a minigun and supernatural body armor can dump a bunch of police heat onto someone who is absolutely not equipped to handle it and probably has more pressing things to do than flee the police.
  2. In the open world, there aren’t any obvious tools for muting obnoxious people. It’s all or nothing.
  3. Actually, there aren’t any tools at all for reporting hackers, scammers, or toxic players.
  4. As I ranted about on Twitter, when you create a crew it requires you to create a motto. (Note that I’ve never seen anyone’s motto in-game, so I have no idea what they’re for.) There’s an idiotic language filter straight out of a 1995 AOL chat room. It bans the word “shenanigans”, because it contains “niga”, which is a misspelling of an abbreviation of a racial slur that’s used hundreds of times by voiced characters in the single-player part of the game.
  5. While it hasn’t happened to me, Josh and Rutskarn keep being told they need to re-play the tutorial every time they try to sign on.
  6. For the last three days in a row the game has forgotten my settings. I sign on and the volume levels, controls, and gameplay options are all reset to default.
  7. I’ve had to agree to the EULA / TOS three days in a row.
  8. After many frustrating attempts, Josh and I finally got into a game session together. Then I invited him to the crew I’d created the day before. He was informed that he would leave the current game session if he accepted the invite. This is like needing to log all the way out of World of Warcraft to join a guild.
  9. Before a race starts, you can select what radio station you want to use. This is good because you don’t want to have to fiddle with the radio while you’re trying to race, and also because this is the weakest GTA soundtrack since Rockstar began licensing real music eleven years ago. However, this feature is just a waste of time, since the radio is again randomized if you end up resetting because you crashed / flew off course.
  10. If you’re driving around with no money and you attempt to pick up a hooker, the game will offer to sell you in-game money via microtransactions. This isn’t a dig at the multiplayer so much as a hilarious and unfortunate implication of their attempts to sell fake money.

I’d love to know how a prostitute can tell you’re broke just by looking at your face.

Would you like to give us real money so you can buy fake money so you can have fake sex with fake people?

  1. When an activity ends, you have to rate the previous activityThumbs up or down., then vote on the next activity, then load it up, set the first page of options, then do the matchmaking and set more options, then wait for all the players to load, then select vehicles, then go through a useless confirmation screen, then launch the race. I just timed it: The fastest this can be done is in about a minute, and that’s assuming you’re repeating the previous activity, you don’t wait for matchmaking, and nobody wastes time in vehicle selection. In practice, your normal screwing-around-between-races cost is likely to be double or triple this. Since the average race is about three minutes long, it means you might spend nearly half of your time staring a loading screens and scrolling menus.
  2. Related to the above: Some options are remembered from the previous race, while other options are cleared or reset every time. Notably, “closed” matchmaking for friends-only is always reset to “open”, so make sure to scroll quick and turn that off before a bunch of randos invade your game!
  3. I haven’t even reached the point where we can do a heist together, but according to Yahtzee’s review, a heist begins with un-skippable cutscenes. Then your crew is split up to do different stuff in different areas of the gameworld. (Rockstar, do you not get the whole concept of “co-op” play?) If any individual team fails, the whole heist fails and you have to start over. It’s like Left 4 Dead, except there are unskippable cutscenes, you can’t help each other, you’re playing on different maps, the failure of one person makes the entire mission fail, and the matchmaking is shit.
  4. In races, it always displays the “world record” time for the given race in the lower right, but this feature is broken. The times given are ludicrously low. (I once saw the world record for a 20-checkpoint, 2-lap race as 14 seconds.) These figures are either hacked, glitched, or bugged. But fine, ignore the world record. You can have the game display your personal best time instead. Except that figure is always blank, no matter how many times you run the race. And even if it worked right, the “best time” feature is pointless. It doesn’t say who set the world record, which might at least make it an interesting bit of trivia. But it’s just an impossible time set by nobody, forever displayed in the corner for no reason.

Grand Theft Auto Online isn’t all horrible. It basically delivers on what us Saints Row fans have been begging for Rockstar to do since at least 2008: It gives us a way to craft our own character and experience the GTA world on our own terms instead of seeing it through the eyes of yet another hackneyed unlikable Rockstar protagonist. It’s just that everything in the game – every menu, every activity, every mission – is designed to dump you out into the 24/7 open world deathmatch. All roads lead to deathmatch, and it’s easily the least interesting part of the game.

The whole publisher mindset of “The Future is Multiplayer!” would be a lot less obnoxious if they weren’t so bloody awful at it. We had better multiplayer than this 16 years ago, in Unreal Tournament. Remember how “multiplayer” and “shared experiences” and “being online” was such a huge selling point of these consoles? Welcome to next-gen, kids. Your spiffy new machine will still have massive load times, the matchmaking is idiotic, there’s no attempt at game balance, and everything’s so half-assed that you can’t tell the bugs from the horrendous design choices.

In 2015, there’s no excuse for why “I just want to play with my friends” needs to be this hard. Particularly not from the likes of Rockstar.

This review is based on the Playstation 4 version of the game.



[1] Except for Mumbles.

[2] It would basically be Payday or Killing Floor.

[3] Thumbs up or down.

From The Archives:

58 thoughts on “Grand Theft Auto Online

  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Actually, there aren't any tools at all for reporting hackers, scammers, or toxic players.

    Yet rockstar will be all too happy to ban you if you dare to use a field of view mod.

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Leveling up and gear upgrading in pvp?Thats just stupid.I get the progression thing,and sure there should be some nice weapons to unlock,but not the difference between a pistol and a bazooka.

  3. Ingvar M says:

    I’ve never really wanted to play GTA N on-line (well, there was a brief moment when I considered buying GTA3 for PC, so I could use the GTA3 memory-whacker online add-on, but then I thought “this is going to be filled with toxic waste, so maybe I am better off not doing so”). I am sorry that I still seem to be right.

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Ive noticed this trend lately of people playing multiplayer games that they dont like and then bashing them left and right.Which wouldnt be odd if not for a fact that there are now plethora of games that do it better.Yes these games everyone is complaining about have spiffy graphics,but since when was that so important?To you at least.

    I think the only thing asscreed france did wrong is that it wasnt crappy enough.It only had visual glitches,microtransactions and performance issue,while it should have also added ridiculous loading times,nonsense loadouts,crappy rewards,free reign for griefers and random pvp.Then it wouldve been received so much better.

    1. acronix says:

      Multiplayer games offer you the possibility of playing with friends. Since you can’t try the game, you can’t actually know that you are going to hate it. Demos are basically a thing of the past. The only games with trials are MMOs. If you are lucky Steam might give a ‘play free for two days’ event on a game you are interested in. Rentals aren’t available everywhere and, since we are talking about multiplayer games, they wouldn’t really work unless you are also given the account linked to that game’s serial code.

      So how are you supposed to know that this very expensive game would do so much wrong? The answer would be ‘read someone who has experienced it!’ which comes with the problem that THAT person couldn’t know what was wrong unless he played it in the first place.

      1. Mephane says:

        All of this plus the fact that if one could just in the main menu pick a “private game with friends” option which would do just that, keep your game private for you and your invited friends only, half of the problems Shamus detailed would disappear or become only very minor annoyances.

    2. Rutskarn says:

      I don’t know if you’re directing this comment generally or more specifically at us, but we do *like* this multiplayer. We like doing co-op races, playing Barbie Doll, car-jousting, robbing stores, and griefing EACH OTHER across Los Santos, and the game has EXACTLY the tools to deliver us this experience. It’s just that they don’t work at all.

      It’s like if a restaurant served a really good chicken parm, and we made reservations knowing that, but since the place is better known for its seafood, delays keep cropping up in the kitchen and the wait staff meaningfully leave seafood menus on our plates, expecting we’ll come to our senses eventually. It’s simultaneously frustrating because the system is so screwed up and insulting because our choices between one game mode and another are frequently not recognized or “forgotten.”

      Also: unlike Shamus, I wouldn’t mind a little friendly competition and bloodsport against randos. Nothing in the game is made to create a “friendly” competition. Imagine a WoW server where PVP was constantly turned on and there was nothing stopping a level 90 from stomping a newbie and taking their sack of rat tails.

      At one point I was killed fifteen times in a row by a guy with end-game body armor and bottomless ammo’d long-range heavy-caliber assault weapons because I’d always spawn a short drive within range of him and I literally ran out of bullets trying to kill him. We were out in the middle of nowhere, so I had no time after respawning to get into a vehicle before a single slug whistled out of nowhere and murdered me. This was not an engaging PVP experience. This was shameful clownshoes bullshit and they should have known better than to make it.

      1. Decius says:

        What aspect of friendly multiplayer death match is present in your ideal but not present in your counterexamples, that if added to the counterexamples make them examples if the friendly competition of which you speak?

        1. guy says:

          Vague equality. In multiplayer deathmatch games, even ones with unlockables, right out the gate you can plausibly engage top-level players.

        2. StashAugustine says:


        3. Chauzuvoy says:

          The two big ones I think would be balance (not getting constantly thrown into unwinnable fights with no recourse) and improved infrastructure (having more control over your own experience with the game).

          The problem is that, as it exists, the game gives players all the tools to be utter bastards as you level up, and doesn’t give you any tools to stop them other than by out-bastarding them, which doesn’t work because new players have no access to the sort of tools necessary to even mildly irritate a higher-level player.

          Although if the design ethos of the series really is about how terrible people are, then putting all this ultimate griefing system in the game and letting anonymous randos from the internet filter in kind of creates the perfect example of that.

        4. Batman says:

          uh… the letter 2!

  5. Kdansky says:

    I’ve never warmed up to the GTA series after the first two arcade titles. Those had a clear motivation, a reason to exist, and were actually quite good. They also did multiplayer well, because they were arcade games.

    Every title after those two became more like a simulation, and less like an arcade game, but never really dug deep enough. All that is simulated is meaningless violence, and “activities”. It’s basically like Skyrim, except even shallower. None of your actions have any consequences on the world, there’s not a single constructive thing you can do, or anything to achieve. It’s just a playground where the only toys are guns and cars.

    As for the activities: If I want to play a racing game, I’ll play a racing game. Why would I want a gigantic mash-up game that has inferior racing minigames inside? It’s not like we don’t have enough racing games to choose from. The same holds true for most other activities. Murdering stuff? Play Warframe. Collecting items? Play Diablo. Story? Play a story-focused game. Want to play Tennis or Bowling? Wii Sports. The tightly focused games are invariably of higher quality. And with the technical issues like loading time, switching games would be faster to boot.

    1. Tizzy says:

      As for the impact on the world, I always wished GTA would have a set number of NPCs, so that going on rampages would eventually empty the gameworld, making it progressively more lonely for the player. “Nice job breaking it, psycho”

    2. Bubble181 says:

      I absolutely and completely agree.

    3. MichaelGC says:

      Aye, right – but I think there’s still something to be said for a game where you can switch between the various activities on offer seamlessly, without having to close one game down and fire up another or head to the store and buy a Wii. Certainly other games have done the various aspects better, but it’s nice having it all there in front of you, so you can just pick up and drop things on a whim: going where the spirit takes yer, style o’ fing. (I haven’t played Wii Sports, but I’m assuming it doesn’t let you chuck an RPG into heavy traffic when you get cheated out of a win! :D)

    4. My hope for GTA V is the same I have for most AAA games these days: I might buy it on sale if some incredible mod comes out that pretty much rewrites the whole game while keeping the pretty scenery.

  6. Galad says:

    “Grand Theft Auto Online isn't all horrible”

    That’s not what something like 2000 words on the matter in 23 bullet points tell me :)

    And I’m thinking now that even if it had somehow cost 2$ I’d still be unhappy about buying this, if I had.

  7. Christopher says:

    I’m sure this is just an effect of how you sort your articles, but seeing it was under game reviews and that the last one was your daughter’s Necrodancer review did not prepare me for this. Was sort of expecting a pros and cons affair, a summation of the different activities, a bit about the character creator maybe. When it turned out to be a long, literal list of complaints further into the article I had to laugh, especially when it just kept on going. Feel sorry about the frustrations you’ve had, but I had a very good time reading about them.

    1. ColeusRattus says:

      Hey, what system do you guys play on? Judgeing from the screens, it’s Ps4. If it’s that, or PC, and you’re playing on times that are suitable for poor europeans like I am, I would definately like to jump in on some coop heist/mission action.

      Even though it is flawed, it’s one of the rare games that I long for when I am not playing it.

      Also, I have a few points to make about the list:

      You know what my favorite mission type is in the single-player part of the game? Rampages. You know what I'd love to play co-op? Rampages[2]. You know what mission isn't available in multiplayer? Rampages.
      Survival mode basically is Coop-Rampage, even though you are much more vulnerable than in SP.

      You can place bets in a race, but the interface never explains how bets work, what the payouts will be, or how things operate when some people don't bet at all and other people bet different amounts.
      You actually can change how bets are displayed somewhere in the settings. Still no clue how they work, and why it doesn’t let you bet on every game, but still, there’s an option that might help you!

      Before you jump down my throat to say that I'm doing matchmaking all wrong, let me point out that there are a lot of ways of doing things. If you want to start a race you can physically visit the race point in the world. Or you can arrive at it via post-race random selection. Or you can use the job menu. Or your in-game phone. Every method is a little different and there's no clear indication of which one you're “supposed” to use. Your phone actually has two buttons for starting jobs. One to accept random invites from randos, and another to throw you into a random job with randos. Neither button can set you up with friends.
      If you use PS4, join a psn party. You can join people directly via the party or from your psn friends list, cutting down on loading time for those that join you.

      The police do “guilt by association”. If you're too close to a troublemaker you can inherit their wanted level, even if you're not doing anything wrong. This offers yet another opportunity for the strong and wealthy to grief the weak and poor, since a jackass with a minigun and supernatural body armor can dump a bunch of police heat onto someone who is absolutely not equipped to handle it and probably has more pressing things to do than flee the police.
      That’s not exactly true. Being close to somebody does not make you wanted. What does though: Aiming at a cop. Bumping into a cop. Shooting a gun in general in the vicinity of a cop. Sharing a vehicle with a wanted player. So yeah, if you want to defend yourself with the popo around, you’re out of luck.

      In the open world, there aren't any obvious tools for muting obnoxious people. It's all or nothing.
      Press “options”, go to “online”, select “players”. here, you can mute individual players. It’s a hassle, but possible.

      Actually, there aren't any tools at all for reporting hackers, scammers, or toxic players.
      Press “options”, go to “online”, select “players”. here, you can select individual players and report or kick them. It’s a hassle, but possible. Also, you can commend them, causing them to get a tiny in game shop discount!

      I haven't even reached the point where we can do a heist together, but according to Yahtzee's review, a heist begins with un-skippable cutscenes. Then your crew is split up to do different stuff in different areas of the gameworld. (Rockstar, do you not get the whole concept of “co-op” play?) If any individual team fails, the whole heist fails and you have to start over. It's like Left 4 Dead, except there are unskippable cutscenes, you can't help each other, you're playing on different maps, the failure of one person makes the entire mission fail, and the matchmaking is shit The cut scenes AND the lengthy commutes are skippable if all players have seen them. For the commutes, you also have to be in the same car with everyone of your “team”. It does cut the payout considerably though, so noone does it.

      But yeah, loading times are atrocious. But be glad you didn’t start back when it came out on last gen. THAT was horrible!

      Here’s my Rockstar Social Club link if anyone want’s to play: linky

      Psn name is ColeusRattus aswell.

      1. Deadpool says:

        I was about to point out the skippable cutscene thing… But yes, they are LONG. And the load times are BRUTAL.

        The split off during Heists thing isn’t as bad as it sounds. It’s usually a teams of 2 type thing…

      2. Spammy says:

        I’m not trying to jump down your throat here, but I’d like to ask if the report/block/kick tool is a hassle to use, is it worth anything at all? I mean, even in Smite, where there are big buttons in game to mute players and big buttons in the post-game lobby to block and report players, I’ve seen people complain in Smite’s official Twitch channel that reporting doesn’t work. And that’s in a MOBA where they made reporting about as easy as possible. So I’m not sure then that reporting in GTA Online is worth anything if it’s such a hassle to do.

        I will say though that I’m impressed that they put in a Commend option. Continuing the comparison there have been a lot of times I want to somehow give one of my opponents a virtual thumbs up for being cool and having good manners.

  8. MrGuy says:

    Among the many things that puzzle me about this is that, certainly since San Andreas, GTA as a franchise has been explicitly moving away from “random mayham fun!” and towards “serious, gritty, non-omnipotent roleplaying.”

    I get why that tone is hard (maybe impossible) for multiplayer, but it’s strange to see the company embrace a “just go kill everyone and grief the world!” style so completely. If this was Saints Row, I could more see a multiplayer “gleeful mayham!” default world.

    1. Ivan says:

      I wouldn’t call it a style so much as a lack of style. If you put a bunch of random players in the same space with no structure or fail-safes to prevent griefing then griefing is exactly what you will get.

  9. Simplex says:

    “In the world with other people, the interface beeps incessantly with announcements for heists. It's like getting a text every time someone posts an ad to Craigslist, even if you don't care about Craigslist.”

    It’s actually worse than that – when you are in a PRIVATE, CLOSED, FRIENDS-ONLY session, you… are still getting the same torrent of heist announcements from the whole galaxy. All. The. Time.

    On what platform did you (attempt to) play GTA Online?

    1. Shamus says:

      Playstation 4. Updated original post to reflect this, since it’s probably important in this context.

      1. Simplex says:

        Just to clarify – I am using a PC version – and I found no way to disable these nagging notifications (I’d rather eat broken glass than do heists with randos). The whole online experience is much faster than on consoles, there are much fewer and shorter loading screens (it may help that I have the game installed on SSD). Since the PC version was released 6 months after the PS4/XONE one, it is reasonable to assume that the multiplayer experience was improved for PC – for example gone is this idiotic thing when you are dropped into a public game after doing a mission with a friend. On PC a miracle happens – you are dropped back into your private friend session and… more often than not your friend is standing next to you! (unbelievable, I know).

        1. Deadpool says:

          Their online is TERRIBLY designed… Oddly enough, the fact the open world is so devoid of anything interesting to do (which is bad design) actually saves me a lot of trouble from the other terrible design choices.

          I just sit in my apartment, pull out my phone and start missions. Then invite all players from Last Job. So the whole private world thing rarely affects me…

          For some reason my Matchmaking always starts closed when I make a mission though.

  10. MichaelGC says:

    Josh and Rutskarn keep being told they need to re-play the tutorial every time they try to sign on.

    One possible interpretation of this phenomenon is that this is the software subtly indicating, if somewhat passive-aggressively, that despite any and all evidence to the contrary, Josh and Rutskarn are scrubs who shld git gud & l2p.

  11. Tizzy says:

    Wow. After rading this, I feel really bad for Rockstar. I’v stopped being interetstd in GTA a while ago, but they always gave me the impression that they knew what they were doing and released solid games for people who liked this stuff.

    But I guess the online multipayer was way outside of their comptence zone. Still, I wuld expect they woul have piked up the core principles from more experienced devs…

  12. Bropocalypse says:

    The worst multiplayer experiences occur when developers seem to think we have to play a certain way.

    1. Kdansky says:

      I would argue that the game designer making an effort to design my game is actually quite good. I insist that the designer enforces hard rules when I play Starcraft online versus another human. TF2 can be incredibly infuriating when you want to play a competitive match, but half the server is busy role-playing sandwich parties. TF2 will get proper match-making and a competitive mode for that reason, which is great.

      The problem is that GTA V isn’t a (strategy) game as much as it is a sandbox, and when it comes to toy, hard rules are not a good idea. Sadly, Rockstar doesn’t realize that they’re not actually in the (arcade/strategy) game business, but rather in the toy game business (like Minecraft), but that’s an issue that plagues the whole industry.

    2. krellen says:

      I do not understand the obsession game developers have with making people play games with random strangers they don’t know.

      1. MichaelGC says:

        Presumably it’ll come down to money? I can’t guess at the premises myself, but I wonder if there is an argument that playing with strangers makes you more likely to microtransact. (Actually, I suppose it doesn’t really matter whether or not that’s true – all that is needed is for the relevant people to think that it might be!)

  13. Alex says:

    Thanks for the list, Shamus. I want Rockstar to make a game I want to buy, but they work very hard to make sure I know that GTA5 isn’t it.

  14. AR+ says:

    Every time you made a complaint about murderous griefing players, I’m like, “Well, now you know how it feels to be a background NPC dealing with your past player characters! Sounds like it perfectly captures the GTA experience for most of its characters.”

    Karma, bitch.

  15. MintSkittle says:

    This should sum up GTAO pretty well:

  16. Tony Kebell says:

    The Heist cut-scenes are skipable. All of you have to hit “start” (Well, options or whatever the fuck PS4 calls it now) which I assume would mean ESC for PC.

    It’s a shame, because GTA:O is VERY fun, when it’s working.
    It’s like 90% perfect just things like you mentioned here like putting you back into the freemode BS and forgetting settings hold it back.

    There’s so much that can be done in so many ways, but a little bit of simplifying and streamlining would help to keep things on track.

  17. John says:

    Apropos of absolutely nothing, the jets in the image at the top of the post are wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. As a former small boy, and thus an authority on fighter jets, they are clearly F-16s–except that the F-16 has a single vertical stabilizer, not two. (It’s something of an exception. Most American fighters produced after about 1975 do have two vertical stabilizers.)

    This clearly does not matter in the slightest, but can anyone think of a reason to reference an actual jet and then depict it incorrectly? And now I’m curious. Does GTA V depict real cars the way, say, Gran Turismo does or just real-ish cars?

    1. MichaelGC says:

      Real-ish cars. They’re very realistic real-ish cars! But certainly -ish nevertheless.

      PS Very impressive credentials, there! :D

    2. Andy says:

      The cars are real-ish. Most of them take the main form of a real car (like a Veyron or a Corvette or whatever) and then blend in various bits and details from others, so it’s not quite exact. Close enough you know what it is, not close enough to require licensing.

      1. John says:

        Thank you.

        I wonder how much Lockheed-Martin would charge you to use the F-16’s likeness. They (or maybe General Dynamics) have surely done so before for flight sims.

        1. I don’t think they charge if you let them “advise” and play by certain guidelines. After all, they don’t own the designs of military aircraft: We, the taxpayers do. I’m guessing the big issue for flight sims is accuracy of systems that are classified without revealing too much.

          For movies, I think it’s a similar state of affairs. Most of the time, it’s why the military is portrayed in a good light if vehicles are present. For the first Avengers movie, the Air Force yanked its cooperation with the film because it had Nick Fury overriding the Pentagon, which is a no-no, I guess.

    3. Andy says:

      If you’re curious, the game wiki page for the jet is here:

      So it’s an F-1635 Typhoon, give or take.

      1. John says:

        Good gravy! There’s a wiki for everything!

        I couldn’t see the split intake in the drawing. Huh. Now I can’t decide if that’s better or worse. And I feel compelled to point out that there hasn’t been an American fighter with a P- designation since approximately the Korean War.

  18. Patrick the hackneyed protagonist says:

    “The whole publisher mindset of “The Future is Multiplayer!” would be a lot less obnoxious if they weren't so bloody awful at it.”

    Claiming the future of gaming is multiplayer is pure lip service and you know it. Nobody really believes that. The future of gaming is microtransactions. No one is going to pay an extra $100 for “boost packs” to beat the game they just bought. You cannot get away with selling fake money, weapons or other in game DLC to beat the core of the game. that’s like selling a car but charging extra for the steering wheel and pedals.

    It WILL work when you pit PvP or other online format that appeals to the most basic human desire for competition. People will pay a lot of money to beat a person they never met, or to obtain an number on some ego-inflating, arbitrary rank on some list of “Top Players of GameX”.

    The core game is built around the concept of building an enjoyable gaming experience. The online game is built around the concept of getting more of your money.

    On a side note: Almost every game released so far on the PS4 has had serious issues with online play. Like Shamus pointed out, some of these issues are obvious. They shouldn’t be problems at all. Online play is almost 15 years old at this point, the logistics of how to make loading and matchmaking as seamless and painless as possible was hashed out years ago. NHL 15 (my fav game) was famously shipped without its most popular and successful online mode. The franchise took a huge step backwards with no real reason given. Considering the difficulty publishers had using the PS3, I’m wondering if the PS4 isn’t somehow fundamentally flawed in regards to online play. I have no idea what this could be, I’m neither a hardware or software guy, but the fact remains that I haven’t heard of a single PS4 title yet that has anything close to an acceptable online mode. That strikes me as curious and damning.

    1. IFS says:

      Destiny has pretty fun online content, its flawed in some ways certainly but regular updates have ironed out a lot of the worst problems. Bloodborne also has some pretty solid online play, though it can take an annoyingly long time to get coop going (they might have done something for this though, playing just today after taking a break both being summoned for coop and invading/being invaded have been connecting very quick). I just did some Bloodborne pvp a bit ago though and that connects super fast and seems to have virtually no lag. Coop is also a great experience once you get into a party with someone.

  19. Ilseroth says:

    Honestly, I’d still have to say that my favorite online, open world, Non-MMO to faff about in with friends and even randoms was Burnout Paradise.

    There were a ton of “challenges” you could compete with, joining a race was fast and easy. Load times were quick and the custom race tool was crazy. On top of this you had all the stun jumps and competitive minigames to play.

    My only major annoyance was that they added a “party” mode.. then made it local play only which just seems silly.

  20. Rosseloh says:

    You want my favorite example of the horribly broken and/or exploited leaderboards? Check this out:

    That’s the leaderboard for pistols on the shooting range. The person on the top has 2.1 BILLION points in 13 shots. If you somehow scroll all the way down to spot 92709, you’ll find me, with a measly 3215 points (but the same 100% accuracy rating). With perfect bullseyes every time and a really high speed I could see you getting 5000-6000 points (mostly from the time bonus because I’m pretty sure I had gold rings the whole time), but yeah, someone’s cheating. And the way the servers work (afaik it’s all peer-to-peer and no actual servers), I’m not surprised.

    I mostly spend all my time in passive mode or tooling around in the countryside since most players seem to stay in the downtown area.

  21. Adam Phant says:

    There's an idiotic language filter straight out of a 1995 AOL chat room. It bans the word “shenanigans”, because it contains “niga”, which is a misspelling of an abbreviation of a racial slur that's used hundreds of times by voiced characters in the single-player part of the game.

    I don’t know how robust Shamus’ testing was, but it might be matching just “nig”, which allows the filter to catch various spellings of the slur. Also, I don’t think this is Rockstar’s fault; the filter is probably on PSN’s side of things. That’s how the word filter works for Xbox games, anyways. I doubt Rockstar would really go as far as to reinvent the wheel.

    1. Shamus says:

      For the record: The filter is on the Rockstar Social Club website (used from my PC) and not through the PS4.

    2. Also isn’t it just the word “nigger” that is the slur, while the word “nigga” is more or less the black version of “dude” and hence not truly a slur?

      Can any black dudes enlighten this ol’ white cracker?

      Also, how the heck are one supposed to type the name of the river “Niger” these days with all these filters? The river ***er?

      Not to mention issues that Nigerian GTA fans will have “We’re sorry, your country is a slur, please pick another country!” *rolls eyes*

      Filters such as this should be on the client/player side, allowing the user to choose to use the filter or not.
      For concerned parents the option could possibly be tied to the parental controls.

      Also, the concept of a naughty word filter list in a GTA game is a joke in itself.


    Ahem. As I was saying, there was this Dark Souls clip on YouTube where an invading player donned the garb of the standard window-dressing NPC and managed to confound the other players whose worlds they had invaded. They just stood there, watching the other player run back and forth, right under their noses, not thinking that this lightly armored person in “meh” clothing was their opponent.

    So here’s my proposal to Rockstar: Change the current multiplayer to be “play with your friends.” None of the random BS. Now, here’s my proposal:

    Allow multiplayer to include playing NPCs.

    Maybe you’re a hotdog vendor. Maybe you’re a cop. Maybe you’re an ambulance driver. Whatever you are, you’re anything but one of the kill-em-all types. Over time, let these NPCs level up as well. Let me make hotdogs that give extra perks. Let me drive an ambulance that has several cops riding along for protection. Let my clothing store start to stock bullet-resistant jackets, etc. It’d be like Animal Crossing, except your citizens shoot one another and, occasionally, you.

    Gaming the system would have to be addressed, so that giving deep discounts to friends all the time dinged your NPC’s XP and abilities or something. But having friendships might lead to player groups staking out neighborhoods where they tried to keep the peace while launching attacks on rival parts of the city. Meanwhile, they’d buy gear from their shops and try to expand said shops’ commerce so they’d level up to have better stuff available. The could even introduce a kind of City Council system, where one tries to get the players (and NPC populations) to elect one to high office, allowing you to grant bonuses to certain streets/areas for a short time or something.

    It’d make an interesting two-tier system that wasn’t totally about combat and being a dick.

  23. I took a quick look back at your old article . . . you know, DDO doesn’t really have any PvP. There are no factions. The ONLY PvP is a brawl that you have to go to a tavern to do. It’s a cooperative or solo game ONLY. It lets the game have a lot of features (like multiclassing, which basically makes it IMPOSSIBLE to “balance” the classes due to there being something on the order of QUADRILLIONS of build options) that just wouldn’t fly in a PvP game.

    It’s interesting.

  24. For those playing GTA V (and have maybe finished the main story and are just faffing about),
    I suggest you check out

    The native trainer for single player is awesome.

    My favorite cheat is to lock the in-game time to the system time, the slower day/night cycle this creates makes it feel even more awesome.

    GTA V is possibly 1 of the 3 most beautiful games I can think of right now. The other two being Dragon Age Inquisition and Skyrim.
    But I suspect that The Witcher 3 will surpass Skyrim.

    1. Here is something cool (and odd)
      A mod for that opens up like 30 interiors.

      Now some of these are really odd, they actually have NPCs sitting/working.
      Some of this stuff is very mission specific like the FIB top floors on fire thing.

      But a lot of the other stuff has no real reason to be closed off.

      I really hope you’ll be able to go inside more places in GTA VI, by the looks of it Rockstar nailed the outside in GTA V.
      Running in some house through a living room and out the backdoor with the cops chasing you would be a fun mechanic.

      And a lot of minor missions could be added. (cat burglar or on the flip side, a vigilante trying to catch one)

      And there is this
      North Yankton (seen/played in the intro of GTA V).

      It’s way larger than what you play. Make sure to watch towards the end. The little town there, I’d love to have explored it (I think you just drive briefly through in a cutscene during the intro).

      And then there is this:
      Watch until the 7:50 mark, there is something hidden in the river ice, a rive you just blast through during the intro.

      I wonder how much stuff was actually cut from the game/left unfinished. The game world is huge enough as it is.

      Let’s hope they recycle the GTA V map in a future GTA game.

  25. JeffJeff says:

    I’ve been having a blast with GTA Online with a couple of people from the Rock Paper Shotgun community (so on PC then, obvious I suppose).

    It seems to be a bit more consistent there with respects to remembering settings and keeping game sessions alive, still horribly long loading times though.

    The online community is still total toxic garbage too, there’s not a public game where I’ve had any fun, even with access to the mid/high-tier weapons/armor.

  26. Shigy says:

    Funny reading this now. There are still some issues but 90% of what Shamus is talking about has now been dealt with.

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