Grand Theft Auto V: Survive The Hunt

By Shamus Posted Sunday Jan 12, 2020

Filed under: Video Games 76 comments

Now would be an excellent time for me to talk about the speedrunning marathon Games Done Quick 2020, which just wrapped up last night. However, I managed to miss most of the show this year. I’ll talk more about that on the podcast tomorrow, but in the meantime let me tell you about this other video game thing I’ve been spectating.

Survive The Hunt

You're not allowed to shoot from a car, but if you're the prey then you ARE allowed to chuck sticky bombs at target cars.
You're not allowed to shoot from a car, but if you're the prey then you ARE allowed to chuck sticky bombs at target cars.

Survive the hunt is a community-created game that takes place within Grand Theft Auto V. It’s an asymmetrical PvP game mode where a dozen or so hunters must track down and kill a single player. The trick is that the map is hidden and players don’t have names over their heads. This means that you can’t automatically tell the difference between a player and an NPC. A player can blend into the crowd by simply dressing and behaving like an AI.

The prey has the goal of driving around the city and destroying one of the hot pink Premier model carsI’m not 100% sure this is the model of car in question. The guy making the videos calls them “pree”, which might be a Primo or a Premier. I don’t know the game well enough to tell the difference at a glance. that have been parked around the map. However, doing so will advertise their position to the hunters.


Link (YouTube)

Above I’ve embedded one particular episode if you’re in the mood to see the game for yourself. Here is the whole playlist, if you want more. Note that the rules didn’t totally come together until episode 12, so you might want to start there.

Speaking of the rules, there are a lot:

  1. Before the round, the hunters get a look at you. You’re free to change outfits once the game is on, but you can’t change your face / skin color / gender.
  2. The prey gets a 2-minute head start to race into the city, swap outfits, and find a car to use. (In the most recent episode, the prey parachutes into the city rather than driving.)
  3. The game runs for one full day in GTA V, which works out to 48 minutes realtime. The game ends when the prey dies (the hunters win) or when time runs out (the prey wins).
  4. The hunters are allowed (and are strongly encouraged) to communicate with each other to track down the prey.
  5. To keep the game interesting, players aren’t allowed to shoot at each other from inside cars. Otherwise, the prey would be at too much of a disadvantage. It would be trivial for the hunters to disable their car with gunfire during a chase. There are also some limits on what weapons everyone has access to. I’m pretty sure the big stuff like rocket launchers and miniguns are off-limits.
  6. GTA V allows you to plant remote explosives somewhere, drive to the other side of the city, and set them off. However, this would make the game way too easy for the prey, since it would allow them to destroy the pink Premiers without giving away their position. The rules are a little mushy, but the general guideline is that you should trigger the explosives before you get more than a block away.
  7. The prey isn’t allowed to drive out into the desert or flee to the mountains. The game takes place only within the city.
  8. The prey must actively try to destroy the pink cars. The game would be far too easy and boring if the prey was allowed to find some obscure hidey-hole and run out the clock.
  9. The hunters aren’t allowed to use the top tier supercars, and there’s a limit of 2 flying hunters at a time. Usually this means 1 blimp and 1 helicopter. The flying hunters can’t legally attack the prey, but it’s very hard for the prey to hide from them once the chase is on.
  10. The hunters can respawn and continue the hunt if they get killed by a random mishap, but if the prey kills them then they’re out of the game.

The Gameplay

If you've ever seen the pre-game jackassery in PUBG, this is basically the same thing. Players are griefing each other to pass time just before the game starts. In the the background are the hunter cars. (And crashed planes, for some reason?) In the foreground is the prey. He'll switch to a low-profile car once he's in the city.
If you've ever seen the pre-game jackassery in PUBG, this is basically the same thing. Players are griefing each other to pass time just before the game starts. In the the background are the hunter cars. (And crashed planes, for some reason?) In the foreground is the prey. He'll switch to a low-profile car once he's in the city.

The prey tries to cruise around town and blend in with the standard NPC traffic as much as possible. This means driving slowOr rather, rather, drive at realistic speeds. Normal driving speeds are incredibly low compared to how most players drive in these games., stopping for traffic lights, not running into people, and making sure their car doesn’t get banged upDriving with a light out, a flat tire, or dents in the hood is a sure giveaway, since NPC cars always spawn in pristine condition.. They need to find one of the pink Premiers, blow it up, and then fade back into the crowd before the hunters arrive.

The hunters have a lot of ways to detect prey:

  • A car making an illegal turn MUST be the prey, since NPCs never do this.
  • If you fail to execute a plausibly smooth turn with your thumbstick steering wheel, then that might give you away to eagle-eyed hunters. Clipping a curb is a huge blunder.
  • Driving too fast is obviously foolish.
  • Because of the way the controls work, if you keep holding the brake when you’re already stopped, then your car will go into reverse. So holding down the brake too long will cause your reverse lights to come on for a moment. NPCs never do this.
  • While NPC cars do sometimes pull into parking lots or garages, these moments are incredibly rare. So leaving the road for any reason is likely to raise suspicion. Same goes for entering a parked car and joining traffic.
  • On foot, running, holding a weapon, or using your phone are all instant giveaways.

The most nail-biting moments of the game are right after you’ve blown up a car and you’re trying to resist the urge to flee. Instead you’re just sitting at a red light as hunter cars come flying in from every direction. Maybe one stops on the sidewalk beside you and the other stops in the opposing lane on the other side of you. Maybe they’ve figured out you’re the prey and they’re just boxing you in while they wait for the rest of the hunters to arrive, or maybe they have no idea if you’re in the area and they’re just trying to spook you into giving yourself away. I absolutely love these razor-edge moments where you can’t tell if you should play it cool or break cover and flee.

This Should be a Standalone Game

This hunter is running into you. Does he know you're a real player, or is he just poking you to see if you break character? Are more hunters on the way, or do you continue pretending to be an NPC?
This hunter is running into you. Does he know you're a real player, or is he just poking you to see if you break character? Are more hunters on the way, or do you continue pretending to be an NPC?

Sadly, GTA V doesn’t have a system to enforce the ten rules I listed above. There’s nothing to stop you from enabling player names and the minimap to trivialize the entire hunt. Everyone is on the honor system. Without formally enforced rules, this game can’t really expand to the player base at large. Sure, you and your 15 buddies can play this, but any pickup game with randos will instantly collapse due to rampant cheating.

Worse, the game doesn’t even recognize that your informal game is taking place. You still get spammed with messages about public events going on in the world, death messages involving people who aren’t playing your game, and you don’t even have a proper end-of-match notification. Not that I’d expect Rockstar to add support for player-created game modes. I’m not suggesting the game is missing features or anything. I’m just saying it would be nice if the rules of the game could be formalized somehow.

I think this entire game more is ideally suited to some sort of standalone game. It’s appealing on many levels. I admit that maybe it doesn’t look all that special in the YouTube videos, and to a certain extent I’m more excited about what this could be than what it is. If you’re just not seeing the potential, let me try to make the case:

  • Like Dead by Daylight, this seems like one of those rare formulas where asymmetrical PvP works for everyone. It’s not one of those situations where everyone has to wait for their turn sitting in the Fun Chair. I’d happily play this as either the hunter or the prey.
  • In Dead by Daylight, you have 1 killer vs. 4 (hopeful) survivors. Players seem to prefer aggression over powerlessness, which means you need to wait around in the queue for a long time if you want to inhabit the unique role. However, here things are reversed so the attackers outnumber the runners. That might make matchmaking easier all around.
  • Like PUBG, the game can accommodate lots of players, and is fairly flexible with player counts. 1v15 isn’t drastically harder than 1v12. There’s a bit of self-balancing going on because high hunter counts mean that the hunters tend to crash into each other during big chases. As long as there’s a cap on the number of air units in play, the hunters can greatly outnumber the prey without the game falling apart.
  • It’s fun to play on either side, and also really fun to spectate. Again, this seems like another PUBG / Fortnite type formula where the right idea at the right time can launch a craze via Twitch streams.
  • While watching the stream, I see lots of opportunities to try different / surprising things. The rounds on YouTube all look similar because it’s the same guy being the prey again and again, and that guy is very cautiousI spend a lot of time yelling at my screen, “THIS IS AS SAFE AS ITS GOING TO GET. JUST GO ALREADY. PEOPLE ARE WATCHING. KEEP IT INTERESTING.. If this game were unleashed on a large playerbase, I imagine there would be a rich evolving meta. Someone would master a stealth techniqueI’ve NEVER seen someone use a crappy car. Consequently, I’ve never seen the hunters look twice at a crappy car., then the hunters would adapt and shut that strategy down. The next week, madcap non-stealth car bombings would be the winning flavor. So then the hunters would develop quick ways to organize and cover lots of map area rather than bunching up behind the prey.  Then the next week, players would start exploiting the spread-out hunters with hit-and-run tactics that focus on killing the first hunter that shows up and taking their car. And so on. A game with a deep meta is a game with potential for longevity.

I really do think this idea is worth a fortune. I suppose it’s possible that Rockstar might add this as a supported game mode, but I kinda doubt they care. They seem to be making piles of money with their annoying pay-to-win Shark Cards, and I don’t think they’d be particularly motivated to embark on the hassle of developing, testing, and balancing a whole new system when they’re making so much money doing nothing.

If you're the prey, then you should be very careful when you see NPCs running in a panic like this. It means another player is nearby, probably doing something violent.
If you're the prey, then you should be very careful when you see NPCs running in a panic like this. It means another player is nearby, probably doing something violent.

Sadly, this isn’t an idea that indies can pounce on. Unlike PUBG, this isn’t the kind of thing you can throw together with a few friends on a shoestring budget. Open-word cities are the HARD MODE of game development. It requires a huge draw distanceYou can’t hide half the city behind a fog wall. At least, not all the time., low tolerance for pop-inYou can see a LONG WAY down this highway, and players do NOT want to see cars appear out of thin air. Which means the whole road needs to be populated., extreme detailYou can populate a video game forest with 3 trees and 6 bushes, but in cities almost every building needs to be unique , high network demandsSO MANY cars and physics objects need to be kept in sync for dozens of players. It’s a nightmare., and extremely optimized rendering code. And that’s just the workload for your programmers. You’ll also need a team of experienced artists to make dozens of cars with working suspension systems, doors, damage zones, breakable windows, distinct performance characteristics, and appropriate sounds. And then your team needs to fill a city with NPCs without creating a “clone army” effect. And then you need street clutter… hundreds and hundreds of pieces of street clutterPark benches, telephone poles, street lamps, trash cans, dozens of different road signs, street lights, dumpsters, guard rails, hedges, storefronts, mailboxes, etc etc etc..

I won’t say it’s impossible for an indie team to do this, but you’re going to need either a very large team or a very experienced team. This isn’t a job for six friends fresh out of gamedev school.

I wonder what Volition is working on these days? Agents of Mayhem didn’t work out and this seems like a slam dunk for their particular skill set.

Anyway. It’s fun to dream about. In the meantime, we just have these half dozen or so games to watch on YouTube. I do think they’re worth a watch if you enjoy asymmetrical PvP.

 

Footnotes:

[1] I’m not 100% sure this is the model of car in question. The guy making the videos calls them “pree”, which might be a Primo or a Premier. I don’t know the game well enough to tell the difference at a glance.

[2] Or rather, rather, drive at realistic speeds. Normal driving speeds are incredibly low compared to how most players drive in these games.

[3] Driving with a light out, a flat tire, or dents in the hood is a sure giveaway, since NPC cars always spawn in pristine condition.

[4] I spend a lot of time yelling at my screen, “THIS IS AS SAFE AS ITS GOING TO GET. JUST GO ALREADY. PEOPLE ARE WATCHING. KEEP IT INTERESTING.

[5] I’ve NEVER seen someone use a crappy car. Consequently, I’ve never seen the hunters look twice at a crappy car.

[6] You can’t hide half the city behind a fog wall. At least, not all the time.

[7] You can see a LONG WAY down this highway, and players do NOT want to see cars appear out of thin air. Which means the whole road needs to be populated.

[8] You can populate a video game forest with 3 trees and 6 bushes, but in cities almost every building needs to be unique

[9] SO MANY cars and physics objects need to be kept in sync for dozens of players. It’s a nightmare.

[10] Park benches, telephone poles, street lamps, trash cans, dozens of different road signs, street lights, dumpsters, guard rails, hedges, storefronts, mailboxes, etc etc etc.



From The Archives:
 

76 thoughts on “Grand Theft Auto V: Survive The Hunt

  1. Asdasd says:

    You observe a lot of problems with indies developing this idea as a standalone multiplayer, but getting the game made is just the start of the struggle. Perhaps even more than single-player games, multiplayer depends on the attention economy, and the fact is there’s not much oxygen left in the room.

    You’d be pinning your company on the hope that your game caught on in a big way (or contrive a way for it to catch on (i.e. pay a lot of popular streamers to play it for a long time, and then still cross your fingers and toes that they do a good job of shilling it.)) There’s no hope of a long tail because multiplayer games need a large player base in order to be self-sustaining. The lower the initial base, the quicker people will move on and the faster the deceleration towards 0 – nobody will go to a party at 2am if they can see from the driveway that the lights are all out.

    All that said, it does sound like an amazing experience (albeit one that cribs heavily from multiplayer modes which have come before, in Watch_Dogs and Assassin’s Creed (and before them, Garry’s mod.))

    1. John says:

      Asynchronous multiplayer games like Super Mario Maker are a lot better for small communities of players. One person uploads a level, then within the next two weeks, thirty people could play it at random times, in random timezones, etc.

  2. kunedog says:

    The prey must actively try to destroy the pink cars. The game would be far too easy and boring if the prey was allowed to find some obscure hidey-hole and run out the clock.

    I wonder how this rule might be enforced in a standalone version, maybe through some kind of benefit like ammo. At the very least there should be a leaderboard of pink cars killed in one round.

    How easy is it for the hunters to camp them? I assume there are too many.

    Typos:

    The background at the hunter cars. (And crashed planes, for some reason?) In the foreground is the prey.

    Dunno what this is supposed to say, but I know that isn’t a sentence.

    You’ll also need a team of experienced artists to make dozens cars

    of

    1. kunedog says:

      OK, I’m watching the vid you linked and he says the pink cars are hunter-owned so that’s how they get notified of their destruction, and he also says that the hunters are responsible for placing them around the map. He talks about how they may (with certain restrictions) try to put them in obscure places, but what is the incentive to do that? Just for fun, since they’re all a group of friends?

      Given a skilled and stealthy prey player, notifications would seem to be your best lead, so hiding the targets works against you since the ticking clock is on the prey’s side.

      1. GoStu says:

        Perhaps if the location itself is obscure, NPC traffic to the area is slight. It’s less likely that your prey goes after the car but they’re easy to spot if they do?

    2. Chad says:

      > I wonder how this rule might be enforced in a standalone version,

      The prey gets a countdown clock that resets when a target car is destroyed. When the countdown runs out, the prey’s position is broadcast, perhaps via “breaking news” on the radio. A broadcast also adds some smaller amount of time to the countdown clock. Season to taste.

      Once you have a community playing the game, you can create a small economy of one-use player perks (think ‘load-out’) chosen from a small menu each game, then you can award perks per targets destroyed. (Caution, this is where Andrew Wilson pushes things too far.)

    3. John says:

      It would be straightforward to have the bomber player just lose the match, if they get found, or if they don’t destroy the target car.

  3. Grimwear says:

    Having just watched the one episode linked are the hunters allowed to coordinate where they place their pink cars? Because if so have 3 or 4 of them park them all around a couple of blocks within line of sight of each other. In the linked video he only destroyed 2 pink cars in the entire match. I feel it would be easy to place the cars within line of sight of each other while also being far enough away that there’s a good chance of the hunters reaching the first site before a second or third car got blown up as well. Does that count too much like camping? More importantly, just what is the value of the pink cars? Are they the end-all-be-all or are they just a side objective which is designed to expose the prey to the initial chase? Is the prey required to go after a pink car if they see it or are they allowed to ignore it if they feel it’s too risky?

    1. Decius says:

      If I were designing the game mode, blowing up the objective would be the only way for the prey to score points, and the time limit would end the round.

      For an informal game, informal rules like “the objective is to blow up the cars” is sufficient.

      1. Grimwear says:

        If the cars are the most important part then we’d need a way to make the hunters drive around and not just camp cars.

        1. Syal says:

          Twice as many cars as hunters. Make them at least have to patrol.

          1. Grimwear says:

            I like the idea of having more cars than hunters. I’d also recommend taking away car positioning from the hunters and have it randomized. They still get “possession” of the cars so a hunter can see when one of their cars gets blown up but this stops the hunters from putting all the cars close together. Even with more cars I still feel like camping would end up being a big problem and I’m not sure what a fix could be. Maybe a mechanic where if they stop moving for X seconds then their location is pinged to the prey?

            1. Moridin says:

              Letting hunters place the cars opens up an entire new level of tactics. I would suggest a minimum distance between two cars instead.

              1. Grimwear says:

                The only issue I see with that would be if the hunters hide the cars too well. We’re already dealing with a large arena and in the video we watched it took the prey 10 minutes to find the first car. In a match that runs about 40-45 minutes (perhaps for a dedicated game I’d try to reduce it to 30 minutes) that’s a lot of dead time where the prey is just acting as an AI and the hunters have 0 clues on where to find them. I feel like it may suffer like Evolve did where the first stage of the match is just boring busywork.

    2. beleester says:

      I’d make the pink cars take X minutes off the clock (test 5 minutes and tune from there?), which is a significant benefit that’s worth risking your neck for, but means you can pass it up if you don’t want the risk. In general I think they should be a side objective, because getting them all would require the prey to comb the city pretty thoroughly and that’s a tall order since you’re already busy pretending to be an NPC.

      1. John says:

        You could also have different amounts of reward for the first car destroyed, vs the second…vs the Nth car destroyed, as a knob to turn while balancing the game.

      2. Grimwear says:

        I like that idea. I also like the idea I saw earlier about tying the Pink cars to buffs. Maybe limited use items like become invisible for 10 seconds so if you get into a chase you have the chance to escape the eyes of a blimp/helicopter. The only issue again is we need an incentive to make people go for cars because honestly without it the best prey tactic is just never touch the pink cars and pretend to be an AI the entire time. Maybe have it so that the timer doesn’t start until the first pink car is blown up but the prey also starts the game with a random pink car highlighted to help get the action started.

  4. Josatan says:

    I’ve been a long time lurker here, but this post finally made me write a comment

    I’ve been binging these lately too, and it is scary how much I went through almost the same though processes you mentioned in the article….. this game mode could really become the next big thing, but it really can’t exist as a standalone game, because it frankly rquires a Rockstar quality urban map, which is something that only Rockstar does. As likeable as the Saint’s Row games are for their story, wackiness and chaos potential, their maps are much more closer in quality to random asset flips than to a Rockstar game.

    But to add something, I feel that even if Rockstar made this into an official game mode, it would still only work best with people who at least speak the same language and have access to a microphone as well, to make the communication and cooperation between the hunters fun and interesting. I feel using any kind of somwhat automated communication( pre-written messages and similar stuff) would make the whole thing sterile. There is a kind of beauty to hearing people trying their best to explain where they have seen the prey verbally, while driving at high speeds. There was a point in the last event where a player was telling his teammates that he has seen the prey at Franklin’s house, only to clarify a bit later that he meant his old house in the ghetto, not his mansion. these moments would be lost if there was a hotkey to send the name of the street or part of the city you are at to all your teammates…..

    Another problem would be that there should be at least 10 times as many hunters as prey, but maybe players would prefer to play in the role of the prey. I don’t play MP games at all, so I have idea how they deal with that in other assymertrical MP games. I guess they could make it so that the hunter who kills the prey gets to be the new prey in the next ground…

    1. John says:

      I think both you and Shamus overvalue the amount of detail needed in the map. A similar game The Ship, where players pretended to be NPCs and assassinate each other on a cruise ship, had a fairly simple map, and a very similar premise. The actions of blending in with NPCs wasn’t impeded by the indie budget – in fact, they made an enhanced / remaster edition.

  5. Z'Greel says:

    Reminds me of the Assassin’s Creed multiplayer. An area filled with about 10 different character models copy-pasted a hundred times, where you get one model as the target, and a marker that guides you to their general location, at which point you have to suss out which of the exact same people in the area is your target. All the while someone else is hunting you.
    Someone pretending to be an NPC, hunting someone who pretends to be an NPC. It was surprisingly fun.

    1. Decius says:

      I liked some of the escort/attack missions in ACMP.

      I always used disguise and poison for those, and about 2/3 of the time I could manage a poison kill and not even get killed myself.

  6. Liessa says:

    I don’t play GTA V, but I enjoy watching videos of people using the ‘LSPDFR’ mod which allows you to play as a Los Santos police officer. You’d think this would be the most thankless task ever, but some people get really into it, even learning all the radio codes and writing up arrest reports. It’s especially hilarious given how the AI typically acts in GTA V – it’s not uncommon to see an attempted traffic stop turn into a 12-car pile-up with everyone shooting at each other.

  7. Rosseloh says:

    This channel pops up in my feed a lot because I watch a lot of car related stuff, and FailRace does/did some BeamNG videos a while back that I watched. You’ve convinced me to at least give them a try.

    And don’t worry too much – not only was GDQ slightly less interesting this year (only slightly! I still watched all week long! and my game preferences are of course slightly different than yours), but they’ve been getting far better at getting the videos up on youtube in a relatively quick manner.

    1. MelTorefas says:

      This was actually my favorite GDQ since I started watching a few years ago. So many fantastic runs and amazing couch/runner combos (Andy’s Crowd Control Link to the Past randomizer run had me in stitches, and there were a bunch of other great ones too). Coming right on the heels of CGDQ honestly made it even better.

      Also, Shamus, I really hope you do watch the VODs because there is a Control speedrun that I thought was fantastic and I am guessing you would enjoy.

  8. Chris says:

    This reminds me of the AC multiplayer. Which you have to pretend to be an NPC in a city while hunting down your target who also looks like an NPC.

    Things like this is why im kinda sad modern games are so complex and hard to mod. Im sure if this was done in half-life MP they could make mod to just enforce many of those rules. Now you just have to hope the developer wants to do it. This does happen however. In league of legends people came up with the ARAM style, in which you would play a random character, only go down the middle lane, and arent allowed to run back to the base to regenerate your health. So you have a constant 5 man struggle in the middle. Of course one person deciding to farm up another lane or the jungle would break the game. But it was so popular riot made an official mode. At the other hand, if it was done in DOTA someone who was good with the map editor could just make it himself.

    1. Decius says:

      Mod support for GTAV would cause the game mode to be created, which would open up a new genre.

      1. Kylroy says:

        GTA V modding would provide people an alternative to GTA Online, whose pay-to-win nature has turned it into an absolute money spigot for Rockstar. I doubt they’d do anything that endangers their golden goose.

    2. Bookwyrm says:

      In league of legends people came up with the ARAM style, in which you would play a random character, only go down the middle lane, and arent allowed to run back to the base to regenerate your health.

      Dota Allstars, back in Warcraft 3, could do most of what you describe here. I’ve got an AI version of Allstars that I still play periodically with 9 bots (5 players per team, and I’m the only human). AROMDM (All Random, Only Mid, Death Match) makes for interesting times, and I don’t issue commands to my AI teammates to simulate online players.

      You can still hit the jungle and you can still retreat to the fountain to heal, but mostly it is 8-10 players fighting in the one lane.

  9. Joshua says:

    Sounds cool, but it seems like there’s a lot of “Gentleman’s Rules” in effect.

  10. Christopher says:

    That was a fun video. These sorts of in-game challenges have their own charm to them, I’m reminded of when Yahtzee and Jim Sterling were trying to crush the most pots in Dark Souls etc.

  11. Dreadjaws says:

    I wonder what Volition is working on these days?

    By their own admission, the next Saints Row game. Maybe they could add this as a multiplayer mode if we pester them enough.

  12. Geebs says:

    You can populate a video game forest with 3 trees and 6 bushes, but in cities almost every building needs to be unique

    Surely cities are way easier to render than forests? For convincing plants, you either need a heck of a lot of triangles, or to use a lot of alpha transparency. Sorting all of those plants by depth is pretty CPU intensive. Avoiding LOD-popping is tricky. Getting lots of billboards aligned with the camera is a pain.

    Conversely, you can make a low-LOD version of a building with a single cube, and occlusion testing a bunch of cubes is pretty simple. You can put big buildings in the middle of the map as occluders, as well.

    1. Addie says:

      Speaking as a city-dweller, most (real-life) trees look pretty much the same to me anyway, and it wouldn’t take much to create the illusion of good trees – as long as they’re not completely identical, and completely evenly-spaced out, then OK, it’s a forest. A city is largely a collection of simple geometric shapes, yes, but their sizing and spacing needs to pretty damn accurate to convince. Needs all the little details (roads, signs, windows, building access, different urban zones, a few parks here and there, …) to be correct too, otherwise it risks ruining the suspension of disbelief.

      1. Geebs says:

        I’m thinking in terms of rendering. A city is a bunch of cubes, and they’re almost all opaque; you only need to render transparency on the nearest couple – all of the other windows can be faked with cube maps. The PS4 Spiderman game had a neat shader for faking room interiors which worked surprisingly well. Display order and object culling are pretty simple – especially if you’re making a North American-style regular grid of streets.

        Forests, on the other hand, absolutely kill you on object complexity, fill rate and sorting for transparency. Leaves are translucent, so there’s a question of simulating global illumination. It doesn’t really matter if you’re instancing a single tree model (I’ve done it!), making something dense enough to be half way convincing is really hard.

        Don’t even get me started on grass ;-)

  13. Thomas says:

    Would it need all those bells and whistles that GTA V has, though? Couldn’t it work as, say, a top-down game like GTA 1 and 2? That is totally within reach for a medium or even small sized indie studio.

    1. Chris says:

      A large charm is how the player has to blend in with the AI, including oddities. But at the same time the AI must seem human, including little oddities and imperfections. GTA5 already has this, and a 3d world feels a lot more “real” than a top down game, in my opinion at least.
      AI seems to be difficult for smaller studios, they either make a PvP only game so they dont need bots, or they make very simplistic AI part of the game (hotline miami). Then also add in inperfections. In GTA2 the AI would stack perfectly in front off a traffic light (same distance between every car, every car perfectly in the middle of its lane, etc.). I think it would be very difficult to capture this game in the same way in a smaller game.

      1. Grimwear says:

        AI is hard in general I assume. I recently picked up Shadow of War which is a AAA title and they have a mission mode known as Pit Fight where you take one of your orcs and they fight another orc. It’s completely AI driven where you can choose which of your orcs will fight (so try to pick an orc that can take advantage of the opposing orc’s weaknesses) but aside from that the AI runs everything. And it’s garbage. Just recently I put my level 43 legendary orc against a level 41 normal orc. Neither were mortally weak to the other and I lost. Terribly. Not because it was a great fight but because my orc only attacked twice the entire 2 minute fight. He’d stand there, posture a bit, and do nothing. Over and over. It didn’t matter that both attacks my orc did took off 49% of his opponent’s health bar. Or that the orc was broken. My orc would not attack and got slowly ground into the dirt. It isn’t fun, it’s boring, it’s infuriating, and goes to show that AI still has a really long way to go.

        1. GoStu says:

          I’m pretty sure that mode was made garbage on purpose, so that you’d buy more replacement orcs from lootboxes.

          I enjoyed Shadow of Mordor well enough but never got deep into Shadow of War just because I loathed the mind control & orc-management. Not only were the orc-fights dull and grindy, I was feeling like an even worse villain than Sauron about halfway through.

    2. Geebs says:

      I think we have one example available to give us some idea of the scope an indie studio might be able to manage. SpyParty is an indie “social stealth” game made by one guy. It launched on early access in 2018 after at least ten years of development, having first been announced in 2009.

      SpyParty takes place entirely within one room.

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        SpyParty is where my brain went as well. Still though, I feel like it should be possible to make a game like this with similarly minimal graphics where the city and assets are procedurally generated. Know anyone who’s written a procedural city generator before?

      2. beleester says:

        On the flip side, SpyParty puts everything the Spy does under a microscope – the dev blog has some posts along the lines of “A bug made NPCs begin their turning animation a fraction of a second before the Spy would, and that was breaking the game because Snipers could rule out NPCs one by one by looking for this animation glitch.” SpyParty is ludicrously precise at high levels. In a GTA-style environment full of chaos, and with an effectively infinite number of NPCs (spawning and despawning as players move), I expect you can’t look as closely.

      3. Ninety-Three says:

        The most interesting thing Spy Party does is give the player character default AI behaviour. If you take your hands off the keyboard, instead of standing there like a statue, your character will start running the NPC AI and move around like one of them. It does a good job of removing the most boring elements of learning to act like an NPC and lets the player focus more on interesting decisions of when to break cover.

        Say, how are games played these days? I backed it and played the alpha back in 2015 or so, but bounced off because the default match mode everyone wanted to play was “We play a game with one person as sniper and one as spy, then we swap roles and play a second game”, which felt like trying to learn two races in Starcraft at once instead of just sitting down and playing a few dozen Terran games in a row.

    3. Lars says:

      There weren’t any flying vehicles in GTA 1 and 2 for obvious reasons. But flying Hunters are an important factor of this “game mode”. In 2.5 D Top Down you’d need a substitute. Like Hunters who can jump on Buildings Saints Row IV Style.

    4. Evan says:

      One of the reasons i think you would need a significant level of mechanical polish is that the stealth aspect is only half of the game. The player linked above is actually detected at least once per game, but that just leads to an (imo) entertaining chase where he needs to break line of sight, find a new car, and go back to pretending to be an NPC. This is complicated by a lot of factors that wouldn’t be easy to implement with limited resources. For example, if his car takes damage during the chase, its much harder to blend. Or driving a fast car making you stand out more. Or the helicopter not being great at picking him out of a crowd, but making breaking line of sight almost impossible once a chase has begun, unless he gets lucky or travels through very specific areas.

      The “blending with NPCs” thing isnt new, though it is a good concept. But i cant think of any other game mode where the chase that follows is significantly more than a failure state, and i think that is critical to the appeal.

  14. I am actually trying to get people together in DDO to do something very slightly similar to this–horse racing. It’s frustrating because I think it could be a lot of fun, but there just isn’t anything built in to the game to let us make a real go at it, so we pretty much have to rely on the honor system. I’ve been trying to get them to add alternate-game-mode PvP of some kind to the game for years.

    I really hate PvP where you just try to kill other players, but I really like PvP where you have cooperative groups competing to complete objectives, especially if those objectives are complex, as they are here. I really think that more of that sort of thing could be a big, big deal in games, and it makes a good bridge between outright PvP and PvE playstyles where both types of people will play.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Neverwinter Online (the MMO) started out with and for a long time maintained… I think it was called The Foundry or The Forge, essentially a level creator. The idea being, I think, that the option to make your own stories would appeal particularly to people with tabletop experience and a bunch of people did some interesting stuff with it. Aside from run of the mill fantasy adventures and some fairly ambitious dungeons people made some stuff like entirely dialogue focused adventures, platforming challenges, racetracks, roleplaying areas, guildhouses, recreations of lore scenes etc.

      Sadly the feature suffered from severe limitations, afaik it was impossible to use boss monsters or change scripting on enemies (essentially you could pick mobs from a gallery and plop them in places), the limit on the amount of assets used was rather harsh and many assets were not available, I’ve also heard people repeatedly complain about how bare bones the scripting was. Ultimately though what killed (I do believe the mode was eventually retired after several years on life support) was that it didn’t mesh well with the main game structure and monetization. If people could obtain high value rewards people would make cheat levels, if they could get normal drops they’d make autofarms, once the rewards were removed just a small subset of the playerbase would interact with the system and it eventually became not viable to sustain it.

      But while it lasted things like guilds making their own internal game modes or events was definitely a thing.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        City of Heroes had a very similar feature called Mission Architect, though it was even weaker than Neverwinter Online when it came to the ability to make highly customized or novel dungeons, it seemed aimed more at people who wanted to write their own stories than design their own challenges.

        They spent a while tweaking the rewards you could get from it, but for a long time they allowed it to pay out regular, non-high value rewards and they were just fine with people using it to engineer the optimal XP-grinding mission to play instead of doing normal content. That’s probably in part due to the nature of the game: for years CoH had almost no endgame (you’d hit 50 and there was one raid you could do, that’s it) and it led to a spirit of “It’s about the journey, not the destination”. If people really want to exploit Mission Architect, let ’em, it’s not like this is WoW where we need to delay them getting to the level cap so that they’ll stay subscribed longer.

  15. tmtvl says:

    ESA will forever be my favourite speedrunning event, even if they only pull in a tenth of what GDQ does.

  16. Aaron says:

    How do you get people to talk to each other though? Evolve tried this concept with 4 v 1 and it failed because no one talked to each other.

  17. Ciennas says:

    This is why Halo has the Infection and Grifball game types:

    For the uninitiated, Infection is a game of human players versus one or two ‘zombies’ the humans are restricted to pistols and shotguns, and also may or may not have movement restrictions, and the zombies have melee and high movement speed, but low health.

    Each human killed by a zombie switches teams. Survive the round or convert all the opponents.

    Grifball is a mode where you try to get the ball in the center of the map to the opposing goal…. while everyone has massive mallets and energy swords. You get a speed boost and shields from touching the ball, but your armor also turns bright yellow.

    Both of those modes exist solely because of this, and it’s an endearing touch to have them in the games.

    1. Grimwear says:

      Heck back in Halo 1 days we’d play our own game mode which was just warthog battles on bloodgulch. Rules were simple. All vehicles were warthogs and you’d start the match, try to get a warthog, and then try and run over those who didn’t manage to get one and play bumper cars with the other warthogs trying to blow them up. Back then vehicles would only respawn once a previous one had exploded so you’d try to time doing enough damage to make your car about to explode then quickly go and swap to a new one, leaving the deathtrap to another on foot player. Unfortunately the mode died for my friends and I when Halo 2 released and we just played sword battles on Lockout.

    2. Mr. Wolf says:

      My friends and I came up with a game that we called “You Shall Not Pass!” while playing Halo 3. Essentially it was a racing game, except there was one really fast guy with a grav hammer trying to hold us off. We never formalised rules for it, just playing until we got bored, but in a more modifiable game I think there was some real potential.

    3. Sleeping Dragon says:

      One of the AvP games had a mode called, I think, “alien tag”. One player would start as an alien and they would respawn on death, every player killed by the alien would also start respawning as an alien until… I don’t remember if it was last (hu)man standing or it just ended when the last human died as well. I’ve only played a little of it at a LAN party but it was pretty fun.

  18. W says:

    This sounds very much like a fit for Watch_Dogs. There’s already a blend-in adversarial stealth mode in the previous 2 games.

  19. The comments about the developmental barriers to entry baffle me. They’re almost entirely focused on creating the environment, which is by far the easiest part. I get that you made your bones making that kind of content for Active Worlds, but this is the age of asset flips. You can buy a city with all the cruft you want for a relatively affordable price tag. Hell, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if I found out GTAV featured pre-made assets.

    I have to figure the largest actual barrier to entry is by far, creating the interconnected systems that are GTAV’s a.i. infrastructure. Not only does the system have to be detailed enough for a person to reasonably replicate its interactive behavior, it also has to be diverse enough that a person can intuit how to match its behavior, a feat even GTAV itself hasn’t fully mastered.

    This, to say nothing about the fact that no one would play it. Or that is to say, no one would pay for it. I mean…you pretty much answered your own question of why this isn’t a money maker in your own article. It’s co-op based gameplay that requires upwards of dozens of participants and as you pointed out, a group of random people would make for a terrible experience…and that would constitute an overwhelming majority of the match-ups. It’s not a mystery why co-based shooter gameplay never exceeds more than four people. It’s simply not financially feasible to create a game that mandates cooperation of that size.

    1. Shamus says:

      “The comments about the developmental barriers to entry baffle me.”

      EVERYTHING I write baffles you. You are a shining beacon of relentless negativity. If the comments get a little too positive or if everyone seems to be in some sort of approximate agreement, I can always count on you to indignantly explain why I’m wrong about everything and the post is a waste of time. Your entire comment basically agrees with me (a city-sized gameworld is REALLY hard to build) but you disagree anyway because you don’t like how I itemized the budget on a game nobody is going to make.

      I have no idea why you’re STILL reading my site after I’ve posted 11 years of content that apparently disappointed and annoyed you, but you’re THIS CLOSE to being part of a drinking game…

      Shamus posts an entire entry to the front page – drink

      Neil Polenske shows up and feels the need to take umbrage with some minor footnote – drink

      Shamus brings up Mass Effect – drink

      Jennifer Snow mentions Dungeons & Dragons Online – drink

      Neil Polenske reads an entire post, and then leaves a comment explaining why Shamus shouldn’t have bothered writing it in the first place – finish your drink

      1. kincajou says:

        Good god, man! Have some pity on our poor livers!

      2. Asdasd says:

        Now I feel bad for being so negative in my own comment. It just feels so good to gripe, you know? Like picking at a scab.

        But everyone knows how annoying it is to try and add to or start a conversation, only to be met with a chorus of pedantry and fault-finding. So I’m sorry for that.

        1. Shamus says:

          You’re fine! I don’t mind when people disagree. In fact, this site gets boring when everyone just agrees with me. A back-and-forth discussion is much more interesting.

          I just get mystified when someone acts like they can’t stand my content, but keeps reading and interacting anyway.

          Also, your comment was barely negative. :)

      3. 1) It be hard to get drunk off my posts when I post so rarely.

        2) You put my posts under moderation anyway so if you don’t like my posts…maybe don’t post them?

        3) I’d prolly post even less – if at all – if you brought back the forums. The vain hope that clicking the link will someday no longer direct to that placeholder text is pretty much the only thing that keeps me around in all honesty. Yeah, it was a small community and probably a hassle to maintain on yours or someone’s end, but it was really vibrant and damn if I don’t miss it.

        Also, goddamn if the forums would not have come in clutch while I was learning javascript last year. I mean, I’m still learning honestly. I’m just saiyan…would’ve saved me weeks of fumbling about creating functional navigation for my modal image gallery.

        Yeah, so anyway #sorrynotsorry. Thank God for me!

    2. Lars says:

      It’s not a mystery why co-based shooter gameplay never exceeds more than four people. It’s simply not financially feasible to create a game that mandates cooperation of that size.

      Battlefield, Halo, Planetside 2, Apex Legends to name just a few financially feasible multiplayer shooters with more than 4 players. Financial success for a game of that “game mode” is not impossible, but unlikely.
      If you want the success your game has to be good, which means buying a whole city is off limits. The city for such a game needs to be unique with a lot of landmarks you need to create an arrange yourself. Only simple assets for things like trash cans or traffic lights should be bought.
      Other I agree: The AI is one big barrier. (With horrors I remember the AI of GTA San Andreas) Together with the other big barriers of rendering the city at reasonable frames, and getting everything (including AI) into multiplayer is a nightmare your average 4 programmer indie studio cannot handle. (See No Man’s Sky)

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        Apex Legends is specifically teams of three, and games like Battlefield and Halo don’t really require coordination per se, the game tells everyone to work towards the same goal (kill all the enemies, capture the flag, whatever) and they all work towards it without much talking between the members of the 32-man team.

        I think the strongest recent counterexample is Overwatch and its six-man teams, though that immediately invites debate over exactly what constitutes “mandating” coordination, given that most Overwatch pub matches will take place without any player saying a word.

        Edit: I guess WoW and its clones are still, if not going strong, at least going, and MMO raids are a pretty solid example of a game mandating coordination from anywhere between 5 and dozens of players.

      2. Yeah, but those games don’t mandate co–

        *looks at ninety-three’s post*

        Okay yeah, what they said.

  20. ElementalAlchemist says:

    I wonder what Volition is working on these days?

    Didn’t we just have this conversation? They are currently working on Saints Row 5.

  21. Philadelphus says:

    This reminds me of the Zombie Survival* unofficial game mode for Team Fortress 2. There’s a few versions of the mod/plugins/whatever needed for it out there, but I’ve played well over a hundred hours on one particular variant which has done a lot of balancing (including of maps) to make it more fair and fun. It’s definitely nice when games allow modding to make these kinds of fun community-created game modes into more formalized rule sets enforced by the game.

    *Red team is “humans”, all Engineers who can do everything Engineers normally can except build Sentries and use the alt-fire on the Short-Circuit, Blue team is “zombies”, all Medics who are restricted to using melee weapons but get a double-jump ability and get boosted speed and jump height about 60% of the way through a round. A round starts with about a 3:1 ratio of humans to zombies, once a human dies they permanently join the zombie horde which wins if all humans are dead before the time limit (~8 minutes) expires. Despite the initial numbers advantage, teamwork and coordination on the part of the humans is absolutely essential as the zombie horde is great at finding and picking apart any isolated survivors.

  22. ash says:

    Did you play Sub Rosa? It generates cities for Reservoir Dogs style multiplayer action. Has traffic, but no pedestrians iirc.

  23. Ninety-Three says:

    Back in the days of the original Star Wars Battlefront, I had fun playing in “starships-only” maps. It was supposed to be a standard “capture the control points” FPS, but there were a couple maps that had a bunch of flying vehicles, so using the honor system (plus admin kicking anyone who broke the rules), you could resolve to ignore the control points and just spend an hour flying around shooting at people. The aerial gameplay was probably not on par with dedicated dogfighting games, but it was fun enough back in 2004, and the 2005 sequel got some dedicated space battle maps that finally gave me what I was looking for.

  24. Trevor says:

    I spent a bunch of my Sunday watching these and had a lot of fun doing so. Thanks for the recommendation!

  25. Alex says:

    There’s a VR game called Panoptic which, although only 1V1, uses a similar style of play. One player is the Overseer and has to spot and obliterate the dissident among its many minions, while the other plays the dissident and has to blend in with the other minions long enough to destroy the Overseer’s energy orbs.

  26. newplan says:

    I don’t play GTA but I’ve been watching these and I’ve noticed something – whenever a hunter is close the popup for “you can challenge another player to an ‘impromptu race'” comes up. I haven’t seen any mention of this in the comments and the guy making the vids has never mentioned it but it seems like a giant giveaway if the hunters are paying attention. Drive around until you pass an AI car that gives the notification and you really narrow down the search space.

  27. Chris says:

    After watching a few of the videos I must say it really reminds me of evolve. Asymmetric gameplay of hunter and hunted. The problem with evolve was that hunter gameplay wasnt really fun on repeat playthroughs, since you would just run circles tracking the monster. This system of a few high action moments with big plateaus of quiet inbetween dont hold up for very long. These games need to hold up for play after play for hundreds of times. I loved evolve for a weekend of play, the tension of chasing the monster, the explosive moment when you trap the monster and fight him. However after a while it starts to start becoming routine. The devs launched a level 2 system in which it made the maps smaller and gave the hunters a radar sweep so they could get the exact location of the monster for a few seconds. All to increase the amount of action.

    Another problem these kinds of games have is that not everyone wants to play hunter. And with this setup you need 12 hunters per prey. This means that either 12 players constantly want to play hunter per prey player, or that every player is willing to play hunter 12 times out of the 13 games (on average of course). I played quite some overwatch and this was a big problem. You need a healer in your team, meaning 1 in 6 players must play a healer. I dont mind playing support, but a lot more people want to play damagedealer, as a result i either had to play support constantly, or just play a game without support (and hope someone else bit the bullet and switched). The hunters in the video are all friends that just shoot the bullet while casually sweeping the map, 12 randoms that dont use mics will be bored out of their mind 5 games in and all queue prey.

    Maybe its an idea to make a steam group or something and get some people from this blog together to play?

  28. GoStu says:

    I was thinking on how you would make this its own game and set the objective, and got inspired by something from Axis and Allies.

    In Axis and Allies, five players assume control of factions in a World War 2 tabletop game. Two players play as Germany and Japan, and three play as the U.S.A., the United Kingdom, and Russia. The thing is, as-written, the game favors the Allies. The Axis start with stronger armies but the Allies start with more production, so typically the Axis bog down some time and eventually the Allies steamroll them right back.

    What emerged from the community playing it was this: bidding wars to play the Axis. Every player in the group states how many extra resources on the starting turn they’d need to want to play as the Axis. The two players with the lowest bids win and pick between which faction they’ll play as, while the other three select their own factions (and probably argue over who has to be Russia. Russia is the least fun to play as.)

    If all the players bid really high, then the lower bidders enjoy a stupid-easy game as they start as the Axis with monstrous armies and wipe the board. If all the players bid really low, then the lowest bidders face an uphill struggle to overcome the built-in weaknesses of playing Axis.

    So what if in our hypothetical standalone car game, there were lobbies of… say, eight players. There’s a set number of pink cars to destroy – let’s say twelve. Players bid on “if they are the prey, how many of the twelve cars will they have to destroy?” with the highest four bids taking it in turns to play the Prey.

    If players set themselves ridiculously hard challenges (like destroying all twelve cars) then they’re in for a terrible defeat because the hunters can almost certainly prevent the last couple objectives from falling. If players all bid really low, then it’s going to be an easy game… but anyone willing to bid more than a couple cars is certainly going to play the Hunted. If the bids are 1-1-1-2-2-3-4-5 then there should be at least a couple more interesting rounds. Maybe the game places some kind of meta-reward on not being really easy so there’s not full lobbies of 1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1.

    Then the players are setting their own goals to their own levels of comfort. No doubt veteran players playing with newbies will go deep and try to show off by anteing “8” or some other impressive number. YouTube videos of “OMG INSANE 11-CAR RUN!” will be posted, or will be streamed on Twitch.

    Just a thought, anyway. Neat article, Shamus – I’d have never heard of this on my own.

    1. Chad Miller says:

      Maybe the game places some kind of meta-reward on not being really easy so there’s not full lobbies of 1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1.

      Make it a Vickrey Auction. Then bidding 2 will mean that if everyone else bids 1, you automatically win but only have to destroy one car.

    2. Iunnrais says:

      This is a fantastic idea, and could make the number difference work. Yes, Shamus suggested that more people are likely to want to be the hunter than the hunted, but I severely doubt the ratio would be 1:15, or 1:12, or even 1:10. Maybe *half* that. Which means more people will want to be the hunted than there are slots to allow it. But bidding on it… that makes getting to play the hunted as a skill in and of itself. Very cool.

      Perhaps, in the case of ties, players will be given an opportunity to raise their bet? If no one does, then pick randomly.

      By the way, thanks Shamus, for introducing us all to this channel. It really is great fun to watch!

  29. Guest says:

    This might actually be doable with FiveM. It’s an alternative multiplayer client\mod which basically enables you to play on dedicated servers with mods and such. There’s quite a number of people playing through it so the mode might just take off if someone takes the time to make a mod that enforces all the rules, etc.

  30. T12 says:

    The so caled ‘Pree’ (or as FR spell it, ‘Prii’) is actually short for Prius. It’s the Dilettante, a car loosely based on a real world Prius.

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