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10:57 AM on 10.23.2013

GTA V Online - Players Are Ruining The Game

Sure, Rockstar’s faults are many and well documented when it comes to the launch (and follow-up) of GTA V’s online mode. But the way I see it, players are just as responsible for the current state of the game. 

Let it be clear, my point here is not to defend Rockstar. By now, every major company should know better than to launch a game with a clearly undersized server park. But how are we, the players, reacting to this? 

The answer is: we're making everything 10 times worse. How, do you ask? Here's a list.

1) Exploiting / Cheating:

GTA Online is a "rags-to-riches" game. You start out arriving at the local airport, carrying nothing more than the close on your body.  Then you get a pistol with one clip, and a few bucks to get you started. Your objective? To become the richest, most awesome, most bad-ass criminal in Los Santos.

Now, this can be a lot of fun. There is nothing more satisfying than the first ride on the attack helicopter you bought after long hours of doing missions and robberies. It is that feeling of accomplishment that we strive for in games like this. Every single achievement, like buying your first apartment, makes you want to keep going for the next one. 

The thing is, we eventually run out of achievements. We reach a point where there is nothing else to do. We already have everything of value in the game, so there is really no point in doing missions anymore. 

When you exploit the game for infinite money, you are basically taking a giant shortcut from the start of the game, to the point where there is no objective in playing. In a few hours, you get everything. And when you have everything, there is nothing else to do. At that point, you hop on you attack helicopter and roam around the city shooting everything on sight, out of sheer boredom. Then you get tagged as a "Bad Sport". Then you spam message boards complaining. 

Well, guess what: you are a bad sport. You cheated. You stripped a major part of the fun out of the game, and are now harassing other players because you got bored. Why are you bored? Because of your own cheating. So, yes. Bad sport. Seems fair. 

But that leads me to my next point.

2) Harassing / Spawn Camping:

Fighting other players in the middle of the city makes for some of the most epic moments in GTA Online. But there is a point where it loses all sense of purpose. Basically, when you kill another player, you don't get squat. Assuming, of course, that the other guy doesn't have a bounty on his head.

I've tested this, and can confirm that if you die while carrying a huge amount of money, nothing happens. Money exceeding 5 grand doesn't drop as it should. I got into a private battle with a random player at the docks the other day, and I had 40 grand on me. I died 5 times. Assuming $500 for every death (which is the current maximum health bill), I lost $2500 total. When I left the docks, I had 37800 on me. This means that not a single penny was dropped. The other guy had just delivered a car for Simeon (That is the reason while I was there in the first place), and didn't drop me any money during his 7 deaths. And no, it wasn't a 1v1 deathmatch. He refused my invite. 

Ok, so we get nothing from killing each other. We actually end up losing a lot of money with health charges. So why do we stop what we're doing to kill other players?

The blame lies, in my opinion, both with Rockstar and ourselves. 

Rockstar made it so that every player in the session is always visible. Hell, you can even highlight another player on the GPS. That is bad. Only friends and players with bounties should show up there. The fact that you know exactly what awaits you at every corner takes a lot from the game. It also makes Stealth utterly useless. There are no ambushes, no unexpected confrontations, no sticking-up-the-guy-who-just-robbed-a-liquor-store. Nothing. No room for creativity. 

That, and the fact that you always respawn very near the place you just died, are a big reason why some sessions end up turning into deathmatches with huge arenas (and no winners). The respawn thing woudn't be a problem if you didn't show up in the radar, though.

And again, what do we do with this? We kill everyone, all the time. We spawn camp. We sticky-bomb the other guy's car. Even though we're not making anything out of it. Not even RP. We could be out there making money, getting our rep up. But no. Let's just kill that low-level dude. Again. And again. 

Next time you find yourself doing this, take 20 seconds to think on this question: why?

3) Missions:

Yes, here Rockstar has some blame too. There are very few missions, and payouts are unbalanced. Ok. I get that. But seriously, aren't you even curious to try some of the parachuting missions? And how about those 3-team crazy ones where you have to protect a VIP?

No. 80% of the player base seems to be playing the same missions over and over again. We're taking the MMO aproach of "Most effective way of playing" with this game, and with that, losing some of the fun factor. I've never played a full "Protect the VIP" mission, but if I log on right now, I can find a full "Criminal Records" race in 30 seconds. Sure, it gives out more RP, but are you really telling me that you bought GTA to play it as some sort of (crappy) street Nascar simulator? Is that what you would do if you were a major criminal? Race around in circles all day?

Mission variety is already thin as it is, but we're making it worse by only playing 10% of the missions available to us. By not even trying some of the others, just to see what they have to offer. I was as pissed as everyone when Rockstar halved the rewards for repeat missions, but I can see now where that came from. Again, mission payout is unbalanced. There are missions that pay too little for us  to care. But replaying the same mission a thousand times feels like hardcore Korean-style grinding, and I don't think that is what this game is about. What is the point of having a gigantic open-world, if you're going to stay in the same area for weeks?

Another small matter is that people don't seem to grasp that, in some missions, you're matched with other players to form a team. Let me say that again. Team. All four of you are supposed to figure this out together, to help each other out. Everyone is going to receive the same reward at the end of it. Running over your teammate doesn't give you extra cash. Neither does blowing his car up. Just try, for a few minutes to work together to get a mission done. You'll see that it can be crazy fun, and you can even end up making new friends. 

Bottom line (also known as TL;DR):

Did Rockstar mess up? Sure did. But at least they're trying to get things right, even if they're doing some wrong in the process. But if we were willing to make this game better, we would. We can make this game epic fun, or boring crap. It is up to us, as much as it is to Rockstar. See if you can step up to the challenge. 

PS: Yeah. Microtransactions. I'm not sure what to think of this as of yet, but I'm sure of one thing: If you exploit, you are no better, don't kid yourself thinking otherwise. And if you play legit, rest assured, you will have a lot more fun by earning the money. 

Let me know your opinion on the comments below.   read

9:13 AM on 10.07.2013

Why Sandbox Games Can Ruin Storytelling

With the launch of what may be the greatest sandbox game ever made in GTA V, I began to wonder about the future of good stories in gaming. 

Don't get me wrong, I like sandbox games. I do think that freedom of choice, to an extent, can make a game much more immersive and enjoyable. But at what cost comes this freedom? How can you tell a story in a game, when the player can choose to ignore it? Developers have to take certain steps in order to keep things on track, and we might be losing some of the magic in the process. 

Proof of concept: Skyrim. I absolutely love Skyrim. It is a personal favorite of mine, and I've explored just about everything the game has to offer. Which is a lot. 

The reason I'm saying this is to avoid people who might think that I don't like it. While not without its flaws, Skyrim may just be my favorite game of all time. It is every RPG player's dream come true, in my shitty opinion. 

Now, I'll have to assume that there are some people out there who haven't played the game, or at least haven't played some of the quests which I'm about to use as example. So here is a brief synopsis:

If you play a Mage in Skyrim, you usually join the Winterhold College. It is basically a wizarding school (High-five if you thought of Hogwarts!). It has its own awesome quest line, for which I am about to give some MASSIVE SPOILERS!

Consider yourself warned. 

At a certain point, the high-elf Ancano decides to take over the College by using the power of the Orb of Magnus (which is a bigass orb of power you find in a dungeon), causing some major mayhem in the process. As soon as you realize this, a teacher comes running to warn you that Ancano has released some magical creatures at the nearby city of Winterhold. Creatures are attacking everything on sight, killing innocent people. You need to gather some fellow mages and stop them before the entire city is destroyed!

Now when I got to this point in the game, my character had just returned from a major dungeon. I was carrying a ton of loot to sell, had to store a few things at home, brew a few potions, the usual. Also, it was past 4am and I had to work in a few hours. But, the way the story was presented gave me no choice.

I had to save those people. Time was of the essence. I would go, save the city, then come back, stuff a few lightning bolts down Ancano's throat, then go to bed. And that's what I did.

Now, to the point: the game gives me freedom to choose. I could have left everything burning at Winterhold, fast travel to the other side of the land, and go for a drink. Or maybe go to Whiterun and craft me some nails. That seems important. I can go kill Nazeem. (I'll drag your dead ass all the way through the Cloud District, deepshit).
I can come back and save Winterhold another time. I can leave my horse to die there and never come back.

But what happens to the story then? Had I gone to sell my loot, or even gone to bed, wouldn't the impact and sense of urgency of the moment be completely lost? What kind of immersion can you get from returning to Winterhold weeks later, to find the city still in the process of being destroyed by the same creatures you chose to ignore? What the hell would the Dovahkiin think when he saw all that?

"Oh right. Magical Creatures. Death and destruction. I totally forgot about that. Sorry guys..."

Had I left the city to its own devices and gone to sell my loot, I'd have ruined a great chapter in the College questline. Maybe even the entire story. I would come back much later, but everyone would act as if I was there the entire time. Very immersion breaking. But hey, I can do whatever the hell I want, right?

This kind of thing leaves writers and developers with their hands tied. This NPC "brainfreeze" is the best option they have. Its virtually impossible to predict what every player will decide to do on every scenario, and to program reactions accordingly.

The same concept applies to a lot of different scenarios in a lot of different games. Sometimes writers go out of their way to create some fantastic stories that pull you in. But at the end of the day, you have to let yourself get pulled in. Otherwise, you will always be on shallow waters.

So, yes, the freedom to fire a rocket at the guy who gives you quests is fun. But is it really worth it? Aren't sandbox games making everything a little more shallow?

Let me know what you think in the comments below!   read

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