Reviews - Updated on April 8, 2022

Developers from Rockstar Games rarely give interviews, but sometimes they want to speak out and talk about their most successful offspring. Rockstar North co-CEO Rob Nelson spoke to PC Gamer about the past, present and future of GTA Online, Grand Theft Auto V’s multiplayer mode.The past, present and future of GTA Online - the main thing from an interview with Rockstar

The longer GTA Online has been around, the more opportunities it has to look cooler.

open worlds

According to Nelson, the team’s initial goal was to ensure that GTA online felt the same as the story campaign, and that the same level of quality was maintained in multiplayer. “The architecture, geography, and mechanics that we created were the basis, and we wanted to offer as much entertainment as possible in order to continue to add new features,” Nelson began.

For Rockstar, it’s important to offer audiences living open worlds that you can immerse yourself in and witness some interesting stories – whether in a single player campaign or online. Therefore, complex systems of weather, traffic, passers-by and more have been created, giving players a lot of freedom to create interesting, even unique situations.

“When we start porting our worlds to multiplayer, we understand how we can take them in new ways,” explains Nelson. “By allowing users to be near each other and introducing entertainment like robberies, we help players create their own stories, and over time they become more and more attached to these locations.”

Continuous development

Grand Theft Auto Online has been around since 2013, and the earliest version of the mode, which appeared on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, seems to be much smaller than the current one. At first, there was practically nothing to do there, but now there is fun for every taste – from ordinary races and arms dealing to joint bank robberies.The past, present and future of GTA Online - the main thing from an interview with Rockstar

There are no races in the game now!

“At the beginning of the journey, we kind of imagined GTA Online, but over the six years (even more if you count the time that has passed since the inception of the idea), the mode has developed in directions that we did not even think about,” the developer admits. – Players can be divided into several separate groups who are interested in different things in GTA Online, for which they come to it. Therefore, we began to release updates that are designed for each of these categories of users.”

GTA Online has received 31 updates in six years. Some of them added only new items of clothing, cars and small entertainments, while others, like “Heists” in 2015, completely changed the game. “Over time, we became more and more confident, realizing that the audience will understand how certain changes will fit into the GTA Online universe. This allowed us to create ever crazier updates,” says Nelson.

Suffice it to recall at least the update “Runners and tricksters”, which added a dozen and a half stunt races with pipes, overpasses and springboards. Although GTAV’s single-player campaign can hardly be called realistic, much of it feels more mundane and logical. In GTA Online, developers can do whatever they want, and sometimes it doesn’t matter if it makes any sense.

Nelson added that Rockstar has always wanted to make the multiplayer as intense as the campaign. “The most important thing is to ensure that the player always feels in the thick of things, is an important part of everything that happens around. This is especially true for high-level challenges like robberies. It is necessary to create such entertainment in the open world, where people living in reality very far from each other meet on the same streets, ”he said.

The past, present and future of GTA Online - the main thing from an interview with Rockstar

Of course, it was not without an update dedicated to bikers.

“At the same time, if something happens, it should be noticed by all participants at about the same time,” the developer continued. “And we are incredibly proud of ourselves when things work that way. For example, this happened with the Doomsday robbery. We were able to build on the ideas of the first heists and restructure the new one. In our opinion, it can be done even better.”

Territory is not a hindrance

One of the most impressive features of GTA Online is that in six years the territory in the game has not increased – everything is added within Los Santos and Blaine County. Of course, these locations are not small, but they are not too huge either. Surely, after all, the development team is cramped in such a framework, and each time it becomes more and more difficult to offer new features in familiar territories? Nelson doesn’t think so.

“I would not call it a framework, we just have certain limitations that we are dealing with. We try to come up with something interesting with every corner of the map so that every detail can be looked at with a fresh eye. We create all kinds of buildings and other elements with the expectation that in the future they can be used in different ways, ”he explains.

“We can make some adjustments to the interiors, as happened with the Maze Bank Arena sports arena or underground bunkers. Or somehow modify the topography, for example, by building the Diamond Casino Hotel. With this world, it will be possible to create many more new things before the moment when we encounter any serious restrictions, ”Nelson is sure.

He said that among all the employees of Rockstar North there are quite a few people who spend a lot of time in the game and constantly discuss unusual ideas with each other. Therefore, one cannot thank anyone separately for such a long and successful support – this is the merit of the entire team, that is, those who originally came up with this universe, and programmers, animators and mission designers.

All life is theater

But one of the most popular entertainments associated with Rockstar appeared without the participation of developers. We are talking about “custom” servers on the PC, where users play a kind of life simulator, playing roles, working, inventing stories, and even following the rules of permanent death.

“It’s amazing,” Nelson said in response to a question about what Rockstar thinks about it. “People go beyond the intended structure of the game, and we enjoy seeing what they manage to do. They literally have to break the game for this, but this once again proves that people are not only ready to come up with new ways to immerse themselves in the worlds, but also constantly look at the adventures of others.

“We always wanted to offer players the opportunity to play roles, even in single-player projects we give a chance to get used to a character living in a special world. And when developing online worlds, we offer options with which you can become anyone within a certain universe. With Red Dead Online, we’ve taken it a step further and given users special roles, but that element can always be improved in some way,” he concluded.

The past, present and future of GTA Online - the main thing from an interview with Rockstar

With masks, you can really play any role.

They don’t know what they want

However, not all GTA Online fans spend time on such servers. What are they doing? What have the developers been able to discover in the behavior of the audience over the past six years? “One of the most interesting details, which can hardly be called a surprise, is that the words and actions of people are often diametrically opposed,” Nelson replied.

According to him, sometimes after the release of the next update on social networks, you can see a lot of negative feedback. However, the data, available only to Rockstar, shows a different picture – innovations are liked by players and even turn out to be very popular. The team is always looking to add what the audience will love, and over the years Rockstar has learned a lot from observing user habits.

“Player feedback is always taken into account by us when making certain decisions, determining the composition of updates. Usually we build a development vector several patches ahead, but the team each time studies the opinions of the audience and determines which elements we can pay more attention to in the development process, ”Nelson clarified.

According to him, developers learn from each of their actions and use knowledge in the development of other projects. That is, if something was done in GTA Online, it will affect the design of a similar element in Red Dead Online. Although the games are completely different in content and mood, the same passive mode from GTA Online became the basis for the defensive style of play in Red Dead Online. Ultimately, these dissimilar worlds develop in different directions, but this does not mean that one of them has not become a source of inspiration for the authors of the other.

The past, present and future of GTA Online - the main thing from an interview with Rockstar

Having fun without money in GTA Online is difficult, so a lot of players “farm” currency with the help of bugs.


What’s in store for GTA Online in the future? Are the developers planning to stop? Not at all. “Our plans are usually scheduled a year in advance, but we want to be able to quickly respond to any changes,” Nelson concluded. – Therefore, we do not reveal all the cards to the players. I can only say that we have a lot of completely new ideas. Six years later, we are seeing record levels of activity and are incredibly grateful to everyone who has supported us all this time. We have interesting ideas that will be implemented by the end of the year and after it.”

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