GTA Online: Fun Will Cost You

Grand Theft Auto 5 is chocked full of mundane, archaic, or otherwise ill conceived gameplay design. This is not a new or novel criticism of the game. The GTA series has long featured clunky mechanics and missions that we've tolerated in order to soak in the brilliance of the worlds Rockstar creates. We guide our likable yet usually completely schizophrenic and sociopathic heroes through a long phalanx of increasingly tiresome fetch quests and gangland hits to see their tales through. All the while, the world churns and pulses in the periphery, taunting with potential chaos as you nab yet another whip from yet another buster.

This is precisely why I was supremely excited about GTA Online. For the first time we were getting the chance to sink our nasty, sociopathic claws into a huge, breathtakingly realized world and tear to messy, delightfully chaotic pieces with our friends! Madcap shenanigans in a game never had more promise. I was eager to see how far I could launch a motorcycle off a mountain; to jump off of as many skyscrapers as I could; to throw sticky bombs on my friend's car, blowing it up just in time to watch the flaming wreck clear a bus stop full of pedestrians and crush a row of parked cars just beyond; to run headlong into traffic, jump at the last minute and watch gleefully as my blonde-corn-rowed absurdity of an avatar did so many rag dolled cartwheels right to St. Peter's pearly gates.

That'll be $1,000, please.

Imagine my disappointment when I found out that every death, every bullet fired, every mission failed to hijinks in GTA Online costs my denizen of Los Santos hard earned cash. Death penalties in the single player mode are expected and softened by the absurd mountains of cash thrown your way. Honestly, it's baffling more than anything else. Why punish players for the very style of freeform, chaotic gameplay your game is best at? This quandary is doubly baffling when you consider that the gameplay modes on offer you're rewarded for are a collection of unimaginative deathmatches and races that are serviceable at best and boring slogs at most probable. You're looking at wallowing away a few unrecoupable minutes of your life either racing around mostly dull chunks of the map where an unlucky bit of traffic can spell your doom or duking it out in a deathmatch shootout that is nestled in a broken system.

The deathmatch in GTA Online has a positive feedback loop built into the core weapon-unlock system. Don't let the happy name fool you, a positive feedback loop in this situation is a very bad thing. Players with more money can afford better weapons to start with, thus making it easier for them to earn more money by doing well in competitive modes, etc, ad nauseam. You can earn money by completing missions, of course, but the idiotic matchmaking system means that unless you're rolling with a crew willing to do them with you, your odds of matchmaking some teammates are essentially nil. This leaves you doing a bunch of simple missions for the some of the characters from the single player games, wondering why you're even bothering, especially when large chunks of your solitarily-earned dough will disappear like the wind when you return to free roam and the inevitable griefer comes to murder you time and again.

Cars you'll only afford by avoiding human contact.

This free roam wallet drain turns what should be a fun an chaotic mosh pit into an exercise in traipsing carefully though the city, avoiding other players as much as you can. Let that sink in. A game/game mode with "online" right in the title in which most of the time it greatly behooves you to avoid people. If you ask me, this is Rockstar asking us to avoid fun and therefore I will be avoiding GTA Online until they realize they're standing on their game's neck.

28 Comments
29 Comments
Posted by Baillie

Play with friends. Solved.

Posted by charlie_victor_bravo

@baillie said:

Play with friends. Solved.

But the monetary penalties are still there. I was having much better time before I realized that death or destruction of my car "cost" me. It was fun trying to figure how to get out of the shop when other player is there ready to greet you with a shotgun. If they could take away just those two penalties, online with everybody would be much more fun. Also 650$ for one sticky bomb? CRAZY!

Posted by Baillie

I used to, but once you start making the sweet cheddar that money problem goes away. 25k a mission solves everything.

Edited by Clonedzero

I've been playing a shitload of it, and honestly i find the whole "people are assholes and kill you on sight" notion to be grossly exaggerated.

Yes, often if you get near a person they'll act very cautiously, i do as well, lots of times i'll be in free roam and be passing by another player on the road and we both slow down and sorta "eye" each other out to make sure we're not gonna shoot at each other and then its cool. And sure, there's always a jerk or two in a lobby that picks on people. Welcome to the damn internet. Call up Lester, put a 1k bounty on his head (probably less than the hospital bills you'd end up paying dealing with him) and he'll avoid people because he knows people are now gunning for him.

I'm in the 360 Giantbomb crew, and whenever i see a GB member in freeroam i know they got my back, proven again and again. And i know awesome wacky hijinks will ensue. I haven't met a GB person in GTA:O that wasn't a joy to play with.

I'm sorry you've been having a bad time with the game. Personally I'm loving it, and i haven't been finding money very hard to get either, and im not even grinding or farming or any of that nonsense. Granted I'm level 50-something, so i've played alot, but it's never really been an issue for me. (Pro-tip, the "super cars" are highly overrated, a quality sports car is just as good).

It just seems you've had the complete opposite experience that i've been having and again, i've been playing ALOT.

Posted by development

All this controversy about the lopsided online mode makes me real eager to try it out. Take Clonedzero's advice and join the GB crew, perhaps. That's what I'll do.

Posted by Humanity

@clonedzero: Recently a GB crew member shot me on sight. Another backed out of a tennis match we were having because he was losing. The GB crew is cool 95% of the time but it's sadly not fool proof. Thankfully the GB dood that shot me had a bounty on his head so I killed him back and earned 7k for his crew "treason" then loaded up another instance.

I agree with @brnk for the most part and completely disagree with the off handed remarks by @baillie.

Yeah sure you start making cheddar at higher levels, but I'm 29 now and I'm only now starting to get missions that are roughly around 5-9k each. Considering it took me 10 hours or more to get to my current levels, that is a long time to start earning the real bucks. But to play the devils advocate, I see reason in keeping people from making high money in a world that doesn't necessarily have that much to offer. Several high end apartments that all look identical and offer nothing beyond the veiled promise of heists. Expensive cars and clothes I guess. After you've gotten the sweet pad and a few choice whips, where do you go from there? Maybe get a tank and grief some people in the free roam.

So whats the problem? Well for me it's the fundamental issue raised by BRNK of stopping people from full out madness in a world that thrives on it. Until you get the sweet cheddar baillie is talking about, you want to be saving up money, heck you might always be in the mindset of saving up money depending on who you are. I don't particularly care about my cash that much but I do care when I lose a lot of it doing wacky shenanigans. I'd like to be able to put C4 on a ramp and have a friend drive into it so I can use the explosion to propel us super far - without the fear that I will blow both us up, earning me bad cred for destroying his car, losing money for dying, and having to pay for his vehicle replacement. That's not a lot in a single pop but when you're fooling around for an hour you can easily lose upwards of 50k just from doing dumb shit like jumping out of choppers and whatnot.

The game is a lot of fun, and when they add in the ability to make custom missions I think it will be amazing, but the economy is kind of broken in my opinion.

Posted by ZeForgotten

Wait, hold on a damn minute.
You expected bullets to be free as well as everything else?

Gahahahahahaha

Posted by Oldirtybearon

GTA Online is pretty fun. I think where wires are getting crossed is that certain people expected a traditional online mode. GTAO isn't that. It's... GTA. But GTA with other people. Why wouldn't core tenets of GTA design carry over from single player to online? Especially when Rockstar is not in the habit of making things easy on the player.

I've noticed a lot of the complaints about "archaic" game design is more a philosophical argument than a mechanics-based one. Basically, Rockstar makes you work for your rewards. They make you work for every dollar you earn, and if you fuck up then you lose some of that progress. Some people don't like that. I understand why they don't, but I don't think Rockstar is going to (or should) change the underlying principles of their game design because some people can't hold onto their shit.

Edited by thatdutchguy

I like it....There will be less assholes in the online after a month or so,they will move on to call of duty etc once the hype around GTA has gone away a bit. And only the more mature players will remain..i hope.

Edited by BRNK

I know my original post is pretty scathing, but I'd like to make one thing clear: I mostly really like GTA Online. I love the world and want to spend time mucking about in it. I'm just baffled as to why they'd choose to make death the money sink that balances the economy, since doing so significantly harms the play experience. Why not simply seperate ammo counts between competive and free roam and make bullets cost much more in free roam? That would further discourage the kind of serial murder griefing that currently plagues servers and transfer the cost of such shenanigans from the victim to the assailant. I mean, this stuff isn't rocket science.

It leaves only one explanation. Rockstar, as @oldirtybearon said, intended it to be this way. In which case, great! They can be the guys who made an incredibly lively, fun playground and then intentionally hobbled it in the name of some perverse concept of putting in work and I'll be the guy calling them idiots for doing so. The idea is to have fun playing games, right? Fun's the goal?

Posted by anywhereilay

Yes, there does need to be some separate 'fun' free roam lobbies. No fiscal punishment, no car ownership etc. Basically like IV.

Edited by Demoskinos

The penalties NEED to be there. Also, RP is more valuable than cash. If you dont have RP you could have all the money in the world but you would be limited to the starting pistol. Once you gain RP you gain access to better missions ones that eventually pay out 10-20k for just a few minutes work. Ive sunk about 75 hours into the online and I can't quit playing its absolutely the most entertaining online mode Ive played in quite some time. The activities by themselves aren't stellar but wrapped all around this awesome open world lobby system and the hustle of making it big the motivation to keep going with this is really strong for me.

Posted by Demoskinos

Also it still astounds me that people dont get that public lobbies are essentially PvP servers. If you dont want to engage in player battles then dont join a server where that is part of the experience. I for one think it actually benefits the experience.

Posted by SASnake

You die, you lose abit of money...you simply rob a store and get it all back again. This is really over exaggerating at its finest.

Posted by spraynardtatum

I was playing with a friend and he pistol whipped me while we were robbing a convenience store. It should have been funny but I was just mad that I had lost all the moneyz :(

Sometimes I think it's cool that there are consequences but it also makes me not want to do anything crazy which is disappointing.

Posted by BRNK

Also it still astounds me that people dont get that public lobbies are essentially PvP servers. If you dont want to engage in player battles then dont join a server where that is part of the experience. I for one think it actually benefits the experience.

Did you read any of my blog? TLDR: I want to engage players and the death penalty discourages that.

Posted by Deathstriker

It's a little annoying when you're very early into the game, but it has you level up quickly and money is easy. Losing like $500 a death isn't a big deal when you can earn about 50k an hour when you're 20 something and 100k+ an hour when levels 30-40. Of course ammo wasn't going to be free. Go passive mode if you don't want to fight in freeroam. Really, this is a co-op game, the versus feels too simple due to the lock-on aiming. Missions or freeroaming with friends is where 90% of my time goes in this. GTA isn't about deathmatch.

Posted by Demoskinos

@brnk: Risk vs Reward bro. If there was no penalty to attempting to bounty hunt someone or fighting over a high value import vehicle there would be literally no point to it all.

Edited by Brodehouse

@clonedzero said:

I've been playing a shitload of it, and honestly i find the whole "people are assholes and kill you on sight" notion to be grossly exaggerated.

I'm in the 360 Giantbomb crew, and whenever i see a GB member in freeroam i know they got my back, proven again and again. And i know awesome wacky hijinks will ensue. I haven't met a GB person in GTA:O that wasn't a joy to play with.

And let me assure you rumors of people killing you on sight are... not exaggerated. I have died at least 20 times from an aggressor who shoots first, costing me somewhere between 12 and 20 thousand dollars total.

And yes, I've had 360 Giant Bomb crew members do it as well. I remember their name even, and I only don't say it here because I don't want to cause trouble for them. Especially when it's so much easier to just turn the game off.

Granted, I'm stuck in the Unofficial GB crew and thus don't get to play with the majority of the names and avatars I recognize from this forum. But that's merely another negative regarding the online.

Edited by BRNK

@brnk: Risk vs Reward bro. If there was no penalty to attempting to bounty hunt someone or fighting over a high value import vehicle there would be literally no point to it all.

Other than the reward.

Posted by MideonNViscera

I don't get why people want it to be easier to get money. You can't have everything. I have 2 fully modded vehicles with even the ridiculously expensive Crew colors and emblems and even tire smoke, however, I don't have a sniper rifle or any gun mods really. I bought what I cared about and went without the rest. So now my car is ultra special, and barely anyone will have one to match. On the flip side, if you love guns you can probably blow me away.

Eventually things will stop unlocking and eventually you will have it all. Until then, pick your favorites and feel special about them because lots of people won't have them.

Posted by Demoskinos

@brnk: If all the game was reward it would be fucking BORING. The constant risk is what makes the game fun. And as I said before money over time matters less and less. Once you level up you get access to better missions. Which are both more interesting and pay more. Over the last few days Ive lost like 70k or better to medical bills but it doesn't matter because I can make 50k in under 2 hours now.

Posted by GERALTITUDE

I think it's too easy to amass money, in fact penalties probably should have been steeper.

Posted by Clonedzero

I think it's too easy to amass money, in fact penalties probably should have been steeper.

I've been playing alittle over an hour today. I've made roughly $65,000 doing a couple co-op missions, so yeah. Money is pretty easy to get, especially when you get higher in the missions. Just broke Gustavo (the really good gun-man from the storymode) from a prison bus for an easy 20g's.

Posted by thatdutchguy

@geraltitude said:

I think it's too easy to amass money, in fact penalties probably should have been steeper.

I've been playing alittle over an hour today. I've made roughly $65,000 doing a couple co-op missions, so yeah. Money is pretty easy to get, especially when you get higher in the missions. Just broke Gustavo (the really good gun-man from the storymode) from a prison bus for an easy 20g's.

That sounds like an awesome mission. what level are you ?

Posted by Clonedzero

@clonedzero said:

@geraltitude said:

I think it's too easy to amass money, in fact penalties probably should have been steeper.

I've been playing alittle over an hour today. I've made roughly $65,000 doing a couple co-op missions, so yeah. Money is pretty easy to get, especially when you get higher in the missions. Just broke Gustavo (the really good gun-man from the storymode) from a prison bus for an easy 20g's.

That sounds like an awesome mission. what level are you ?

58. Once you hit 50ish you get alot more complex missions. Like busting into a merryweather thing cracking a safe (you gotta cover a player while he does the mini-game) then stealing a boat and getting out. Its super hard though but fun.

Posted by Humanity

Today I dropped 100k on modifying a car that would serve as a "crew" vehicle because it was a 4 door sedan. Took it back to my garage, and it reset the car entirely back to stock. So that was 100k wasted on nothing. GTA man, it's a hell of a game.

Edited by BRNK

If money is no issue to players who are deep in it as many of you keep saying, then what harm is there in alleviating some serious frustration to sub 20 players? The fact that you keep saying money is no issue for you invalidates your point that penalties are necessary.

Edit:

I'm not sure why I continue in this discussion. I've outlined what I believe are some serious mechanical issues. You guys disagree fundamentally (mostly with strawmen, might I add.) I think I'm in this for a different type of experience than some of you.