Rockstar is one of the most beloved and recognizable video game studios. Their constant attention to detail, worlds, and characters has been praised for decades. However, even the best can learn from their past to help innovate future titles. Today, we break down three lessons Rockstar can learn from Grand Theft Auto. With GTA VI being rumored to release in 2024 or 2025, it’s time we take a retrospective at the series. While some fans claim that Rockstar has never made a bad game, there have definitely been some questionable decisions on their part.
Depending on the game, the world design in Grand Theft Auto can be the worst or best feature. Looking at Rockstar’s most recent GTA title, Grand Theft Auto V contains one of the most polarizing worlds. Los Santos and Blaine County offer players a massive map to explore, filled with missions and sidequests. However, the world has no depth, making it feel barren and cold.
Walking around Los Santos, it’s clear Rockstar put time and energy into adding details to every building and location. But what can players actually do in the game? The buildings are inaccessible and lack interior design, causing every building to look flat.
Previous titles like San Andreas and GTA IV had small things like grocery stores or returning to old apartment buildings. While small, they made a big impact and provided you the option, even if you never went into them. The same can be said about the hospitals, which surely we all can remember causing chaos in.
For GTA VI, Rockstar must take a page out of older titles while combining the large, diverse terrain that Los Santos and Blaine County provide. Especially coming off of Red Dead Redemption 2, players have high expectations for an in-depth world complete with activities, random events, side missions, and more.
World Design: Atmosphere
This will further be perpetuated with GTA VI taking place in Vice City, one of the most beloved locations in the franchise. It’s not just stores, interiors, or terrain that make a good world design; it’s the atmosphere. GTA V had a consistent parody theme, poking fun at its real-world counterpart, but lacked the vibes that GTA IV and Vice City had.
Liberty City was grim, dark, and felt real in the dense metropolis. It felt like danger could pop out at any moment. The same can be said for Vice City but with the opposite approach. The ‘80s theme in the tropical beach city had an unbeatable atmosphere along with the ability of buying businesses and a diverse range of interiors.
So, Rockstar needs to learn to balance their vast worlds with engaging gameplay and mechanics. A large map isn’t better if there is nothing to do in 60% of the areas. Taking the successful parts of each game will ensure more happiness when the next title is released, especially on the new generation of consoles that can handle more detail and design.
Rockstar made a daring move by featuring three protagonists in GTA V that players could freely swap between. Previous titles only had one main character for players to follow, offering an in-depth character study. However, Rockstar did a fantastic job balancing Franklin, Michael, and Trevor and mixing their stories and personalities.
It’s rumored that GTA VI will have two main protagonists, which is an excellent middle ground. While we won’t get the depth of focusing on one character like Niko Bellic, Tommy Vercetti, or CJ, we will get a better blend of intertwining stories and personalities.
It appears that Rockstar has learned from previous titles and wants to try a new approach. While the community will argue all day about whether one or three characters are better, it shows Rockstar’s success in its implementation. And as it’s also rumored that GTA VI will feature its first female protagonist. The possibilities for stories and interactions are endless.
Fans quickly write off multiple characters as Rockstar has nailed the aforementioned characters, Niko, Tommy, and CJ, along with Aruther Morgan. We haven’t seen two protagonists in a Rockstar game before. So, if there’s something to be learned here, it’s how character relationships intertwine. Examining how characters like Woozie, Yusuf, or Dwayne interact and advance character arcs for the main character.
Everyone loves a good iconic duo, so seeing how Rockstar handles their relationship and dynamic will be interesting. While some fans may complain about having multiple characters again in a GTA title, most players in the community support Rockstars’ decision and trust their reasoning.
It’s been almost ten years since the release of GTA Online, and it has been Rockstars’ biggest selling point for that time. Fans have criticized the grind, repeatedly replaying the same missions to buy an expensive item and restart again. However, this is by design, as the online mode heavily incentivizes in-game purchases. While the beginning was fresh and exciting, playing GTA with friends, the mode quickly turned.
Titles like GTA IV had online modes akin to deathmatches, with players running around the airport, picking up guns, and killing each other. While fun for the time, it’s clear that GTA Online offers more content and options open to players. The issue with online mode is that everyone wantsto do different things, and it can be hard to accommodate them all. Some fans want to role-play, while others want to kill or do missions.
What Rockstar should learn is that players, regardless of objectives, do not want to grind out for every overpriced item. Having multiple ways to play, like GTA Online, is good, but heavily incentivizing in-game purchases ruins the gameplay. Players shouldn’t be overpowered because they spent $20 to buy a vehicle. But after the failure of Red Dead Online, this is unlikely to happen.
While these are the main three lessons Rockstar can learn to improve their future titles, there are many more. This is not to say Rockstar makes bad games, only that they can expand on their legendary catalog of games with each improvement and lesson learned. The reality is that players need to understand the financial and business side when talking about games.
There’s no doubt that Rockstar can create amazing single-player games with depth and replayability, but that doesn’t always mean revenue. With as many problems as people have with GTA Online, it’s Rockstars’ primary revenue source, with GTA VI being next. We can only hope as fans that they innovate and give us what we want, offering the best experience possible.