The addition of an event playlist is welcome, but better rewards are needed to fill GTA Online’s bigger lobbies, says Patrick Garratt.
A more robust schedule of incentivisation is an absolute must if this is to be fixed. Give people a special hat or a unique face-paint for completing the playlist, for example, and they’d come in droves.
Rockstar is obviously aware that its 30-player jobs, the vision it introduced with the PS4 and Xbox One releases of GTA Online, are being largely ignored. An event key, usually reserved for double-RP weekends and the like, is now permanently in place on the GTA Online boot-up, allowing you to enter a playlist of four 30-player jobs without bothering with Los Santos itself. Theoretically, this allows you to jump straight into the new-gen action with like-minded people looking to play big jobs for better rewards. There’s a Team Deathmatch, a bike race, a Last Team Standing and a Raid. It sounds grand, and featuring the larger jobs in this way is certainly welcome, but the 30-player list hasn’t fixed GTA Online’s fundamental grouping problem. The mass lobby is usually a lonely place.
The reality is that, even with the placement of the event list, getting together large groups of players is still nigh on impossible. I entered the event from the loading screen three times yesterday, and twice and I found myself dumped into the lobby of the list’s first job alone as host. The Team Deathmatch opener needs at least six players to launch, so I then needed to invite people from the server, from our crew, from my Friends list and so on, and getting even the minimum number of players isn’t guaranteed. If someone enters a 30-player lobby and sees only one or two other players joined and waiting to play, there’s a good chance they’ll quit out because they know how long it can take to hit the required numbers of participants. As is usually the case with these large lobbies, as soon as the number of joined players hits the minimum, the host will launch the match. So the 30-player dream usually starts with six, a number likely to dwindle as the playlist rolls on. I finished the event playlist in a group of three last night. Kind of depressing.
Which begs the question: what the hell is the problem? Why is it such a struggle for GTA 5 players to form sufficiently large lobbies? There clearly is an issue here, or Rockstar wouldn’t have a semi-permanent event in place. The servers themselves aren’t short of players. The city is nearly always well-populated and there’s usually a PvP riot going on in open-play when I load it up on PS4, but getting enough people into a larger job lobby is constantly tough. To draw a parallel with Destiny, the current jeux du jour, you never have to wait more than a few minutes to get a game of Clash, for example, the shooter’s 6v6 Team Deathmatch. It just happens. It often doesn’t happen in GTA 5. Was the dream of 30-player GTA Online jobs too far-fetched?
That may well be the case at the moment. GTA 5’s user-base is well diluted thanks to the game’s unique release situation, with many players (the majority?) still playing on Xbox 360 and PS3. The situation will become even more nebulous with the release of the PC version on March 24. If it’s difficult to get together a 30-player lobby with GTA 5 on four platforms, it’s unlikely adding a fifth is going to make anything better, and the release of Heists will probably throw any desire to scrabble together players for these ghost town jobs into the bin.
What can Rockstar do? We’ve said it before, but a more robust schedule of incentivisation is an absolute must if this is to be fixed. Give people a special hat or a unique face-paint for completing the playlist, for example, and they’d come in droves. Adding a button to the load screen won’t work unless there’s a reason to press it. Because staring at a barely-filled lobby and the prospect of meagre rewards isn’t much of a draw. You need to make people an offer they can’t refuse, Rockstar. The entire 30-player upgrade pretty much depends on it.