Rockstar's known for its open world, single player-driven experiences. We're talking $1 billion in three days types of single player games. Why's the company using up resources to develop Grand Theft Auto Online when its only had lukewarm experiences with multiplayer in the past?
According to Rockstar vice president Dan Houser, single player may be king, but multiplayer's a worthwhile venture too. "Not everybody, not even with Call of Duty, not everyone is playing the multiplayer.
"There's a huge audience for people who love single-player adventures. And I think what we make is action adventure-games. Games with ever stronger mechanics and an ever stronger adventure component."
However, Houser believes that the open world games that Rockstar's developing offer experiences that other single player experiences don't have. Though games like Grand Theft Auto do have a story, they aren't solely narrative-driven. There's plenty of exploration and unique, gameplay-driven narratives, all of which can be translated into a multiplayer experience. "So the people that like death matches, there are still death match, there are still races," Houser stated. "But we are trying to glue the whole thing together by bringing the free roam component to life, which would give us the stuff that we really like from open world."
One of the strong suits of open world games that Houser believes to be the advantage of videogames in general is something that he calls "digital tourism." "Even the best fantasy movies or any set in a movie that builds a world beautifully, any book that puts you in a world in a beautiful way, can't do it with the same power that games have to actually put you in that world and explore it at your speed, in your way, doing the things you want to do," he explained.
If the multiplayer plays an important part in the Grand Theft Auto V experience, why not launch Grand Theft Auto online at the same time as the single player? Practicality and technical limitations. Working on shipping both Grand Theft Auto V and its online portion is a huge technical feat. Focusing on just one project at a time would be much more practical and less taxing on the development team.
On the player side of things, launching Grand Theft Online a few weeks after Grand Theft Auto V would allow players to become more acclimated to the world, and become much more familiar with the singe player experience before delving into the multiplayer. That way, "[y]ou can start multiplayer after two weeks and it will really give them a real focus on where to look at the thing. I think that separating it out will just help people look at it as different products in their own mind a bit more and really give it a good chance to try and play it and enjoy it."
Otherwise, there's a good chance that "you try it for two minutes, it's hard to connect because it's day one, and back you go to the single player, play that and never go back into playing online." It's an experience that Rockstar's already pretty familiar with.
Grand Theft Auto Online will be available on October 1st as the free, multiplayer component of Grand Theft Auto V.