Samuel: Me and Joe have been thinking about what we want from the next GTA. Not the mad-as-shit stuff that they speculated about in the old PlayStation magazines I used to work on, like how GTA 4 should've let you fly a rocket into outer space or any of that nonsense, but stuff Rockstar might actually do. Between us, we have a few hundred hours of GTA Online under our belts.
We both really like the core of GTA—the singleplayer part always succeeds at gradually peeling back the layers of the world, and giving you that journey from getaway driver with a baseball bat to gunship-flying millionaire. GTA Online is imperfect, but there's a reason it's one of the biggest online games in the world: for a certain generation, it's the MMO they've always wanted to play, and I include myself in that. It's perhaps done the whole living game thing more successfully than anything else. Rockstar now adds huge updates on a quarterly basis.
So what should GTA do next? Here's some backseat game design from two guys who know nothing about programming, 3D modelling, pipelines, netcode or indeed anything relevant.
The option to play the campaign in co-op (or a specific co-op campaign)
Samuel: GTA will never stop having a story-based singleplayer campaign—Rockstar sounds very protective of that based on this Game Informer interview. "As a company we love singleplayer more than anything, and believe in it absolutely—for storytelling and a sense of immersion in a world, multiplayer games don’t rival single-player games." Well, hey, fair enough. I love a good GTA campaign and wouldn't want that to change. It's refreshing to play GTA without the threat of some griefer in a jet blowing up my precious Batmobile (GTA Online's Vigilante, the most prized of my pretend cars).
The potential for co-op, as demonstrated by GTA Online's multiplayer missions and particularly its heists, though, is huge. They show that GTA is at its peak when all players individually feel like they're kicking ass. I'd love to be able to play GTA 6's campaign with a friend or two, with the challenge scaling up or down depending on how many players are there.
Alternatively, I'd love an even more involved version of GTA Online's heists—an entire co-op campaign that lasts for many hours.
Joe: I couldn’t agree more. Three Leaf Clover was one of GTA 4’s best missions, which I think is reflected by its successor's penchant for heisting. And while I also enjoy GTA's singleplayer campaigns, co-op missions are so circumstantial—read: filled with inadvertent death and explosions and swearing—which is what makes them so much fun. Admittedly, more story-driven heists would do it for me, but I'd gladly take a specific co-op campaign. Even better if that was somehow fed into the singleplayer story itself—similar to how certain NPC-assigned GTA Online missions require multiple players.
Better matchmaking in GTA Online
Samuel: All eyes are on Red Dead Redemption 2's multiplayer, because I'm keen to see if the matchmaking in that game is any smoother than GTA 5's. I really hope it is, because then GTA 6 will likely follow suit. If I could join a game in GTA within 60 seconds, I'd be very happy. In fact, I'd probably play every single day—I'm not a particularly patient man and this is a bit of a barrier for me.
Joe: To my shame, I have played the game (almost) every single day for the past two months. A quick look at my stats tells me I’ve spent over six days of my life in-game, within which I've spent five hours, 27 minutes and 13 seconds being chased by Los Santos’ finest.
A figure I don't have to hand, however, is how long I've spent waiting for the game to load. I bet it’s a while. My routine these days is: fire up the game, head to the kitchen, grab a glass of water and a snack, and return with time to spare before my game kicks off. If loading times in GTA 6's online component—whatever shape or form it takes—are half of GTA Online’s, they’ll still be too long.
Fewer but better Adversary Modes
Samuel: I can't criticise the amount of content in GTA Online—there's an absolute ton to do in the game after years of development by Rockstar, and there's still a lot of it I haven't spent much time investigating. I will say that I've always considered Adversary Modes the weak link, though. I would never play one unless I had the double money/experience incentive to do so—and when I do, it feels like there are too many long pauses between games and rounds, players drop out too easily which can make the teams unbalanced, and matchmaking always takes longer than I'd like.
More importantly, though, I don't think I'd ever seek out an Adversary Mode just to play it for fun—the ones I've played like Slashers, Motor Wars, Hardest Target, Bombushka Run and Overtime Shootout vary in quality, but none of them capture GTA at its best for me. This Kotaku piece explores the problem with GTA's wealth of content: like the writer says, a Splatoon-style revolving set of modes might be the solution.
Joe: I like the idea of rotating certain Adversary Modes, or swapping them out entirely. Creating a smaller pool would improve matchmaking, and having players vote for their favourites could help maintain interest. Future polls might bring old modes out of retirement, whereas themed modes—such as the aforementioned Halloween-inspired Slasher—could be kept exclusive to their respective seasons.
In-keeping with Rockstar's double RP/GTA$ drive, the two least voted for Adversary Modes at any given time could both receive this treatment—incentivising players to play each before a final vote determines their fate.
Wilder vehicles, weapons and objectives
Samuel: The highlight of The Doomsday Heist in GTA Online for me—and perhaps the greatest GTA mission of all time—is destroying an aircraft with flying DeLoreans. It's unlike anything GTA has done before, and since you share the moment with friends, it feels even better. I feel like the gradual expansion of GTA Online has taken Rockstar into areas they wouldn't normally explore in singleplayer, particularly in the massive selection of vehicles: the Vigilante or the Avenger are way beyond the remit of what was found in GTA 5's story. I've seen some comments comparing the changing tone to Saints Row, but GTA's always had a weird side: UFOs, Megalodon skeletons, Bigfoot.
With that in mind, I want GTA 6's campaign to get super crazy. It'd be great to play singleplayer missions that have some of the same toys you get in GTA Online, as well as a load of new ones. Underwater missions, flying cars, stealing from the army, jetpacks: after almost five years, GTA Online has loads more experimental tools and missions than the campaign does. I'd love for the next campaign to catch up with that.
More limited time story content in GTA Online
Samuel: This one's very specific. I was a big fan of the recent Red Dead promotion for GTA Online, where players got a cool revolver for investigating clues at certain spots on the Los Santos map. It didn't take long to finish, but the idea of there being a one-off story thread with little bits of environmental storytelling was really cool. I'd love GTA Online to explore more objectives or story strands that aren't focused on the pursuit of money—where the fun of the thing itself is the incentive.
I'd probably wrap the Chiliad mystery into that, too. I love the idea of weekly story events, or community-driven mysteries—reasons to keep logging in that aren't just experience/money bonuses, with some kind of story element and unique reward.
Joe: Absolutely. I'd long viewed text updates for the Treasure Hunt as a pain in the arse distraction from other things. Last week, though, I started unpicking some of its clues and while I didn’t see the expedition through to its conclusion (I wound up getting mobbed by a levitating hacker; GTA 6 needs less hackers), I had great fun studying photographs, uncovering notes and visiting spots of the map I’d normally avoid as I searched for answers.
Tying similar future adventures to story threads would not only let players invest more of themselves in missions, it'd also make treks to the forgotten corners of the game world worthwhile. You can only pick up trucks and drop off cars to the farthest flung areas of San Andreas so many times before the journey becomes a chore.
More likeable protagonists
Samuel: GTA 5's trio of protagonists are fun when they're together, but they're not particularly warm characters—likely a deliberate choice to reflect the nature of the setting. And hey, sometimes you need to get them drunk to find out how they really feel. But GTA has a pretty decent history of protagonists you want to like: CJ in San Andreas, Niko Bellic in GTA 4 and Johnny Klebitz (RIP) in Lost and Damned. You can even extend this to the way Rockstar portrays heroes in its other games, like Jimmy Hopkins in Bully or John Marston in Red Dead Redemption. They're flawed characters, sure, but you want to see them win.
Will GTA ever have a female protagonist? I think that'll happen eventually. I imagine that character being a lot like Sweet Dee from It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia.
Joe: I would play the shit out of this for that protagonist alone. The Gang Makes GTA 6.
Oh, what the hell: two cities instead of one
Samuel: GTA 5 satisfied players because it gave them a sprawling playground for the first time since San Andreas—but one thing it didn't capture is the sense of the landscape feeling like a state rather than just a city and its outskirts. And fair enough: what you got instead was a gigantic map and a beautiful recreation of the Los Angeles sprawl, plus plenty to explore outside of that.
Driving from Los Santos to San Fierro (and then again to Las Venturas) was quite the experience in San Andreas, though, even if the scale of it was much smaller. It's the one thing San Andreas has that hasn't been replicated by the HD GTA games yet.
So, while I won't brazenly suggest GTA 6 goes into space like my former PlayStation magazine colleagues—hey, there's a GTA 5 mod for that anyway—I'd love to drive (or fly) from one city to another.
Joe: Could the closure of the ‘Liberty City in GTA V’ mod last year suggest something official is in the pipeline to this end?
Samuel: I'm not sure, Joe. It's probably just protection of intellectual property—but I'd love to fly from one location to another, even if the file size of GTA 5 would soon eat my entire hard drive.