The issue with GTA: Online's Free Roam
Free-roam is our central lobby to GTA: Online, where we can interact with other players and also conduct our own affairs all in an "anything goes" environment of freedom and choice.
At the moment, there is no privacy in GTA: Online, as your player blip is always marked for the attention of all players in your server session.
I feel that this alone is the cause of much of the problems people express with the game, such as griefing, spawn killing, losing too much cash from being repetitively killed, unfairly being labelled a 'Bad Sport', and an ineffective passive mode.
This change to the "blip" system would improve heavily on all aspects of the above criticisms, in my opinion, while also making Los Santos a much more colourful, vibrant, exciting and interesting city.
NB: I would expect 'blips always on' lobbies to still be available for those that prefer the hectic, all-visible style, but for the proposal below to be the default.
- 'Blips' do not appear on the map, or the mini-map, by default.
- Some actions result in noise. Noisy actions result in your blip being identified temporarily to those within range.
- The louder the noise event, the wider the range that it can be detected.
- Noisy actions include things such as sprinting, firing your gun, crashing your car or flying a helicopter.
- Police chases are noisy actions. Your blip appears to all within range while you are within a cone of detection and "seen" by police.
- Car crashes are a noisy action. Bumps and nicks don't show but major crashes and spin outs will display your blip.
- Players within the local vicinity (within a certain radius of your character) can see "noise" blips during the entire noise event and for ten seconds afterwards, before they fade back to invisible.
- Also, a player in your line of sight always shows as a blip, even if they aren't being "noisy". The game is quite generous in identifying 'line of sight' blips.
- Line of Sight is effectively a 135 degree vision cone in front of the player, which can be obscured by objects or cover.
- Walking, not firing your gun or making loud noise, results in your blip being invisible to all others, unless they have you in Line of Sight.
- Loud noises go undetected if no-one is within your local noise range.
- Crew members blips always show to other crew members.
A concern with the proposed system is that players will simply never find or see other players.
When you enter the game there will probably be no other blips on the map. This might make it feel like the map is empty of players and you are alone.
Furthermore, driving round, you may not find other players as there is no way to identify their positions unless they get chased by police or make noise.
To correct this, Rockstar simply need to ensure players regularly come together through the mission mechanics and key landmark locations that already exist in GTA:O. Using existing mechanics such as 'Import/Export car', 'bounties' and 'crate supply drops' gives the incentive for players to come together in a far more logical way than currently exists. If Rockstar up's the social dynamic with more mechanisms that draw people together for a tempting reward, against a calculated risk, then it will be a far more interesting incentive for PvP interaction (than just, 'harass the white blips')
An idea: They could make it possible for a player to set a challenge to other players to claim a reward (from their money) by marking a position on the map and daring others to come and try and collect. Game mechanics like this would allow players to be drawn into areas in free-roam while others might choose to get on with their own business. Of course, for surviving the player challenge, for a specified time limit, they might claim their reward plus the money doubled by the game.
Ships by night
When players are not making "noise" there is a concern that players will pass by each other, like ships by night - i.e. They will never meet or know they were near.
Currently, when another player comes near, most people move into defensive positions and both players are fully aware that the other is close.
The proposed system defines that both players will not necessarily know that they are close to another. However, a generous Line of Sight mechanic would allow one, or both players to become aware and their reaction from there would be completely up to them.
Also, if a player crashed their vehicle or made noise, it would provide awareness to other players within their vicinity, giving them knowledge of their position.
The Line of Sight mechanism would be key to allowing players in a very close proximity to be aware of each other but it would also allow one player to gain an advantage of sneaking up on another, or secretly following their car, which currently does not exist.
Rule and Dominate
Many players want to play GTA V to rule and dominate the map. There should definitely be an option to play on 'Always show blip' servers.
Additionally, players that want to cause grief to others would be welcome in an enhanced-blip server. This is because their interaction with unwilling participants would be far less prevalent due to the blip system.
Yes, it would still be infuriating to be shot while having a hair cut, or be trapped in an LS Customs by a stalker, but the chances of this happening diminishes by a huge amount. With less orchestrated grief, players will start falling into a false sense of comfort in Los Santos. People might not feel the need to bank so frequently, or to hide in safe-houses. They won't be frantically checking the map for 'blips' as the sole method of identifying danger...or random interactions.
But with free-roam set pieces and hot spots, bringing people together, players would still be able to attempt to rule and dominate the map.
The game has obviously already been launched and the game dynamic precedents have been set. However, R* are open to suggestions and have requested feedback to help evolve the online game, a project which they declare is something new to them and will be ever-changing for its own betterment. It is being built to last for many, many years.
Existing mechanics, like setting a Bounty on a player, the Import/Export vehicle and Gang Wars would need to be adjusted accordingly if the blip system was adjusted. It might not be necessarily fair on the player involved in any of these activities if their blip was shown as a constant noise event. In these circumstances, they could perhaps view all blips within their own locality too but there could also be better, more intelligent ways to adjust these player interaction events.
Events like Lester hiding your blip could become Lester revealing a blip, for another example.
By simply modifying the blip system and encouraging people together through events and hot-spots, the game would not only improve greatly but it would heal a lot of the complaints that are aimed at this game currently.
The Bad Sport system could be heavily drawn back. Far less people would be upset with their personal car being destroyed, by being spawn killed, or by being killed over and over again and losing all their cash. This is simply because it is harder, and less likely, to cause grief of this kind. To escape grief they would be able to simply walk/drive away, leaving the aggressor to have to track them down to further incur grief, which might be more trouble than its worth. It would be an option if you wanted to fight back or not.
Passive mode would become unnecessary. Leave your character in a side alley, or other sensible quiet place, and it is unlikely you will be found (and killed.) Players will feel more comfortable to take those calculated risks, and to carry cash upon them as a result (particularly if R* remove banking in bank notes through an online website! Or at least have a 10% fee for banking this way.)
But best of all, this system would open up all new possibilities that are not present in GTA: Online currently. At the moment it is impossible to have a high-speed car chase where you actually lose your pursuer. It is impossible to surprise your opponent by flanking them in a fire-fight. You cannot sneak up on someone and mug them for their money. You cannot lay low after a high profit crime and wait for lurking players to disperse. You cannot go for a walk up Mount Chiliad without everyone watching it! All this would be possible with the specified change to the blip system and it's not that much of a major change - just modifying the current system and then tinkering with all the other mechanics, such as bounties and Lester blip-hide.
With a possible Next Gen GTA: Online, it is important that Rockstar get the game in shape to last for years and also the possibility of lots more players on the map. The proposed blip system above would comfortably allow 128 players to live (and die) together in the map in a world that wasn't promoting player grief, but instead, GTA-style thrills.