Last updated on August 10th, 2015
By now, you’ve probably heard that the launch of GTA Online, heralded by many to be the “next big thing” as far as multiplayer games, did not go as smoothly as Rockstar had hoped. A host of server related issues and bugs have rendered the mode nearly unplayable for many people. While this is to be expected, to some extent, when anything this ambitious launches, it can still be a frustrating experience.
GTA 5 also has had some issues surrounding its ability to play properly on older consoles, something that hasn’t received a great deal of attention because effects only a small number of players. People on the GTA forums have raised the issue, describing how their games always seem to freeze during Franklin’s first mission.
Game companies are no different from any other corporation. They all tend to keep their information close to the chest, and not divulge any more than necessary. If I talk to a dozen different gamers, they’ll all offer a different pet theory as to why GTAO has so many problems. Some will say it’s just broken, pure and simple. Some will say it’s a natural part of the evolution, as not even a beta test can simulate the pressure that a billion dollars worth of sales can put on servers.
About six weeks prior to release, GTA 5 was tracking to sell somewhere around the same number of copies as Skyrim. That’s what merchants were being told. Either this information was incorrect, or somewhere in the weeks leading up to release, pre-orders exploded. My guess is that Rockstar announced the delay of GTA Online because it became painfully clear that if that many people were going to buy the game, the servers were bound to buckle. Vague reasons for the two week delay had been offered by Rockstar, and seemed to suggest that it was a way for people to get familiar with the game mechanics and the maps. This struck me as a bit strange at the time, since nobody in Call of Duty or Halo ever seems to need practice time on maps. Whatever the reasons, it’s obvious that popular demand can wreak havoc with online focused games.
One of the features of next-gen consoles being hyped, especially by Microsoft, is the use of “cloud gaming“. The term itself seems to be used by everyone from fanboys to marketing people, but what actual impact will this have on gaming in the future? Both Microsoft and Sony, as well as many developers, have claimed that Cloud will be central to the next-gen gaming experience. Microsoft often makes a very big deal of the fact they they have umpteen-gazillion servers set up for their cloud infrastructure. While I have no idea what the technical impact of this might be, it seems logical that it may help future online-centered games launch with fewer bumps. You can read some impressions on remote play by Skarekrow13.
Right now, Rockstar’s biggest issue with GTAO seems to be a lack of servers. If Microsoft (and presumably Sony) plans to have a massive server base to provide a consistent, stable online game experience, then my hope is issues like this might be avoided in the future. Had Rockstar been able to simply rent server space from either company to meet the demands of the people playing, they wouldn’t be scrambling to get new ones in place now.
For anyone who has played GTA 5, they know it’s an ambitious game, no doubt pushing the limits of existing-gen hardware to the limit. Most people expected a few bugs. But Rockstar certainly needs to douse this fire quickly, or they risk tarnishing the credibility of their brand.