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Roger Gerald

GTA4 - What Needs To Be Fixed? A consultant's view!

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I am a Game Design/QA consultant and one of the things I do for clients is write reports about the current state of their pre-release software and how it can be improved. I dont work for Rockstar so I thought it might be interesting to see what others think of this report (written in my spare time)about GTA4. Bear in mind I have tried to keep this report as short as possible and therefore it is noticeably less detailed than a normal report I would write. GTA4 - What Needs To Be Fixed (1) Memory Allocation Until better compression techniques become available, it does not take long for a game the size of GTA to fill up its memory allocation. With only a double sided DVD/BluRay disk, the RAM and "cache" available on the specific console its made for, decisions eventually have to be made about what to cut and what to keep in the final version. Unfortunately,with GTA4, Rockstar placed more importance on the believabilty of its open world than on the gameplay. Here are some examples : (a) each taxi ride has an option to view the surroundings as you are driven... also, the player response to "where to?" has every possible destination recorded as a sound file :also,a "hurry up" factor is included. (b) each ride you make to each destination has an voiceover gps :go left , go right,at the next junction turn right etc (c) Mobile programming : very detailed, including many annoying and unimportant messages sent if player is "forgetful" (d) Internet features - very well implemented but wasteful resources? (e) Mission talkovers, including many different variations of speech for friend missions (f) Car lights can be dimmed or full (g) Watching TV in Safehouses (h) Too many cut scenes used in Comedy/Cabaret Clubs There is nothing wrong technically with these examples : the point is that all 8 examples take up a lot of memory and therefore contribute to the editing dilemma : how much of these 8 examples would be missed by the player , gameplay wise, if they were cut or trimmed down? (2)Cut Features Leading on from point one : what was actually edited out or not even considered? (a) Flying Planes and sky diving (b) Taxi, fire , ambulance missions (c) Garages and abilty to save your vehicles. (d) "Top ups" placed in safehouses (e) Racing Locations (f) Loss of weapons (g) Driving tests (boat, plane, car, bike) (h) No custom soundtracks can be used on vehicle (i) No swimming underwater Most of these features were extremely popular in San Andreas : "If it aint broke, dont fix it !" (3)Health Issues The constant setting “cost of health care” . I was unable to find its value in the game but assume it is calculated as a percentage of your current money amount . Needless to say, I found that each time I died in this game, it cost me 10,000 dollars to be fixed. So what? Well, when you are doing missions , you are awarded anything from 1k to 10k : and lets not forget the amazing 500 $ the game awards me for making the effort to do some races and win after 5 laps! So health care is expensive in the states? Well , of course, but this is a game isnt it? How frustrating for a game to put you in a situation where you are encouraged to do anything you want, wherever you want, and whenever you want but, sorry game player, its going to cost you a lot of your hard earned game money if you fail? (4)Pop Up Never thought I would see pop up in a next generation game especially one of this calibre. Put simply, there is no point in designing such a detailed game world if the hardware is unable to proccess it quickly enough! Either trim down the detail or start making your own hardware. (5)Lack of gameplay space 3 big islands to roam around in but no countryside or free roaming areas (6)AI issues AI car driving in races is very weak. AI - police enforcement is extremely dull and frustrating. Simple player mistakes punished with over strict law enforcement. (7)"Friends" Issues Too much development time was wasted on this area : one reviewer summed it up well by saying real life was difficult enough without having to worry about virtual friends ! Gamers want to play the game, not be lectured on the importance of friends etc (8)Character fighting Very clumsy programming : slow and often fails to "hit" target (9)Checkpoints There arent any! Very last generation! (10)Mission Variety More thought needed to make missions more varied and less dull.. its starting to get stale... (11)Multiplayer Issues I have chosen not to mention this in this report but its worth noting that the game has already slipped from the top of the chart on Major Nelson's "most played live titles" , replaced by 2 titles released last year ( Halo3 and Cod4) after only 5weeks. (12)Cover System and Targetting Much improved but still not good enough. (13)Collectibles Usually the best in the business at this : but they forgot to tell the player what they had unlocked after taking the time tofind 200 pigeons?Sloppy.. It's important to give praise where it's due : the game artwork, sound design, voice acting, editing and programming are superlative and top notch. Special mention also to Quality Assurance : after 5 weeks I have still not encountered any serious bugs and no live updates have been necessary. That is very rare, especially these days. Also this game development cycle had a lot of outside factors that affected the overall game reception through no fault of the developers : (a)More consumer choice. People have more quality games to choose from compared to 2004. (b)This game took 3 and a half years to arrive : therefore more expectation and hype awaited it. (c)The generation skip - not only did Rockstar have to make a new game on a new graphical engine but they also had to make it for 2 very different hardware machines. [Edited by - Roger Gerald on July 6, 2008 12:49:27 PM]

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I only played one night of GTA4 so I can't be sure, but I think lot of things you mention missing are in fact there.

(b) Taxi, fire , ambulance missions <-- I'm sure about taxi mission (just call roman), not about the others but I believe they are there.

(c) Garages and abilty to save your vehicles. <-- There is a yellow parking spot on the side of the street in front of your apartment, is you park you car in it it will save it.

(e) Racing Locations <-- pretty sure you get some race missions somewhere

(f) Loss of weapons <-- get arrested, not killed

(h) No custom soundtracks can be used on vehicle <-- What you can't play your 360 mp3? can't be, I have to check this out..

Other than that, you have some good points, but they are mostly design points and it's not as if it ruin the game.

Oh and I don't think the internet and tv parts will eat up all available memory unless you are presently using it, it's not loaded when you are cruising the town.

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Original post by Roger Gerald

GTA4 - What Needs To Be Fixed

(1) Memory Allocation

Here are some examples :
...


Some of these like GPS vocals and headlights seem relatively trivial to implement, and I believe are worthwhile additions


Quote:
Original post by Roger Gerald
(2)Cut Features

Most of these features were extremely popular in San Andreas : "If it aint broke, dont fix it !"

I pretty puch agree here - the city seems more "alive", yes, but you can't DO nearly as much to make you feel a part of it!


Quote:
Original post by Roger Gerald
(3)Health Issues
The constant setting “cost of health care” . I was unable to find its value in the game but assume it is calculated as a percentage of your current money amount . Needless to say, I found that each time I died in this game, it cost me 10,000 dollars to be fixed. So what? Well, when you are doing missions , you are awarded anything from 1k to 10k : and lets not forget the amazing 500 $ the game awards me for making the effort to do some races and win after 5 laps! So health care is expensive in the states? Well , of course, but this is a game isnt it? How frustrating for a game to put you in a situation where you are encouraged to do anything you want, wherever you want, and whenever you want but, sorry game player, its going to cost you a lot of your hard earned game money if you fail?

I didn't notice this - in fact GTA4 was in my mind an extremely lenient game when it came to failure.



Quote:
Original post by Roger Gerald
(5)Lack of gameplay space
3 big islands to roam around in but no countryside or free roaming areas

To me the more dense and compact layout of GTA4 was a far superior "gameplay space" to the dull open areas of San An. I believe this was a concious decision and even advertised.


Quote:
Original post by Roger Gerald
(6)AI issues

I didn't appreciate being arrested in my safehouse after accidentally firing off a single round.



Quote:
Original post by Roger Gerald
(7)"Friends" Issues

I agree. However, this did in a way allow GTA4 to have more emotional depth (I actually put some thought into deciding between two friends at one point in the game)


Quote:
Original post by Roger Gerald
(8)Character fighting
Very clumsy programming : slow and often fails to "hit" target

(9)Checkpoints
There arent any! Very last generation!

Yeah


Quote:
Original post by Roger Gerald
(10)Mission Variety
More thought needed to make missions more varied and less dull.. its starting to get stale...

I didn't find it too bad really. It seems like they went to the trouble of implementing features (like corpse falling out of the boot/kidnap victim grabbing the wheel) for a single mission, perhaps needlessly.



Quote:
Original post by Roger Gerald
(11)Multiplayer Issues
I have chosen not to mention this in this report but its worth noting that the game has already slipped from the top of the chart on Major Nelson's "most played live titles" , replaced by 2 titles released last year ( Halo3 and Cod4) after only 5weeks.

Multiplayer GTA sandbox style sounds like fun.. but there really isn't anything to DO!

Quote:
Original post by Roger Gerald
Special mention also to Quality Assurance : after 5 weeks I have still not encountered any serious bugs and no live updates have been necessary. That is very rare, especially these days.

I can safely say that GTA4 on the 360 was the buggiest commercial game I have ever played on release. No save-corrupting bugs like there have been in the series, but things like moving to walk down stairs during the first mission, and instead continuing horizontally like a cartoon character running over a cliff.

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(1) Memory Allocation


Except for "Watching TV in Safehouses" and "Too many cut scenes used in Comedy/Cabaret Clubs", nothing in that list is all that expensive.

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(2)Cut Features


Not really fair to judge it by its predecessors, though I do miss the planes. Still, solid game in its own right.

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(3)Health Issues


huh?

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(4)Pop Up


I have seen this happen occasionally, but not nearly as badly as with the Renderware engine. I'm not too upset about it...

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(5)Lack of gameplay space
3 big islands to roam around in but no countryside or free roaming areas


Again judging it bit its predecessor, and without planes I don't really notice as much. Just a different map.

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(6)AI issues


Maybe I'm too forgiving, but I think the AI is at least acceptable.

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(7)"Friends" Issues


Yeah dude. I'm a murdering psychopath in this game, I don't care if Kate "likes" me.

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(8)Character fighting


Nah, I like the fighting, though it is a little more cumbersome.

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(9)Checkpoints


huh? Last generation had checkpoints... and what do you mean by that anyway, in the races? It autosaves...

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(10)Mission Variety


How can you judge it against the past games and then make a statement like this? Its GTA dude, you rob, murder, and manipulate. simple as that.


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(11)Multiplayer Issues


Could be that people are still messing with single player, its a long game. Could be that not so many GTA fans are multiplayer-game fans. Who knows. I'm glad they added multiplayer, I really wanted it in the past games.

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(12)Cover System and Targetting


I think its pretty good, the only issue being when Niko sometimes picks the wrong friggin' cover

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(13)Collectibles


Its less arcadey, you know what I mean? It feels more like a real live city, less like a cartoon playground for violence.

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Original post by Dunge
I only played one night of GTA4 so I can't be sure, but I think lot of things you mention missing are in fact there.

(b) Taxi, fire , ambulance missions <-- I'm sure about taxi mission (just call roman), not about the others but I believe they are there.

(c) Garages and abilty to save your vehicles. <-- There is a yellow parking spot on the side of the street in front of your apartment, is you park you car in it it will save it.

(e) Racing Locations <-- pretty sure you get some race missions somewhere

(f) Loss of weapons <-- get arrested, not killed

(h) No custom soundtracks can be used on vehicle <-- What you can't play your 360 mp3? can't be, I have to check this out..

Other than that, you have some good points, but they are mostly design points and it's not as if it ruin the game.

Oh and I don't think the internet and tv parts will eat up all available memory unless you are presently using it, it's not loaded when you are cruising the town.


you must play the game more!
(b) i dont count the ronan missions as taxi missions : believe me, there are no ambulance or fire engine missions!
(c) yes you can save the car in the yellow parking spot.. i was refering to the old garage system where you can put all your favourite cars into a garage!
(e) racing locations are not included this time : if you want to race you must call bruce.. i meant a location where you decide what race, what type of race, location etc
(f)get arrested not killed?
(h) custom soundtracks means accessing your music on the car radio system like in san andreas.

internet and tv parts do eat up memory : they may not be "loaded" but they take up space on the game disk!

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Original post by Roger Gerald
GTA4 - What Needs To Be Fixed


I think you mean What you want to be "fixed". Need is a very strong word for what essentially boils down to just your opinion of the game. To me your post feels less like a professional report and more like a fanboy rant (well maybe thats a bit harsh but you get the idea).

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Original post by grekster
Quote:
Original post by Roger Gerald
GTA4 - What Needs To Be Fixed


I think you mean What you want to be "fixed". Need is a very strong word for what essentially boils down to just your opinion of the game. To me your post feels less like a professional report and more like a fanboy rant (well maybe thats a bit harsh but you get the idea).


well, thats true.. "what I personally would like fixed", maybe. Its a game that I really enjoyed playing and I was very harsh on it : for me, its a debate really. GTA4 did very well, but we all learn from analysing games.
fanboy rant is a bit harsh but I DO get your point..

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Original post by Funkymunky
Not really fair to judge it by its predecessors...


Only if you live in a bubble, and the marketing scene is about as popped of a bubble as you can come by. I doubt many gamers who picked up GTA4 have never played a previous incarnation of the game, and when you see that the "next" game in a series has come out, you go into playing it with expectations of parallelism and or evolution from the previous title.

GTA4 lacked many elements that made the previous games so popular, and it's those previous games that made generating hype for the new title so easy. If no previous GTA had been released, then yes, you could judge this game on its own two feet in terms of content and gameplay options. However that's not the case. This is more like a new MMO game hitting the scene without several features that have been made popular by competitive titles, and defensive players claiming that the negative reviews "shouldn't take into account the other games."

Would you give a negative review to a Tetris II that didn't let you rotate the pieces? Or Halo IV with only one vehicle to pilot?

Frankly, I'm with the OP on the cut features list. I was looking forward to buying up lofts around the city, for one. I think a more generalized "lack of collectible achievements" would cover the sentiment of most of those. I would also add "e-brake from hell" to the negatives: I liked the power-slide feature in San Andreas, I felt in control of the car and like I had gained some skill in the driving portion of the game, GTA4 just leaves me praying there won't be a car chase in the next mission.

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(c) yes you can save the car in the yellow parking spot.. i was refering to the old garage system where you can put all your favourite cars into a garage!

It's practically the same! I think your nit picking there.

Quote:
To me the more dense and compact layout of GTA4 was a far superior "gameplay space" to the dull open areas of San An. I believe this was a concious decision and even advertised.

I liked the variation though, each island was something different, basing Liberty on an actualy city meant that you lost that.

One thing I loved about Vice City, VC Stories and San Andreas was buying up businesses, it added a lot of extra playtime that I feel GTA IV missed. I found that after completing the main story a lot of the fun extra's (side-missions, rackets and what not) were not present and so I got bored pretty quickly.

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Original post by Jonny_S
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(c) yes you can save the car in the yellow parking spot.. i was refering to the old garage system where you can put all your favourite cars into a garage!

It's practically the same! I think your nit picking there.

Quote:
To me the more dense and compact layout of GTA4 was a far superior "gameplay space" to the dull open areas of San An. I believe this was a concious decision and even advertised.

I liked the variation though, each island was something different, basing Liberty on an actualy city meant that you lost that.

One thing I loved about Vice City, VC Stories and San Andreas was buying up businesses, it added a lot of extra playtime that I feel GTA IV missed. I found that after completing the main story a lot of the fun extra's (side-missions, rackets and what not) were not present and so I got bored pretty quickly.


I may be nitpicking, sorry about that! however, in my job i sometimes work with test groups : I monitor their playing time and find out their likes/dislikes etc and I remember a recent discussion about lack of garages in gta4. A lot of younger people (18-24) , not all obviously, were sad this garage storage was not implemented in the game.To them it was fun to store all their different cars
in all the garages.
I mean, lets be honest, its not important that its not there, it doesnt ruin the game in any way but tihs is a forum where we discuss game design! I dont pretend to know everything but my point in the article is that a lot of things are missing in gta4 . Maybe Rockstar deliberately left them out , wanted a new direction etc or maybe they just run out of development time.

so i hope i am not offending anyone, sorry if i do! gta sells a lot of copies and different people get different experiences from the game.


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