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Blog: Building a scalable online game with Azure, part 1

In this blog series, I’m walking you through the basics of getting your gaming backend up and running in the cloud and storing your player data in a scalable cloud storage. …


Gamasutra News

What GTA Online May Tell Us About Red Dead Redemption 2

Several months removed from a short teaser trailer and a concise statement from Rockstar saying Red Dead Redemption 2 is “an epic tale of life in America’s unforgiving heartland,” we still have no concrete details about the game other than the fragments we salvaged from the early footage. As we wait for Rockstar to share more about its highly anticipated sequel, we can’t help but wonder what lessons the company learned from the hugely successful Grand Theft Auto Online that could be applied to the “brand new online multiplayer experience” coming in the developer’s return to the Wild West. 

We should preface this thought exercise by saying two things. First, Rockstar isn’t a developer content to rest on its laurels. As its crown jewel franchise, Grand Theft Auto, has demonstrated in the 16 years since its inception, Rockstar tirelessly strives to redefine the open-world experience. The series has grown from a top-down perspective with text dialogue and arcade shooting sounds to a sprawling masterpiece of modern 3D game design featuring Hollywood quality voice acting, an amazing curated soundtrack, strong shooting and driving mechanics, a living open world, and the most ambitious and successful take on open-world multiplayer ever seen. Spending the last several years building out GTA Online has proven wise, as the mode has already generated more than $ 500 million in revenue and it keeps growing. This past December was the mode’s busiest month yet. We hardly expect Red Dead Redemption 2 to simply take the foundation of Grand Theft Auto Online and retrofit it into a Western setting, but it provides a good starting point. 

Second, the potential game features outlined below are pure speculation from a Rockstar fan whose imagination is running wild with possibilities. I have no insider information about what features are coming to Red Dead Redemption 2. Rather, I’ve taken what we know about the basic structure of Grand Theft Auto Online to hypothesize how the various parts would work as jumping off point for Rockstar’s next leap forward. 

(Please visit the site to view this media)

WESTWARD EXPANSION

Grand Theft Auto Online is undoubtedly the best online offering Rockstar has ever designed, but you can see traces of its foundation in the original Red Dead Redemption. 

The hit Western coupled its stellar campaign with an open-world multiplayer mode that expanded upon GTA IV’s early efforts, dropping you into the “free roam” game lobby with other players and letting you go anywhere in the open world. You could roll solo or group into a posse to hunt wildlife, attack enemy hideouts, or simply enjoy the breathtaking vistas. Those who preferred specific competitive experiences could forgo the open world in favor of a Rockstar-curated playlist of multiplayer modes like Gang Shootout (team deathmath), or Hold Your Own (capture the flag). 

Grand Theft Auto Online built upon this foundation by adding shops for deep player customization, purchasable assets like vehicles and properties, cooperative heists, character-driven missions and events, side activities, and even player-controlled criminal syndicates. Those illicit organizations and motorcycle clubs give players the means to conduct a variety of nefarious activates like drug running, car theft, counterfeit currency, assassinations, etc. right in the open world. 

You could draw a straight line to apply many of GTA Online’s features directly to a Western setting. It’s not hard to imagine general stores and trading outposts that allow players to buy new clothing, weapons, and supplies. Trains, boats, and horseback were the predominant methods of transportation in the late 1800s, so you likely wouldn’t have anything near the breadth of variety that GTA Online offers for vehicles. That said, Rockstar could increase the number of offerings with different horse breeds, wagons, and stagecoaches for players to use for land transportation, and allow players to purchase a variety of boats for traversing rivers. Steamboats were still going in the late 1800s, and could possibly serve as an analog to GTA Online’s yachts. 

Given the abundance of natural resources in the American heartland, we wouldn’t be surprised to see crafting and trading become a more integral part of the open-world experience in Red Dead Redemption 2. One of the primary complaints we hear about Grand Theft Auto Online players is how much grinding they must do to earn enough money to buy new items, set up organizations or motorcycle clubs, acquire luxury yachts, etc. These aspirational options largely serve as end-game content for the hardest of hardcore players. But introducing crafting could be an organic way for Rockstar to give players an alternate path to improving their lot rather than grinding repetitious multiplayer matches. 

The almighty dollar still drove commerce in the Wild West, but many during the expansion era got by on trading furs, wood, oil, and other resources. Integrating these into the game could give rise to many different types of legit organizations players could form or join like you see in larger MMOs. Do you like hunting? Start a fur trading outfit. Prefer to explore the vast American landscape? Maybe you should become a prospector looking to strike it rich with a gold, oil, or other precious materials discovery? Hell, Rockstar could even integrate a farming system. This hunter/gatherer/harvester dynamic wouldn’t be out of place in, either; Red Dead Redemption featured many quiet moments on farms and in forests that served as nice contrasts to the duels, hijackings, and mass murder.

THE CULTURE OF VIOLENCE

It wouldn’t be a Rockstar open-world game without the more unsavory element of society, and the Wild West setting is rich with opportunities. Robberies, kidnappings, and duels all slide naturally into this open-world setting. Many of the criminal activities of the era would also fit nicely into the Organization structure Rockstar introduced in Grand Theft Auto Online. Criminal gangs could trade in their usual stock, like gun running, drugs, prostitution, and counterfeit currency (or fool’s gold). Organizations of deputized regulators could stand in direct opposition. But that’s not the end to the kinds of factions that fit into the fiction. Rockstar could add groups influenced by real-world operations like the Pinkerton Agency, which straddled both sides of the law as it busted up union strikes, investigated murders, served as the security detail to high-profile persons of interest, and worked as private military contractors.  

The heist mechanics, which stressed planning and teamwork in GTA Online, would also carry over into Red Dead Redemption 2. Military forts entrenched deep in the wilderness, trains running supplies between towns, and big city banks are all ripe targets for aspiring criminals.

Looking at the trajectory of Rockstar’s open-world multiplayer ambitions, we expect Red Dead Redemption 2 to continue the meteoric growth. All the speculative ideas about how the progress made in Grand Theft Auto Online could serve as a jumping off point for another round of innovation excite us, and we’re curious to hear your thoughts. What features would you like to see implemented for our next online adventure in the Wild West? Share them in the comments below. 

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

What GTA Online May Tell Us About Red Dead Redemption 2

Several months removed from a short teaser trailer and a concise statement from Rockstar saying Red Dead Redemption 2 is “an epic tale of life in America’s unforgiving heartland,” we still have no concrete details about the game other than the fragments we salvaged from the early footage. As we wait for Rockstar to share more about its highly anticipated sequel, we can’t help but wonder what lessons the company learned from the hugely successful Grand Theft Auto Online that could be applied to the “brand new online multiplayer experience” coming in the developer’s return to the Wild West. 

We should preface this thought exercise by saying two things. First, Rockstar isn’t a developer content to rest on its laurels. As its crown jewel franchise, Grand Theft Auto, has demonstrated in the 16 years since its inception, Rockstar tirelessly strives to redefine the open-world experience. The series has grown from a top-down perspective with text dialogue and arcade shooting sounds to a sprawling masterpiece of modern 3D game design featuring Hollywood quality voice acting, an amazing curated soundtrack, strong shooting and driving mechanics, a living open world, and the most ambitious and successful take on open-world multiplayer ever seen. Spending the last several years building out GTA Online has proven wise, as the mode has already generated more than $ 500 million in revenue and it keeps growing. This past December was the mode’s busiest month yet. We hardly expect Red Dead Redemption 2 to simply take the foundation of Grand Theft Auto Online and retrofit it into a Western setting, but it provides a good starting point. 

Second, the potential game features outlined below are pure speculation from a Rockstar fan whose imagination is running wild with possibilities. I have no insider information about what features are coming to Red Dead Redemption 2. Rather, I’ve taken what we know about the basic structure of Grand Theft Auto Online to hypothesize how the various parts would work as jumping off point for Rockstar’s next leap forward. 

(Please visit the site to view this media)

WESTWARD EXPANSION

Grand Theft Auto Online is undoubtedly the best online offering Rockstar has ever designed, but you can see traces of its foundation in the original Red Dead Redemption. 

The hit Western coupled its stellar campaign with an open-world multiplayer mode that expanded upon GTA IV’s early efforts, dropping you into the “free roam” game lobby with other players and letting you go anywhere in the open world. You could roll solo or group into a posse to hunt wildlife, attack enemy hideouts, or simply enjoy the breathtaking vistas. Those who preferred specific competitive experiences could forgo the open world in favor of a Rockstar-curated playlist of multiplayer modes like Gang Shootout (team deathmath), or Hold Your Own (capture the flag). 

Grand Theft Auto Online built upon this foundation by adding shops for deep player customization, purchasable assets like vehicles and properties, cooperative heists, character-driven missions and events, side activities, and even player-controlled criminal syndicates. Those illicit organizations and motorcycle clubs give players the means to conduct a variety of nefarious activates like drug running, car theft, counterfeit currency, assassinations, etc. right in the open world. 

You could draw a straight line to apply many of GTA Online’s features directly to a Western setting. It’s not hard to imagine general stores and trading outposts that allow players to buy new clothing, weapons, and supplies. Trains, boats, and horseback were the predominant methods of transportation in the late 1800s, so you likely wouldn’t have anything near the breadth of variety that GTA Online offers for vehicles. That said, Rockstar could increase the number of offerings with different horse breeds, wagons, and stagecoaches for players to use for land transportation, and allow players to purchase a variety of boats for traversing rivers. Steamboats were still going in the late 1800s, and could possibly serve as an analog to GTA Online’s yachts. 

Given the abundance of natural resources in the American heartland, we wouldn’t be surprised to see crafting and trading become a more integral part of the open-world experience in Red Dead Redemption 2. One of the primary complaints we hear about Grand Theft Auto Online players is how much grinding they must do to earn enough money to buy new items, set up organizations or motorcycle clubs, acquire luxury yachts, etc. These aspirational options largely serve as end-game content for the hardest of hardcore players. But introducing crafting could be an organic way for Rockstar to give players an alternate path to improving their lot rather than grinding repetitious multiplayer matches. 

The almighty dollar still drove commerce in the Wild West, but many during the expansion era got by on trading furs, wood, oil, and other resources. Integrating these into the game could give rise to many different types of legit organizations players could form or join like you see in larger MMOs. Do you like hunting? Start a fur trading outfit. Prefer to explore the vast American landscape? Maybe you should become a prospector looking to strike it rich with a gold, oil, or other precious materials discovery? Hell, Rockstar could even integrate a farming system. This hunter/gatherer/harvester dynamic wouldn’t be out of place in, either; Red Dead Redemption featured many quiet moments on farms and in forests that served as nice contrasts to the duels, hijackings, and mass murder.

THE CULTURE OF VIOLENCE

It wouldn’t be a Rockstar open-world game without the more unsavory element of society, and the Wild West setting is rich with opportunities. Robberies, kidnappings, and duels all slide naturally into this open-world setting. Many of the criminal activities of the era would also fit nicely into the Organization structure Rockstar introduced in Grand Theft Auto Online. Criminal gangs could trade in their usual stock, like gun running, drugs, prostitution, and counterfeit currency (or fool’s gold). Organizations of deputized regulators could stand in direct opposition. But that’s not the end to the kinds of factions that fit into the fiction. Rockstar could add groups influenced by real-world operations like the Pinkerton Agency, which straddled both sides of the law as it busted up union strikes, investigated murders, served as the security detail to high-profile persons of interest, and worked as private military contractors.  

The heist mechanics, which stressed planning and teamwork in GTA Online, would also carry over into Red Dead Redemption 2. Military forts entrenched deep in the wilderness, trains running supplies between towns, and big city banks are all ripe targets for aspiring criminals.

Looking at the trajectory of Rockstar’s open-world multiplayer ambitions, we expect Red Dead Redemption 2 to continue the meteoric growth. All the speculative ideas about how the progress made in Grand Theft Auto Online could serve as a jumping off point for another round of innovation excite us, and we’re curious to hear your thoughts. What features would you like to see implemented for our next online adventure in the Wild West? Share them in the comments below. 

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

PSA: Free Elder Scrolls Online Homestead Update Available Now On PC

Elder Scrolls Online is getting a free update today that allows players to own their own homesteads. The first major DLC of 2017 for the massively multiplayer game will allow players to buy and own their own estates, apartments, and even islands in Tamriel. With more than 40 instances homes based on the game's 10 playable races, there are plenty of options for players looking to set down some roots in Tamriel.   Homes can be bought either using in game gold, or through microtransactions via Elder Scrolls Online's Crown Store. Players can also customize  their property with more than 2,000 decorative items including furniture, books, and more. 

The Homestead update is available now on PC and Mac, and will be coming to PS4 and Xbox One on February 21. 

For info on Elder Scrolls Online's next big expansion, Morrowind, you can click right here.

[Source: ESO Online Website]

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Online game firm Perfect World has executed a round of layoffs

Online game company Perfect World Entertainment has told Gamasutra that it laid off a number of employees this week, but claims the cuts will not affect any of its current game projects. …


Gamasutra News

New Sea Of Thieves Trailer Focues On Online Cooperative Experience

Sea of Thieves, Rare's ambitious open-world online pirate simulator has a new gameplay video, showcasing the developers on a peaceful mission to deliver some treasure. Of course, it isn't long before a gang of scurvy dogs pops in to cause chaos and excitement. The trailer shows off many of the game's unique features, including playing sea shanties on old-timey pirate instruments, plugging leaks made by cannonballs, digging up buried treasure, and adjusting sails to suit the wind.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

Rare is clearly placing a broad emphasis on teamwork and a lighthearted tone of whimsy and discovery; while it may prove to be possible, it would likely be a significant hassle for a single player to control an entire pirate ship all by themselves, especially with the myriad dangers afoot in Sea of Thieves' sandbox.

Sea of Thieves is set to release in 2017 for Xbox One and PC. For more on this game, see GI's  previous E3 coverage here.

[Source: Sea of Thieves]

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Report: Nintendo President Shares Switch Online Services Pricing, VR Considerations

The Nikkei Asian Review is reporting new details revealing subscription pricing for the Nintendo Switch's online services. 

Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima tells the Nikkei that the online game services will come at an annual cost of 2,000 to 3,000 yen, or approximately $ 17.60 to $ 26.40. 

Kimishima also says Nintendo is studying the possibility of adding virtual reality options for the Switch, but only if Nintendo is able to resolve issues connected to discomfort using VR over multiple hours. Previously, Kimishima has said that Nintendo has interest in VR, but this latest report indicates the primary dilemma facing the company before committing to VR.

We have reached out to Nintendo for confirmation on both online service pricing and the possibility of VR, and we will update this story if we hear back. 

[Source: Nikkei Asian Review, via @serkantoto]

 

Our Take
Even if we take these statements at face value, the online services pricing that Kimishima suggests is specifically tied to Japanese currency. Given that Nintendo has previously not had a subscription plan for its online services, it’s hard to know whether Japanese pricing would be the same in North America. 

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

As GTA Online Engagement Hits Record High, Rockstar Kicks Off A Double GTA$ And RP Event

Today Rockstar Games announced that December 2016 saw more players engaged with GTA Online than ever before. Across Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC, players participated in 13 million stunt races, fought 15 million matches of Juggernaut, started 24 million new motorcycle clubs, and made 10 billion vehicle modifications in the span of just one month.

Rockstar also announced a Double GTA$ and RP event for three modes that starts today and runs through February 13th. The modes included in the event are Juggernaut, Vehicle Vendetta, and Lost vs. Damned. Additionally, players can take advantage of a variety of discounts, such as 50-percent off executive offices, and 25-percent off vehicle warehouses. 

For more details on the event, you can go to Rockstar's website here

[Source: Rockstar]

Our Take 
With Grand Theft Auto V still selling as well as it does month over month, it's no surprise that players are engaging more with the engrossing online portion. Rockstar has done a commendable job of giving players new expansions and content since release, and events such as this one ensure that fans will keep coming back for more.  

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

As GTA Online Engagement Hits Record High, Rockstar Kicks Off A Double GTA$ And RP Event

Today Rockstar Games announced that December 2016 saw more players engaged with GTA Online than ever before. Across Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC, players participated in 13 million stunt races, fought 15 million matches of Juggernaut, started 24 million new motorcycle clubs, and made 10 billion vehicle modifications in the span of just one month.

Rockstar also announced a Double GTA$ and RP event for three modes that starts today and runs through February 13th. The modes included in the event are Juggernaut, Vehicle Vendetta, and Lost vs. Damned. Additionally, players can take advantage of a variety of discounts, such as 50-percent off executive offices, and 25-percent off vehicle warehouses. 

For more details on the event, you can go to Rockstar's website here

[Source: Rockstar]

Our Take 
With Grand Theft Auto V still selling as well as it does month over month, it's no surprise that players are engaging more with the engrossing online portion. Rockstar has done a commendable job of giving players new expansions and content since release, and events such as this one ensure that fans will keep coming back for more.  

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed