Column | Why are we still playing Grand Theft Auto 5?

The nine-year-old Grand Theft Auto 5 will be released this week on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X and S. This means that the game has been released on no fewer than three consecutive console generations. That's not given many games. However, GTA 5 remains relevant. That's partly due to the course Rockstar is sailing these days, but let's certainly not discount the quality of the game.

The year 2013 was an excellent gaming year. In that year the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One appeared, but the ‘old’ generation got a farewell in style with games such as BioShock Infinite and The Last of Us.

Especially the unique structure with three main characters comes to mind when we think back to the good old days of GTA 5. Where the previous ‘games in the series always pushed you into a specific box with, for example, drug dealer Tommy Vercetti or gangster CJ, you experience GTA 5 through three completely different glasses. . Michael, Franklin and Trevor could hardly be more different. Players can switch seamlessly between the three characters, thereby also switching lives.

The world keeps turning, even if you as a player are not touching the buttons for a while. For example, if you switch to Michael, there is a good chance that you will find him in the middle of an argument with his wife. Trevor – clearly a victim of mental health cuts – is often found drunk on the roadside or in the back of his pickup truck, while Franklin often hangs out with his buddy Lamar or walks his dog. GTA 5 goes a step further than just some missions that suit the character; it creates entire lives for the digital offenders.

Plus, Los Santos feels like a real city. Anyone who now starts Vice City or even San Andreas will notice how small those worlds actually are. The game world of GTA 5 is even in 2022 large, expansive and still very detailed. especially if you compare these details with newer games, Los Santos is still doing very well. In the heart of the city you will find expensive shops where you can buy a new jacket for Michael for exorbitant amounts, while around the village of Paleta Bay at the foot of Mount Chiliad there is no sign of the city bustle. Some radio stations are even only available in specific areas. Everything is right and in balance.

Yet even the most expansive and detailed single player ever comes to an end. Rockstar solved that with the introduction of GTA Online. There have been many experiments with multiplayer modes for the franchise in the past, but with GTA Online Rockstar managed to put down a mature online mode despite a messy start.

GTA Online initially thrived on the same large, detailed game world we explored in the single player, but over the years it was constantly updated with new content to stay interesting and fresh. From new locations such as a casino and Cayo Perico island, to new story content featuring Dr. Dre, especially in the last few years there is always something new to experience online. Not every player is eager to dive into the online mode for this content and the call for ‘normal’ single player content remains high, but Rockstar undeniably uses a successful formula.

GTA 5, or rather GTA Online, is thus kept actively relevant. Yet there is another reason that GTA 5 still matters: there is still no successor. Grand Theft Auto 6 is officialy in development, but that’s literally all we know about it. It could just be years before we can actually play a complete new GTA.

It is remarkable that GTA 6 is taking so long. Still, it’s not entirely unexpected either. After all, the intervals between each part are getting longer and longer. GTA 3, Vice City and San Andreas all appeared in a span of just four years. GTA 4 then appeared almost five years later, and GTA 4 and GTA 5 had already passed a little over five years. Large games simply cost more and more time and money to make.

However, the GTA drought is extra special, because Rockstar only released Red Dead Redemption 2 in between, apart from some reissues. In comparison, between GTA 4 and 5, the studio released Midnight Club: Los Angeles, GTA: Chinatown Wars, Beaterator, Red Dead Redemption, Max Payne 3 and expansions for GTA 4 and Red Dead Redemption. Rockstar’s various studios worked simultaneously on various large and small projects, resulting in a constant stream of new games.

For Red Dead Redemption 2, the company reversed its strategy. That game was too complex to be performed by one studio, so Rockstar merged all separate studios into one team of about two thousand employees: Rockstar Studios. Even with so many hands, it took years to develop and there was reportedly quite a crunch, something that is fortunately less and less tolerated in the game industry and would also be a thing of the past with Rockstar.

Red Dead Redemption 2, however, was a resounding success both critically and commercially, just like GTA 5. The ‘smaller’ games that Rockstar used to make, such as Max Payne 3, were commercially disappointing. Creating gigantic game worlds, populated by increasingly complex characters, therefore pays off for Rockstar. But Red Dead Redemption 2 sets the bar for open world games in general and expectations for everything Rockstar touches specifically, sky high. Surpassing or even equaling GTA 5 and Red Dead Redemption 2 will therefore take time, especially if Rockstar wants to avoid heavy crunch time.

In addition, it is undoubtedly a challenge to create something that is more ridiculous than today’s reality. GTA has always been a parody of reality, like a kind of distorting mirror held up to us. However, GTA 5 came out in a simpler time, when we were still mainly concerned about our privacy on social media. For example, the Facebook-like social network Lifeinvader plays a major role in the game. Since 2013, Trump has become president, the world has been hit by a pandemic and Russia decided it was time for another insane war. Try surpassing that.

We will have to wait a little longer for Grand Theft Auto 6, but until then we can at least get started with Grand Theft Auto 5. The game is available on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X and S. including improved graphics, HDR, 4k resolution, 60 fps and ray tracing and will be available from 15 March.

Column | Exclusive deals on consoles makes perfect sense

Exclusive content in multiplatform games is in serious controversy this week. The superhero Spider-Man is only coming to the PS4 and PS5 versions of Marvel's Avengers. Companies try to attract consumers with these kinds of deals, but it backfires for fanatic gamers. Well, at first glance.

In addition to the fact that players will be able to hang around with Spider-Man sometime after the release of Marvel’s Avengers only on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5, there is apparently other exclusive content for the game coming to those systems. For example, exclusive challenges will come to the PlayStation versions of the game, as well as all kinds of cosmetic items. Although PC, Xbox and PlayStation gamers pay the same amount of money for the game, the latter will soon be able to get more value from their purchase.

Marvel’s Avengers is now under attack, many gamers are screaming murder and fire but of course it’s by no means the only game where this is happening. Each generation, Activision chooses a platform holder who will receive exclusive marketing rights for Call of Duty. That platform will also receive beta and downloadable content for the games much earlier. This generation draws the longest straw from Sony, the previous generation was Microsoft. Exclusive content for Warzone on PlayStation 4 was also announced this week, but there was significantly less fuss about it.

If you think that only Sony is guilty of this, then you are very wrong. Microsoft is just as involved, even though they have been carefully trying to build a reputation as a consumer-friendly company in recent years. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 and The Medium, for example, are temporarily exclusively coming to Xbox Series X. You can bet that these games would also have appeared on PlayStation 5 if Microsoft hadn’t thrown a bag of buck on the table. More similar to the Spider-Man debacle is the upcoming multiplayer update for Tetris Effect, which should not be released on Sony’s consoles until next year. Microsoft does not wash its hands in innocence.

And it is not crazy either: bringing temporarily exclusive content to your platform is a proven way to make your system more attractive to the consumer. Is your favorite series Call of Duty? Chances are you played the series on the PlayStation 4 this generation. Love Marvel and Spider-Man in particular? Then you want to buy Marvel’s Avengers on a Sony console. If the PC-like shooters and horror games that initially only appear on Xbox Series X appeal to you, it will be tempting to buy Microsoft’s new system.

These exclusive deals are also a nice extra for developers of games. The gaming industry is a killer and it remains to be seen how well or badly your game sells. If a company like Microsoft or Sony already pays out part of the development costs in advance in order to arrange temporary exclusivity, the chances are that your studio will continue to exist in the coming years. That means making a new game and – more importantly – making money so you can feed your family and pay off your mortgage. It will be a shock to those developers that a small group of gamers complain about it on a forum – getting a living is more important!

As mentioned, we can scream murder and fire on the internet, but apparently we don’t mind too much. We really talk with our money. If those exclusive deals hadn’t worked, or even hurt the sale of a game, they’d long since died out. But it works, so they persist. It’s not rocket science.

Is there a solution, a way to get rid of those annoying exclusive deals? Not really. We could all agree globally to penalize publishers for this type of practice and stop buying the games where this happens. However, not only is it extremely unlikely that we will get anyone to boycott a game, we also punish many developers who have nothing to do with the closed deal and who have poured blood, sweat and tears into a game for years.

So we have to learn to live with it. If possible, you have all the platforms in house, but otherwise I hope the game you are looking forward to will appear completely on your system of your choice. In a perfect world, console farmers like Sony and Microsoft would stop making these kinds of deals on their own. They would realize that the market is big enough for both of them, that the quality of the various games, including of course their internally developed exclusive titles, is such that they no longer need exclusive deals. The company that dares to do this is the really tough one.

Column | Apple Arcade is one of the biggest shifts in gaming industry since ages

Although I don't pay much attention to smartphone games here at GamersInfuzed, this is still a very interesting side of the game industry. The new Apple Arcade is potentially one of the biggest shifts in this industry for a long time.

Apple Arcade is Apple’s new subscription service. Soon you will have separate subscriptions for television series, news and now also games.

You pay five euros per month for a collection of games that can be played exclusively via Apple Arcade on smartphones. In addition, they are also playable on macOS and Apple TV with savegames in the cloud without additional costs. The games were selected by Apple, with seventy titles at the launch. This collection will be further expanded over time.

Well-known studios have been approached to post their new titles on Apple Arcade. The quality is therefore remarkably high. Not every game is equally good or appeals to everyone, but after trying several I’m absolutely impressed. From the crazy graphics in Oceanhorn 2 with a Zelda feel or the hilarity of What the Golf?.

A game subscription is nothing new, but with Apple Arcade, Apple is making some major changes to the way smartphone games usually work.

Gamedevelopers have different ways to make money from their games on iOS and Android. The game can of course cost some money, but the most important source of income is in-app purchases. Many smartphone games therefore work with an energy system. Then you can wait to continue playing, or fill the energy meter for a few euros and get back to work immediately. Ads are also used to earn free games.

What is special is that no game within Apple Arcade contains in-app purchases or advertisements. You never have to worry anymore that you cannot continue due to hidden costs, or that third-party trackers keep an eye on your behavior. It is finally purely about the games and that is a big relief.

Still, Apple Arcade is causing a huge shift in the gaming industry. The service will have a major impact on the games that are offered outside of the subscription service. If Apple Arcade is a success, then there is a big chance that the sales of games not selected by Apple will get a big blow.

But Apple Arcade does not only affect iOS. All games offered through the service may not appear on Android from Apple. Android is the most popular operating system for smartphones with potentially the largest group of players. That is a big difference with the Play Pass subscription service from Google, where the games and apps do not have to be exclusive.

For a company that for a long time has shown not understanding how important games are, Apple can suddenly become one of the most important players in the game industry.

Column | The new Pokémon really go way too far

In fact, I have relatively little experience with Pokémon. When the cartoon appeared on Fox Kids in the late 90s, I was a bit too old for it. Or rather: I was the age that I found myself too old for that kind of colorful films. Yet I know the first generation of pokémon like the back of my hand, through the very first games on the Game Boy.

Although I enjoyed the RPG elements that I loved so much and the enormous urge to complete my collection of strange creatures, I lost sight of the franchise. The last game I played was Pokémon Go on my smartphone, and I also stopped that when new generations of pokémon came out that said little to me.

But now I am ready for a legendary adventure on my Switch. The nice graphics that are possible on the console, plus the fact that everything is portable, makes this a perfect time for me to step back in. Moreover, I am now mature enough to admit that I am not too old for it at all. I missed Let’s Go Eevee and Pikachu last year, because I thought it looked a bit simple, but I’m definitely going to make time for the next adventure.

There is one thing that makes me a little nervous, and those are all the new pokémon that they keep announcing. It seems as if the designers’ inspiration is running out and they have to pull out some strange looking objects to make something of it.

The first 150 pokémon were mainly based on standard animals, but then in monster form. In later games I already saw a lot stranger creations. For example, Klefki from Generation 6 is a key ring that you can use to attack other pokémon. Trubbish from Generation 5 is literally a garbage bag that evolves into a garbage dump. Palossand from Generation 7 is just a sandcastle! I get it: at a certain point you have had all the animals and you have to come up with something more creative, but say bad.

The pokémon that they’ve created for Sword and Shield strike everything for me. This week, Sirfetch’d, an evolution of the classic pokémon Farfetch, was unveiled. Sirfetch’d is a real gentleman, a stately bird standing upright, with its chest forward. In one hand he has a shield, in the other a giant spear that for some reason is twice as long as himself. That doesn’t seem practical to me. Or no, sorry, it’s not a spear, but a leek. According to the description, Sirfetch is very proud of its leek, which can last for years. Only when the vegetables wilt, does the bird retire.

That is strange, but it is by no means the craziest that was recently announced. A while ago the entire internet fell on Polteageist, and not just because of the terrible yet delicious word joke in the name. The body of this Pokémon is made of black tea with a clear aroma and taste. Only a trainer who has built up a relationship of trust with this being can taste the tea. But beware: if you drink too much, you can get sick. But wait, if his body is made of tea, and it is possible to drink that tea, does that mean that you literally drink this pokémon? What does that say about the relationship between people and Pokémon? Do we need this?

However, I was most surprised by Alcremie, who was unveiled in July. This beast looks like a dash of whipped cream. That has been so far, but because of the slightly ambiguous description of the pokémon, I wonder what the designers all drank. Alchemy can make cream, which becomes even more tasty when it is happy. If he is attacked, he throws his cream at an opponent to distract him or blind him temporarily. That cream has an extremely calming effect, and if you eat it you lose the will to fight even further. It was of course not long before the internet made a series of disturbing memes with this information.

I might exaggerate a bit, it’s just a game and it will be a lot of fun to spray a little cream with Alcremie.
Yet I would like to see how the creation of the new pokémon works. I can imagine how the developers are sitting together in a conference room, with an animal atlas in front of them, in which all used animals are already crossed out. They look outside desperately: ”Hey look, a garbage bag! Can we do something with that?”.
They relax a day on the beach to get inspired, and make a sandcastle pokémon as a souvenir.