What Rockstar Needs to Do to Keep their Games Relevant
When Rockstar rose to prominence with GTA 3 in 2001, we had a new game developer in the mix whose shelf life would be strong and lasting. Eleven years later, Rockstar is still a powerhouse developer known for their brand of open world sandbox games intended for mature audiences. However, the ride doesn't last forever, and in recent years some gamers have grown listless and bored with each new Rockstar sandbox release. So how can Rockstar stay relevant and keep their games fresh? Fanboys / girls beware, because we're about to offer heap loads of creative criticism in Rockstar's direction!
Get the Story Right
Whether you're playing any of the GTA games, Red Dead Redemption, Bully, or even the Team Bondi / Rockstar release L.A. Noire, you'll notice one thing: Rockstar can't write a story arc to save themselves. And why? It's not like they haven't had enough practice by now, but it always seems like one act is always dragging, while the other ends too short and too randomly. Even when you see hints of greatness, such as in Red Dead Redemption, overall, events seem oddly spaced and poorly executed.
Time to Get this Straight
It seems Rockstar is always trying to cover up a poorly derived story line and weakly fleshed-out characters (Niko may have been a bit better for the GTA series, but not by much) by giving us a huge world with too much to do and too little substance in the plot department. Give us something potent, Rockstar. Give us something in the quality and capacity of Uncharted. Rockstar, if you're so intent on being the "Hollywood" of game developers at this stage of the game, then give us a quality story that a highly-demanded and well-crafted Hollywood screenwriter could write. Please.
The meat of these games are the missions. Granted, across the board, it's hard to come up with hundreds of unique missions over the span of so many years and so many games, but at the end of the day, gamers may be fine with doing the same thing once or twice, but by the fifth time, it just gets old.
All of the extra stuff in these Rockstar sandbox games are simple distractions, and while they may be fun, shouldn't the main story playthrough be the most enjoyable? Whether it's just getting more creative, or changing the foundations of the games to allow for different, better, and fresher mission types, Rockstar will need to do something in the next few years to keep their games feeling new in a world of highly-competitive sandbox games.
Build Another Powerhouse Series
With GTA V in the far horizon, nobody is quite sure what we'll be getting. However, across the years, the major changes in the GTA series have been tweakings and graphic updates, with still so much lacking for fans that have followed the series for a longtime. Other Rockstar sandbox games released since just haven't cut it. We may smile at the antics of Bully, enjoy the escape to Red Dead Redemption, and some of us found ourselves interested in Team Bondi's attempt to mimic a GTA in old L.A., but none of those series have captured the world like GTA or built strong followings.
It's time for something new, and maybe with every new game they are attempting to build a new strong series, but let's face it, we have GTA, so give us something more than GTA "re-skinned". Give us something that holds its own weight, that breaks away and then holds itself up on its own wings. L.A. Noire dragged on, there only needed to be one Bully, and Red Dead didn't find enough fans to keep up. Don't even get me started on other Rockstar titles like Manhunt or State of Emergency!
The GTA train won't last forever, or if it does, it won't hold the sales steam it's been puffing for the past 11 years. Rockstar still has its "bad boys" of gaming roots, which are struggling with its current "Hollywood" of gaming attitude, so maybe it's time for something new and for Rockstar to find a balance between its two identities.
Unless you're a hardcore fanboy / girl, most every gamer, non-GTA fan and GTA fan alike, complain about the controls in Rockstar games. Whether it's driving a car (a heavy focus in many Rockstar games), fist fighting, or targeting a weapon, we've all lost countless missions being frustrated with these terrible mechanics. There's been plenty of time to fix these inconstancies. Since GTA 3, the sandbox genre has only gotten slicker and far more able, bodied in other developers' series. So why do controls in these Rockstar games remain so poor? And don't give me that "you have to get used to it" spiel; a game should have tight, slick, and engaging controls in which your skills can be tested and challenged, not frustrated, especially in games where you're hopping in and out of vehicles, chasing down baddies, and doing a variety of different things. I don't need to hear any excuses like the "bad controls in the original Resident Evil only made it scarier" B.S. Fix it or lose it, Rockstar!
Back to their Roots
Being a fan of the very first GTA, when I saw the first whisperings of GTA 3, I knew the game would be a hit. It was essentially the first GTA but 3D. I wondered how that would even be possible with the open world and ability to do so much, and I was wondering how Rockstar, who took over the series, would fare with it all. When it was released, I simply nodded, smiled, and said, wow, this is everything I wanted. Gamers who had never even heard of the series before popped it in and saw a game not only testing hardware and defining a genre, but something dirty, gritty, violent, funny, and completely non-PC. Playing GTA 3 in 2001 was like watching Star Wars for the first time in 1977.
Since Rockstar realized they could produce such a hit, each Rockstar game (whether it's a hit or a failure) has gone the Hollywood route. High cost, rushed production, and enough PR and advertisement to hope it can find enough gamers to buy them without even knowing what they are getting (except trusting titles because they have the Rockstar logo on it).
The Rockstar logo may at one time meant "edgy, cool, new, and amazing" but now it's old hat.
GTA IV goes the serious route, and it looks like GTA V is going the same route; that's all well and good, but maybe it's time to embrace what the GTA series is? The Ballad of Gay Tony garnered a lot of fans and maybe was an attempt to offer a bit of that old lame humor into the series again, but let's face it, The Force is not as strong with Rockstar as it used to be, and the failure of L.A. Noire to capture as many gamers as they hoped, failed (not to mention destroyed Team Bondi in the process).
What it comes down to is this: to keep relevant in the open sandbox world genre, Rockstar needs to slow down, take a breath, and think hard about what's to come and get comfortable with both their past and current identities.
Three things describe Rando: Good beer, good food, and video games. On occasion, Rando flies a zeppelin through time seeking power crystals.
[Other Features +]
More from GameDynamo