Why ‘GTA Online’ Heists Are Taking So Long

Source: Rockstar Games

“I know you’ve been complaining, but you weren’t ready.” Those words, spoken by Lester Crest, the nerdy criminal mastermind of Grand Theft Auto V, kick off the new trailer for the game’s upcoming online heist content. It’s a fitting quote, because fans have been waiting for online heists nearly as long as they’ve been waiting for GTA V itself.

GTA V originally came out in September 2013, and since then, developer Rockstar has maintained the impression that online heists were just around the corner. Fans have been waiting, and heists never appeared. The game came out on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in November, and there’s still no sign of online heists.

With this new trailer, Rockstar has finally broken its silence and given fans something to chew on. Rockstar still hasn’t committed to a specific release date, but the company says the heists will be ready sometime in early 2015.

The game’s story mode contains several heists, so players know basically what to expect. Heist missions are these sprawling, multi-tiered crimes in which you plot out your plan of attack, secure the tools you’ll need to pull it off — from helicopters to submarines — and then participate in a massive, cinematic crime in which each character plays a key role.

The idea of doing all of that with friends as your partners sounds incredible. So what’s taking so long? In an interview with IGN, GTA Online producer and lead mission designer Imran Sarwar said, “To be honest, [online heists] just turned out to be a lot more difficult than we originally thought.”

Source: Rockstar Games

The basic idea of online heists is the same as the heists in story mode. The difference is that four real-life players will have a role in every step of the crime, from planning to execution.

At first, the developers thought it would be as simple as making new story mode heists, but allowing friends to play with each other. It turned out to be a lot more complicated than that. The problem, Sarwar told IGN, is that “every player needs to feel central to the action at all times, and that’s much more challenging than it appears.

“A good example is the classic idea of your getaway driver, waiting outside of a bank for the big score. A movie might not spend too much time focusing on that person because while they are waiting, we are watching the action going down in the vault. In a similar situation in story mode, we could use a character switch to make sure the player was always in the center of the action and switch back to the driver later. But to make this work for multiple players, we needed to create situations where the driver has something interesting to do at exactly the same time the rest of their team are locking down the bank and making their way to the money.”

Here’s how developers solved the problem. Each heist will require four players who have all played GTA Online enough to reach Rank 12 or above. One player, who must have a high-end apartment as a setting to plan the heist, is the leader. The leader is keyed into possible heists by Lester. When you choose to participate in a heist, the leader fronts the setup costs, selects the team, and allocates percentages of the cut. Each team member gets a payout after each setup mission, but the leader has to wait until the entire heist is complete to rake in his or her reward.

Source: Rockstar Games

The heist content will be free to everyone who owns the game. Five online heists will be available at launch, and the various heists will play out differently. Some will have the whole crew working together toward a single goal. Others will split them up into teams of two, or send everyone off on their own to be responsible for a key part of the plan.

In all heists, Sarwar said in his interview with IGN, “We really want to push the co-op aspect and make players feel like they need to communicate effectively and work together to pull off each element.”

All told, according to Sarwar, the new heists will add about 20 hours of gameplay to GTA Online. The heists are also designed to be highly replayable, especially since players can switch roles and experience each heist from different perspectives.

If that sounds like fun to you, jump into GTA Online before “early 2015” and level your character up at least to Level 12, and grab a high-end apartment while you’re at it. That way you’ll be ready to do some heists right when they become available.

Follow Chris on Twitter @_chrislreed

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