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GTA 6 map: Should Rockstar revert to the old map structure?

Image credits: gta wiki fandom
Image credits: gta wiki fandom
Rahul Bhushan
ANALYST
Modified 20 Oct 2020, 11:32 IST
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Gaming, as an art form, has constantly been evolving, and it needs to, in order to stand the test of time. As a result, franchises like GTA, or even Mario, have to continuously have a forward-thinking approach to their games and figure out how to evolve the existing formula.

What has worked best in the past might not necessarily be in line with what players expect from games today. The GTA franchise, for example, has evolved by leaps and bounds in terms of the structure of its maps and the games themselves.

Although Rockstar Games has received some criticism relating to the stagnant mission structure that has remained the same since GTA 3, the map of the Grand Theft Auto games has never given way to criticism.

But with the next GTA game still a ways off, should Rockstar be looking to go back to the well with the kind of map structure seen in Vice City or San Andreas?

Should the maps in GTA be attached to the progression of the player?

Callahan Bridge in GTA 3 is destroyed at the start of the game to lock that area off.
Callahan Bridge in GTA 3 is destroyed at the start of the game to lock that area off

Essentially, parts of the map will be off-limits to the player at the start of the game till, say, 30 per cent through the campaign. The reason, in-game, would be a storm warning that has resulted in bridges being closed or something similar.

This would be in place to not overwhelm the player with a massive map right at the start, and to methodically introduce him/her to a larger area. However, games today revel in letting gamers explore the map from the get-go.

That approach has also worked exceptionally well with players having the entire map to play with right from the start, but also reducing the challenge or the sense of evolution.

RPG games like AC Odyssey do the map-locking reasonably well, with areas cordoned off from the player by placing a level cap on specific locations. Meaning players would have to be at a certain higher level not to be easily defeated by enemies in that area.

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However, GTA probably does not want to concern itself with level-based progression like an RPG game.

Pros: 

  • Lets players experience the game at a more consistent level.
  • Does not overwhelm the player right from the start, and eases them into the game.
  • A sense of progression attached to the game as players can see more of the map as they go on.

Cons: 

  • The game ends up feeling restrictive by condoning off major sections of the map.
  • Reduces the challenging and unpredictable nature of an open-world game.
  • Runs the risk of breaking immersion by not providing a good enough reason in-game for the areas to be locked off.

While hardware limitations were a significant factor in areas being locked off at the start, that should be no problem in the landscape of gaming today. However, Red Dead Redemption 2 did something similar by having the entire first act of the game take place on a snow-covered mountain and the rest of the map not available.

This was to add to the story and narrative of the game, thus fitting the game's tone perfectly. Therefore, it is a distinct possibility that the next GTA game would also elect to ease players into the game and perhaps even add a bit of a story-related reason for specific areas of the map to be locked off.

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Published 20 Oct 2020, 11:32 IST
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