News: GTAIV: San Andreas Beta 3 is out now


A few weeks ago I, along with a number of both Rockstar and Grand Theft Auto fansite administrators, received a call from Rockstar asking if I'd be willing to head out to New York City to get a hands-on glimpse of Grand Theft Auto Online during the week of September 24-26th. This article details the entire trip. If you just came for the GTAOnline information, skip to day two.

Day One

With 5 hours of sleep under my belt, I headed out to the South Bend Airport in Indiana. I entered the airport, had my boarding passes printed off and proceeded to the TSA checking line. I was wearing my Bugstars shirt I received awhile back. Unfortunately the huge logo on the back set off one of the scanners and I was the winner of a free TSA/government pat down. Once it was established that the Bugstars logo really wasn't a weapon of mass destruction, I proceeded to my gate.

I landed in Chicago at O'Hare International and made it over to the next gate for the second part of my flight to NYC. I had a few hours to kill before my flight left so I found the nearest charging station. A few minutes after I sat down an older gentleman sat down with his laptop. Luckily for me, he had no headphones and proceeded to play his "secrets to a better metabolism" as loud as his little laptop could go for the next hour.

I finally arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport. A driver from Partners Executive Service picked me up from there and took me to the Hotel on Rivington. My room was 032 on the third floor.

I sent a message off to Thomas of RockstarBase to see if he had arrived yet. Dinner was planned for 8:30 that night and it was only around 5 PM so we decided to hang out for a bit. His room was on the 18th floor and featured a breath-taking view of NYC -- complete with a balcony. As a cool coincidence, an advertisement for Grand Theft Auto V featuring Michael was looking up right at his room.

Around 8:00 PM a number of us met in the lobby of the hotel. Rockstar was holding dinner for us at a restaurant called "DBGB". While Rockstar offered to send a car for us, we decided just to walk over to the restaurant as it was just a few blocks or so away. And yes, the Chop-Chop Salad was actually an item from the regular menu and not a freaky salad featuring bits of Chop.

Day Two

On the second day of the event we were told to meet at the 20th floor of the Rivington at 12 PM. The 20th floor is actually the Rivington's former penthouse turned event event space. It features three floors: the first one is the main event space, the second floor is mainly for a fully-stocked bar and the third floor is actually the rooftop of the hotel. When we arrived, reps from Rockstar and Villain were putting some last minute touches on the setups. To kill some time, a number of us went up to the third floor.

After 10 minutes or so we were finally able to get our hands on Grand Theft Auto Online. Rockstar has asked us not to give out specifics such as the titles of missions or the characters you meet. However, here are some things we spotted that we can talk about:

Community Driven

One thing Rockstar made clear throughout the entire night was that they plan for GTAOnline to very much be a community driven experience. Not only will they be taking feedback via email, Rockstar is also for the first time opening up a set of forums to gather feedback in a community driven discussion format. The community also shapes the game by using content creator, which will allow for the community to create new deathmatches and races for everyone to enjoy. Rockstar even plans to eventually expand the editor to heist creation.

New Content

Expanding on the wealth of content already available, Rockstar plans to add free downloadable content to GTAO. So far three packs have been announced that are to be released soon after launch:

  • The Beach Bum Pack - 4 new vehicles, 300 new clothing items and 2 new weapons.
  • Capture the Flag - Includes the ability to make your own.
  • Heists - Pair up and receive that huge pay day you've always wanted.

Character Creation

Character creation in GTAOnline is much deeper than in any Rockstar game before it. Instead of just selecting from a few predetermined models, you actually pick what your mother and father looked like. From there, you fine-tune your character's look with a number of other statistics such as how much sleep you get and even how much illegal work you perform. There are more elements than just those that go into your character creation, however we'll let the rest be a surprise.

Connection and Smoothness

We were playing within a LAN so we cannot accurately attest to how well the game handles high latency; however the game certainly felt more responsive compared to Grand Theft Auto IV's multiplayer. While we were playing on a Xbox 360 development build of Grand Theft Auto V, the game still felt smooth with a very stable frame rate.

Starting Activities

The best way of describing how to start activities is the infusion of Grand Theft Auto IV, Midnight Club LA and Red Dead Redemption. To start missions during freeroam, there are different markers on the map where people in your session can gather to start missions, races and deathmatches -- just like in Red Dead Redemption. If someone in your session wants to start a game, you'll get a call out that you can accept via your phone that will automatically take you to the starting marker on the map if you accept -- a la Midnight Club LA. Not feeling up to exploring for an activity to do? No worries, you can have the game start a random mission, race or deathmatch via a simple selection in your phone.

Free Roam

Free roam is no longer just a dull gateway with nothing to do as it was in GTAIV: it is your hub to everything GTAOnline. Need some extra cash? Just hold up the nearest convenience store. Too much cash? Buy that first or second home you've always wanted. Need some extra ammo or some bigger fire power for that next activity? Head on over to the nearest Ammu-Nation. Bored of your clothing? Pick up some new threads at your nearest Ponsonbys. These are just some of the ways free roam is a critical part of GTAOnline.

Inventory

Your inventory is your gateway to managing money and quickly getting around the map. Simply hold the back (select) button to access it. From here, you can perform actions such as:

  • Put on a mask or other accessories.
  • Split the money from your previous heist or just send money you have in your pocket to another player near you.
  • Set way points to the nearest ATM, convenience store, clothes shop, Ammu-Nation or to a player in your session.
  • Enable passive mode for $100. This means that you'll be invulnerable from other players in the free roam session.

Houses

Most of what your houses can do has already been stated in previous previews. One thing that hasn't been entirely clear is how they work if multiple people in the same session own the same house. A Rockstar rep was able to clarify that if multiple people own the same house in the same session, you'll get a menu to choose which player to visit. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough time for me to get hands-on with houses in GTAOnline.

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Understandably, we were asked not to take pictures of the actual game or setups so we're unable to show you the exact view we had while playing GTAOnline. However, here are some pictures from the Rivington website that give you a pretty good idea how amazing the view was from inside the event.

Additionally, here are some more panoramic shots I took from the penthouse roof.

Day Three

On the last day Thomas and I decided that we should do some sightseeing before we had to leave for the airport. We first took a cab over to Times Square.

The next stop on our rushing trip was to Battery Park so we could see the Statue of Happiness Liberty -- albeit from a distance.

While we knew there wasn't even a slim chance of getting inside Rockstar's NYC HQ, we figured it was worth at least visiting since it was less than 15 minutes from our hotel. The place is very inconspicuous and you wouldn't even figure it was the home to Rockstar NYC unless you knew the address or spotted the occasional employee entering the building with a Rockstar t-shirt.

We still had some time on our hands and Thomas wanted to play some guitar in NYC, so we headed over to a shop simply called Guitar Center.

Conclusion

Grand Theft Auto Online is the product of Rockstar's last 5 years developing online games and is the most ambitious and epic yet. There is never a dull moment and never a lack of things to do or explore. GTAO doesn't stop at a simple one-off release. Throughout the event Rockstar made sure to convey that GTAO is very much a separate product from GTAV and that they have deep plans to continue to develop GTAO and to be more involved in taking feedback from the community to further develop the game. We were barely able to scratch the surface with what GTAO offers out of the box. Once GTAO releases, the talented GTA community is sure to develop even more missions, races and heists for all to enjoy. To put it simply -- come October 1st you're going to absolutely blown away at what Rockstar has in store for you.

Special Thanks

I'd like to thank all the talented folks at Rockstar for the awesome trip, all the hard work they've put into the game and for showing such love and dedication for their community. I essentially grew up playing Rockstar's games and it really is an honor to be selected for these trips. I also want to thank the team at Villain for managing the event and making sure we were all taken care of.

Other Fansites

We'll update this section with links to other fansites that post articles regarding the event as they are posted.

Questions

If you have any questions regarding Grand Theft Auto Online that you'd like answered, here's a few ways you can contact us:


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