News Article

Opinion: Isn't It Time That We Put a Stop to Grand Theft Auto Online-Esque Debacles?

Posted by Sammy Barker

Teething troubles

Grand Theft Auto Online is broken. It’s hardly the most startling revelation of the year, as anyone with a lick of common sense predicted that Rockstar’s servers would crash faster than a towed penthouse the moment that the hotly anticipated multiplayer component launched. But with this kind of issue becoming more and more common, isn’t it time that mega publishers started thinking ahead before deploying their wares in an unplayable state?

The publisher was certainly on time with the title’s all-important patch. It promised that the update would launch at 07:00AM EST/12:00PM BST, and we were able to pull down the required file mere minutes after that. All seemed to work well at first: we jumped into the clunky but clever character creation screen swiftly, and embarked upon constructing the gaming equivalent of Frankenstein’s bride straight away. But then, inevitably, it all fell apart.

And the biggest issue with today’s irritating drama is the predictability of it all. No one really expected the online component to work, so it’s less surprising than the sun setting that several hours after the feature’s launch we’ve still been unable to load the mode’s first job. It’s not for the want of trying – we’ve watched our hideous character automatically strut into the centre of an illuminated circle about 25 times – but still we get a crash every single time.

We understand that creating games with heavy server-based components is hard, and we daresay that there’s a sleepy team of engineers frantically fiddling with switches and cables as we type – but it’s just not good enough. Rockstar knew that the demand would be high, and even had an additional two weeks to prepare for the multiplayer mode’s launch. It was quick enough to brag about the title’s income days after the game’s release, so it clearly had a rough idea of the number of copies that it had sold. It doesn’t seem outrageous to suggest that it should have had server capacity in place to cope with the majority of those games.

Instead, the network has completely buckled, and the company’s failed to give any indication of when the issues will be resolved. “For those trying to get into Grand Theft Auto Online today,” the firm Tweeted, “please bear with us on some day one connection issues that we’re working to stabilise as soon as possible.” How long before those “day one” connection issues become “week one” connection issues?

Of course, these problems will be familiar to anyone that’s attempted to play a high-profile online game over the past couple of years. While there are more extreme cases than others, the likes of Diablo III and SimCity all suffered similar hiccups on the PC. Again, the issue was blamed on unprecedented demand, but these companies employ incredibly intelligent people to predict how well their games are going to perform. We refuse to believe that they lack the data to plan for a smooth launch.

We guess that it’s hard to stress test capacity until a product actually deploys, but perhaps publishers should start thinking of ways to stagger their major online launches in order to ensure that everyone is able to obtain an enjoyable experience. Why not incentivise pre-orders by allowing those that register their interest early to get first access to the mode? It might irritate some, but it can’t be as infuriating as sitting staring at an error screen for hours on end.

We hope that Sony’s keeping a close-eye on today’s backlash, because we suspect that we’ll be revisiting this issue later in the year. The platform holder’s promised plenty of amazing features for the PlayStation 4, but it’ll be interesting to see if it can deliver on them all at once. The next generation system’s launch date will bring hundreds of thousands of users, all tapping the vaunted share button at the same time. Will the historically flaky PlayStation Network survive the onslaught of asinine gameplay footage? Much like Grand Theft Auto Online, we suspect that there’ll be smoke clouds gathering over the Japanese giant’s server farm.

We daresay that there are engineer’s shaking their fists at this article as we type – and we do genuinely empathise. But we wouldn’t be impressed if our brand new car ceased operating as soon as we added a couple of passengers, and the same applies to games. We sympathise with those working around the clock to get Rockstar’s intriguing multiplayer component online – but we can’t help but feel that there must be a better solution for all involved.

Have you had a frustrating day trying to access Grand Theft Auto Online? Has it soured you on the experience, or are you willing to try again with a calmer outlook tomorrow? Let us know in the comments section below.

Have you managed to play Grand Theft Auto Online yet? (32 votes)

I've only got as far as the character creation screen


I've managed to watch the intro, but nothing else


I don't know what the fuss is about, it's working fine


I don't even own the game, so this doesn't affect me


Please login to vote in this poll.

Game Screenshots

User Comments (23)



Tasuki said:

I can wait. Having played MMOs for years I figured I wouldn't be able to play this the first day. I understand everyone's frustration but just let it go and do something else in the meantime and try again later thats all you can do.



ShogunRok said:

I can wait (Dragon's Crown, ahhhhhhh!) but it's still a shambles. Yes, the number of users is hilariously gigantic, yes Rockstar stated that there would be trouble - but that doesn't excuse the fact that it still happened. This is a product and people expect it to work - as they should. It's as simple as that.

Realistically, this really has to stop. Like what was mentioned in the article, some way of staggering access might help, or perhaps we just don't have good enough technology yet to keep up with our ambitions.

What's next? I bet PSN has some horrendous issues when the PS4 launches, even if there's a gap between US and EU release dates. I bet upcoming big hits like Destiny will launch to a slew of issues, too. It's terrible that this is now just something that we expect - it really has to stop one way or another.



Bliquid said:

Actually, Valve had a great idea with Dota 2.
Basically put ppl access to game in a queue while they fine tuned the servers.
I had to wait something like 3 days, but knowing exactly my rank.
It felt less uncertain, and put my heart at ease.



get2sammyb said:

@ShogunRok I think, for me, the worst thing about it is that everyone knew this was going to happen. You look around the web there's a kind of a resigned, "Well of course it's broken." It shouldn't be that way...



rjejr said:

To much anticipation, these things just shouldn't be announced.

I know that sounds crazy, but if they just turn it on people will find out soon enough, but at least it will be a little while before it's full everybody, people will be at work and school or sleeping if you turn it on at say 3AM in any given location.

Just give a month, and launch in that month.

Nintendo had a huge (by Nintendo standards) 648MB update last night. It started to DL at about 8PM eastern but Nintendo didn't send out the notification until today. I'm gad I got it done last night by accident, and it only took 30 minutes. Had they announced that time, with their infrastructure, it probably would have taken 2 hours, even w/ the limited Wii U install base.



rjejr said:

Oh, and the Beyond 2 souls demo is up in the US. Lets see how those servers hold up



Jaz007 said:

Yeah, most major games seem to have server problems at launch. It really is getting kind of ridiculous, you would think by now somebody in the meeting room would stand up and say, "Look at the server problems that plague the launch of all major games, we need to prepare and make sure this doesn't happen with our game so we won't be on the news reports for having a broken and unplayable game (or mode) at launch."



Shellybird27 said:

i figured it wouldn't work no big deal, i can wait, it was inevitable t would crash, not Rockstar's fault



MadchesterManc said:

I find it amusing when people defend Rockstar over this. When you factor in that some of the userbase wont't be trying the online portion yet due to anticipated problems (lower user count trying to access the servers), Rockstar made $1+ billion in a few days yet haven't obviously funded a good enough server farm, Rockstar could easily anticipate this due to sale counts yet have sat back and done nothing. Im suprised there's no login que though. PC MMO's have been doing it for years to deal with surges in user counts, hell DCUO on Ps3 uses one. The likes of other big games like FIFA & CoD no doubt have issues at launch too, but at least they still work online. Yes, you can play those games online at launch even with matchmaking issues due to server load. Im actually suprised it deosn't work at all. GTA5 launched a couple of weeks ago so Rockstar have had time to get the online portion ready to go but have obviously spent the time counting their $'s instead. No doubt the Rockstar apologists will wade in soon but the knock on effect of this is that, with how Rockstar are respected in the industry, if such a big publisher/developer is going to sit back at launch knowing the online is going to fail, why should any other publishers give a damn?



get2sammyb said:

@Savino Yeah, that's pretty much as far as I've got, too. Have tried multiple different options — solo, crew only, private, etc — but it just won't boot.



Tasuki said:

@MadchesterManc: I find it amusing when people get upset when they dont know whats exactly going on and claim that its because Rockstar is too busy counting their money.

Yeah PC MMOs have been doing online games for years but has Rockstar? No. Did they gradually start out when the online community was small like Blizzard, Sony did? No. So give them a break we are not sure what happened remember online gaming is fairly new still and vastly unexplored. You never know what is going to go wrong. And this sort of thing even plagues the big boys at Blizzard and EA just look at Diablo III and Sim City for example.



Lopezdm said:

I have just come to expect that online games have these issues early on. There is no getting around it and Rockstar is working on it so any complaining is just a waste of time. You are not missing anything by waiting.



-CraZed- said:

@Lopezdm Which is why these types of day one issues won't be going away anytime soon. If people put more pressure (not threats or trolling) on the devs for things like this perhaps these issues would be a thing of the past or at least much less frequent.
I don't think it is something people should base their lives around but come on, just resigning ourselves to these types of launch day disasters is one reason they won't be going away any time soon...



Lopezdm said:

@-CraZed- Online launches have unforseen issues. So when you find someone that can see the future make sure they fill out a rockstar application.



MadchesterManc said:

@Tasuki Have Not everyone will share the same opinion as you that Rockstar should be given some leeway when to be honest, they've had more than enough money & a couple of weeks time since GTA5 launched to ensure at least some playability for their fanbase at launch and avoid an obvious server overload. Im not arguing that the game should be playable by all at this moment and that it shouldn't have happened, but Id hazard a bet that Rockstar KNEW the demand would be high on their servers at launch and just left it be in the hope it would cope. A simple login-que to ease congestion with a gradual increase in player counts would have been ideal given the games popularity and ensure some playability. Was it due to lack of foresight by Rockstar that it happened? or maybe even arrogance!? Who knows. But it couldve been avoided quite easily using a few methods that have been around in online gaming for over a decade which most publishers still fail to utilise today lol I don't own the game and have no interest in it, so this is just my opinion on the situation as an observer looking in.

@Lopezdm The issue here though is that Rockstar have had 2 weeks of market data since GTA5 launched to anticipate a fairly accurate launch day player count and have, more than likely, failed to generate an adequate server farm to cope. There is no way for other publishers to know this when their servers go live just before the game launches and so have to guesstimate on how their servers will cope on day 1 based on projected sales.



odd69 said:

You know i didnt even update to 1.01. Not interested in GTA online anyway



NathanUC said:

Same issues were around with FFXIV ARR at launch as well.. and people were PAYING for it haha.

It got better after a couple of weeks. When you have a really really good/popular new online game, servers take time to adjust. This has been the case since the beginning of time for MMOs and something as big as GTA Online will surely experience the same wrath.



Tony_342 said:

There's no option in the poll for "I have the game, but have absolutely no interest in online multiplayer, therefore I haven't even tried it, nor will I ever." So, I can't vote in this particular poll.

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