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Consider, for a moment, Grand Theft Auto VI.
At the time of writing, not a single soul outside of Rockstar Games has any idea what to expect from the long-awaited sequel to 2013's Grand Theft Auto V. There have been rumours, certainly, some of them seemingly more believable than others... but the amount of things we know with 100% certainty about Rockstar's upcoming title could be written on the side of a 1p coin.
It's precisely because of this complete radio silence from Rockstar on GTA VI over the better part of a decade that fan expectations have blown up to ridiculous proportions, far beyond even the likes of Cyberpunk 2077 or No Man's Sky.
I'm not saying Rockstar is wrong to not have shared anything about the game, by the way. The most likely scenario is that GTA VI is still years away and there's nothing to share. But gamers abhor a vacuum, and the last eight years without GTA VI news have been filled by wishes and rumours and speculation. The upshot of this is that we've long since reached the point where there are plenty of gamers around the world who now have their own dream version of the game in their heads. How are they going to react when GTA VI is finally shown off and isn't exactly what they'd pictured? I can't imagine they'll take too kindly to such a rude awakening.
Just taking a look at the GTA VI subreddit on any given day gives you a glimpse at what some fans are expecting. While it's important to note that a lot of these discussions are excited fans sharing their own hopes and dreams, there is always a minority for whom these discussions can boil over into genuine expectation. Let's take a look at just a few of the topics that tend to appear.
Following rumours that Battlefield 6 will feature fully destructible environments, there are fans out there who'd love to see Rockstar's next-gen open-world follow suit. As awesome as it would be to engage in an open-world environment in which we can blow every street, car, and building to kingdom come, this is almost certainly not going to happen. Supporting destructible environments across large scale maps in a game like Battlefield 6 would be challenging enough, but to implement that across an entire open world city? Well, we all remember Crackdown 3. Probably not actually, although I guess that's the point I'm trying to make.
It's fair to say that even the most optimistic GTA VI fans aren't entirely convinced by this one. With that said, it's not impossible we could see some form of dynamic world.
I've seen a fair share of requests for a truly dynamic environment that's constantly changing and evolving. One recent post suggested that things like roadworks and under construction buildings would grow and change over time, which is admittedly a really neat idea that'd breathe plenty of life into the open world.
This is arguably a little more feasible, especially since we've kinda sorta seen Rockstar do this with GTA Online. Frequent updates have opened up new areas over time, like the Diamond Casino & Resort, as well as the Cayo Perica island. We've also seen patents in the last few months that hint Rockstar intends to try and make the NPCs of GTA VI much smarter and more lifelike than their predecessors... though I'd argue GTA V NPCs were pretty much spot on as they were.
Early reports on GTA VI development did imply that Rockstarwill launch a smaller, denser map and gradually update it over time, but the idea of a dynamic world once again calls for an expectation check from some fans. To Rockstar this could simply mean the occasional update that expands on the world. To some fans, it means hugely ambitious things like police investigating crimes whether or not the player is present, and citizens going about their daily lives with unique schedules. I firmly believe the game's world and characters will blow us away, but perhaps not quite to the extent some fans are hoping for.
We've all seen at least one of these at one point over the last seven years. Reddit is often filled with great pieces of concept art put together by fans who dare to dream of a massive open world that combines the likes of Vice City, Liberty City, and Los Santos to form the most ambitious-looking map ever seen in a video game. People absolutely lose their minds at the idea of seeing all of these iconic video game locations in one game, but is that really the best thing for GTA VI?
Bigger maps don't always mean better games, especially in a world where it is possible for developers to create vast swathes of land and sea that can be travelled between seamlessly. I love Assassin's Creed Odyssey, but I'm not sure I'll ever finish the damn thing - and it's been years. The world is too big, and the activities scattered across it aren't varied enough to keep me interested.
If there's any developer who could fill a ridiculously massive world with content worth seeing, it's probably Rockstar, but try and remember the developers who would have to not only put this world together, but make sure every corner of it was up to the studio's infamously high standards.
We all remember the reports of crunch during development on Red Dead Redemption 2. The rumours that GTA VI will launch with a smaller map that gets updated are said to be part of a direct effort to make sure that level of crunch doesn't happen again. I don't know about you, but I'd rather play with a smaller map that gets bigger and more interesting over time if it meant the people making the game stayed happy and healthy. In other words, dial your expectations for some kind of uber map way down.
There's not much I have to say about this one, really. By far one of the most practical requests from fans is a GTA game that doesn't take nearly ten minutes to load up. Given the ultra-fast SSDs in the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, we'd certainly hope that we see some significant improvements to loading times. Of course if Rockstar pushes the next-gen tech to its absolute limits, as it so often does, there's a chance we could still have time to go and make a brew while GTA VI gets going. Even so, this is an absolutely realistic expectation to hold.
Despite some of the truly unbelievable expectations people have for GTA VI, there's one sentiment that seems to shine through: take your time, and the game will be ready when it's ready. Much of this seems to have been in response to Cyberpunk 2077 being dragged out of the oven while it was still frozen in the middle, a dire situation that CD Projekt RED is still attempting to recover from.
Still, as awful as that whole mess was, it'd sure be great if we could all learn from it as a reason to allow extra time for development while still tempering expectations to reasonable degrees. GTA VI is going to be a special game, Rockstar has given us little reason to doubt what it can do after these years. Even so, it's important to remember where the line is between realistic expectations and over-the-top ambition that would completely flatten to poor sods working on it.
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