Monday, July 07, 2014

Building A Better GTA Job

I spent my 4th of July weekend doing what everyone red-blooded U.S. American would do. Sit on my ass and play video games. There were other things accomplished as well, some crafting - mostly chores, but Friday was decompress day because has been a b and a half lately. So my friends and I opted to spend the day playing Grand Theft Auto V online, where Rockstar held a weekend event in honor of the 4th of July, full of limited edition weapons, clothing, vehicles, and special jobs.

It also gave me a chance to finally look into the Creator mode for GTA Online. For those who don't know, Creator allows you to make races, Death Match, and Collect modes while using the pre existing Los Santos map. It has given a number of people a license to immense amount of creativity, if you have the patience for it. I'm amazed at the number of things people have been able to create without breaking the GTA rules of logic and gravity. I still don't know how some designers were able to take objects and suspend them in air without breaking the game. There are a number of solid concepts that have been published so far, and have earned Rockstar verifications to make them permanent additions to GTA Online.

Which brings me to the point of this article: some of those jobs really sucks. And not just a little, but a lot. The Creator, as great of a tool for creativity it can be, is also an interesting experiment into the minds of gamers. In that, for as much as some of them complain and get cranky about games ("I can totally make a better game then that"), they sure as hell don't know how to put one together. To make a seemingly easy race course can take a minimum of an hour to build and test (because unlike Little Big Planet or other level designing tools, GTA Online requires you to play through your mission before it can be published online). You need to check for any errors with how you have set up your check-points, or if where you scattered weapons and boosts deters from the challenge of the race. And I have learned from LBP that most people are not meant to create game levels. So if you are one of those people who is interested in making missions for GTA Online, here are 5 tips to ensure you get a great map, lots of plays, and few negative remarks from other gamers.

1 - Just because you can do it, doesn't mean you should.

I know it's cool to make ramps, jumps, and cargo containers float in the air, but that doesn't make for a better race/death match/pick-up. It does the opposite of your intent: you go from "oh this is cool" to "this is frustrating" in less then 10 seconds when people can't make it to the first checkpoint after 5 minutes, and forcing them to quit and not provide you with a rating. Create a job that people CAN FINISH. If you are unable to complete your own creation without failing hundreds of times, you need to go back to the drawing board and start over.

(Tip: If you are looking for jobs online to add to your game, make sure to check their stats. Jobs will list the Positive, Negative, and # of Plays. If the # of Plays is 2-5 times larger then the Positive and Negative ticks, steer clear. It means the map was not made well and people have been unable to finish it.)

2 - Test your map until you are so sick of testing, that you need to test some more.

GTA Online isn't perfect. There are still glitches from time to time, the newest one being that when you "win" a Job, sometimes your character's hair and hat disappear and you're left with this weird, brown smudge on your head. Inevitably if you do choose to go through the route of making your job "flashy" you'll run into bugs. One that I experienced several times are with the over sized ramps for larger jumps. This is done by joining and stacking the ramps together. In doing so, invisible barriers will form between each piece that can cause the player to crash or come to a halt while at full speed. This can be fixed by adjusting the ramps, but some people opt to ignore the issue and post a dis-functioning job. You don't want a job that people will dislike because of fixable glitches, so test your stuff.

(Tip: If you are in one of those races with the large ass ramps, don't go down the center of the ramp. You're more likely to hit the invisible wall. Instead, stick to the outer edges.)

3 - Pimp Yourself Out if you want to get "Likes."

Just like anything in this world, if you want to be recognized, you need to share your job everywhere. IGN. GameFAQs. Wherever there is an audience spreading GTA5 Online Jobs, you need to go there and promote the crap out of your map. Join larger crews to get plays. You may even have to spend days spamming your map and getting random players to join in to play and rate it. You'll be sick of your map by that point, but if you want Rockstar to verify and make your map official, this is really the only way. And even then, it's not guaranteed. Friends and Crew can go a long way here.

4 - Be smart with your title, tags, and description.

"Weeeeee!" is not the way to win an audience. It's GTA. You can be funny and clever with your work, and it's encouraged. Make the title of your Job unique, but still within PG-13 guidelines. The description should explain exactly what the job is about, but without giving away too many details. And tags need to represent the Job. If your Job is not a race, don't tag it as such. If the Job has no gas tanks, then don't use that. Make your tags searchable, but not a false account of what is going on in the game.

5 - K.I.S.S.

Keep it simple, stupid. Don't embellish your death match with unnecessary objects that people will never use (why put down a golf club when people will go for the rail gun next to it?). Sometimes the best maps are the simplest in design. When you over think what you want to create, you loose the original intent of the design. And simpler does not mean easier. It means you have to take even more time to ensure every nook, cranny, and bug has been fixed so that it's as close to perfect for gamers as it can be. Because it seems easier, people are more likely to comment and poke at every little issue. Job's in GTA Online don't need to be grand affairs. Sometimes the simplest challenge will speak volumes over the sky jumps of doom.

Are these methods sure-fire ways of ensuring your content is seen by everyone? Of course not. Nothing is. Ultimately it's going down to you, promoting your custom created Job, and bribing friends and family in GTA to do the same. But the tips will help you along the way. People won't promote crappy maps, no matter how close of a friend they are. It's as simple as that.


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