Next-Gen has an article up today seven pages long about the making of GTA IV. It may come as something of a shock to most fellow gamers that know me that I dig the GTA games. But really, think about my other gaming habit: MMOs. There's not much difference between the two. Both offer massive worlds to inhabit and tons of content to explore. One just does it online while the other does it offline.
Anyway, even if you're not a huge fan of the series (I once wasn't), do yourself a favor and check out that feature. If it doesn't necessarily make you excited for the release of the game, it will give you the warm and fuzzies about the places developers are starting to take us as gamers. Last year we had Mass Effect, Assassin's Creed, and even to a lesser extent Halo 3, but mainly Bioshock leading the charge for how a narrative can be displayed in a game. But from all reports, it's GTA IV that will outdo them all.
And the more I think about it, the more I start to itch for the GTA formula to make it into our MMOGs. I wonder how long it will be before we can traipse about some High or Low Fantasy setting the way we plod along the streets of Liberty City. I wonder how long it will take before the UI of MMOs is cleaned up and streamlined and instead of watching meters and bars and numbers all the time, we're watching how our characters react to situations and doing our best to stay behind our shields or behind some form of cover, ducking out only to let loose an arrow.
I wonder how long it will be before the NPCs in our online spaces are just as alive and active as those found in Rockstar's latest game. When will the Dwarf in the Inn get pissed at us for standing on tables and throw an iron flagon at our heads? When will the consequences for killing a kobold's nearby companion do more than add experience to our little bar?
I look at games like GTA and I say to myself, "Man... this would be fantastic in an MMOG." It doesn't have to be an urban sprawl. It doesn't have to be about crime, and drugs, and gangs, and sex. But when will the worlds we inhabit in an online space act more like the worlds we're seeing built in an offline space? Obviously, we may be a few years away yet. But now, more than ever, with the rise of this particular genre we're so very close to making an online world more like the real world, and less like a graphically enhanced spreadsheet.
I can't wait.