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GTA Online Is Bigger Than Ever, Let’s Review it in 2020

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Rockstar never meant to support GTA Online for nearly a decade and counting. That was never the plan. Yet GTA Online continues to be updated, and oddly, now in 2020, it’s bigger than ever.

Grand Theft Auto Online launched as part of something else. It was the multiplayer mode attached to Grand Theft Auto V, a huge sequel that would go on to have one of the most successful entertainment launches in human history. Meanwhile, GTA Online would launch a few weeks later in a terrible state. Only a few months after its release players were calling it dead. Rockstar itself has since admitted that the launch was a disaster and it lost a lot of players forever due to bugs, server outages, and a lack of exciting updates.

But now, seven years removed from that awful launch, GTA Online is one of the most popular games in the world. It’s totally eclipsed the game it was originally a part of and will now do something few online games ever have: exist across seven platforms actively and simultaneously. Since release it has grown, changed, and evolved beyond the simple online sandbox it was back in 2013. That’s why, all these years later, I felt it was time to review GTA Online properly.

GTA Online starts with your created character flying into Los Santos. You peer out the window during a cutscene and look down on people racing streetcars and playing tennis. And while you can still do these things in today’s game, they’ve become dated relics of a different era, an era when GTA Online was more grounded, and focused on being serious and gritty. Real-life. Today, a more accurate intro would reflect these changes in content, perhaps having your plane glide over jet bikes, explosive RC cars, roving biker gangs, and huge floating ramps.

In fact, the entire intro and tutorial that starts GTA Online feels old and in need of updating.

You shoot some random gang members, steal back some drugs, race a few streetcars, and change your clothes. Again, these are all things you can still do in GTA Online, but it’s moved far beyond that, and soon your phone will blow up with text messages and phone calls from seven years’ worth of characters and factions.

Jumping into GTA Online today is extremely overwhelming. There are numerous people vying for your attention, different businesses to buy, things to upgrade, events to join, and heists to undertake. Some of these missions and events involve global corporations, the FBI, and powerful criminal kingpins. It is strange that when starting your new game as a nobody, low-level criminal, so many powerful people are falling over themselves to reach out to you. But in a way, it fits. GTA Online’s become a strange game, where you’ll end up owning multiple businesses, several military bases, and dozens of weaponized cars, yet will still be asked to help a random gang member sell a bit of weed. It’s a game where police officers still send cars and helicopters to stop players driving hover tanks and shooting lasers.

This mix of mundane and wild, of over the top and grounded and boring and crazy, is part of GTA Online’s charm. It’s become a giant buffet. And like any large buffet, parts of it feel like it’s only there because, well, it has to be. Nobody really wants those gross, hard little rolls, but if they weren’t there at least a few people would complain. GTA Online has a lot of this content. Nobody plays the parachuting missions in 2020. Nobody cares about boring deathmatches in 2020. Yet it is all part of the big, enormous GTA Online buffet. If Rockstar were ever to remove these older, less-wanted bits it would almost instantly receive complaints from angry gamers who hadn’t’ even touched those modes in years.

Over the years the GTA Online community’s acquired a bad reputation, and a lot of it is deserved. I’ve overheard an incredible number of racists, sexists, and dirtbags while playing this game over the years. So many of them are young boys who seem dedicated to being the shittiest people they can be. But I’ve also met cool folks. I’ve pulled off heists with people from all around the world. And the community is always finding new ways to impress and make me laugh. Some of the stunts people pull off are incredible, and the recent alien war is a great example of how the community can come together in positive ways.

Still, Rockstar isn’t doing enough to help keep this community healthy and positive. It is way too easy to harass other players, even without mods or cheats. And while Rockstar does ban players, many have complained to me about being harassed and targeted with no support or punishment from Rockstar. On Xbox 360 and PS3, GTA V and GTA Online have stopped receiving official updates, becoming lawless wastelands filled with powerful hackers and game-breaking mods. At this point, it makes sense to just shut it down on those older platforms and maybe, with the upcoming launch of new versions on PS5 and Xbox Series X, it will do just that.

Fan and community sentiment toward Rockstar has shifted a lot since GTA Online launched. At first, folks were excited about the future of an online Grand Theft Auto game. But while some are still happy, a growing number of fans feel Rockstar is squeezing them for every penny they have. Looking at the rise of in-game prices it isn’t hard to agree. Some recently-added clothing costs more than sports cars released during the first year. But payouts on missions and events haven’t really scaled upward as content’s become more expensive.

This leaves players with two options: Grind for more money to buy all the new toys or buy Shark Cards using real-world money to quickly fill their digital bank. This is the main point of tension between Rockstar and longtime players. Many players feel like Rockstar is making GTA Online more of a grind to earn more money. And the company recently added a casino, too. That only added more fuel to this fire as players could, in theory, use real-world money to buy Shark Cards, and use those to purchase in-game chips to gamble with, a situation so legally iffy the company had to shut off some of these features in countries with stricter gambling laws

In GTA Online’s defense, while prices on items have gone up, a vast majority of the content can be played freely or with very little in-game investment. For example, that new casino is free to enter, provides players with free chips every day, and has a prize wheel they can spin once a day at no cost. On the flip side, if you want to do the new casino heists and don’t have a rich in-game friend, you’ll be shelling out a not-insignificant amount of real-world cash to earn your way to that content. It’s this clash between offering free content and hiding some content behind small or large paywalls that has created a rift between Rockstar and its fans. And as each year passes without a new mainline GTA, and GTA Online updates continue to feature more and more expensive items, it seems this rift will only grow.

Whether you are an angry old player or a newbie jumping in for the first time, you’ll quickly discover that GTA Online’s narrative is a total mess in 2020. When the game launched, Rockstar explained that it was set before the events of GTA V, a game that itself is set around 2012. This all made sense. It worked. But over the years timelines have shifted, and this no longer seems to be the case. Characters will reference 2018 and new songs released after 2012 are now on GTA Online’s radio. Yet meanwhile, characters who died in GTA V, set in 2012, can still interact with your character while you’re busy doing missions supposedly set in 2018 or later.

But none of that really matters anymore. GTA Online has long abandoned the grounded world and narrative it launched with in favor of becoming a giant content platform, where both Rockstar and players can create and share wild game modes and maps. Huge floating race tracks with transforming vehicles and power-ups are some of the most popular things in GTA Online these days, with players creating and uploading their own versions using the in-game creator tools. These tools launched a few months after GTA Online went live, but didn’t become truly popular until the PS4 and Xbox One versions launched.

Now players can create new content for seven game modes and upload them for others to play and enjoy. And they can do all this with little to no involvement from Rockstar Games. The developers sometimes highlight creations they find exciting or fun, but by and large, the community runs and operates this huge chunk of the game themselves. Even if one-day Rockstar stops supporting GTA Online, it will continue to get new content from dedicated creators for years. In a way, Rockstar’s created a giant monster that it couldn’t really kill, even if it wanted to.

While GTA Online continues to grow and grow, both thanks to fans and Rockstar’s official updates, the world and game are starting to strain at the seams. Spending nearly a decade in the same map has started to make things feel… boring. The world feels static, and there’s only so many times I can drive from the desert to the city during a mission before I start to find myself wanting a change of scenery. And even as its file size grows, it’s starting to show its age. This is still, at its core, a 2012 Xbox 360 and PS3 game. While textures have improved and draw distances have increased, based on what Rockstar’s added, it seems there’s only so much it can do.

A lot of the new content uses the same basic gameplay mechanics and systems. New missions often feature old areas repurposed, and many races rely on similar track pieces and map chunks. I get the sense that Rockstar is unable to really shake up the world or game in a big way, lest it break everything in the process.

For example, the big and shiny new casino that was added last year is impressive, until you realize it is just an empty facade, with the new content hidden behind multiple, noticeably slow loading screens. It all feels creaky and old, like one-day Rockstar will add one too many cars to the game and the whole thing will collapse like a sandcastle.

In reality, It’s unlikely GTA Online will end in such an embarrassing and wild way, but that leads to the biggest question on my mind as I get ready to play this game on a whole new generation of consoles: How will GTA Online end? As much money as it makes, GTA Online might seem like it will go on forever, but that is just as unlikely as the whole thing collapsing under its own weight. So how and when will it end?

There is always the possibility that GTA Online will move forward with Grand Theft Auto VI. But that seems less likely today then it did back in 2015 or so. Today, GTA Online feels too old and rickety to be carried forward into a future GTA VI. When it does finally depart, I’ll miss GTA Online more than any other game, which is strange to think about. This is a game with a large and often shitty community, with tons of filler and boring content and server issues. But I love it. It’s this weird little world where I always have something to do and when it finally shuts down, I’ll miss it all.

Grand Theft Auto Online is a better game today than it was back in 2012, 2014, or even 2017. In 2020, Grand Theft Auto Online feels both like a dinosaur from a different era, but weirdly, also just as relevant as ever. It was one of the first “games-as-a-service” released all the way back in the last generation. Since its rocky launch, it has become one of the most successful games ever made, and yet no one’s really copied it. I think this is a testament to just how hard it is to make one of these always-online open-world games. The only true clone of GTA Online is Red Dead Online, another game being developed by Rockstar. It seems Rockstar might be the only studio willing, able, or crazy enough to try and make these things.

And I’m thankful for it making GTA Online. After 676 hours, I still enjoy logging in and playing with friends or just going around solo doing whatever I want to do that day. And it seems, based on Rockstar porting it to the new machines, that I’ll end up putting another 600 hours into this game before it’s all over. And that’s fine. I don’t mind at all. GTA Online is a great game and a world I love returning to, even when some 12-year old decides to blow me up.

Source: https://e-cryptonews.com/gta-online-is-bigger-than-ever-lets-review-it-in-2020/

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Venezuela May Soon Be Collecting Taxes in Crypto

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The Bolivarian Council of Mayors in Venezuela signed the so-called “National Tax Harmonization Agreement” for 305 municipalities in the country, including the Petro (PTR) as a means to collect payments of taxes and sanctions.

The cryptocurrency is becoming increasingly widely used as the result of a new campaign. 

According to the government, the vice president of Venezuela, Delcy Rodríguez, will be in charge of implementing a single registry of taxpayers through a digital consultation tool.

She will also be in charge of creating an information exchange and monitoring system for companies to record payments in the state cryptocurrency.

In Venezuela, there are 335 mayors, with 91% of them under the mandate of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, PSUV. Only 30 mayors are led by opponents of the regime of Nicolás Maduro. 

The non-Maduro-supported municipal governments are continuing to collect tax payments in the Venezuelan fiat currency, Bolívar, as some do not have the appropriate technology to process Petro payments.

Vice President Rodríguez commented in the announcement:

“It is the simplification of procedures, making the State’s administrative activity at the service of the people more efficient, of the economic sectors that stimulate economic activity in the productive and commercial areas, framed in this week of flexibility that began on Monday.”

The Venezuelan government announced on June 11 that almost 15% of all fuel payments at petrol stations across the country were made using the Petro (PTR). This rise comes during the first week of the new state-backed plan to promote widespread use of the token.

According to reports from local media outlets, 40% of the PTR transactions passed through the foreign petrol stations.

Source: https://cointelegraph.com/news/venezuela-may-soon-be-collecting-taxes-in-crypto

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Animoca Targets Non-Crypto Gamers by Developing Big Brand Games

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While investment is heating up in the blockchain gaming sector, a common criticism of crypto-powered games has been how to secure users from outside of the cryptocurrency space.

Blockchain gaming powerhouse, Animoca Brands, believes that acquiring mainstream games with loyal players and exposing them to the benefits of blockchain and distributed ledger technology (DLT) is the best way to attract new audiences into crypto.

Cointelegraph spoke to Yat Siu, the chief executive of Animoca Brands, to learn about his firm’s strategy for bridging the gap between the mainstream gaming and crypto worlds.

Animoca Brands has quickly emerged as a leading firm within the crypto gaming sector, securing a global licensing agreement with Formula 1 ahead of its F1 Delta Time release, and announcing a $3 million initial exchange offering (IEO) for its title The Sandbox on Binance’s launchpad last week.

Siu described The Sandbox as a prime example of how strategic acquisitions have allowed Animoca to capture non-crypto-native audiences and expose them to blockchain technologies.

“When we do acquisitions, we’re not buying companies that are necessarily blockchain-related,” Siu said. “When we acquired the company Excel, it was a traditional mobile game developer that had the Sandbox game that wasn’t yet fully on blockchain, although they had the vision to go there,” he continued.

“We’re not just acquiring a talented team that could make stuff on blockchain, but we are also acquiring customers that already play the game — and these are gamers that we can transfer over.“

A stake in a game’s success

Siu emphasized that Animoca’s seeks to acquire games that “already have a captive audience that is already generating revenue [and] already loving the product as it is.”

“By giving it the benefits of blockchain technology, those gamers will get an additional benefit that we think is very powerful,” he added.

Siu described blockchain as driving a disruption to the gaming industry akin to the emergence of online gaming, but with very different concepts around “ownership and value.”

“Ownership allows [gamers] to actually have a stake in the success of the game.”

Source: https://cointelegraph.com/news/animoca-targets-non-crypto-gamers-by-developing-big-brand-games

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Flipstarter Campaign Launched to Create Viral BCH Videos for Normies

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Bitcoin Cash (BCH) advocate and CEO of BitcoinBCH.com, Hayden Otto, has launched a fundraising campaign to create viral videos promoting BCH to mainstream audiences — after failing to win over crypto converts to the cause.

The last video produced by Otto garnered more than 100,000 views across various social platforms. He was also behind a controversial viral video last year showing a Bitcoin double spending exploit of the Binance-backed TravelbyBit payment network

The campaign aims to raise 650 BCH (nearly $180,000) and has garnered 192.52 BCH (roughly $53,000) in donations already in the first 48 hours.

The campaign is hosted on Flipstarter, a BCH-powered fundraising platform that has facilitated more than 2,900 BCH worth of contributions toward various initiatives in support of  Bitcoin Cash development.

The funds will be used to create videos with a budget of either $5,000 or $10,000 each to be posted to Youtube, Lbry.io, and Bitchute, alongside other “alternative streaming sites.” 

Fund marketing, not development

Otto told Cointelegraph he decided to start the campaign after noting several BCH supporters “saying that they would prefer to donate to Bitcoin Cash marketing rather than development.”

Otto has spearheaded numerous marketing initiatives for BCH over the past three years, including “producing video content for online audiences, […] running meetups, or putting up signs/billboards.”

Otto asserted that financial support from the community would allow him to “supercharge” his promotional efforts. 

BitcoinBCH.com’s fleet of promotional vehicles

BitcoinBCH.com’s fleet of promotional vehicles

Otto emphasized the importance of exposing non-crypto-native audiences to Bitcoin Cash, telling Cointelegraph: “One mistake Bitcoin Cash supporters have made is that they have attempted to convert people to Bitcoin Cash that are already involved in cryptocurrency and ingrained in their beliefs.”

“There has been some success with getting this type of person on board […], but the target audience is too small,” he said.

Otto added that many “people who are already involved in crypto […] are price speculators” who desire “to make a quick buck on hype and things that’ll never achieve any real-world adoption.”

“It is far more effective to target individuals and businesses who have not yet experienced cryptocurrency, which is like 99% of the people on the planet.”

The Bitcoin Cash community partnered with rapper Lil Windex to release a music video and single title Bitcoin Ca$h in 2018. The video has more than 1.5 million views on YouTube.

Source: https://cointelegraph.com/news/flipstarter-campaign-launched-to-create-viral-bch-videos-for-normies

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