GTA IV Grab Bag #1

Here’s a first in a series of regular updates on the just-released and much-awaited Grand Theft Auto IV

A Hint for Those of You Who Can’t Speak Niko’s Language

In some of the dialogue between Niko and Roman, they switch between English and (I’m assuming here) Serbian. The bits in Serbian are asides that aren’t crucial to the story and can be inferred from context, but if you really want to feel like Niko, you’d like to know what they’re saying, right?

The solution is simple: just turn on subtitles (you can do this from the Game menu). When they speak in Serbian, the English translation will appear in grey text.

Another 10 Minutes of Gameplay

For those of you who haven’t yet had a chance to try out GTA IV, here’s another video showing the next 10 minutes of gameplay (the video showing the first ten minutes is here), featuring:

  • A little exploration of Roman’s apartment,
  • a carjacking (which isn’t as easy as it used to be),
  • exploring the hood,
  • abusing a sportscar until it explodes (with Niko in it),
  • respawning outside a hospital,
  • noodling with Niko’s appearance,
  • and fun in multiplayer mode (including a rocket launcher mishap and gunning foos down with a pistol and fully-automatic weaponry).

An Observation from GameSpy

Here’s something from Fargo’s Thought for the Day, which is included in GameSpy Daily, an email newsletter from GameSpy:

Thoughts on Sandbox Games

Since around the time that Grand Theft Auto 3 and The Sims came out, the phrase “sandbox game” or “open world” has seeped into gaming literature and even into marketing speak. It kinda drives me nuts, because a “sandbox” in and of itself isn’t very fun. It’s easy to screw it up.

Ask any game designer and they’ll tell you: if you put a person in an open world, where they can do anything they want, they spend a few minutes testing the limits and then he or she will get bored. The real trick to these games is to provide a lot of directed gameplay even if people don’t realize it. The object of an open world is to let the player set his or her own agenda, and then to provide tons of cool gameplay once they decide what to do. Sims 2 is a great example: you can do whatever you want, but no matter what decisions you make for your characters, you’ll always run across interesting mini-games or tough decisions to make in order to accomplish your goal.

Of course the Grand Theft Auto games have an overall story that you can work through via a series of directed missions, but even when you go “off the rails” and start freestyling in the sandbox world, you’re never far from the guiding hand of a designer encouraging you to collect something, discover something, set a new record, kick off a minigame, etc. Few design teams can do an open world right — but when they get it right, the experience is spectacular.