Grand Theft Auto V - (John Walker)

Hello friendly people! Welcome to the always-lovely, always-cheerful soft-play-of-fun-and-hyphens that is Steam Charts!

Today we’re going to laugh together, learn together, and maybe, just maybe, if we’re lucky, laugh and learn a little. Please, pull up a trouser, take a seat (take as many seats as you need – we have too many seats), and prepare to enjoy, laugh, and maybe even learn.


Grand Theft Auto V

As Paul and I make our way through Sandy Shores towards the Alamo Sea, I can't shake the thought of Michael's burning corpse. I picture him terrified, trapped and tethered by his seatbelt, the undead mindlessly clawing at the stationary SUV's windows, his backwards maroon cap melting with the car interior around him. 

"There were too many of them," I tell Paul in an attempt to both reassure him and appease my conscience. In my head, I relive the fire, the smoke, Michael's futile screams. "It was him or us. And I sure as hell wasn't meeting my maker by one of those monsters." 

The rain falls heavily as we start our swim towards Grapeseed. I've never seen San Andreas so sparsely populated, which is grossly unsettling in itself. Then again, with one less mouth to feed, we might just make it out alive. Get to the air drop, then the safe zone and we're grand. 

I'm not proud of myself. I mean, my record in Los Santos, city of crime, indulgence and debauchery isn't exactly clean to this point, but I feel like I've really pushed the envelope this time. The world has gone to shit, mercenaries run the streets, the undead stalk the sidewalks… and I'm still the biggest monster in San Andreas.

Housed within Grand Theft Auto 5's community modification FiveM, RottenV is an in-development online server that turns the game's otherwise bustling metropolis into a lawless zombie apocalypse. Members fight to survive the bloodthirsty NPC hordes, and communicate with other human players via voice chat in a world scant in resources and rife with disease. 

Those familiar with GTA Online will know mods are a big no-no in its vanilla state, and getting caught using them can result in a permanent ban. FiveM, for those unaware, isn't officially affiliated with Rockstar's enduring crime simulator, but is ostensibly an online mod for GTA 5, that uses the base game solely to verify ownership. 

Having surpassed 50,000 concurrent users in May—against Steam's peak of 108,557 for GTA 5 in the same month—the increasingly popular FiveM plays host to a range of servers, including a number of roleplay maps and quirky modded offshoots. RottenV straddles both camps, and, for my money, is one of the most entertaining roleplay playgrounds the Grand Theft Auto 5 RP scene has to offer.

During my previous GTA 5 roleplay adventures, I've uncovered some cracking stories—some thrilling, some twisted, some funny and some that are difficult to categorise. From experience, roleplaying in Rockstar's crime sim can be immensely satisfying, but with such a vast open world to explore, filled to the brim with activities, jobs and distractions, engineering wholesome RP tales isn't always easy. 

One thing I love about RottenV, then, is the structure it forces onto each session. You start off by parachuting into the map, similar to modern battle royale games, and then make your way to centralised 'safezone' hubs, which offer refuge, water, food, weapon and item upgrades, as well as missions and quests. The base game's ambient traffic, civilian and emergency services background audio is switched off throughout, the weather is normally terrible, and the only bodies found wandering San Andreas are up to 32 human players and NPC zombies. 

After landing on the beach, I wonder at RottenV's familiar but isolated setting, and struggle to get to grips with its unfamiliar format. Zombies stalk me from Vespucci to La Puerta as I make my way to the Legion Square meeting point, and I quickly learn that, like many a zombie movie, these blighters won't go down unless they're struck or shot in the head.   

Once at Legion, I strike up a conversation with a young Russian fellow named Michael, who describes himself as a veteran of the apocalypse. As a newbie to this whole end-of-the-world thing, I decide to follow his lead and set about clearing the immediate vicinity of roaming zombies by his order. 

I grab a baseball bat and, like Negan from The Walking Dead, start battering the blundering undead upside the head. Michael fights by my side and before long, we're flanked by an English chap named Paul, and a Scotsman named Craig—and the latter nominates himself to take on a swell of baddies that have gathered at the far side of the square, so long as the rest of us can provide cover from above. 

Equipped with sniper rifles, Michael, Paul and myself duly climb the apartment block to the west and follow Craig's path. He kills one, two, three zombies, before being floored by a fourth. 

"I got this," says Michael, before icing his target with meticulous precision. Paul cheers, but as Craig makes his way back, I notice something is off. He looks light on his feet, his face has changed, his arms are limp. 

"He's infected!" cries Michael. "That last one must have got him. But don't worry we've got plenty of antibiotics at the base, let's help him out." 

I pause. Don't get me wrong, Craig seems alright, Scottish and all (Editor's note: Joe is Scottish), but if zombie films and telly shows have taught me nothing else, letting this guy back into HQ in this state is not a good idea. This isn't Shaun of the Dead. We can't chain him up and keep him as a pet.  

"F*ck that," I reply. BANG! One between the eyes. See you later, Craig.  

Michael is not happy. Like, really not happy. That's not how things work here, I'm told. What if that'd been you out there, I'm asked. He would have been fine, I'm advised. If this were a Telltale game, the whole charade would have a ‘Michael will remember this' header attached at the top of the screen, I'm sure of it.

In order to make peace, I volunteer for the next run and insist on going solo. In honour of Craig, I knock it out of the park.    

By the time I get back, Paul and Michael are preparing to head north to collect the airdrop that's landed in Grapeseed, just next to Mount Chiliad. I agree to go, and board the base's shared off-road truck alongside the guys. On Michael's advice, we travel down the map's most eastward freeway, US Route 15, because he reckons we'll have a clearer view of encroaching monsters on that stretch. 

Sure enough, we soon hit a quarantine roadblock—models and assets purpose-built for this server—and get caught off-guard by a swarm of roving undead. Still determined to get on Michael's good side, I opt to make a dash for the Norinco Type 56-2 assault rifle that's up the hill to our right (in RottenV, item and weapon drops glow white), and ask that Paul provide cover. He obliges, and it's only when we approach the weapon that I fully-appreciate the extent of the horde. 

"We're not making it back, are we?" asks Paul rhetorically. He catches on fast, this one. I grab the gun, turn, and rain down on the truck below. Michael bursts into a tidal wave of profanity, and I can hear him furiously clicking his mouse and bashing his keyboard in real life at his end. In his fit of anger, I realise he's forgotten to unbuckle his seat belt (by pressing B) and is trapped. 

Eventually, the truck explodes and the flames wipe out more than half of the enemy crowd. That was the plan. Paul and I pair off and start picking off the rest, before traipsing inland towards the curve of the Alamo Sea. Michael is gone, but I assure Paul this is how it had to be. 

The sun is up by the time we enter the water, and it's not long before we face another setback.

Paul, God rest him, must have gotten infected during that melee on the hill. Putting him out of his misery was the only thing for it, and, for better or worse, I'm a lone nomad once again. 

By the time I make it to the Paleto Bay safezone I'm shattered. I've not encountered a single soul since dispatching poor zombie Paul, floating at the bottom of the Alamo, so I decide to make my way down the Great Ocean Highway in search of supplies and civilians. 

I spot a zombie, giving me the stink eye. What the hell is it looking at? By this point, I find myself talking aloud to no one in particular, the isolation making my squirrelly. But, seriously, what is this pale-faced prick looking at? I sort him out with my trusty bat, and, just as I'm about to walk away, I hear the screeching of tires. I look up. A car. Heading for me. BANG. I'm down. Is that? It is! It's Michael. He's alive! Ho-ly shit.  

In a flash of panic and excitement, I knock my microphone from my headset in real life, before realising Michael has parked, exited his ride and has stationed himself atop his truck's mobile gun turret. But wait, he's hasn't spotted the zombie gunning for him from his blind side. 

The undead mounts the truck's bed and wrestles Michael to the floor. I flank the vehicle and lay the beast down on the tarmac. I turn to Michael, he aims at me, and I take a swipe—in self-defence, I swear—but connect with his bumper. He takes me down with the stock of his rifle, and finishes me off with a blow to the shoulder. We don't speak a word during the fracas. We don't need to. Too much shit has gone down. What more could we say?   

I don't remember getting up from that. I don't remember waking up in an abandoned hospital or parachuting in from above. Instead, the next thing I recall is running down the train tracks after sunset. I don't remember leaving Michael. I don't remember it getting dark. I don't remember that skull hovering over my health bar before now. I must find Michael, but my legs are heavy. I'm light on my feet. My arms have gone limp. My face has changed…

I must have been bitten by the zombie behind Michael's truck. I'm losing consciousness. 

Itchy itchy Michael. 

Itchy. Tasty. 

Grand Theft Auto V

GTA Online's casino finally opens its doors later this summer, Rockstar has announced.

The Diamond Casino & Resort, situated in the heart of Vinewood, is described as "a brand-new luxury destination and the largest mass entertainment complex of its kind in Southern San Andreas".

According to Rockstar's blurb: "With something for everyone, The Diamond Casino & Resort will feature lavish amenities, exclusive shopping, first-class entertainment and state-of-the-art gaming facilities.

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Grand Theft Auto V

Last week, Rockstar teased the long-awaited opening of the Vinewood Casino in GTA Online, a snazzy joint that's been in the game for years but has never actually been accessible to players. Today it revealed a little more about what's in store, including the proper name: The Diamond Casino and Resort. 

"With something for everyone, The Diamond Casino & Resort will feature lavish amenities, exclusive shopping, first-class entertainment and state-of-the-art gaming facilities. Whether you’re having a night on the town with friends or a seeking a brief solitary escape, The Diamond Casino & Resort is open to one and all," Rockstar wrote.  

"Come experience the tasteful luxury that the Diamond has to offer including best-in-class concierge, valet parking, the exhilaration of spinning the Lucky Wheel for a chance at life-changing prizes, a finely curated selection of spirits at the bars and lounges, a range of sophisticated table games and much more." 

Given the nature of GTA Online, I would also expect a powerful streak of seediness to run through it all—something akin to the hammer scene from Casino, maybe, but with an increased likelihood of fatalities. But what I'd really like to see is the opportunity to undertake free-form Ocean's 11-style shenanigans. It's an obvious fit, right? I even know a guy who could help.

The Diamond Casino and Resort is scheduled to open later this summer. More information, including a look inside, is coming soon.

Grand Theft Auto V - (John Walker)

I’m declaring it: this is the Worst Week Ever for Steam Charts. And let’s face it – this is entirely your> fault. If you were a better person, you’d buy better games. But instead you buy the same eight bloody games every bloody week, and then buy a game that isn’t even out for over a year. A YEAR! You are awful, and you do not deserve me. This is your punishment.


Grand Theft Auto V

Image source: GTA Wiki

It looks like GTA Online's infamous Vinewood Casino, a high-roller joint that's been in the game since it launch but has never actually been accessible, is finally opening its doors.   

The opening of the casino was actually rumored earlier this month: As reported by GamesRadar, GTA Online dataminer TezFunz2 dug up information revealing changes to an area near the casino, including changes to props that would make it appear as though the casino was under construction. Those changes, which included construction barriers and other equipment, became visible on June 6, according to the GTA Wiki.

Details on how the casino will work haven't been announced yet—as far as I've been able to tell, the tweet is the extent of the announcement so far—but I expect that more information will be forthcoming shortly. I imagine Joe will be paying it a visit in short order, too.

Grand Theft Auto V - (John Walker)

This week: Rude swears! Writing about more interesting games than the ones you boring people keep buying! And battle advice to people who’ve been dead 1,800 years! It’s some Steam Charts.


Grand Theft Auto V

Kazutoshi Iida designed and released three games in his career before changing paths, eventually becoming a game design professor at Japanese universities. The most famous of those games is probably Doshin the Giant, released in the west for the GameCube in 2002. In it you walk around a large open world as a friendly faced giant, terraforming the world to help humans build villages and make them happy. 

Like Doshin, Iida's other games were hard to classify, and when I spoke to him at the Japanese indie festival Bitsummit, it was clear he doesn't think about games just in terms of platformers or shooters or other typical genres. For example, in his first game design course, he doesn't teach students how to use Unity or build a basic Mario clone. He makes them draw.

"In the first year, I teach students about drawing, about how to observe things in the world, and how to recreate them on paper without using technology, because I feel that's a very important part of the game process," Iida said through an interpreter. "Not using words, but using images to copy things that you see. I want people to observe things and draw them, but also to view how unique their drawing is compared to others.

"If 10 people took this bottle of water and drew it, they would all be different. Each person would have their own perspective on this bottle of water. One way to do game design is to take a game you like and add to it. But if you do that, the game won't be very unique. So I try to teach the students how to have a unique core, how to build on their own ideas by first teaching them how to do these drawings."

Iida is clearly as thoughtful a teacher as he was a game designer. He really went against the grain when he was a designer, in an era where "art games" were all but nonexistent on consoles. I thought he'd have something especially enlightening to say when I asked him what what games he finds interesting today. But it turns out he loves Grand Theft Auto just as much as everybody else.

Iida speaking at Bitsummit

"Not a Japanese developer, but Rockstar Games is one of my favorites," he said. I pointed out that GTA is about as far away from Doshin the Giant (first released in Japan on the N64 in 1999) as you can get. 

"Doshin the Giant was kind of an open world game, and also the idea for a sandbox is kind of something that I think Doshin the Giant helped introduce to the world. And maybe not directly influenced Rockstar Games, but maybe kind of influenced them, at the same time. One thing I like about the games is that there's an open world environment, but that's not the only part of the game. There's way more to it than just a big open world."

It all comes full circle. Iida said that he likes GTA 3 and 4, but 5 had an especially big impact on him, because he could see how influences from tons of different mobster movies—Italian mafia, Japanese yakuza, American mob—were all combined. 

There's a lesson in that for his students that goes back to the drawings he has them do. Perspective and observation are important.

"Kojima Productions is probably trying to do this as well," he said. "I know Kojima personally and know Kojima really really likes movies. He watches an impossible amount of movies and has taken inspiration from some of them. That's definitely a way to create something unique: To observe things from movies or novels, or even just collections of pictures. But not just to watching them in a normal way. You have to be excessive about it. You have to watch every single movie you can watch, doing this one thing, so you can draw inspiration, a little bit here, a little bit there. That's one way to create something unique. He talked about drawing pictures, but it's also important to observe anything you can, whatever you can."

As for his favorite GTA character? For that answer, Iida didn't need an interpreter.

"Trevor," he said with a chuckle.

Grand Theft Auto V - (John Walker)

Good hello. Please, grab hold and sit, for this is some Steam Charts.


Grand Theft Auto V

A former Rockstar employee has come forward and shared their story of how they were sexually assaulted by a member of the studio's top executive team.

The incident, which occurred back in 2014 but has come to light now after a thorough Kotaku investigation, involves Jeronimo Barrera, who was Rockstar's vice president of product development.

Barrera quietly left Rockstar after 20 years last December, but during his time at the company he was feared by staff as a volatile boss happy to dole out threats of firings - and actual firings - on a whim.

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