Gaming guru on 20 years of Grand Theft Auto

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Grand Theft Auto creator Dave Jones says there is “no limit” to the future success of the gaming industry, as the title celebrates its 20th anniversary.

The developer will talk about the controversial game’s legacy at a panel discussion in Dundee later this month.

Mr Jones, who also created Lemmings, will tell the event what he believes lies ahead for the computer games sector.

The Grand Theft Auto (GTA) series has sold more than 250 million copies.

The event is part of Abertay University’s 20 Years of Games, which celebrates its setting up of the world’s first computer gaming degree.

The university said Mr Jones was “instrumental” in establishing the degree course.

The 52-year-old, whose Reagent studio is based in Dundee, said GTA has “become part of everyday life.”

He said: “I remember sitting seeing a movie at home and there being a line, “don’t go all GTA on me.”

“That was a surreal moment.

“GTA is now a part of everyday culture and one of the best things about any game is that it can have that level of impact.

“I suppose it’s an aspiration for people who want to make games, to have that lasting legacy and impact on the world when you produce something really great.”
‘Unlimited potential’

Grand Theft Auto, which has been criticised for glamorising violence, allows players to take on the role of criminals, who are given various “missions” to complete.

Mr Jones said: “I still think GTA is the one game that shows how far the industry has come and what it went through was a phase of acceptance of the medium in the same way as music and movies had to.

“Initially all games were for kids and because of the technology people weren’t thinking of the graphics and story.

“But then equilibrium was reached where games became like any other form of entertainment and now we accept it.”

Mr Jones said he believed the industry still held “unlimited potential.”

He said: “Virtual Reality has been through a cycle and Augmented Reality is about to go through a cycle, then there’s streaming and YouTubers.

“There are so many changes that just catch the industry unaware every three or four years, but that keeps it interesting.”

Mr Jones said he had yet to see anything in the gaming sector that could not be done in his native Dundee.

He said: “In Dundee it’s the network effect of everybody knowing one another over the years.”

“It’s having that nucleus of a combination of experienced industry people, strong academia and support from local enterprise.”

It’s not your imagination: commute times in the Greater Toronto Area are getting worse.

According to 2016 long-form census data released Wednesday by Statistics Canada, it took GTA residents an average of 1 minute and 12 seconds longer to get to work last year than it did in 2011.

Over that time the region’s residents saw their average one-way commute time increase by about 3.7 per cent, from 32 minutes and 36 seconds to 33 minutes and 48 seconds.

City of Toronto residents saw a smaller increase than their neighbours in the rest of the GTA, with their trips increasing by about 42 seconds, from 33 minutes and 30 seconds to 34 minutes and 12 seconds.

It is taking the region’s commuters more time to get to work despite the fact that the average distance between their homes and places of business actually decreased slightly between 2006 and 2016, falling from 14.8 kilometres to 14.6 kilometres.

GTA residents take significantly longer to get to work than the national average, which was 26 minutes and 12 seconds last year.

The figures capture all commuters, regardless of what mode of transportation they use to get to work.

Despite the longer commute times Jason Gilmore, chief of labour statistics at Statistics Canada, said there has been a small shift towards more people living closer to where they work. He said since 2011 there has been a 0.5 percentage point rise in GTA commutes shorter than 3 kilometres.

“In other words, some people might be shifting the relationship of where they live and where they work to shorten that distance,” he said.

Gilmore said it’s unclear whether some people are moving closer to where they work, or taking jobs closer to their homes.

Public transit users were more likely to have longer commutes than those who travel by other modes. In the GTA, 59.3 per cent of public transit users experienced commute times of 45 minutes or more. The number was 23.2 per cent for drivers who don’t carry passengers, and just 7.3 per cent for cyclists.

Of the GTA municipalities reflected in the census, Ajax had the highest commute times in 2016, with the average resident spending almost 39 minutes each day to get to work. Burlington residents spent the least amount of time getting to their jobs, at just under 29 minutes.

Measured by distance, residents of Brock had the furthest to travel to work, at an average of 33.8 kilometres. City of Toronto residents had the shortest average distance, at 10.6 kilometres.

Across the region, the number of commuters who are spending at least an hour to get to work is on the rise, with 17.3 per cent reporting their one-way commute times at 60 minutes or more. The group grew by 1.4 percentage points between 2011 and 2016.

That coincided with a drop of 1.2 percentage points in the number of residents with the shortest commutes, which were defined as less than 15 minutes.

There didn’t appear to be strong correlation between an individuals’ income and their commute time, suggesting wealthier GTA residents aren’t leveraging their higher earnings to lessen the burden of commuting.

The median household income for people whose commutes lasted more than an hour was $112,211. Those who spent less than 15 minutes commuting reported median incomes of $106,622.

Take-Two, the parent company of GTA and Red Dead developer Rockstar Games, has responded to the recent controversy surrounding loot boxes and microtransactions. Speaking today during a Credit Suisse event, Take-Two president Karl Slatoff said the company doesn’t view loot boxes as gambling. The executive said Take-Two’s view is the same as what the Entertainment Software Association said earlier this year when it released a statement plainly stating that loot boxes “are not gambling.”

“We don’t view that thing as gambling,” Slatoff said of loot box mechanics. “Our view of it is the same as the ESA statement for the most part; so [potential legislation is] going to play its course.”

There has been much discussion around loot boxes of late, bubbling over in the wake of how Star Wars: Battlefront II used them before significant changes were made. In China, the odds for loot boxes in Overwatch (and other titles) are disclosed, and some lawmakers want something similar to happen in the United States. Slatoff acknowledged the consumer feedback around loot boxes and microtransactions, but said as long as the transaction feels fair to the consumer around what they spend and what they get, there is no problem.

“In terms of the consumer–the noise you hear in the market right now–it’s all about content and over-delivering on content,” Slatoff said. “It’s about making making sure you’re focused on engagement, and I think that has been our strategy; that has been our focus. And as long you keep your eye on that ball, you’re going to be okay. The consumer’s going to be really happy with what they get.”

Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto Online, the multiplayer mode for GTA V, has been a massive success when it comes to the revenue it makes from microtransactions. In fact, the mode recently had its best quarter ever in terms of microtransaction revenue, a notable achievement considering the game launched more than four years ago.

Slatoff went on to say that it’s all about creating compelling content. If what’s for sale is compelling enough and priced appropriately, consumers will flock to it, he said.

“Yeah, you can’t force the consumer to do anything,” Slatoff said. “You try your best to create the best experience you possibly you can to drive engagement, and driving engagement creates value in franchises. That’s how it’s always been and how it always will be.”

For lots more on the subject of loot boxes and gambling, check out GameSpot’s newest episode of The Dive. In the episode, we spoke with psychology professor Ronald Riggio and psychologist Jamie Madigan about the affects gambling has on our minds and the concepts that make us feel better about spending money. We also talked about how these might apply to loot boxes and ask them both whether they feel Battlefront II and Overwatch’s systems could constitute gambling.

More than any Rockstar game before it, Grand Theft Auto V has endured. It’s hard to believe that it originally launched on the PS3 and 360, considering its current status as a constantly-reinvented online juggernaut and almost immovable giant in Steam’s top 5 most active games.

October brought a great new addition to GTA V’s online component in the form of Transform Races. Perhaps inspired by the excellent Sonic kart-racer, it has you switching vehicles mid-air, mid-track to often spectacular effect. This week, they’ve added Transform support to the in-game editor, allowing you to make your own tracks spanning the entirety of the game-world.

Want the acceleration, but not the crime? We’ve got you covered with top picks for PC racing games, speedster.

It’s hard to deny the appeal of the Transform Races, even if they’re not that original of an idea. There’s something to be said about ramping a BMX bike off the top of a skyscraper, falling for seemingly ages, then switching in mid-air to a helicopter just before you splatter on the road below, and the mode really builds on the satisfyingly varied vehicle handling.

One slightly more questionable addition to this update is the option for players to buy the P-996 Lazer jetfighter for personal, repeatable use. Unsurprisingly, it costs an absurd amount of cash – $6.5m – which, given the price of an $8m in-game cash infusion, works out at approximately £49/$66 in real money, for a single virtual plane. ‘Microtransactions’ indeed. Also running alongside this patch is a reward-boosting event paired with some in-game discounts. You can check out the details here.

Questionable business models aside, GTA Online has become a powerhouse presence on PC, and the regular content updates make it a great pick for larger groups to play, although the game still has a reputation for being infested with hackers and cheaters (rather confusingly referred to as ‘modders’ in many cases) if you play with the rank-and-file playerbase.

Grand Theft Auto 5 is available for £40 on Steam, although you might want to give Amazon a peek if you’re looking for a better price.

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