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Rockstar Reveals Why GTA V Didn't Get A Story Expansion, Reaffirms Commitment To Single-Player

by Matt Bertz on Oct 23, 2017 at 09:15 AM

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When I think of the qualities that define a Rockstar game, the first things that come to mind are open-world innovation, an unparalleled understanding of pop culture, and compelling storytelling. The latter is why I count myself among those disappointed that Rockstar never made a story expansion for Grand Theft Auto V.  

That feeling of lament is mostly born out of my love for Rockstar's narrative approach with Grand Theft Auto IV. I still consider Niko Bellic's tragic tale of the American dream gone awry to be the studio's best storytelling effort to date. The emotional toll of a hopeful immigrant trying desperately to disassociate from his violent past, only to be sucked into the criminal underworld yet again still resonates to this day. Moving beyond Bellic's tale for the two single-player expansions that followed, The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony, Rockstar proved its open world was dynamic enough to be the centerpiece of multiple impactful stories with dramatically different tones. Riding through Alderney with the Lost MC as Johnny Klebitz desperately tries to keep his club from self-destructing, or hopping between nightclubs and rubbing shoulders with high society as Luis Lopez, you felt like you were living in a different world than Bellic, even as they shopped in the same stores and drove down the same streets. Liberty City was bigger than one character's story; it contained multitudes. 

Rockstar successfully built off this approach with Grand Theft Auto V. By weaving the stories of three playable protagonists together, the game still benefitted from seeing the world from multiple perspectives. But why did Rockstar choose to forgo narrative expansions for Los Santos, which is easily the most fully realized open world it's ever created? Was it always its plan to move away from story expansions and instead focus on GTA Online? That's the question we posed Rockstar director of design Imran Sarwar. 

"No, it was not really a conscious decision, it’s just what happened," Sarwar says. "With GTA V, the single-player game was absolutely massive and very, very complete. It was three games in one. The next-gen versions took a year of everyone’s time to get right, then the online component had a lot of potential but to come close to realizing that potential, also sucked up a lot of resources. And then there are other games – in particular Red Dead Redemption II. The combination of these three factors means for this game, we did not feel single-player expansions were either possible or necessary."

The good news for story fans? Rockstar not having the bandwidth for an expanded story campaign in GTA V doesn't mean no Rockstar games will have them going forward. "We would love to do more single-player add-ons for games in the future," Sarwar says. "As a company, we love single-player more than anything, and believe in it absolutely – for storytelling and a sense of immersion in a world, multiplayer games don’t rival single-player games."

To read more of our interview with Sarwar, where he discusses the evolution and future of Grand Theft Auto Online, head here.