A History of GTA Online

I have suggested the tip to refer to GTA Online’s history because it may help you understand why some components of the game were designed as they are and thus make better decisions on what to buy and what to do in the game. Here, I will list some significant events and updates happened to GTA Online as accurate as I can (because I started playing this game since 2018, I did not witness the events prior to that time); after that, I will also discuss some important take-aways and implications of those events.

Events

2013

  • September 17: Although advertised as a separate title and mentioned in the same manner in-game, Grand Theft Auto V, what GTA Online is built on, was released for PS3 and Xbox 360 in select regions.

  • October 1: GTA Online was launched.

2014

  • August 19: With the San Andreas Flight School Update, the Flight School, which had been available only in the Story Mode, was added to GTA Online, with a completely different set of courses.

  • November 18: GTA V and GTA Online were released for PS4 and Xbox One. Rockstar called those releases the “Enhanced Edition”, as the game on these platforms had better video quality and additional features like first-person perspective and Director Mode.

2015

  • March 10: The Heists Update was released. Five Heists were added to GTA Online, each allowing players to do a series of missions that would award them significant amount of money upon completion of the last mission in the series. The Heists were designed to be done by a team of 2 (only for the first Heist) or 4 (for the rest) players.

    The Heists offer a very unique multiplayer gaming experience that is rarely found in other online games. There are still a lot of players doing those original Heists nowadays even though they were released very long ago and Rockstar has added more Heists with higher payouts later on.

  • April 14: The Enhanced Edition of GTA V and GTA Online were released on PC.

  • October 20: The Lowriders update was launched. It added Benny’s Original Motor Works, an auto shop not intended to replace the existing Los Santos Customs but specialized for more expensive modifications. A series of lowrider-themed Missions given by Lamar (which I personally call “Lamar Missions”) was also introduced with the update.

  • December 15: With the Executives and Other Criminals update, players can register as a VIP, hire Bodyguards, and complete VIP Works together as an Organization. The luxurious Galaxy Super Yacht was added in this update as well.

2016

  • June 7: The Further Adventures in Finance and Felony update was released, which gave players the option to purchase an Office and register as a CEO. Being a CEO, you have access to the SecuroServ network where you can purchase Warehouses and start a Special Cargo business.

    Even today, years after this update, Special Cargo is still considered as one of the most rewarding activities to do in GTA Online: a whole Large Warehouse of cargo can give you $4.44M when sold during a Double Rewards event.

  • October 4: The motorcycle-themed Bikers update was available. Besides VIP and CEO, players got the ability to form Motorcycle Clubs, which allows instantly summoning a motorcycle. Motorcycle Club Businesses were also added.

    In an MC Business, you obtain Supplies either via purchases or by stealing them without paying a price. Then, just let your workers, who came with the factory you bought for the Business, generate Products for you; you can do anything else when they convert Supplies to Products. Finally, when you get enough Products to sell, do a sell mission and collect the money.

    This is often categorized as a “passive business” because you don’t need to do anything while your investment is being transformed into revenue. In Special Cargo, you must actively involve yourself in transporting the Crates back to your Warehouse to convert the price you paid to buy them to the money you earn from a sale. In MC Businesses, once you buy Supplies, the only thing you need to do before a sale is to stay in the game and wait until your workers generate enough Products.

  • December 13: The Import/Export update offered players a new kind of business, Vehicle Cargo, through the SecuroServ network. Anyone wants to start a Vehicle Cargo business should own an Office and buy a Vehicle Warehouse. Players can source a vehicle via SecuroServ, steal it, drive it back to their Vehicle Warehouse, then modify and sell it to make a profit. This activity involves lots of driving, and unlike Special Cargo and MC Businesses, it does not require investing an up-front cost for obtaining the goods to sell.

2017

  • June 13: The Gunrunning update was released. Bunkers, the properties for a new passive business of selling weapons, were introduced, allowing players to increase their earnings while they are doing other activities in GTA Online. Several weaponized vehicles, new Mk II variants of existing weapons, and a set of new weapon accessories were also added to the game.

    In my opinion, Gunrunning is the best passive business. There are only 6 kinds of Bunker sell missions, none of which is extremely hard; the hourly profit of a Bunker is the highest among all passive businesses in GTA Online.

  • August 29: In the Smuggler’s Run update, Hangars were introduced as both storage for the player’s personal aircraft and bases for the Air Freight Cargo business, which is similar to Special Cargo but has its missions oriented to aircraft. This update also featured a wide array of new planes and helicopters available for purchase.

  • December 12: The Doomsday Heist update was available. Three new Doomsday Heists, presented in a new theme and story line, and offered with better payouts than the original Heists, were added to the game. The Doomsday Heists worked similarly as the original Heists, but they can be completed by any group of 2, 3, or 4 players. Also, as a continuation of the Gunrunning update, more weaponized vehicles and extra Mk II weapons became available.

2018

  • July 24: The After Hours update added Nightclubs to the game. Nightclubs provide two separate businesses to players: the Nightclub Warehouse, which is yet another passive business, and the Nightclub itself, also a passive business that grants just a small income. This update also included Pegassi Oppressor Mk II, the infamous flying motorcycle that can be customized with missiles.

    There are two unique things about the Nightclub Warehouse that differentiate it from MC Businesses and the Bunker:

    1. The only input required to earn money from it is completing the sale mission. You don’t even need to purchase supplies to get products in your Warehouse; your technicians will accrue goods for you.

    2. You will always get only one vehicle for the delivery job. For other businesses, if you have a lot of goods to sell, you might need to operate multiple vehicles to complete the delivery; in Nightclub sales, you always get a single vehicle, though its size might vary depending on your stock.

    The types of Goods accrued by the technicians in your Nightclub Warehouse depend on what properties you have already owned. The more businesses you operate, the more products your technicians can accumulate in the Warehouse.

2019

  • July 23: The long-awaited The Diamond Casino & Resort update was finally released. The original Vinewood Casino near the Vinewood Racetrack was renovated and changed to The Diamond Casino & Resort. The new casino welcomed players with table games, slot machines, horse racing, and a purchasable Penthouse. Six Casino Missions with a story line were also added.

  • December 12: As a continuation of the story line in the Casino Missions, The Diamond Casino Heist update added a new Heist targeting the casino’s vault. The form of the Casino Heist is different from the original Heists and the Doomsday Heists but rather similar to Heists in the Story Mode, where the Heist Leader would choose the approach and hire several NPCs as crew members. Furthermore, except the Heist Finale, all Missions of the Heist can be done by a single person.

2020

  • August 11: The Los Santos Summer Special update brought a set of new jobs, events, vehicles and cosmetic items to GTA Online. The Yacht was given a new role of giving access to six new A Superyacht Life Missions that featured a brief story line.

  • December 15: The Cayo Perico Heist update was released. The Cayo Perico Heist is the first Heist in GTA Online that can be completed entirely by a single player, including the Finale. With easy Prep Missions and high payout, The Cayo Perico Heist has been recognized as the fastest and most hassle-free way for money grinding.

2021

  • February 28: A GTA Online player, t0st, published an article documenting his research on the infamous long loading times issue of GTA Online on PC. He determined that the causes of long loading times were inefficient parsing of game data files and redundant item duplication checks, and his experiments on reducing the loading time supported his hypothesis. On his own machine, t0st observed a decrease in loading time from about 6 minutes to less than 2 minutes. This result shocked the GTA Online community because nobody could imagine that the endless loading process could be fixed so easily and effectively like this. By applying the fixes proposed by t0st, other players were also able to reproduce similarly significant loading speed-up.

  • March 16: Rockstar had affirmed t0st’s findings on long loading times and released an update addressing the issue, which had existed in GTA Online on PC for almost 6 years. Rockstar also awarded t0st with $10,000 for his contributions.

Corollaries and Implications

  • Don’t bother getting Gold Medals in the Flight School of GTA Online until you have gained some good flying skills, possibly by completing the Flight School courses in the Story Mode first. Since GTA Online’s Flight School was added about one year after the game’s release, and the Story Mode’s Flight School was already teaching basic flying controls, Rockstar designed the courses in GTA Online to be challenges for proficient pilots rather than tutorials for novice cadets.

  • The Lamar Missions are not a part of the GTA Online Tutorial, nor are they a continuation of it. So, please don’t regard them as something you must or should do and merrily join and play them after you have completed the GTA Online Tutorial.

  • In general, a trend towards more relaxed design and mechanism can be observed in Heists of GTA Online. The bulk of the original Heists require four players, which is strict for people without reliable teammates. Then, for The Doomsday Heists, Rockstar improved the principle of design of the missions so that only two players are mandatory for Setups and Finales. For both original Heists and The Doomsday Heists, the missions require the team to follow a fixed set of objectives, and failure to comply with some restrictions (e.g. remain undetected) halts the mission. The Diamond Casino Heist relaxes the requirements in number of players further so the Finale is the only part that needs more than one player, and the Finale can still continue if the crew is spotted by the enemy or breaks the disguise. The Cayo Perico Heist does not require multiple players at all and is thus more friendly to lone-wolf players.

  • Every set of Heists has some requirements to be unlocked, but the original Heists’ prerequisites are easier to satisfy. They only require reaching Rank 12 (which is easy) and owning a high-end Apartment (which can be purchased with as little as $200,000). The Doomsday Heists, The Diamond Casino Heist and The Cayo Perico Heist all require being a VIP, CEO, or MC President, and a specialized property whose price starts from $1.2M.

    The original Heists were released in March 2015, months before Rockstar added VIP as the first type of organizations a player can register. Since CEOs and MCs were introduced in 2016, every new major activity added to GTA Online required being a VIP, CEO, or MC President, including The Doomsday Heists, The Diamond Casino Heist, and The Cayo Perico Heist.

    Inflation is also a thing in GTA Online: prices of new vehicles and clothing items have skyrocketed update by update, and so are the properties’ prices: you need to pay at least 6 times more for a property that unlocks newer Heists than the cheapest high-end Apartment for the original Heists.

  • If you want to exploit the Nightclub Warehouse, make sure you have owned most of the following:

    • A Bunker

    • A Hangar, or at least one Special Cargo Warehouse

    • Some MC Businesses, preferably a Cocaine Lockup, a Meth Lab, and a Cash Factory

    After Hours, the update that added Nightclubs, were released after all of those properties had been added to GTA Online. The Nightclub Warehouse was mainly intended to let veteran players benefit from their existing businesses by collecting extra passive income. If you don’t own any of the properties above, the Nightclub Warehouse will not function at all.

  • Please do not consider buying the Yacht and completing A Superyacht Life missions as an investment. The payouts of those missions are not even comparable to the cost of the cheapest financing option of the Yacht. A possible reason for Rockstar to add those missions in 2020 was to make the Yacht a little bit useful to players who had already owned it for years but might have forgotten its existence. After all, the Galaxy Super Yacht had been in GTA Online since late 2015. The missions were never intended to be a way of grinding like Heists.