If there’s one thing that gamers of all walks like, it’s customization. No matter what genre, setting, platform or franchise they’re a fan of, “more customization” almost always comes across as a major bonus. GTA Online allows for a great measure of customization, but Rockstar could go the extra mile and introduce a system that caters to the players while also turning a profit.
So what can players do to make their characters truly their own? A wide range of features can be customized, including hairstyles and outfits, with several different clothing types to be mixed and matched with hundreds of options in every category. Tattoos and accessories add to this list. All of these choices make up for the fact that players have relatively limited control over the actual facial features of their characters compared to many other games which sport a character creator.
Vehicles can be upgraded and visually customized with all sorts of body-mods, rims, spoilers and more. Color schemes, neon lights and window tints can spice up the cars even further (or potentially give players early warning that you’re a total ponce), while a selection of liveries can lend them a more specialized feel. Crew colors and emblems can help you represent your affiliation in style, and creating one for yourself thanks to the chance to be part of multiple crews can make you stand out completely with hand-designed symbols.
Guns can be customized with finishes and engravings, and many upgrades have visual effects as well, including box magazines, scopes, and silencers. The interiors of apartments can be customized with a selection of décor to better fit your own idea of a dream home, changing colors, furniture, and other details.
However, when it comes to customization, more is always better. No matter how many options are included in a game, some players will always have their own ideas of how to customize some aspect of their in-game persona. Allowing players to design their own liveries, for example, is entirely simple, however a number of other games prove that community-created skins are viable as well.
On the one hand, it would be great for an entire color spectrum to be made available for vehicles as primary and secondary colors. Right now the crew colors workaround makes this possible, but hardly convenient. A full-spectrum color picker would definitely allow for some more specialized color schemes on our rides.
As a next step, something like a paint shop would be an awesome addition. Make it work like Benny’s Original Motorworks, and give players a fully interactive creative environment. Think Photoshop, but in-game. The vehicle can be rotated in a 3D space with various tools that create different effects available, allowing players to fully customize their rides.
You could design your own patterns, symbols, gradient color schemes. If you want the vehicle to sport a plethora of colors as opposed to just two, you can do it. If you want to spend the time and effort to paint your car like a space shuttle, go ahead. Want to write out one of Shakespeare’s sonnets on the hood? Sure thing.
But where does the profit come into play? For that one, Rockstar might want to take a page from Valve’s book. Players could be allowed to sell their custom vehicle skins and liveries in the game for real money, with Rockstar taking a percentage of the sales. Skin-based game economies are extremely widespread and are often monetized.
Of course, with this measure of player freedom, there come risks that need to be monitored. Since this is the internet, the second this system goes online half the GTA Online player base will emblazon their vehicles with phallic imagery and swastikas. Obviously, such a system based on player-created content would need tight control.
One option would be that upon creation, custom liveries would go into a review period where they only appear to the creator, and all other players just see a default skin. Once the livery has been reviewed and approved, it would ‘go live’ for everyone else to see as you drive around in your new unique skin.
If players submit an inappropriate livery, it would be thrown back for a re-edit. If the livery doesn’t fit the standards for a second round, it’s deleted and the user would be temporarily banned from creating custom liveries. On the one hand, sure, this would result in Rockstar having to spend resources on livery moderation, but the profits pulled from the community market would easily put them in the green.
Taking things to the next step would be allowing content creators to submit actual 3D models of other customization items, like clothes and hairstyles. These would need to adhere to a strict set of specifications of course, but the possibilities would still be endless. Even though the game sports hundreds of clothing options, players are constantly pining for more.
Customization options are often used as a measure of quality and attention provided by the developers. Western gaming press kicked up a storm about a Korean MMO called Black Desert Online due to its incredibly detailed character creator, however practically no other kind of coverage about the game was to be found. Ghost Recon: Future Soldier played-up its Gunsmith feature prior to launch, and fans hyped for the upcoming Red Dead Redemption 2 often speculate about what kinds of customization options will be available.
GTA Online can hardly be criticized for giving players few customization options, but this is one of the few things which can always be ramped up with no ill effect. Customization is easy to monetize without kicking up balance and turning a game into a freemium, pay-to-win affair.
Car meets would be definitely spiced up with these custom livery options, and players with artistic skills could let their talent shine. Rockstar could hold livery competitions, similar to the Snapmatic and Rockstar Editor competitions that are already organized periodically. The game would get even more traction on social media as players share their own creations for friends to see.
Such a system would perfectly fit some kind of street racing themed DLC, adding a new kind of specialized shop to the game. Of the two ideas, it’s far more likely to happen, whereas we wouldn’t hold our breath for community created clothing items to appear in the game anytime soon.
An even easier feature to introduce would be custom tattoos – just take the custom crew emblem system, and allow players to import the images as tattoos instead of emblems to be placed on vehicles. Right now the tattoo library of GTA Online is massive already, however tattoos are supposed to be even more personal than a car or outfit. Allowing players to make their own would be an awesome addition, and really, the system is there already.
Rockstar is clearly not done with GTA Online yet, and a perfect way to conquer more land on social media and keep players hooked is by providing further customization options.
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