Trevor holding rifle

"Grand Theft Auto 6" is the white whale of gaming. Audiences cling to a continued belief that Rockstar Games will eventually release the game. "GTA 5" launched in 2013, which should have given Rockstar plenty of time to work on a sequel and prepare a library of announcements. Still, the only so-called "information" about "GTA 6" that bobs to the surface is gossip and rumors regarding map sizes to potential announcement dates — nothing substantial or definitive, let alone promising.

Recently, Rockstar announced that a long-awaited title would christen the Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5. Instead of teasing "GTA 6," however, the company had a different game in mind: another revamped version of "GTA 5." This news annoyed many gamers, but it’s not all doom and gloom. Kotaku eventually confirmed "a new entry in the ‘Grand Theft Auto’ series" is "early in development." Dreams do come true, if several years late.

Even if it takes Rockstar another five years, "GTA 6" will eventually release. But will the studio spend so long on porting "GTA 5" and updating "GTA Online" that it forgets what makes a good "GTA" sequel? Probably not, but just in case, here are design philosophies crucial to creating another blockbuster installment, as well as some previous mistakes Rockstar is better off avoiding.

GTA 6 needs a stable economy

GTA 5 car showroom

In "Grand Theft Auto," the world revolves around the almighty dollar. Players spend cash to purchase weapons, buy properties, and pay for the cops to stop chasing them. Players earn money by completing missions, selling items, and committing the crimes cops pursue them for. In most "GTA" games, the economy remains relatively firm, but "Grand Theft Auto Online" utilizes a different economic model that could potentially damage "GTA 6" if implemented.

According to many players, "GTA Online" has an "inflation problem." The price of in-game items has skyrocketed over the years, and most sources of income haven’t kept pace. The only options are to mindlessly grind money until you have enough (which could take weeks) or buy in-game money with Shark Card microtransactions. However, websites such as GTA Base claim the latter "solution" is actually part of the problem, since these cards take a bite out of in-game currency value. It’s Germany’s 1920s hyperinflation catastrophe all over again, except with people using wheelbarrows of money to buy motorcycles instead of bread.

To avoid this issue in the future, "GTA 6" would need systems to prevent hyperinflation and maintain the fun factor and game loop. An easy solution would be to keep the game a single-player experience. However, if Rockstar chooses the online option, perhaps a rollback of Shark Card reliance will be in order.

Rockstar needs to weed out cheaters

GTA team shooting

Most "Grand Theft Auto" cheats are harmless built-in codes that give players infinite money, magically reduce their Wanted level, or turn pedestrians into ninjas. But these days, players are more concerned with cheats inserted into the game code for malicious intent, especially since Rockstar uses the nuclear banning option to deal with these hacks. "Grand Theft Auto 6" might be in trouble if Rockstar tries the same tactics.

Rockstar’s favorite anti-cheat weapon is always-online DRM, which is a dirty word for most gamers. According to sites such as AltChar and Tweak Town, you need the internet to start up "GTA 5," but while Rockstar talks big about preventing cheaters, the company does surprisingly little whenever these cheaters invade "Grand Theft Auto Online." According to Screen Rant, hackers and cheaters are rampant in "GTA Online." Instead of banning them, Rockstar would rather wipe the progress of legitimate players whose only crime is taking advantage of a shoddily-coded glitch, as well as gamers who didn’t.

If "GTA 6" features an online component, Rockstar would need to implement a fairer method of dealing with cheaters. Always-online DRM is a nonstarter, since many gamers and critics feel the practice is anti-consumer. The company might just have to deal with cheaters on a case-by-case basis — or limit "GTA 6" to single-player, where cheats can’t hurt anyone.

GTA 6 should feature a denser map, not necessarily a bigger one

GTA 5 panorama plane

"Skyrim" was once famously called "wide as an ocean and deep as a puddle." This moniker summed up an issue many gamers had with its map, as well as many open world game maps: It was too big and didn’t feature enough content to justify its size. If Rockstar isn’t careful, this phrase could also apply to "Grand Theft Auto 6."

It’s no secret that "GTA 5" is the biggest game in the franchise. Sportskeeda measured the maps of the 3D "GTA" games, and "GTA 5" dwarfed its forebears; "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" came in second. However, some gamers claim "GTA 5" unfairly inflates its explorable real estate via gigantic-yet-sparse mountainous regions. Many fans argue that video game maps are getting too big for their own good ("Assassin’s Creed Odyssey" is a common example), and that the world of "San Andreas" is superior to "GTA 5" simply due to its higher urban density.

While "GTA 6" is rumored to feature the biggest "GTA" map to date, that size might come back to bite the game if Rockstar just populates it with deserts and oceans players will never fully explore. Rockstar basically has to design a world players either need or want to delve into fully, from the biggest highway to the darkest back alley. It’s not the size, but how you use it.

GTA 6 needs to really nail the protagonist

gta 5 protagonists discussion

The "Grand Theft Auto" series is essentially a crime simulator/power fantasy. But while "GTA" started off asking players to commit in-game crimes for the thrill of it (and for points), the series has transformed over the years. Ever since "GTA" entered the third dimension, it has devoted just as much time exploring the whys of crime as it does the hows. Somehow, Rockstar Games has expertly convinced audiences to sympathize with characters who run over hundreds of pedestrians after robbing a convenience store, and it needs to continue that trend for "Grand Theft Auto 6."

While many gamers love the story of "GTA 5," multiple lists and rankings tend to place its protagonists below the "heroes" of "Grand Theft Auto 4" and "San Andreas": Niko Bellic and Carl "CJ" Johnson. Many gamers hail these protagonists as hallmarks of tragic backstories — criminals who are the results of circumstance instead of psychopathy, but are nonetheless culpable for their actions.

Ideally, Rockstar needs to maintain this winning formula for "GTA 6" and develop a protagonist who players can empathize with, regardless of their criminal rampages. Despite the quality of writing behind Franklin, Trevor, and Michael, Rockstar has yet to escape the shadows of Niko and Carl. "GTA 6" is the perfect opportunity to try. Since rumors of a playable female character refuse to die, the company could potentially shatter its previous BAFTA award record, along with a glass ceiling.

Players need a better aiming system

trevor phillips shooting

In "Grand Theft Auto," players have two primary methods of dealing with enemies and pedestrians: cars and guns. While many gamers agree the driving controls in "GTA 5" are fairly competent (they have to be in a franchise named after the crime of stealing vehicles), players also agree the game’s shooting controls could use a bit more work. Well, you know what they say: If it’s broke, fix it in the sequel.

Sites such as Kotaku have pointed out that "GTA 5" offers several aiming control options, each of which are clunky in their own special ways. If you don’t use the traditional lock-on system that snaps to enemies and turns the game into an easy shooting gallery, you use a free aim system that makes players fight against the finicky crosshair. Many gamers agree with Kotaku’s analysis that these controls are less than ideal, since they force players to essentially pick between several consumer-unfriendly choices.

The solution to shooting mechanic woes in "GTA 5" is fairly obvious: fix the controls for "Grand Theft Auto 6." And, as pointed out by Kotaku, Rockstar Games could do this by channeling its other titles. For example, "Max Payne 3" features a reliable, active reticle, while "Red Dead Redemption" (which predates "GTA 5" by three years) utilizes an Old West bullet time aiming mode. Either method could shore up aiming for "GTA 6," but gamers will probably be happy with just better shooting controls.

GTA 6 needs a ton of Easter eggs

jolene evans ghost

A little levity goes a long way, especially if it can jump out at players anytime, anywhere. Easter eggs tend to dot video game worlds, and since "Grand Theft Auto" games are bigger than most, they have plenty of digital real estate to cram full of these little jokes — "Grand Theft Auto 6" presumably included.

The "GTA" games are riddled with hidden areas and Easter eggs. For example, "Grand Theft Auto 4" proudly sports a giant Statue of Liberty-like monument that bears Hillary Clinton’s face (as well as a giant beating heart), while "Grand Theft Auto 5" hides aliens in the creepiest of places. Plus, characters from previous "GTA" titles tend to pop up from time to time as NPC cameos.

Since Rockstar has yet to develop a game without Easter eggs, it goes without saying "GTA 6" will more than likely keep that tradition. Besides, the company thrives on weird and wacky secrets, as well as the aforementioned returning faces. Who wouldn’t want to see Trevor Phillips once again (assuming you didn’t kill him in "GTA 5")? Better yet, many gamers would probably clamor for Easter eggs that answer or at least further explore the biggest mysteries of "GTA 5." The secrets of Mount Chiliad and the murder of Jolene Cranley-Evans won’t solve themselves.

GTA 6 should feature more robust weapon and vehicle customization

weaponized car rocket

Thanks to games like "Call of Duty: Warzone," players have unearthed a passion for customizing weapons. Likewise, gamers have rekindled a similar desire to trick out vehicles thanks to racing games. While "Grand Theft Auto" has weapons and vehicles in spades, the series has barely scratched the surface of customization. "Grand Theft Auto 6" could fix this.

Prior to "Grand Theft Auto 5," gamers couldn’t legitimately customize vehicles or weapons (outside of silencers), but "GTA 5" and "GTA Online" finally introduced options for modifying a vehicle’s look, but vehicle performance has much more limited possibilities. "GTA 5" also introduced weapon attachments players can buy to transform even the smallest of pistols into handheld war crimes. However, those attachments are just linear upgrades.

"GTA 6" could provide Rockstar Games the perfect opportunity to go ham on weapon attachments and vehicle customization. For instance, Rockstar could implement multiple attachments that act as sidegrades and cater to different gunplay preferences, as well as provide further first vehicle tune-ups that alter performance.

But why stop there? Why not rework the cosmetic customization system so players can create their own unique vehicle skins, sort of like "APB: All Points Bulletin?" After all, in a virtual world, the sky’s the limit.

GTA 6 needs to maintain a sense of satire, parody, and social commentary

gta online tron bike

To the untrained eye, the "Grand Theft Auto" series appears to be nothing but mindless violence that glorifies shootouts and vehicular homicide. In truth, the franchise’s secret ingredient is its ability to balance serious crime-related subject matter with satire, parody, and social commentary. "GTA" mocks American culture with reckless abandon, and "Grand Theft Auto 6" cannot be an exception.

Most "GTA" satire and parody is humorous. For example, "Grand Theft Auto 5" is full of cheeky off-brand products such as Bleeter (Twitter) and E-Cola (Coca-Cola mixed with E. Coli, at least in name). However, some in-game satires are somber social commentaries. The most prominent example is the "GTA 5" mission "By the Book," which makes players graphically torture an NPC. It’s one of the worst things "GTA" has made players do, but this mission isn’t a sick fantasy. Instead, as pointed out by Forbes’ Erik Kain, it’s meant to be a demonstration of torture’s inefficacy as an information-gathering tool. If the message isn’t obvious enough, Trevor Phillips, the game’s most mentally unstable protagonist, literally spells it out at the end.

Satire is the lifeblood of "GTA" and helps separate the franchise from other similar open world sandbox titles, so it wouldn’t make sense for "GTA 6" to lose the tools Rockstar uses to tell its messages. Moreover, the "GTA" games exist in a connected world, so "GTA 6" dropping E-Cola for another drink would make even less sense.

Players should have more minigames to experience

gta 5 golf swing

You can only rob a bank so many times (in video games, that is) before you need a break. "Grand Theft Auto" games understand that the life of a fictional criminal is tough, so the games offer plenty of side activities to help players relax. Ideally, "Grand Theft Auto 6" would provide similar methods for players to take breaks from their in-game jobs of thievery.

The "GTA" series is full of minigames that flesh out the world. Some, such as darts and golf, are just for fun. Others, like gambling and the lowrider challenge, can help gamers earn money fast — or lose it even faster. However, side activities change from game to game. For instance, players can’t "Grand Theft Auto 4" pool skills over to "Grand Theft Auto 5." On the bright side, it also prevents "GTA 5" NPCs from pestering players to go bowling every five minutes.

Given the ever-increasing amount of space available for game code, "GTA 6" could deliver a "greatest hits" of minigames, including lost classics such as basketball, and of course, some new ones as well. Gamers have yet to go fishing in "GTA," so why shouldn’t Rockstar let players reel in a whopper or five?

GTA 6 should improve its stats system

Franklin escaping cops

While money makes the world go round in "GTA," it is not the game’s only metric. While you need money to buy stuff, you also need to earn it (assuming you don’t want to spend real-world money on Shark Cards). That is where stats come in, and these could be especially important in an upcoming title like "Grand Theft Auto 6."

Many "GTA" games utilize character statistics, and these attributes are usually improved the same way. For instance, running a lot improves stamina, which lets characters run even longer, and driving vehicles slowly improves handling. However, not all stats have persisted throughout the franchise. For example, "GTA: San Andreas" marked the final time players could maintain "respect" to recruit larger posses. The game also marked the first and last time the protagonist could build up extra muscle and fat, which affected how NPCs interacted with the character, their abilities, and even their in-game model.

While Rockstar Games probably won’t remove stats for "GTA 6," since the system is a time-honored tradition, the game could potentially bring back abandoned stats such as respect and muscle. With the ever-increasing complexity of game hardware, Rockstar could potentially program in a slew of new (and old) stats that significantly alter gameplay and how NPCs react. Who’s to say the company won’t invent a system that dynamically alters character interactions depending on the number of piercings they’re wearing?

GTA 6 needs bigger and better heists

gta 5 heist guard

In the wide world of fictionalized crime scenarios, nothing excites audiences quite like watching a plan come together to help criminals rob worse criminals. Heist missions have been scattered throughout "Grand Theft Auto" history, but they only gained prominence with "Grand Theft Auto 5" and "Grand Theft Auto Online." Plenty of gamers probably hope heists maintain a significant presence in "Grand Theft Auto 6."

The heists of "GTA 5" introduced brand new challenges and choices for players. Not only do gamers have to pick from a list of hired guns with various price tags who can significantly alter events, players can also select their strategy. Players can sneak in and out without anyone noticing, or they have to evade all the cops in the city, depending on these choices. Moreover, "GTA Online" expanded this concept with new locations and multi-phase heists that require more preparation than campaign heists.

Since "GTA 5" laid the groundwork for heists, "GTA 6" is ripe for broadening them. For instance, some gamers want a wider variety of missions, such as art/museum heists and supercar heists — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Picture a single-player campaign heist where gamers can recruit other players to join them for extra money and chaos. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

GTA 6 needs more intelligent NPCs

Street full of NPCs

Artificial intelligence can make or break a game. As reported by PC Gamer, one reason some players hated "Cyberpunk 2077" at launch was its brain-dead AI. However, gamers still find "Alien: Isolation" terrifying because the xenomorph hunts like a real apex super-predator. As an open world game, "Grand Theft Auto" requires a robust NPC AI system. While the franchise’s NPCs are far from brainless, there is always room for improvement in "GTA 6."

NPCs in "GTA" don’t just exist to be run over; they also live to build a believable world. Mostly. For example, NPC shop owners hold their hands up and hand over cash if they are robbed at gunpoint, and in "GTA 4," pointing guns at drivers makes them run away. But if you try that in "GTA 5," they just run you over. Additionally, NPCs have forgotten that umbrellas exist in "GTA 5," but they aren’t blind to corpses. All in all, some gamers agree that the AI in "GTA 5" is a step down.

Given the time that has passed since the release of "GTA 5," "GTA 6" could feature vastly improved AI. Rockstar Games demonstrated an upgraded AI system with "Red Dead Redemption 2." In that game, NPCs stick to schedules, doggedly chase criminals, and organically react to events. Furthermore, Rockstar recently patented a new NPC pathfinding engine. All the tools are in place for an NPC AI system in "GTA 6" that blows previous games out of the water.