‘grand theft auto online’ launches: how to begin your life of crime

After a nearly unbearable two-week wait, Rockstar Games has finally launched “Grand Theft Auto Online.” Set as sort of a prequel to “GTAV” (which raked in more than a billion dollars in the first three days following launch), the online version will allow players to steal cars, beat up criminals and work their way up to ruling a criminal empire… with players around the world. Call it “Crime With Friends,” and you wouldn’t be far off the mark.

With that in mind, before you boot up PS3 or XBox 360 (the only two platforms that currently support online play), here’s a rundown of everything you’ll need to know about “GTA Online.”

Buy A Copy Of GTA V
First and most important step to getting online with GTAO: buy a copy of GTA V. It’s available for both PS3, and XBox 360. You’ll also need an account with either the Playstation Network or Xbox LIVE respectively. Once you’ve installed “GTAV,” you’ll be able to install an update to the game through PSN or XBL that will allow you to boot up “Grand Theft Auto Online.”

Know Your Grandparents
Unlike most character generators, which allow you to pick a nose, hairstyle, and more, “GTA Online” makes you pick your grandparents. No joke. Once you’ve picked grandparents, they spawn parents, who then beget your character. Not only does this family line provide your distinctive look, it also means you have a significant backstory. Adding to that, you can choose a career and other details about your character, which again help generate their initial look.

Over time, though, you’ll have the chance to buy other clothing for your character — and true to GTA form, what you do will continue to influence how they look physically. Spend a lot of time at the gym, and you’ll bulk up. Constantly commit crimes, and you’ll start to look less like Badger, and more like Skinny Pete.

Microtransactions
One of the biggest additions to the world of “GTA” is microtransactions. You’ll be able to build up a significant amount of bank the usual way — mugging, stealing and selling cars, of course. But if you don’t want to spend the time doing boring stuff like beating up old ladies, you can always plunk down real world cash for GTA$. Microtransactions are a pretty standard part of online gaming: everything from mobile games, to MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Play Games) have their share of real world cash trades. But for gamers, they’re a pretty clear dividing point, as companies like Rockstar will add exclusive items you can only get with real world cash. Big companies in it for the money? And we thought they were releasing video games out of the kindness of their own hearts!

Speaking of money, you’ll have the ability to deposit your cash in an ATM for quick withdrawal later; a smart play, as with thousands of criminals online able to pick your pocket at any moment, you probably won’t want to be carrying around millions of dollars in cash.

500 Missions
At launch, you won’t just have the open world to wander, and people to kill: there are also 500 entirely new missions to play. Compare that to GTA V, which only has 69 main story missions. Point being, welcome to your new, crime-addled world, you’ll be living in it for quite a while.

You’ll also have the option to (for the most part) play these missions, and explore the world solo. Set your status to Private, and you can wander around unmolested… At least until you pull out a weapon, and then it’s open season on you.

Get A Gang
That said, it’s the ability to join a gang that will probably draw the most players to “GTA Online.” In “GTA V,” you were able to control a three-man team, sometimes working in tandem. Online, you can build a crew with your friends, take down other gangs and build your rep together. And believe it or not, killing people isn’t the only thing you can do with your online compadres: “GTA Online” also has a huge amount of virtual recreation activities. Like its offline companion, “GTA Online” lets you play golf, base-jump, and race cars. Heck, you can even get your friends together and all watch a movie in a virtual movie theater.

Build Your Stronghold
Though it’s only in the beginning stages, “GTA Online” will also let you create your own corner of the virtual world. It’s not as in depth as, say, a Minecraft or a Disney Infinity, but you will be able to build small deathtraps, racetracks and more.

Wait A Few Days
Last, and most important part of this primer: don’t try to log on to Grand Theft Auto Online today. Rockstar promised there would be quite a few lags and bugs as they launch — this is the first time the company is attempting anything of this scale… And it looks like they were more than accurate. The game launched just a few hours ago, and players are complaining they can get as far as generating a character, and then get dropped out of the system. Worse still is being put in a virtual queue, which actually shows your character waiting on a line. So take our advice: read a book, go play in a park, or just take a walk… Because once “GTA Online” is running smoothly in a day or two, that’s where you’re living the rest of your life.