GTA Online recently passed its third anniversary, and since the game launched back in 2013, it has been getting regular content updates quite frequently. In total, there have been over 26 DLCs ranging from the major such as Heists and Further Adventures In Finance and Felony to the minor such as Custom Classics and Deadline. However, not once has the game's map been expanded.
We've previously written about how all that content being added to an already content-rich game is starting to make the map feel too small to comfortably facilitate gameplay. Now, GTA 5's map is pretty damn big, and while there are a few game maps out there that are bigger, it ranks among the some of the biggest.
However when you have Freemode Events randomly triggering all over the place, biker gangs riding about doing missions, CEOs and their associates delivering crates or importing vehicles, random crews faffing about the place, Hydra griefers harrowing everyone, players having a round of Piracy Prevention being all rowdy on the beach and more - much more - going on all at the same time, it suddenly feels far too small.
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Now, in light of this it might not be a coincidence that one of the most frequently requested updates for GTA Online (right after that coveted police DLC) is one that somehow expands the map of the game. The fan favorite suggestions include Liberty City and Vice City, though logically one of the other cities featured in San Andreas, meaning San Fierro and Las Venturas, would be a better choice.
However, each of these would require quite a bit of work to visually remaster to match the current visual quality of the game as it is currently. In the case of any choice other than Liberty City would require the dev team to build the new location from the ground up, since updating the 3D era assets - if Rockstar even has them still - would be nigh impossible.
By why should they do all this when they have an unused area built for GTA 5 already? Sure, North Yankton is just a small set piece with much of the area around it being only half-baked with 2D facades and skyboxes completing the player's very brief visit to the location in singleplayer.
However, Rockstar could easily expand upon the existing North Yankton map and boost it into something larger. Los Santos is enough city for GTA 5, and the game's most interesting locations are in the wilderness anyway. Considering that when the snow arrives for two days each Christmas people praise it, making the North Yankton area constantly snowy would be a bonus.
If the expansion would be merely half as large, or a third even of the main GTA Online map, players would already feel like they have much more room to play in. Add specific North Yankton-only jobs and missions, expand the map libraries of all job types like Deathmatch and Last Team Standing with locations from the new region and litter the world with tiny easter eggs and collectibles and violá, map expansion.
It would be important to differentiate North Yankton from the main map in terms of gameplay as well. You could buy properties, but not executive offices since no major company is likely to be based in such a town. Biker clubhouses and businesses could be located there since such a tiny, inconspicuous community would be a great place to hide clandestine dealings.
The new DLC could introduce a smuggling mechanic, which would require the player to own a specific kind of property, like a contraband warehouse, in both San Andreas (the main map) and North Yankton. Like Bikers businesses, players would need to collect contraband in one location, take it to the warehouse, from where a timer will start during which your goons smuggle it over to the other location where you need to sell the goods.
New vehicles could also include rides designed for the treacherous snowy terrain, such as a rad snowmobile. An interesting gameplay addition would be dangerous weather conditions, such as storms that could cause issues when flying, or if your character isn't well dressed, they would take damage from the sub-zero temperatures.
While it's true that chronologically, GTA Online takes place prior to the events of GTA 5's story, the prologue to the story mode takes place years in the past, so the initial heist committed by Trevor and Michael has already happened. This could be used to set up story content, such as a reason why the police are well equipped compared to the small size of the town and more.
Contact missions from new contacts could in some ways tie into the storyline, if only in the way of cameos or references. Naturally, a new heist could be added, which involves breaking into the same bank, but instead of stealing cash, players would have to grab evidence of the heist pulled off by Trevor and Michael at the behest of a FIB agent who's a rival of Dave Norton, and wants leverage over him.
With the big fuss over the whole bigfoot easter egg, an obvious addition would be a similar yeti mystery that would have players complete equally bonkers tasks in order to find the creature, with the difference being that it would be in Online instead of single player this time around.
Since the town of Ludendorff, the settlement visited in the game, is based on the city of Fargo, North Dakota, Rockstar could take inspiration from the real-world surroundings of said city to make their version of North Yankton more interesting for the GTA Online community.
East of Fargo is a large region full of dozens and dozen of lakes, as well as a reservation. Both of these could be included in the GTA Online North Yankton map, as well as a few of the many, many small settlements strewn about the area. These would provide mission hotspots and locations for stores.
A major selling point for this kind of map would be the introduction of new race types, such as rally racing, with tracks leading players through the treacherous natural terrain. Think of it like a more realistic version of Cunning Stunts, with appropriate vehicles to go with - variants of existing cars would be introduced that can be tricked out with roll cages and other upgrades intended for rough driving.
The state of San Andreas - as much of it that is accessible, that is - is growing ever smaller with each passing update, as it is crammed full of more and more content. While the addition of a whole new city would be best for GTA Online, a smaller expansion by reworking North Yankton into a proper area and opening it up to players would also go a long way to making the game feel big again.