Have you beaten Grand Theft Auto V's main story yet? You better hurry, because the game's ambitious online mode is whirring into life.
You might want to wait a little while before trying to jump in, though; this is now an online game we're talking about, after all, and if the launches of pretty much any high-profile online game over the last few years have taught us anything, it's that no-one has yet figured out a means of successfully anticipating demand and being ready for it.
Grand Theft Auto V has sold somewhere in the region of 15 million copies since launch and while not all of those players will be jumping into the online mode at the same time -- or even at all -- it's still significantly likely that you'll encounter some issues during the initial surge of interest. Rockstar admitted as much in a recent news post.
"One thing we are already aware of, and are trying to alleviate as fast as we can, is the unanticipated additional pressure on the servers due to a significantly higher number of players than we are anticipating at this point," reads the news post -- you can practically hear the sweaty-palmed, panicked hand-wringing. "We are working around the clock to buy and add more servers, but this increased scale is only going to make the first few days even more temperamental than such things usually are."
Rockstar goes on to explain that problems some players have encountered with the iFruit iOS companion app and the Web-based Social Club services are also related to the "unanticipated" demand, and that they expect there will be more unexpected issues along the way. They even specifically cite the example of Donkey Lady from Red Dead Redemption -- it's nice to see a developer able to laugh at itself.
If you want to try jumping in to Grand Theft Auto Online, the title update to version 1.01 is now available for both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It's a small download on both platforms, and it adds an option while the game is loading to tap X (PS3) or A (360) to toggle between launching straight into the single-player or online modes. The first time you start the online mode, you'll be prompted to create an avatar via the unusual genetics-based character creator, with your starting skills determined by your lifestyle choices. After that, assuming you're able to create a new session, you'll arrive on a flight into Los Santos and be met by Franklin's partner-in-crime Lamar -- at least I was -- and driven to your first race.
Unfortunately, that's as far as I was able to get when I just tried it on PS3 -- the race mission wouldn't trigger, and I couldn't even open the menu to switch back to single-player, so I can only assume that things are going to be unstable for at least a few hours. Hopefully Rockstar will address the situation quickly, however, so we can all get involved in some open-world mayhem.
Assuming you can actually get in to a session, GTA Online is launching with the ability to take on jobs, compete in races, play sports, customize your character and begin earning money. Over the next few weeks -- presumably once the game is a bit more stable -- we'll see the introduction of the Content Creator, allowing you to set up your own deathmatches and races; some additional vehicles, weapons and clothing; a Capture the Flag mode; and cooperative Heists. All content updates will be free, but there's no specific timescale for when they'll arrive or in what order as yet. Stay tuned to Rockstar's Newswire blog for the latest.
In the meantime, Rockstar encourages you to either email them with "non-technical feedback" or, once they launch later this fall, post in the GTA Online forums on the Social Club website with comments and suggestions. If you're encountering problems, you can also contact Rockstar's support team via its official site or on Twitter.