Basically what Rockstar is doing here is first they’re releasing GTA V in much the same format as the rest of their GTA series. The regular fans are sorted and secured. Then, they’re taking those same assets, with a bit of this and that tacked on, and making it persistent online.
It’s a pretty clever strategy. Come for the campaign, stay for the multiplayer. GTA IV dabbled with it, but it was laggy (in Australia at least) and somewhat limited. GTAO seems to throw all the shackles off.
I’m not sure how it will work, exactly. It won’t be a MMO – it’s only 16 players – but they do bandy about the words “persistent world.” I expect it is designed for semi-persistent servers like a lot of games before them. Something like a typical FPS, where the server is regularly rebooted, but is always around – just in this case the map won’t cycle. There’ll probably be servers designed purely for city-wide mahem, ones designed with co-op in mind, ones with team deathmatch within carefully designed zones, and I suspect people will be able to put their own servers up so they and their friends can roam around co-operatively without the scum of the internet dropping in. That’s my speculation, anyway.
I’m not sure it’ll be quite a long-lived as Rockstar is pitching – they’re talking about expanding well-beyond Los Santos, and regular content updates – but I do expect it to at least double the gameplay time. I’ve been wanting to share my GTA mayhem with my friends in more than just hacked together free-roam or unpopular deathmatches since GTA 3. I’ll definitely be giving it a blast, but I don’t expect it to be more than a couple weeks of messing around.