When our household decided to start playing Grand Theft Auto Online, the first thing we had to figure out was how to play together. While the game appeared to spell out its different modes of play, when entering the game for the first time, things weren’t as clear as they seemed. Going online to figure out which option was the right one for us — something more private than not — wasn’t very helpful. (And the lack of substance on this matter was surprising considering how long the game’s been out.) Granted, we found lots of information about playing online, but we were hoping for a roadmap to the different options rather than here-and-there fragments. Since GTA Online is receiving new players by the minute, and to possibly help out new said players, especially those who don’t want to always, if ever, play in the game’s public lobbies, this post serves as that roadmap. Hopefully. The only caveat is that it’s based on my own experiences, so, as they say, your mileage may vary. Let’s begin at the beginning.
In order to get to the different player modes, the first thing to know is that you should not just hop online while the game is loading. When you start up GTA V, different options pop up in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen, one of which reads “Online.”
If you hit the button next to that option during loading, you’ll be placed into a public lobby, what the game calls “Freemode.” Instead, ignore this completely, and let the game load as if you were going to play its story. Once loaded, bring up the menu, scroll over to its “online” tab, and select “Play GTA Online.” From there, you’ll get to choose from the various modes.
Option 1: Go
Just as the game says, “head straight into GTA Online.” Choosing it will stick you in a public lobby (Freemode), complete will all the randomness and explosiveness that entails. Here you can play everything game offers. You can play all its “jobs” (races, deathmatches, missions, etc.), play through all of its heists (with the right amount of people), do daily objectives, and run various money-making businesses. And you do it all, or try, with up to 29 other folks who may or may not be more interested in causing explosions than just playing.
Option 2: Invite Only Session
Of it, the game says “other players can only join if you invite them to play…”, and this is true. What the game doesn’t make clear is that in it, while the host can invite players, those invited players can also invite others. So it’s not a strictly private session, but it’s close. In an invite only session, you can still play jobs and heists, get paid for doing your dailies (as long as one of the objectives doesn’t require Freemode play, which sometimes they do), but business are limited. You can nominally set them up, but in order to restock them and sell cargo (i.e. make any money from them), you have to be in Freemode.
Invite Only is one of our preferred modes of choice, because it means we can play with our PS4 friends, which differ between us. So, when playing, I can invite any of my PS4/GTAO friends and my husband can invite his, and, then, those individual friends can invite their friends. It’s all okay until it isn’t. Until things get a little crazy with all the friends-of-friends-of-friends, and it seems like we’re in a public lobby anyway.
Option 3: Crew Session
For those easily confused, like me, in GTA Online, a “crew” has nothing to do with the in-game motorcycle clubs, which is what I thought when I first started playing. Instead, a crew is a Rockstar social media construct, and it’s akin to a guild. You create or join crews through Rockstar’s Social Club, and you don’t have to do either to play the game. If you are part of a crew, picking Crew Session will put you and your crew members in the game with up to four other crews, with the idea that the crews will play against one another.
I must admit this is as far as knowledge of this option goes, so if anyone out there can elucidate in the comments, that’d be awesome. We tried this option once, and it spawned me and my husband (our crew) in a lobby by ourselves. We played for a little bit, but no one else ever showed up. Our only guess was that maybe no one really utilized this option? That the game couldn’t find another crew because there wasn’t one? In any event, the “crew” lobby was similar to Invite Only. We could do everything as usual, except Freemode stuff, like running businesses. And again, some Freemode-needing daily objectives were off limits, also.
Option 4: Closed Crew Session
In a sense, the Closed Crew Session is similar to what we experienced with the (broken?) regular Crew Session, whereas in it you only play with other members of your crew, which you can invite. You still play “privately,” so access is open to everything except Freemode-only tasks and dailies.
Option 5: Closed Friend Session
This is the other more-private-than-less option that we prefer, and it’s very similar to Invite Only with the game saying that you can “head into GTA Online with your friends only.” But which friends, you ask? That would be the PS4/Xbox/PC friends of the host. So it’s more limiting people-wise than Invite Only (all invited players can play). In choosing this option, if I’m the host, only the PS4 friends I invite can play, and they can’t invite others. Again, Freemode stuff is off the table, but it’s a good option if you feel like tackling races, missions, and team-play stuff with people you know and trust…mostly.
Option 6: Solo Session
While a Solo Session might sound like the best of the best when it comes to private play — “nobody else can join this session” could be music to one’s ears! — the option goes on to say that “available activities will be limited.” How limited? Very limited! In a Solo Session, not only can you not do any Freemode setups, but you also can’t do most of the jobs.
As you can see, most of the job options are grayed out (including the general missions, which is strange because all of them can be played solo in other modes). With only races, parachuting challenges, and survival (survive through waves of enemies) available, one could surmise that simply playing GTA V would be a much more enjoyable option, but to each their own. This is a great mode if you really want to be by yourself in San Andreas, perhaps just exploring the world. Nobody can ask to join in your blissful solitude, and nobody can shoot rockets at your head, accidentally or otherwise.
And so concludes this look into GTA Online’s different modes of online play. Since the path I forged was based only on personal experiences with the different options, I’m curious if others have followed similar or divergent paths. Sound off in the comment section about your own GTAO experiences or leave any helpful recommendations for new GTAO players.
Now get out there and wreak havoc! Y’know, in the most friendly way possible.
P. S. If you want to play in a GTAO public lobby all by yourself, which can be done, that’s where the Internet is your friend. Just bring up your favorite search engine, type in “GTA Online public lobby solo,” follow what you find for your particular gaming device, and enjoy the benefits of solitude.
All images including lede taken by author during PS4 gameplay of Grand Theft Auto Online © Rockstar North, Rockstar Games (2013).