Empire Building is one of the new features added to the Grand Theft Auto series in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories. This feature is a mix of the properties from Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and the gang territories from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
In 1984, Vice City was a growing city. Economic opportunities were available to anyone who could afford them. Victor Vance, after killing Marty Jay Williams, gains access to such opportunities, creating his own crime family.
Building icons on the map represent empire building sites (such icons are absent during storyline missions, in order to reduce clutter). There are various types of such icons:
- blue icons indicate sites belonging to the Vance Crime Family;
- green icons indicate sites that are put up for sale;
- grey icons indicate sites belonging to the Bikers;
- pale yellow icons indicate sites belonging to the Cholos;
- red icons indicate sites belonging to the Sharks;
- still standing building icons indicate sites that function properly;
- half-destroyed building icons indicate sites that were subject to attacks and function inadequately;
- spanner building icons indicate sites that are under development.
Since its creation, the Vance Crime Family was a criminal organization using several sites as base of operations for multiple criminal activities, some of them being disguised as legal front businesses. Unlike other gangs, Victor's gang will never spawn if no businesses are owned by it.
There are three levels that each business site can go through: Small-time, Medium Venture and High Roller. The larger the business, the larger the profit. Upon first creating a High Roller empire site for a business, Vic unlocks a new clothing item that is related in some sort of way to the type of business that unlocked that particular item.
These business sites, when entered, have members of Vic's gang inside. Some of them are indicated by a blue arrow, and when approached, can trigger specific missions by pressing the up button. These missions are based around the business of the operation, so smuggling businesses yield smuggling missions, for example. Additional gang members can be found on the street right outside of the site. These gang members can be recruited to assist Victor in taking over other gang businesses, and will also immediately attack any enemy gang members that come close to a Vance property, similarly to the Vercetti Gang in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. To recruit them, they must be targeted and then the up button must be pressed. However, gang members cannot be recruited during storyline missions.
The daily income is paid every day at 16:00, unless the player is on a mission (in which case it is paid after the mission ends). If the played mission happens to be an empire building mission, then the player will get increased income for that type of business, depending on how many levels of that mission have been passed (passing just the first level will lead to a small increase of the income, while passing all the levels of such a mission will lead to a noticeably higher income).
The empire sites may come under attack from rival gangs, because to gain new sites, the player must seize them from other gangs and they will try the same in return. However, empires will only come under attack if Vance starts a war with the rival gang, which is activated when taking over one of their empire businesses. If the rival gang succeeds in damaging the site, its daily income will drop, or rarely, it can even be seized by the other gang. In order to return a damaged site to full capacity, Vic will need to pay a repair fee of $500. In order to avoid such scenarios, the player may just resort to maintaining sites obtained during the storyline and/or acquiring business sites that are put up for sale. Some of them may be put up for sale by default, while others can be put up for sale once they are lost in a gang war. Just like Victor and certain gangs can have a rivalry, other gangs can have a rivalry between them as well. They may be found randomly fighting in the streets around empire sites, such as the Bikers fighting the Cholos, or the Sharks fighting the Bikers.
Intact empire sites have 4 health points. Once a rival gang attacks Victor's empire sites (and Victor does not reach the area of the attack in due time), or two rival gangs attack one another's empire sites, the attacked empire site loses one health point. If the attacked site is not repaired and is subject to further gang attacks, it will keep on losing one health point during each attack. Eventually, once it reaches 0 health points, it will be put up for sale. This rule does not apply when Victor takes over sites, because the player only needs to successfully attack a business site once in order for it to come up for sale. Not only do damaged sites appear as such on the map, but they are also visibly damaged when driven by. For example, soot stains can be seen, as though the site had been set on fire, and some walls of the building may also appear to have been peeled off. (For further information regarding these aspects, please check the gallery).
As an added bonus, sites controlled by Victor also act as safehouses, with a save point being located somewhere within the premises. No garage, health or wardrobe services are available, however all business sites have a specific vehicle parked outside. Once all thirty empire sites are taken over by the player, the vehicles that spawn outside of them will become bulletproof and pop-proof. In addition, much like gang warfare in GTA: San Andreas, attacks on properties and random attacks on Vic will also completely cease (for the most part; occasional random attacks by Cholos members on foot may still happen, due to the events of O, Brothel, Where Art Thou?, but they will not attack business sites once all 30 are purchased).
Attacking a business
The player must first destroy the rivals' vehicle parked outside the building. Next, gang members will come out to defend their turf. Once defeated, the player must handle the interior of the building, by killing the remaining members and trashing the assets of the business (which are specific to the business, such as beds for prostitution sites, or printers for loan sharking sites). Once that is completed, the business is put up for sale, and can be turned into any business venture.
After attacking and seizing an enemy business, the gang that previously owned it may either attempt to seize a business that the player owns or send even more enemies after him, making it hard to keep on taking over sites. The Cholos will send two members in a Cholo Sabre armed with Baseball Bats, Gaff Hooks, Micro SMGs, and Pistols. The Bikers will send two members on a Biker Angel armed with Micro SMGs and Scorpions. The Sharks are the deadliest, as they send four members in a Gang Rancher armed with MAC-10s, MP5s, Micro SMGs, and AK-47s.
There are six available businesses to construct. They are identified as:
Legal business: They are operated by weak goons, who make use of Baseball Bats and Pistols.
Illegal business: They are operated by strong goons, who make use of MAC-10s and AK-47s. These businesses are unavailable at first, and become unlocked by attacking and successfully taking over a site that has one of the three illegal businesses, but only after completing the mission From Zero to Hero.
- The gang vehicles that are parked outside rival empire sites are always locked, except for the Biker Angel.
- The more businesses the player owns after attacking rival sites, the more frequently they will have to cross town to defend a business and also endure random attacks on the street from enemy gangs. However, if the game is saved and then the save file is reloaded, this effect will cease to appear until another empire building site is taken over. This technique does not reset a gang's hate, unfortunately, so players must be very careful when driving around sites owned by rival gangs.
- Four specific business sites are put up for sale once the mission To Victor, the Spoils is passed. Two of them are located in Vice Beach (one in Ocean Beach, one in Vice Point - next to the Clymenus Suite safehouse), while the other two are located in Vice City Mainland (both of them in Little Haiti). The site that is located to the west of Little Haiti will be almost immediately purchased by either the Bikers or the Cholos, while the one on the east side of Little Haiti will remain for sale. In a similar fashion, as soon as the mission From Zero to Hero is passed, one or both of the empire sites available for sale may be purchased by either the Bikers or the Sharks. (For further information regarding these aspects, please check the gallery.)
- When approaching an empire property that is available for takeover, an on-screen message will advise the player to destroy a vehicle parked out front. Approaching the vehicle will spawn enemy gang members who will attack (in addition to those who will attack once the vehicle is destroyed and the actual battle begins).
- If the player were to glitch their way into Vice Beach before the mission From Zero to Hero, there will be businesses belonging to the Sharks and the Bikers, and also the Cholos before completing the mission Havana Good Time. The Bikers will constantly attack all of sites belonging to the Sharks, until they are put up for sale and the player can buy them. The player will not gain any hate from the Sharks, unless they attack the empire sites and not wait for them to come up for sale. The only businesses the player can do are Protection Racket, Loan Shark, and Prostitution, as the player must officially unlock the Vice Beach area in order to have access to the other types of business. In addition, as soon as From Zero to Hero is passed, either the Bikers, the Sharks, or in some cases, both gangs, will start to quickly take over the empire sites that were previously put up for sale.
- For each successful attack on an empire site, Victor earns a sum of money, depending on the size of the site. If a High Roller site is attacked, Vic earns $2,000. If a Medium Venture site is attacked, Vic earns $1,500. If a Small-time site is attacked, Vic earns $1,000.
- The most profitable of the three legal businesses is Prostitution, the least profitable being the Protection Racket.
- The most profitable of the three illegal businesses is Robbery, the least profitable being Drugs.
Status in GTA Vice City
By 1986, two years after the events of GTA Vice City Stories, it is assumed that the Vance crime family has lost control of all of the empire sites, as they are no longer there and have either become an entirely new building or just an empty lot. From north to south, on each side of the city, the locations of the former sites have become:
- Little Haiti
- Little Havana
- Vice Point
- Vice Point Island
- Washington Beach
- Ocean Beach
- Occasionally, a glitch will occur resulting in no vehicle spawning in front of a rival empire site. Eventually after multiple loads and restarts of the system the game is running on, it will appear. One site will not have a vehicle in front because it must be taken over in a mission: a medium venture Biker drug business in Vice Point, which is taken over during Hostile Takeover.
- Sometimes, it will seem as if no one is coming out to defend the business that is attacked, but actually they are invisible. The player can try to lock on, which will sometimes work. If it does not, then use splash type weaponry and heavy machine guns randomly until the enter the building message appears. If nothing works out, just leave and come back another time.
- Rarely, an empire site that is undamaged may have a "half-destroyed building" icon on the map, even though according to its health points, it is intact. It is also visually damaged, even though it was not attacked at all. After multiple restarts of the system the game is running on, this glitch may be fixed.
- Very rarely, the player may drive close to an empire site during a gang war which would reduce its health to 0%. Its map icon will turn green and there will be no vehicle outside. Moreover, it will also not come up for sale. It will therefore enter a glitched state in which it cannot be owned by anyone. To fix this, just drive away so it is finally taken over by another gang, and then it can be conequered properly.
- When gang members are recruited and an empire site is entered and then left, the recruits will disappear.
- Oddly, due to a possible bug or AI misplacement, when your gang members defend a business, your gang will not give damage when firing at enemy gangs, but will take damage from the attackers, meaning that the enemies are "invincible", in terms of AI. Even Vic's recruits will not give damage, but will take damage from enemy gang attackers.
- As the empire earnings are not obtained during missions, after completing ones that take multiple game days like Paramedic, the pay does not get backdated so the payment is only made for the most recent day.
- The interiors of the empire buildings are actually floating high above Vice City, much like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas' interiors. When you free aim inside them, pan the camera to the wall (left or right side of the screen) and you will see either Washington Beach, the Fort Baxter Air Base or the Hyman Memorial Stadium.
- Gang Warfare in GTA San Andreas
- Gang Warfare in The Lost and Damned
- Drug Wars in The Ballad of Gay Tony
- Gang Attacks in Grand Theft Auto Online