Rockstar Games & Take-Two versus Modding

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Welcome back everybody, in this article we’re focusing on modding due to the recent events around this historic part of GTA lore. But before getting too deep, too fast and to avoid losing anyone, please allow us to explain what the modding aspect in GTA means and is about. From the very beginning, GTA’s first title – released in 1997 – having the power to make changes to the game has been of interest to modders. If for early titles modding was technically closer to a vehicle restyle, with new textures allowing them to look more real, with the release of Grand Theft Auto 3, the modding scene underwent a radical change.

With both GTA 3 and Vice City, Rockstar Games directly supported the modding community. Both games on PC had a feature that permitted players to import edited skins for the main character. The developers were so involved, they supply knowledge and data to create tools and mods that could completely change the game, from simple skins to total conversions that not only added new features but even new stories as well. Everything changed once again with the GTA that is the most modified version of all: GTA San Andreas. Players all over the world are still playing GTA San Andreas today in both single and multiplayer modes.


Playing online is only possible using mods, but also the guys playing offline are probably even enjoying the game using mods. But, as we said before, there was one mod that completely changed the way Rockstar felt about modding culture – and that mod is the infamous “Hot Coffee”. Without going into details – ’cause it’s a long, complicated tale steeped with twists and turns. We’ll suffice to say that from that moment on, the direct interaction between Rockstar and modders ended with Rockstar basically disappearing into thin air. That utter ignoring of modders continued for several years.

Then with the arrival of a new title and story, Rockstar’s attitude towards modding changed again. Suddenly the New York studio’s policy acknowledge modding culture and even claim to be thankful to all the brilliant programmers out there who spent time creating awesome stuff for GTA – but that was it. And with that, we return to the here and now. Since from the very first days of GTA 5, it was more than clear that with the new economic model created by Rockstar and Take-Two, the modding scene was gonna face a rather cold reception from them. The following Q&A perfectly illustrates Rockstar’s view on modding: Here, they clearly state that even if the company is not against modding and that their policy hasn’t changed in years, their primary focus is to protect GTA Online.

To break that down even farther: Rockstar is not against modding, but if modding has to suffer to keep GTA Online safe… so be it. Even if the policy about modding hasn’t changed since GTA IV – when having mods or trainers online was no big deal – what really changed was the game. And when it comes to GTA Online… shit’s changed a lot. We got a clear idea of just how much in November 2015. That was when, someone behind a mod known as “FiveM” – a modding-friendly alternative to GTA Online – released a statement affirming that a couple of PIs rolled up on him at home. These two mysterious figures hand him a phone and on the other end was someone from Take-Two whether England’s or America’s is unknown but their intent was clear. The call was issuing a Cease-and-Desist order to his activities with regard to Grand Theft Auto.

And just to throw salt in the wound, in August of 2015, several members of the FiveM team had their Rockstar Games Social Club accounts suspended. Rockstar’s statement on the bans was that “FiveM is an unauthorized alternate multiplayer service” and at the same time, the creators of another modd-friendly multiplayer alternative to GTA Online, called GTA:Multiplayer, received a standard Cease-and-Desist letter from Take-Two. The developers behind the GTA:Multiplayer mod, have obeyed the C&D order and shut down their project. FiveM on the other hand have taken a more rebellious attitude and given projects different names, gained external support, and remain defiantly active. But why is Take-Two hiring PIs and making phone calls? If this is GTA business, why isn’t Rockstar themselves dealing with the modders? The answer is Take-Two is Rockstar’s “legal department”.

And it’s important to note that everything Take-Two does, is approved and supported by Rockstar. The point is, Rockstar Games is no longer a subsidiary of Take-Two; Rockstar Games is a partnership between Sam Houser, Dan Houser and Take-Two. So, after the first move by Take2 in 2015, the legal department moved again against modding culture almost a year and half after, when they sent another Cease-and-Desist to the authors of the “Red Dead Redemption 5” total conversion. Created by a relatively small team, the aim of this mod was to bring the entire map of the Red Dead Redemption game into the world of Grand Theft Auto 5, with some additional content that as of yet, remains unknown.

Even if the mod doesn’t have anything to do with GTA Online, the project has been shut down and if reasons were given to modders, they haven’t been made public. What we can speculate, is that Rockstar Games doesn’t want any of the Red Dead Redemption assets made public, converted or ported to other titles in any way. Despite the most of the community’s reaction- throwing middle fingers in the air- to Take-Two, arguing that the society is against fun, neither Take-Two or Rockstar Games has reached out to or spoken about this new policy with journalists. If the creators of “Red Dead Redemption V” sadly lost a project they’d spent 3 long years of their free time building, something definitely worse happened to the OpenIV team a few days ago.

After almost ten years of constant updates, support and hard work that allowed anyone, even the less skilled player, to add new mods in GTA IV and GTA 5, the team received the final official Cease-and-Desist letter. This time around the developers of OpenIV decided to go public and give some more info about what really happened. On May 19th they received an email from the legal counsel for Take-Two Interactive USA. In this e-mail they requested an immediate halt to any further work and/or distribution of OpenIV and “Liberty City in GTAV” projects.

After an attempt to fight this, on June 5th 2017, the main guy behind the OpenIV team received C&D letters. He also published a excerpt from the letter saying: OpenIV allows third parties to defeat security features of its software and modify that software in violation of Take-Two’s rights. Even if there was a chance to fight the legal order, OpenIV decided to comply with it and stopped all development of their tools, and released an automatic update to all the copies of their software that forces the user to remove it from their PC.

The reaction from the community has been huge. From negative reviews by users on Steam, that plummeted GTA 5 from Mostly Positive to Mostly Negative, to an online petition that in less than a day reached more than 13k signatures asking Rockstar to allow the use and distribution of OpenIV. Rockstar released an official statement on about the matter: “Take-Two’s actions were not specifically targeting single player mods. Unfortunately OpenIV enables recent malicious mods that allow harassment of players and interfere with the GTA Online experience for everybody. We are working to figure out how we can continue to support the creative community without negatively impacting our players.” So, all of this is a reaction to the “Liberty City to GTA 5” project, which gave anyone who owned GTA 5 the power to import Liberty City itself from GTA IV to GTA V.

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And its also, more importantly, that they actually believe that the modded software is in some way damaging them, by allowing anyone with a copy of the game, to lurk around inside the files and discover content intended for future releases thereby stealing their thunder. According to Ash_735 on GTAForums, the modding ban only applies to Rockstar titles that use the RAGE Engine namely GTA IV, Episodes from Liberty City, Red Dead Redemption, Max Payne 3 and GTA V. Surely with the recent spike of GTA Online modders and the creation of new tools that inflict heavy damage on players, every PC player was expecting something from Take-Two and Rockstar, but no-one expected this at all. It’s unlikely that OpenIV is the reason kids with external trainers and scripts harm clean and fair players in GTA Online, the same way it’s hard to think that a couple of cars or textures appearing before the D-Day, is the reason the entire modding scene had to just… suck-it-up. The one thing that should be clear by now is that Rockstar’s modding policy has not changed.

What has changed is the way that Rockstar Games and Take-Two are going after anyone that may, in their words, “harm in any way” GTA Online or its players. Protecting their property, the game and gamers is their prerogative and will probably be valued by the players, as the right thing to do. Albeit maybe the methods in which this has been done leaves us feeling like they rushed it and didn’t weigh the consequences. We just hope that someone, somewhere, is going to realize the importance of modding culture in Grand Theft Auto and do something to bring back a fundamental tool for everyone… maybe with the same help and knowledge that Rockstar gave in the past, in order to make everything better and safer, for everyone. Let’s hope that the final words in Rockstar’s statement will be the first words in opening a new, bright future for the modding scene. And that’s all for now, keep following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and if you want to chat with us, other players & fans of GTA, Bully, Red Dead and more, join us in our Official Discord Server.

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