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Modding in Grand Theft Auto

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Title: Modding in Grand Theft Auto  
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Subject: Grand Theft Auto (series), Fan labor, Grand Theft Auto/sandbox, The Gamechangers, List of Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories characters
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Modding in Grand Theft Auto

Pigeon stealing a car in a mod for GTA V. The player's character is replaced with a pigeon model.

User modification, or modding of games in the open-world sandbox Grand Theft Auto series is a popular trend in the PC gaming community. These unofficial modifications are made by altering gameplay logic and asset files within a user's game installation, and can drastically change the gameplay experience: from replacing the player's character model with a fire breathing cat,[1] to spawning zombies throughout the map.[2] Frequently created by anonymous 'modders', modifications are presented in the form of downloadable files or archives.[3] Third-party software has been indispensable for building Grand Theft Auto mods, due to the lack of official editing tools from the developer, Rockstar Games.[4][5] Mods for Grand Theft Auto are generally developed for use on the PC versions of the games, since the platform does not prevent modifications to installed software; however, similar content for console versions does exist to an extent.


  • Background 1
  • Online modding communities 2
    • GTANet 2.1
    • GTAinside 2.2
    • GTA5-Mods 2.3
  • Aspects of GTA modding 3
  • Rockstar's stance on modding 4
  • Impact of the Hot Coffee mod 5
  • References 6


An example of an unusual, if not humorous, vehicle modification in GTA IV: a toy scooter replacing the "Faggio".

While mods for the Grand Theft Auto series have been developed by hobbyists since the release of the first game, it wasn't until the release of the wildly successful Grand Theft Auto III on PC, in May 2002,[6] that mods started to become both more accessible and more popular. The use of a 3D game engine (the first in the series[7]) allowed development of custom vehicles, textures and character models, followed by new missions and map modifications; the success of these new types of mods then started to attract widespread attention. In the following years the modding scene became more sophisticated and complex, as various aspects of the game's internals are gradually being discovered and documented by hackers. One of the best-known examples is the iCEnhancer graphics modification[8] mod by Hayssam Keilany, praised by reviewers and labelled as "arguably one of the best mods of all time" by Polygon.[9][10][11]

In most of the games, certain data files were stored in simple archives or in plain text files, allowing modders to edit them using basic tools.[12] However, more complex modifications, such as changes to the gameplay mechanics or the addition of custom models and/or maps were not possible without more advanced tools specific to GTA, along with commercial-grade modelling programs such as [13]

Online modding communities

We know for a fact that there is a significant percentage of GTA fans who only buy the game for the PC because of the open-ended modification possibilities.

The quotation of an unnamed modder cited in Kushner's Jacked: The Outlaw Story of Grand Theft Auto.[13]

Grand Theft Auto fan communities have been essential to the growth of the modding scene. Modders were able to exchange knowledge and team up in order to create new tools, mods and documentation.[13] GTA communities, forums, and fan sites have also been essential, as they serve as hosts for mods. Besides the video-sharing site YouTube, sites such as GTANet, GTAinside, GTA V Mods and The GTA Place served as platforms for content exchange, and discussion about modding and the GTA series in general.


Logo of GTANet

GTANet was founded in 2001. At the time it served as news portal for the upcoming Grand Theft Auto III. Following the announcement of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City its founder, going by the pseudonym "Tank", re-purposed the website, turning it into a fan site with both a forum and a mod hosting site. With years GTANet gained the status of being one of the most notable unofficial GTA-centric websites. Its forums, GTAForums, are regarded as the biggest fan community with more than six hundred and fifty thousand registered members. Its sister site GTAGarage is most known for the Hot Coffee mod, Google Street View for GTA,[14] Design Your Own Mission and GTA Garage Mod Manager Rockstar staff members would also occasionally post on the forums, usually on title updates and other support information.[15][16]


GTAinside was founded in 2001, initially as a news site for the then-upcoming Grand Theft Auto III and later expanded and specialized towards mod hosting. Some of the first GTA-specific modding tools were hosted there, for instance, MultiEdit, a modding tool for Grand Theft Auto III that enables simplified modification of data (such as colors or models) through an intuitive interface, and a similar tool by Blade called CarChanger.


GTA5-mods is a mod hosting website established soon after the release of Grand Theft Auto V. Some of the most downloaded mods hosted there are Script Hook V by Alexander Blade, which exposes the game's scripting engine and allows libraries written in the .NET Framework to be used, Open all interiors by NewTheft and OpenIV, a suite of tools written for editing and mod management of Rockstar Advanced Game Engine-based games.

Aspects of GTA modding

Car cannon gun mod. A mod for GTA V that enables shooting vehicles out of weapons.

When GTA V was released on PC, the question of breakthrough of new mods depended on production of new GTA-specific tools for modification. While GTA IV is one of the games with most fan made mods,[17] GTA V modders had difficulties creating mods until completely new tools were made.[5][18] One of the most notable tools that initiated significant GTA V modification is OpenIV which provided database manipulation.[19] Many mods had compatibility issues with every new GTA V update patch.[20]

Grand Theft Auto V‍ '​s release on the PC offers many advantages over the console release. Yet all of these pale in comparison to the most important advantage of all; modifications.

Digital Trends, 9 May 2015 [21]

Mods are a part of the Grand Theft Auto franchise’s success on PCs.[22][23] Their popularity added on to the longevity and further success of the GTA series.[4][24] Complex modifications as is Zombie Alarm cause the effect of creating entirely new gaming experience.[25] Modding served as one of main channels for innovations in game play.[26] Best example is Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which has one of the biggest modding communities in PC gaming overall.[17] It is constantly being refreshed with new modifications despite being released on 7 June 2005 for PC.

As GTA Online is built as a component of GTA V, it has been a subject of modding which caused negative effects on player experience.[27][28] Because many mods in form of in-game cheats were added to GTA Online, Rockstar developed an isolated section where those who used cheats in GTA Online would temporarily be put in.[29] Prior to Grand Theft Auto IV and GTA Online, mods such as San Andreas Multiplayer[30] and Multi Theft Auto were developed and released in lieu of an official multiplayer component for previous titles.

Although major mod hosting websites (such as GTAinside or GTAGarage) often check mods for possible malware, there are times where content infected with viruses and rogue software slip through.[31] As such, modding websites began to screen content owners and their works for any malicious content or similar quality or security issues.

Rockstar's stance on modding

Modification of Grand Theft Auto is not endorsed by Rockstar and as such there is no official editor tool that allows manipulation of in-game files.[4][18] In an answer to a question made by a fan, Rockstar expressed their views on GTA modification, stating that they have always appreciated the efforts of the modding community and still gladly remember classic mods like Zombie Invasion or the original Grand Theft Auto III map on Grand Theft Auto IV. They also declared that their modding policy hasn't changed and is same as for GTA IV;[32] The end-user license agreement contradicts this, however, as users may not "Reverse engineer, decompile, disassemble, display, perform, prepare derivative works based on, or otherwise modify the Software, in whole or in part".[33]

Our primary focus is on protecting GTA Online against modifications that could give players an unfair advantage, disrupt gameplay, or cause griefing.

Rockstar, Asked & Answered [34]

In August 2015, several members of the FiveM team had their Rockstar Games Social Club accounts suspended due to their involvement in an alternative multiplayer client for Grand Theft Auto V.[35][36][37] Upon being contacted by Kotaku regarding the issue, Rockstar stated that the FiveM client was an unauthorised modification "designed to facilitate piracy," They added that as such, it violated the terms of use and therefore members were banned from the Social Club service.[38]

Following the release of GTA V for PC, GameSpot interviewed its developers at Rockstar North. When asked about the extent of built-in support for modding in the new release, a Rockstar representative indicated that their primary focus was ensuring that GTA Online would be free of possible hacks and exploits, and that therefore modding of GTA Online would not be allowed.[39]

While Rockstar has previously provided some support with the original Grand Theft Auto and Grand Theft Auto 2, and has even used a third-party utility for developing the Grand Theft Auto: London expansion packs,[40] the only official modification tool Rockstar has released is Rockstar Editor,[41] a tool which allows users to record and edit videos in-game. Options such as effects, audio, speed, cameras and navigation tools are made available to the player.[42]

Impact of the Hot Coffee mod

Before NIMF and Yee warned everybody about Hot Coffee, we only had a couple of thousand downloads on the mod, after the media panic, over a million! In late summer of last year, our server was pushing like 7TB of data a month.

Illspirit, modder and administrator from GTAGarage (mod hosting website where Hot Coffee first appeared), for Gamasutra.[43]

Hot Coffee is a normally inaccessible mini-game in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The mini-game portrays crudely animated sexual intercourse between the main character and a chosen partner.[44] After the modder PatrickW modified the game to make the mini-game accessible, Hot Coffee quickly gained notoriety worldwide, impacting consumer culture, politics and the video game industry as a whole.[45]

Rockstar initially blamed a "determined group of hackers" for hacking the base game and creating the mini-game from scratch.[46] This claim was eventually refuted, as the mini-game's code and assets had been developed by Rockstar and were already present, unfinished and abandoned, on the game disc: the mod simply made the existing content available to players.[47][48] Rockstar would go on to indicate that they expected the ESRB rating to remain unchanged, as they had no control over the modifications applied to the game post-release.[49] However, ESRB chose to have the rating changed to Adults only, with the modding community taking the blame.[50] The perception of modders by both players and publishers has since harshened. ESRB later called on the video game industry to "proactively protect their games from illegal modifications by third parties, particularly when they serve to undermine the accuracy of the rating".[26][51] In his interview for CNET, David Kushner explained that some modders were "scared" that Rockstar would prevent modifications to their games after Hot Coffee, but noted that once the controversy had passed the outcome was of refined ESRB guidelines rather that increased regulation, and a renewed public appreciation for mature content in Video Games.[52] Of the controversy and eventual fallout, Gamsutra wrote that "The treatment left many in the GTA mod community with mixed feelings"[53]


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