Grand Theft Game Design - Death Zones In GTA Online


It's been a long time since the last installment of our Grand Theft Game Design series, however a recently posted curio by Kotaku provided us with material to bring it back from the dead.

Today, we'll be looking at one of Rockstar's solutions to a problem that, rather than solving the problem, prevents players from exploiting it - by insta-killing them in certain locations.

One of the realities of building huge 3D worlds is that, no matter how many hours of QA testing are put into the project, there will always be a few holes.

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Sometimes a wall's alignment is just off, or collision detection for that one door wasn't set, or the gap between two buildings is just large enough for characters to glitch through.

One of the other realities of building huge 3D worlds is that players will always find these small holes, these tiniest of cracks.

In GTA Online, the number of interior locations is vastly reduced compared to GTA 5's story mode which was already rather short on them compared to earlier games. This has led to an entire sub-community of players trying to glitch into unused and hidden interiors from arising.

However, the way GTA Online works, when you glitch into a building or wall with no actual interior, the character will move on the same plane as the wall itself. However, the character model physics object will be "behind" it as far as the game is concerned.

Due to the way 3D objects are created in games, their surfaces are one-sided - since, under normal conditions, you wouldn't ever be inside the object, there is no point in wasting resources to create inner surfaces.

This means characters who glitch into walls can fire out from behind them, but if you try and shoot them the bullets will hit the wall instead of them. And as such, wall breach glitches have often been used for griefing purposes.

As Kotaku's Zack Zwiezen writes, a wall breacher can easily ruin the sessions of every other player in their server - an essentially invulnerable opponent that can easily kill you is hardly fair PvP.

Rockstar has always been pretty strict about maintaining a level playing field in GTA Online and they've always been quick to crack down on hacking, cheating and glitching, provided they had the means. When it comes to wall breaching, they felt that their response had to be particularly swift.

They could go over every little bit of geometry whenever a wall breach location was reported to find a way to fix it, they could check all the collision markers and they could fiddle with alignments in order to solve these issues.

Alternatively, they could also place insta-kill triggers near the wall breach and call it a day. Rockstar opted for the second approach.

"Wall" breaching the ground to go under the map is another popular glitch.

All across the GTA Online map are 'death zones', specific areas which immediately kill any player characters that go near them. Since these are placed near assets with wall breaches, they are small in size and generally fall out of the way with only very few being found in easily reached locations.

It's unclear how many of these zones there are in total or how large their radius is, or even where exactly they are - only a few are confirmed - they exist and they are present to prevent exploitation.

The GTA Online community has set out to map these kill triggers, but there are likely more that remain undiscovered, or their discovery remains unpublicized.

While a quick and seemingly inelegant solution, they definitely work and if a few player deaths is the payoff for the prevention of wall breaching, it doesn't seem like much of a problem.

This quick fix allows the folks over at Rockstar to devote more time to more prominent bugs, like how back in the day curb-boosting complete broke races.

Aron Gerencser
Aron is responsible for the bulk of the news posts that you'll find on GTA BOOM each and every day. He loves getting involved with the community and is an avid fan of all things Rockstar Games. His journey with the franchise began with GTA 2 back when it was new (all the way back in 1999), and he was a gamer even before then. Find Aron on Facebook.