Modding has always been an important part of GTA 5 on PC, with an extensive modding community producing content with which players could alter and expand the single player portion of the game. It wasn't only regular players who enjoyed mods either, many video creators also relied on them for their creations.
While mods have always skirted the ambiguous borders of what's legal and what isn't when it comes to the EULA, Rockstar often implied that modding is OK so long as it's restricted to the game's campaign and doesn't touch Online. This allowed the GTA 5 modding scene to thrive for years and Rockstar even featured some on the Newswire.
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Modders like JulioNIB and JediJosh920 rose to fame and popular IP was mixed with GTA 5 thanks to mods such Back to the Future and Pokémon. Mods could extend the potential play time of the game indefinitely as the community kept creating more. Vehicle skins, player skins, new weapons, new mechanics, new props, items, entire game conversion.
But that is all coming to an end, or so it seems. Open IV, a tool that has been the backbone of modding in Rockstar's titles since GTA IV (hence the name), has received a cease and desist letter from Take-Two and has been shut down.
The lead developer of the tool, GooD-NTS, shared this information on the GTAForums after the post went up on the team's official website. In a similar manner to that of the Red Dead Redemption GTA 5 map mod, the team has decided, after some deliberation, to go along with the request put forward by Take-Two instead of fighting it.
On June 5th, 2017, we had received an official Cease-and-Desist letter. It clearly says, that with OpenIV we “allow third parties to defeat security features of its software and modify that software in violation Take-Two’s rights“. Yes, this letter is illiterate both technically and grammatically (really, they don’t even bothered with proof-reading the text). Yes, we can go to court and yet again prove that modding is fair use and our actions are legal. Yes, we could. But we decided not to.
Modding is an extremely common practice in gaming, with an increasing number of games that support mods even having their own official toolsets released. In other cases, some games support modding without this being obvious, and with third-party tools being required. This doesn't scare teams like OpenIV away from crafting their own tools from the ground up.
GTA 5 falls into the category of "games that functions with mods, but doesn't make their use very easy". This hasn't prevented a huge community dedicated to the creation and use of these mods from springing up around the game though. We ourselves have very frequently showcased mods on this very site.
That said, mods have always stood on shaky ground due to GTA Online. While many games have proven that allowing mods online in a controlled manner (see Valve's titles, Jedi Academy and ARMA, just to name a few) can result in a large increase in popularity, this approach was ruled out in the case of GTA Online from the get-go.
Game like ARMA and Jedi Academy had proper server browsers and host options. Players could see what kind of a server they were about to join, what the rules are, what mod is active and so forth. Contrast this to GTA Online where we got a peer-to-peer server structure and automatic lobby system.
Since this doesn't allow for any fine-tuning, all mods had to be banned in Online to keep the game fair and balanced. Of course, this didn't work. Hackers were still an issue (albeit a much smaller one due to a massive crackdown coinciding with the release of Gunrunning), notwithstanding that using mods while playing GTA Online was always a good way to get yourself banned.
As the game exploded in popularity Rockstar began cracking down on modding much harder. Mods were temporarily killed before, but luckily that wasn't a change in policy but rather code, which was quickly worked around.
GooD-NTS said that OpenIV could take Take-Two to court over all this and appeal, however that would take time and money that the developers presumably don't have.
Going to court will take at least few months of our time and huge amount of efforts, and, at best, we’ll get absolutely nothing.
Spending time just to restore status quo is really unproductive, and all the money in the world can’t compensate the loss of time. So, we decided to agree with their claims and we’re stopping distribution of OpenIV.
But where does this leave modding? OpenIV was essential, and even though other tools exist such as ScriptHookV, most complex mods required both, and the vast majority of GTA 5 mods rely on OpenIV. Naturally, the mods that exist today will likely still be accessible and the current release version of OpenIV will most definitely pop up at other download locations, what with the Robin Hood-esque behavior typical of modding communities.
However, no new updates will be made to it. If some future GTA 5 patch causes incompatibility, that will be the end of any mod using OpenIV. So while this move hasn't killed modding for this game overnight, it has poisoned it. ScriptHookV, in spite of its own popularity, very likely isn't enough to carry the community on its own.
Of course, it's possible that some kind of successor will pop up and attempt to fill the void left by OpenIV with another modding tool. However, from now on, the threat of a takedown notice will hang over all modding efforts for this game. GooD-NTS highlights this as well.
It was a hard decision, but when any modding activity has been declared illegal, we can’t see any possibilities to continue this process, unless top management of Take-Two company makes an official statement about modding, which can be used in court. With many thanks for all modding community for all your fantastic creations,
So long, and thanks for all the fish.
Already the backlash has been enormous. Fans across community sites and forums and several subreddits dedicated to GTA have expressed, with varying magnitudes of anger and profanity, their disapproval of this move. Calls to boycott Take-Two have already arisen.
To clear the air, at least somewhat, Rockstar Games has made a statement on the matter, which upon first reading, offers a glimmer of hope for the future of modding in GTA 5. However, at the same time, the very reason named for the takedown of OpenIV can be used in the future against any other modding tool.
Take-Two's actions were not specifically targeting single player mods. Unfortunately, OpenIV enables recent malicious mods that allow harassment of players and interferes 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.
This means, on the one hand, that if a modding tool were to function without "enabling malicious mods that allow harassment of players and interfere with the GTA Online experience", Take-Two would leave that tool alone. However, anyone familiar with modding will know that such a tool would be extremely difficult to create. Even if the developers tried to bake security measures into the deepest level of the software, the open nature of modding would likely result in the tool being used Online.
With the massive popularity GTA 5's mods enjoy coupled with the knowledge that shutting down OpenIV will likely do little to alleviate the hacking problems the PC has been struggling with, we're a bit baffled about this course of action. Take-Two likely knew that the community backlash would be significant, so we can't divine which part of this seemed to be worth it. It's a lose-lose situation.
Right now the future of mods in GTA 5 is up in the air. Will the following days and weeks see the shutdown of ScriptHookV? What will happen to people like JulioNIB? What will happen to LSPDFR? Will the modding community survive, or will all the enthusiasts be forced to switch to other games for their modding needs? Will a successor to OpenIV pop up in the face of almost certain legal action?
It should go without saying that the OpenIV team's efforts to port Liberty City to GTA 5 with their own mod has also been shut down as a side effect of this takedown. They only recently announced the project, however it seems we'll never actually see it come to fruition.
Whatever the future might be, the past is still there. We still had years of fantastic GTA 5 mods which made the single player portion of the game bigger, better, weirder, funnier, harder or just plain different. Feel free to reminisce over the history of mods with years' worth of coverage on our site - guns that fire particle effects, grappling hooks, battle arenas, superheroes and evil chimps are just a few of the things you'll find.
OpenIV was a major pillar of the game's PC community, and we're sad to see such a prolific modding tool go. This will severely damage the modding community for GTA 5, if not outright sentence it to death.