Today, Rockstar announced its acquisition of Cfx.re, the community mod team behind FiveM and RedM. For the uninitiated, both FiveM and RedM are best known for housing GTA 5 and Red Dead Redemption 2's player-made roleplay servers, wherein inventive creators often bend these games so much that they become unrecognizable.
If you've ever tried GTA roleplay yourself, or have ever read any of my escapades in Los Santos (not least the time my stint as a murderous garbageman was cut short by the mafia), you'll probably realize this new official partnership is a pretty big deal. Over the years, Rockstar and its parent company Take-Two Interactive have shuttered numerous player-made projects by way of legal action, but last year said on record that they hope roleplay servers "will continue to thrive in a safe and friendly way for many years to come".
You gotta role with it
Just the thought of GTA 6 receiving official roleplay server support is exciting. Genuinely, some of the most fun I've ever had in my 30-odd years of playing video games has come during the most far-fetched of GTA 5 roleplay sessions, and so the idea that we might be doing so in an entirely new sandbox, on new-gen hardware, with new possibilities and outcomes sounds fantastic.
For me, away from its virtual crime and debauchery, GTA Online has always been, quite simply, a cool place to hang out in, where its reality-aping tenets and active performance culture offer the perfect degree of escapism I desire from digital media. The Cayo Perico update let me watch a DJ set on a beach during pandemic lockdown. The Contract update let me meet Dr Dre. The Doomsday Heist update let me drive a flying DeLorean. And FiveM servers have let me suspend reality to instead fill the shoes of umpteen different imaginary personas.
In the same way Rockstar already highlights creator content in Newswire posts and on social media, better signposting will help us see more of what's popular in the roleplay scene, whereas the promise of helping to "improve the services [the roleplay community] provides to their developers and players'' could help improve factors such as stability.
My guess would be this will be a two-way thing between the community and Rockstar itself. I've loved my time mucking around in the current wave of 2000+-player roleplay servers, for example, but they're prone to becoming overloaded, glitching out, and crashing entirely. With more official support, stability might improve; and yet, at this stage at least, while keeping the distinction between official and community-driven clear, Rockstar gets to tinker and push the envelope with what's possible from behind the scenes without officially committing to anything front-facing.
Of course, the Cfx.re acquisition bodes well for players and creators on a principle level too. Despite the DMCA-driven crackdowns over the last decade, I think it's fair to say Rockstar has made a general shift towards more community-friendly content in recent years. Weekly updates have introduced a number of player-requested features of late, such as a 50-car garage, street dealers, raidable stash houses, daily dead drops, and a new Destiny 2 Xur-style Gun Van that pops up in random locations around the map day-to-day. A Criminal Career Builder is designed to give new players a leg-up, whereas the recent Sprunk vs eCola and collective Heist community events have helped to bring players together in pursuit of shared goals.
That this outlook might now extend to GTA 6 by virtue of the roleplaying scene is surely a great thing, and is also bound to attract more people to the roleplaying community itself. With more players involved, the scope for what's possible in-game naturally broadens. And while early naysayers are already pointedly suggesting Rockstar and Take-Two will use the acquisition to monetize the roleplay space in due course, I'm inclined to disagree at this point in time.
The powers that be have clearly been keeping tabs on the roleplay scene for some time, and, despite the stature, experience and expertise of a company like Rockstar, it's entering mostly uncharted waters here. If it doesn't work out for whatever reason, I'm sure Rockstar will be quick to pull the plug. But if it does, well, if you weren't already hyped for GTA 6, then you really should be now.
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