GTA 5 mods are something that we can all appreciate, even if you don't play them. Who wouldn't want to see an immaculately rendered version of a fictional city, then totally break the illusion by dropping some Reapers from Mass Effect into the skyline? Unfortunately, GTA 5 mods have been in the headlines in recent days for a much less fun reason. One that involves stern legal threats and lots of angry players. This is what's going on.
Update: Rockstar sent us this statement to clarify its position on single-player mods for GTA 5.
"Rockstar Games believes in reasonable fan creativity, and, in particular, wants creators to showcase their passion for our games. After discussions with Take-Two, Take-Two has agreed that it generally will not take legal action against third-party projects involving Rockstar’s PC games that are single-player, non-commercial, and respect the intellectual property (IP) rights of third parties. This does not apply to (i) multiplayer or online services; (ii) tools, files, libraries, or functions that could be used to impact multiplayer or online services, or (iii) use or importation of other IP (including other Rockstar IP) in the project. This is not a license, and it does not constitute endorsement, approval, or authorization of any third-party project. Take-Two reserves the right to object to any third-party project, or to revise, revoke and/or withdraw this statement at any time in their own discretion. This statement does not constitute a waiver of any rights that Take-Two may have with respect to third-party projects."
Why are people upset?
Folks are mad because Rockstar Games parent company Take-Two sent a cease-and-desist letter to the creators of OpenIV, a very popular modding tool/platform for GTA 5 and some other Rockstar Games. A C&D letter isn't legal action itself, but it does come with the explicit threat of legal action if its demands aren't met. Rather than take Take-Two to court, the creators of OpenIV decided to stop working on and distributing the tool.
What is OpenIV?
Here's the official description: "OpenIV is a multi-purpose editor and archive manager for PC versions of Grand Theft Auto V, Grand Theft Auto IV/EFLC and Max Payne 3." Since GTA 5 doesn't have any official mod support of its own, OpenIV served as a very handy tool allowing tinkerers to poke around in the game's files and make adjustments or add new things. Y'know, something like dropping in a suit of Hulkbuster Armor. People have been using it for around a decade - at this point it's a cornerstone of the modding scene.
Why did Take-Two shut OpenIV down?
Here's Take-Two's official statement, as given to PC Gamer: "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."
Even though OpenIV wasn't created to assist with cheating, Take-Two believes that it could be used for those purposes. GTA Online has become a major point of pride (and, more importantly, revenue) for Rockstar Games and Take-Two, so it's cracking down on anything that threatens the player experience there.
Will there actually be fewer cheaters in GTA Online now?
Maybe? Most GTA Online cheaters probably use pre-built exploits instead of creating their own, so it won't really affect them. But Take-Two is also going after specific cheating services (via Kotaku UK). That should have a much more measurably positive impact on GTA Online as a whole than getting rid of OpenIV.
What does this mean for other GTA 5 mods?
Other projects like OpenIV exist, but if they continue to operate openly it will be in perpetual fear of legal action from Take-Two. This will probably have a chilling effect on GTA 5 mod creation as a whole, though there's no way it will ever disappear completely. The desire for doing goofy junk, like turning a semi-truck into a high-speed traffic launcher, in one of the most popular games of all time is stronger than any amount of legal fear.
What are players doing in response?
Have you looked at the Steam page for GTA 5 in the last week? Recent reviews are "Overwhelmingly Negative" and players have even managed to drop the overall score on one of Steam's most popular games down to "Mixed". A Change.org petition calling for Take-Two to reverse course on OpenIV has attracted more than 50,000 signatures so far.
Unfortunately for disenfranchised modding enthusiasts, it would be pretty optimistic to assume these protests will inspire action within Take-Two. More than 80 million copies of GTA 5 have been purchased since the game launched in 2013 and circulating a petition or bombing a review section is a drop in the bucket next to that. The most realistic hope is probably that Take-Two will spend some time clamping down on cheaters, shake its finger sternly, then once again turn a blind eye to single-player focused modding.
If you want some more GTA-ish games that aren't quite so angry-making right now, check out our list of Grand Theft Auto-like games that you can play right now.