Rockstar Whips Out The Ban-Hammer On GTAV Players Over Mod

from the bans-on-fans dept

There’s something a bit strange going on over at Rockstar Games. The makers of the Grand Theft Auto series have reportedly banned several players in the past week, all of them associated with a particular GTA5 game mod called “FiveM.” Rockstar’s reasoning for the ban will sound familiar to many observers of gaming in the online space.

Last week, Rockstar banned a number of Grand Theft Auto V players associated with the “FiveM” mod, which offers players an online playspace separate from the game’s official “Grand Theft Auto: Online” mode. Yesterday, a Rockstar representative told Ars that the bans were made because the mod is “an unauthorized alternate multiplayer service that contains code designed to facilitate piracy.”

This is the increasingly common refrain from companies handing out bans for online games for players that develop things like cracks, which are designed to allow those pirating the game to participate in the online portion of the game. Were you to not dig into the story any further, you’d likely assume that’s exactly what was going on, given that Rockstar raised the piracy boogeyman in its statement.

Except FiveM doesn’t appear to be anything remotely resembling a crack at all. Instead, FiveM appears to be a mod with its own launcher that allows GTA5 players to play online on dedicated servers, with a relaxed stance on player mods being used in the online experience. The whole point of FiveM is that Rockstar doesn’t allow mods in its official online experience, so the modders created their own online play-space where mods would be allowed.

“FiveM is not a crack for GTA V nor does it actively try to facilitate piracy,” said Qais Patankar, who goes by qaisjp online. While Patankar didn’t contribute code to the FiveM mod directly, he says he was caught up in Rockstar’s bans for promoting the mod through online channels like Reddit. Patankar argues that those behind FiveM shouldn’t be penalized just because the mod fails to check if the underlying game is a legitimate copy. “Whilst the mod doesn’t prevent people who have illegally obtained the game to play FiveM, it does not behave like a crack: [it doesn’t] bypass the verification system so that you can play the game without paying,” he said.

While Rockstar’s stated policy does ban “online” mods (as opposed to mods to the single-player game), Patankar argues that FiveM shouldn’t be targeted by a policy designed to prevent cheating in a centralized playspace. “There’s different ways you can ‘spin’ this,” he said. “FiveM is a mod that works online, but it doesn’t modify anything in the [core] online experience. It does mod online code, and it does utilize online things, but it does not affect [GTA:O].”

And that changes how we see Rockstar’s statement. Instead of banning players for facilitating piracy in the common way we typically see it, this sure does look like Rockstar banning modders for creating an online GTA experience that might in some way compete with its own. That this separate online space was developed specifically for players that want to play the game online differently than Rockstar allows seems to suggest that even the worry over competition is theoretical at best, since these are players using mods that Rockstar doesn’t want used.

But the strangest part of the story is that one of the developers of the mod reportedly is suggesting that Rockstar sent private investigators to his home, apparently just to scare him.

So I just got a pair of PIs at my door claiming to be sent by Take Two, handing me a phone with a person somewhere in the UK or US or whatever to ‘discuss how to cease my activities with regard to Grand Theft Auto’, that ‘they know what happened before with Activision and want to not get the lawyers involved at this time’, however they ‘have tested their legal standing already and are quite certain of their point’ and ‘aren’t willing to accept any solution other than ceasing my activiites’. Oh, they also ‘couldn’t disclose any conversations they’re having with other modification developers’, didn’t want to talk about general modification policy as ‘it was just about my case’ and admitted they ‘looked through my source code’.

Is a little mod that creates a unique GTA: Online experience really so terrifying that Rockstar felt the need to send the Stasi knocking on the modder’s door? How about just offer another online experience that allows mods? Why is that the more difficult route to go, compared with hiring PIs and raising the piracy boogeyman?

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Comments on “Rockstar Whips Out The Ban-Hammer On GTAV Players Over Mod”

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PW97 says:

Agree, opportunity here, they should grab on and ride along with it

Hear Hear

Some online games have servers setup for those that “cheat”, why not for those that mod. I suspect it expands on the content, provides some alternative visuals or play function. I don’t see that as a negative, but something of an opportunity.

Make a tool, plug in those mods, share revenue or better, make a branch of the game that modders can delight in, enthuse about and perhaps drive some alternative sales…

Anonymous Coward says:

You can't stop mods

I never understood why they don’t just embrace them more?Rockstar has been less then enthusiastic about mods over the years, ever since hot coffee, they don’t exactly sue all modders to oblivion, but they sure do try and discourage modding. I find this strange because some of the best games around all have great modding communities, on PC at least, and helps the game shelf-life become nearly infinitely extended into the future. (but maybe that’s the problem with big publishers?)

Just look at Half-Life, it spawned literally hundreds of great mods, and there are still thousands of players around the world playing things like CS 1.6
Even Rocktar’s own GTA San Andreas is still popular around the world, especially in Russia. Hell there’s multilayer servers hosting modded games for it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: You can't stop mods

I’m reminded of a similar line I heard somewhere.

Resulted in: Guy killed me, Mal. He killed me with a sword. How weird is that?

Maybe they can stop the mods. Maybe they can’t. But they can make it deucedly uncomfortable for the modding community in the mean time.

So what are you doing, still reading this? Go confound them!

Geno0wl (profile) says:

Re: You can't stop mods

10 years ago micro-transactions and other DLC didn’t exist. Now they rely on selling those items. The old model was to view mods as free word of mouth to sell more copies of your game, but now they view these mods as directly hurting their capability to sell more of their own DLC. They is why they are attacking them and it seems fewer games want to support community driven mods.

Anonymous Coward says:

Someone please explain the economics behind these decisions. I mean going the legal route can often cost millions as lawyers go for like 300-500 / hour. The legal route only protects current revenue streams (at best) and definately doesn’t generate new revenue.

Meanwhile programmers cost 50-80/hour (ish?) and should be easily able to replicate or add similar features given that they have access to the source code. And to boot you’ll actually generate revenue.

Why is the legal option even an option? Are lawyers really good salesmen or something?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Who do these licence holders think they are to presume to “have fun” with our game?

Our non-negotiable EULA says you can only have fun playing the game the way we allow you to play it. You can either learn to like that fact or we call for satisfaction.

We’re not here for fun. We make games; it is serious business.

Zonker says:

Huh? Let me get this straight… Rockstar’s response to modders making their game playable on alternate, unoffical servers separate from the official GTA: Online servers is to ban them from Rockstar’s official GTA: Online servers? So now that the banned players can only play GTA V on these alternate, unofficial servers, why would those players continue to pay for a PSN Plus/Xbox Live Gold subscription to play online?

Isn’t this just telling those players to stop paying to play (online) on the official (mod banned) servers if and when they want to and just “pirate” the game instead with no restrictions? I thought they wanted people to pay for the legal copies of the game?

(I only play legally purchased games in single player mode, or occasionally offline multiplayer with a friend/relative in the same room, anyway.)

Zonker says:

Re: Re:

Nevermind the first part of that, after reading the original article linked to it appears that this mod still required a Rockstar Social Club account to play and thus the mod makers are actually not only locked out of playing their own modded or unmodded paid for GTA V game unplayable, but any other Rockstar game they bought that requires a Rockstar Social Club account.

Still standing by the second part of my post, as obviously the only way they can play the Rockstar games they paid for would be to “pirate” them now (and make their mod actually crack the game just as Rockstar feared if they want to be able to actually use it). Punnish your paying customers and drive them away from paying in the future indeed.

Whatever (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The problem is simple: If they have a mod that does X, how long before they also have a mod that does Y, where Y hurts the playing experience of other players?

The story says it clearly, the mod author is pretty sure they have checked out his code, and they likely came to the conclusion that it’s a tiny thing that makes it easy for people to add gameplay hacks. Since there is no way to be sure, and since the playing experience of other users is at stake, they are prefect right and very correct to ban them.

It’s not hard to understand, no matter how much arm waving is going on. Mod your software, and you are not welcome to play on the official servers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“that makes it easy for people to add gameplay hacks”

“Mod your software, and you are not welcome to play on the official servers.”

As I understand it the mod only works with private servers running a certain server/software. That means that there is no way players can cheat or use mods on the original Rockstar servers because of this mod.

People who use the mod don’t want to play on the official server. And a disconnect because the client is modded would be fine but Rockstar blocks the whole account and takes away all the games with it.

But Rockstar has a reason for acting like that:
they sell in-game cash for real money.
And from what I heard, progress is rather slow if you don’t buy game cash.

In my opinion, it’s not about cheating, it’s not about the community, and it’s not even about mods themselves.
It’s just about money.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Dude. Stop. THE MOD HAS NO RELATION WITH THE OFFICIAL ONLINE SERVERS. It does not mess with them, it has no connection with them.

Since there is no way to be sure, and since the playing experience of other users is at stake, they are prefect right and very correct to ban them.

Hmmm. They specifically mentioned piracy. And the modder clearly said the mod does not differentiate between regular and pirated copies. And, again, the mod does not work on the official servers (which makes the official statement given by Rockstar a load of bullshit).

It’s not hard to understand, no matter how much arm waving is going on. Mod your software, and you are not welcome to play on the official servers.

Says the dumb guy that seemingly understood nothing about the case.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Hi Ninja, glad you didn’t pay any attention to my post.

Seriously, the piracy angle is in regard to the fact that the mod eliminates the point that they use to check to see if a user has a valid or pirated copy. The “non-official” servers will allow users to play even on a pirated copy. This is a VERY big deal, as one of the selling points of the real version is online game – which does not work on pirated copies.

Moreover, the mod may in fact allow for other changes to the game or game behavior when a player with the mods joins a server. It can also mean that a user with a pirated copy could in fact get the online gaming from the official service which they do not merit. People in that position may play differently or do things to harm the overall online ecosystem by playing with less than legal and less than legit software.

I don’t make any claim that the mod changes the online servers. Are you daft? However, since the game is played in a sort of distributed mode (where your local PC / game box is making many of the calculations of your actions), a mod that opens up the software could also lead to players changing the game physics or otherwise granting themselves powers they do not merit. That would in turn harm the gaming ecosystem and potentially discourage honest, paying customers from playing.

“Says the dumb guy that seemingly understood nothing about the case.”

I understand way more than you would like to think. Too bad you are in a rush to judgement rather than thinking past the end of your (slightly brown) nose.

Jeffrey Nonken (profile) says:

Cheat Engine for the legal system?

Let me see if I’ve got this straight: Rockstar is trying to cheat by gaming the system to prevent people from cheating in their games… except these people aren’t trying to cheat, they’re just trying to game.

Biggest. Hypocrites. Ever.

Maybe Rockstar will claim what they’re doing is actually a “training script” and whine about not having enough free time to actually learn how to play, it’s totally not fair the other players are better than they are.

Dizzy says:

Great job rockstar

it’s hilarious how all u bill gates wanna-be’s get so butt hurt bcuz rockstar is punishing you for cheating. People who use mods naturally suck at the game and would get destroyed by normal non modded players without their glitches. Props to rockstar for the online ban hammer I love seeing u modder nerds cry like bitches in R* forums cuz you’re no longer invincible with infinite cash!

xfoxshorex (profile) says:

Re: Great job rockstar

You do realize that Fivem servers are not connected to GTA:O servers, right? A lot of the servers on Fivem are centered around roleplaying, mainly civilian/police roleplay. DoJ is probably one of the most well known cases of it. Players roleplay as civilians/criminals and as the police. Not only do they the LSPD but also a Sheriff’s Office in Blaine County and the Paleto Police in Paleto. They even have a Fire/EMS department. Blast past a cop going 20 over the limit and he’ll pull out and attempt to arrest you, unlike the cops in Online or in singleplayer. Through a separate, out of game database, players can have multiple in-game names they go by and each one can be listed has having cars registered and insured in their name and have licenses to own guns. Just like in real life, you must obey the law or have the police on your ass. One video I watched from Polecat324 had him roleplaying a hiker who went hiking up Mt Chiliad, got lost, and had to have emergency services come to his rescue. This type of play wasn’t really intended by Rockstar for GTA:O so people use Fivem servers to modify the game to better adhere to that. These people don’t care what you do in official GTA:O servers nor do they care to cheat or glitch anything in official servers. Also, as with games like Fallout, modding your game doesn’t instantly mean you suck somehow.

To put it simply, if a player uses Fivem exclusively, you’ll never see them listed in any official GTA:O server.

Jack0619 says:

They should change there name to Crookstar.

Lets see if i understand this right. They ban cheaters,hackers,glitch exploiters an grifers. Ok i agree an so do many others. Ppl like that ruin online games for so many ppl… very good job Rockstar i give you all a thumbs up. Opps i take that back little did i know they had there own secret objectives in the form of Microtransactions. An called it shark cards. it’s a form of real money coverted to in game money. They raise the cost of in game items to amounts far beyond that of single player. Like boats cars, homes, guns, planes an helicopters an so on. So let’s see if i have this right cheat an give yourself money you get a Ban. But i can cheat buy giving you money first an i’m all good. Ok Now this is for the internet trolls.. Can you define Cheating… I can cheating is giving yourself unfair advantage over others. Yes your right no one is saying you have to buy these things. An What i’m saying is should you even be aloud to. They ban ppl for giving yourself unfair advantage over others. But there selling what they Ban ppl for you do the math

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