Rockstar Begins A War On Modders For 'GTA' Games For Totally Unclear Reasons

from the mod-squad dept

There are two types of video game publishers: those that embrace their modding communities and those that do not. The latter group is in something of a spectrum. iD Software, for instance, has long kept the modding community open and operating on its Doom titles, while developer 1C embraced its modding community so much that it built some mods into official releases. Other publishers have gone into full restriction mode, shutting down modding communities and even going after them over supposed copyright infringement violations.

Rockstar Games has previously had its own run-in with its modding community, banning modders who attempted to shift GTA5’s online gameplay to dedicated servers that would allow mods to be used, since Rockstar’s servers don’t allow mods. What it’s now doing in issuing copyright notices on modders who have been forklifting older Rockstar assets into newer GTA games, however, is totally different.

Grand Theft Auto publisher Take-Two has issued copyright takedown notices for several mods on, according to a post from the site. The mods either inserted content from older Rockstar games into newer ones, or combined content from similar Rockstar games into one larger game. The mods included material from Grand Theft Auto 3, San Andreas, Vice City, Mahunt, and Bully.

This has been a legally active year for Take-Two, starting with takedown notices for reverse-engineered versions of GTA3 and Vice City. Those projects were later restored. Since then, Take-Two has issued takedowns for mods that move content from older Grand Theft Auto games into GTA5, as well as mods that combine older games from the GTA3 generation into one. That lead to a group of modders preemptively taking down their 14-year-old mod for San Andreas in case they were next on Take-Two’s list.

All of this is partially notable because it’s new. Like many games released for the PC, the GTA series has enjoyed a healthy modding community. And Rockstar, previously, has largely left this modding community alone. Which is generally smart, as mods such as the ones the community produces are fantastic ways to both keep a game fresh as it ages and lure in new players to the original game by enticing them with mods that meet their particular interests. I’ll never forget a Doom mod that replaced all of the original MIDI soundtrack files with MIDI versions of 90’s alternative grunge music. That mod caused me to play Doom all over again from start to finish.

But now Rockstar Games has flipped the script and is busily taking these fan mods down. Why? Well, no one is certain, but likely for the most obvious reason of all.

One reason a company might become more concerned with this kind of copyright infringement is that it’s planning to release a similar product and wants to be sure that its claim to the material can’t be challenged. It’s speculative at this point, but that tracks with the rumors we heard earlier this year that Take-Two is working on remakes of the PS2 Grand Theft Auto games.

In other words, Rockstar appears to be completely happy to reap all the benefits from the modding community right up until the moment it thinks it can make more money with re-releases, at which point the company cries “Copyright!” The company may well be within its rights to operate that way, but why in the world would the modding community ever work on Rockstar games again?

Filed Under: , , ,
Companies: rockstar games

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Rockstar Begins A War On Modders For 'GTA' Games For Totally Unclear Reasons”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

In a tiny bit of fairness to Rockstar, I can understand not wanting a “competing product” floating around when they’re about to release updated versions of the PS2-era GTA games. But let’s not act as if anyone who plays those games with the now-deleted mods would buy those re-releases.

This isn’t about “protecting an investment”⁠—this is about finding some way to force GTA fans into buying a product they don’t need/want to buy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

If the remasters are done well enough I could absolutely see people who play the old games with mods buying them. A lot of the modding is to bring it up to present day standards and if Rockstar can provide all of that in a remaster I don’t know what the motivation to keep playing old modded games would be.

With how many remasters have gone through there is definitely a real chance it will suck and the modders will be attacked because they are better at the job than Rockstar. With much nostalgia those games have they’ll sell a boatload even if it sucks.

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The point being made “in a tiny bit of fairness” to Rockstar has more to do with how this makes financial sense and isn’t just a power move that is completely legal. It wasn’t intended as a defense of Rockstar’s intentions.

In my own “in fairness” argument here, I would like to point out that it may be the case that the remasters will also support mods like GTA V does, and most of the more popular mods for the old games are meant to make them more “modern” rather than anything particularly creative or beyond what a remaster would do, so it’s plausible that the intent is more to drive people to buy remasters as opposed to sticking with the old one. Again, greed is definitely a major factor, but as far as questionable copyright takedowns or takedowns against mods and fan projects go, I’ve seen far, far less defensible ones.

I wish they had taken a different approach, but it’s entirely understandable when they are planning to release remasters soon.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"I can understand not wanting a “competing product” floating around when they’re about to release updated versions of the PS2-era GTA games"

Well, that only makes sense if you’re under the faulty assumption that they are a replacement for a purchase rather than a simple place holder for people who have been waiting for such a release for a decade.

"But let’s not act as if anyone who plays those games with the now-deleted mods would buy those re-releases."

Why would they not? People still playing those games now would be the first to buy an official release with official support, not the last.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"Mods for older games don’t make Rockstar money. GTA Online does"

So, people who want to play remasters of the originals and have no interested in GTA Online aren’t paying money to them either way, and they won’t magically get money by blocking the mods before people are able to pay for the remasters.

"That is literally all the Rockstar legal beagles need to know."

What is legally correct or logical does not mean that it makes marketing sense or actually results in more purchases. As usual, all that seems to be happening here is that the games’ biggest fans are being attacked for wanting something that is not yet available to buy.

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Honest question here: Does Rockstar, specifically, have a reputation for not paying their employees? I wouldn’t be surprised if they were underpaid and/or made to work overtime with little to no additional pay, but I rarely—if ever—hear about major game studios not paying an employee at all for working, so if this is something that is actually happening, I’d like to know so I can tell my acquaintances who play their games about this.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Most I’ve heard from actual employees, past and present, was crap hours regarding pay.
Extremely long days/weeks. Employees refusing to go how over job fear, etc.

But, and it’s no excuse, most renegade game companies appear to go this path.
They start out rebel gamers. They get popular. Top guy get greedy. Life suffers.
Rock Mostar was once party central on weekends. Today they’re just another corporate white collar sweat shop.

But I’ve been very vocal against Epic for going that route in their current anti-app-store fight.
Conveniently ignoring their roots and taking 60%, 70%, even 80%, to distribute a game in their mail flyer.

Masters of Doom, The Grand Theft Auto Story, Shades of Epics, Grand Theft Life, Rotten Fruit, …

The latter blog covering Apple’s gaming and home entertainment failures.

It’s not just games. It’s renegades in general.

As The Disk Turns: covering the storage wars of the 70s
Blue Daemon: on the internal sabotage of ‘basement’ projects at IBM
Discless: on how Nintendo lost it’s CD player.
March of the Cavemen: covering the PCFX/TG16 design.

Video game collector’s guide goes into some detail on ups and downs in early game companies.

Does RS have the rights and a reason?
Yes and yes.
Is it right? …?
Doom shows us you can embrace the mod community and make a fortune. I don’t recall if it was friendly doom or brutal doom but part of the open source update was bought back for the current series.
Blood bought and used 3rd party mods in Blood II.

Sadly those days are gone.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

17 U.S. Code § 106 – Exclusive rights in copyrighted works

Subject to sections 107 through 122, the owner of copyright under this title has the exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the following:

(2)to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;

You can hate the law. It’s still the law.

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Technically, you said:

Copyright leads one to the delusion they have the right to control the creative work of others

(emphasis added)

A “delusion” suggests that the belief is false or not connected to reality. However, from a legal standpoint, at least, tp is actually right this time (for once). Copyright holders do have the legal right to control other’s creative works to the extent they are “derivative” of a work the copyright holder has the exclusive rights to make derivative works from that work and are not considered “fair use”, and this does, in fact, give them leverage over derivative works.

It is true, though, that in general, tp is proof of your claim given how much they tend to overestimate the amount of control copyright holders actually have.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

RSN was always an interesting one.
And I’ve seen some hefty mods made over the years (like LC3D).
Let me get one thing out of the way up front: I don’t understand the online gaming community.
Something about being shot at as soon as you span, dodging falling planes and never quite knowing what to actually do…?

I understand protecting your cash cow. GTAV/OnLine.
But the anti-mod level of blocking alt-servers is a bit much. Especially when it’s paying users with legal games that just want to have ‘nuttertools’ and fly a spaceship.
Double so when they’re dropping real cash on shark cards to buy mod property!
So from that end it’s just :facepalm:

Vice City is still my favourite to play. And I consider it the best of the series in story.
V is the most fun to explore. And the alien/V ties are gold.
But something is lost in modern always online gaming. The art of tinkering is gone.
And GTA/O just isn’t fun for me.

If they really get a rebuild out and it’s quality and alone: good.
But why do I think this will just be an updated mission pack type release.
And if I can’t spawn a tank inside a building, some of the fun is lost.

Anonymous Coward says:

Rockstar is secretly being sold.

They’re trying to ‘collapse’ their IP into one sellable mass to increase the interest since (like Activision/Blizzard) rumours are starting to surface of sex harassment lawsuits, violation of minimum wage laws and SEC violations.

They need everything in one place, not scattered, otherwise less interest will be shown, so they’re clamping down on their most ardent fans in a move widely regarded as "so stupid it might as well refuse to wear a mask"

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...