Take-Two, Rockstar Continue DMCA Blitzing Mods And Save Games For GTA
from the mod-squad dept
Usually when a company does something that results in a public backlash, that company will stop digging holes. Over the summer, we wrote about Rockstar Games and its parent company, Take-Two Interactive, starting a war on modding communities for the Grand Theft Auto series. After years of largely leaving the modding community alone, these companies suddenly started targeting mods that were chiefly designed to put content or locations for older GTA games into GTA5. While the public was left to speculate as to why Take-Two and Rockstar were doing this, the theory that perhaps it meant they were planning to release remastered versions of older games eventually turned out to be true when GTA Trilogy was announced. In other words, these companies were happy to reap all the benefits of an active modding community right up to the point where they thought they could make more money through a re-release, at which point the war began.
And, as we also covered recently, the PC release for GTA Trilogy went roughly as horribly you can imagine. While the game was released and purchased by many, mere days afterwards Take-Two not only delisted those games from marketplaces, but also experienced “unscheduled maintenance” on Rockstar’s game launcher, meaning owners of that game and several other Rockstar games couldn’t play the games they’d bought. That eventually got corrected several days later, but it was a terrible look, especially when combined with how little information Rockstar provided the public as it was going on. Many paying customers were very, very angry.
So, did Take-Two and Rockstar reverse course? Nope! Instead, it seems that the war on the modding community is only accelerating.
On November 11, according to the folks over at the GTA modding site LibertyCity, Take-Two contacted them and used DMCA strikes to remove three different GTA-related mods. The three removed mods are listed below:
-GTA Advance PC Port Beta 2
-The Lost and Damned Unlocked for GTA 4
-GTA IV EFLC The Lost And Damned (65%)
So, what are those mods? Well, the first is a fan project to take the contents and storyline of GTA Advance, a Gameboy Advance game, and porting them into the GTA3 engine. So, again, a retro game port. The second is a simple mod that allows a player to play GTA4 as a different protagonist character from some DLC. Why Rockstar felt this mod is a threat is beyond me. And the third, GTA IV EFLC The Lost And Damned, is simply a save file for that DLC with 65% of the game completed. It’s not a mod at all and so it is completely unclear why this would have been targeted for a DMCA takedown, unless Rockstar wants to argue that publishing a save file is somehow copyright infringement.
But since it is happening and, just like like last time, Take-Two and Rockstar aren’t bothering to communicate about any of this, it’s all left to speculation.
Because of what happened last time, some are speculating that these takedowns are evidence that a GTA IV remaster might be coming sometime in the future. According to sources who have spoken to Kotaku in the past about Rockstar’s future remasters, GTA IV as well as Red Dead Redemption remasters are possible. Though plans can and do change and with the recent backlash facing the GTA remasters, Rockstar might be more hesitant to greenlight future re-releases.
Regardless of if these takedowns are evidence of a future GTA IV remaster or not, it still is a frustrating situation for modders and community devs who have spent decades improving, porting, and maintaining the classic GTA games, allowing fans to play them years after Rockstar had moved on. Kotaku spoke to some modders who seemed fed up with Rockstar and many more have moved on to other games from other companies, worried about the potential legal pitfalls for continuing to mod Grand Theft Auto titles.
And so the modding community for Rockstar games gets at least a little less vibrant. Maybe the company is fine with that, but they damned well shouldn’t be. As we’ve discussed for years, modding communities are great for game companies. They keep old games fresh, keep up interest in older games, make old and new games more interesting and appealing by inputting new content, and basically work almost solely to provide free content to game companies as labors of love.
Why Rockstar and Take-Two would want to bite this hand that very much feeds them is a mystery to me.
Filed Under: copyright, dmca, gta, modding, retro games, takedowns
Companies: rockstar, take two interactive
Comments on “Take-Two, Rockstar Continue DMCA Blitzing Mods And Save Games For GTA”
"Thanks for the money. I don’t need you anymore!"
They make many, many millions of dollars from Grand Theft Auto Online. Unless these actions cut into those profits, Rockstar and Take-Two have no reason to give a good god’s damn about pissing off modders.
Why would they do this??
Because Nintendo is still a massive company & they screw their player base all the time.
Mods are why I purchase a lot of games. Mod-unfriendly developers are ruining their games by doing this shit. No game is ever complete and no developer can make a game with every setting that every player wants.
Mods keep interest going in old games , keep games relevant, it’s like tik Tok is now making hits of old songs that most people have forgotten, modders have time to do things that devs might never do,
Csgo is based on an old mod, half life black mesa is basically a mod super HD resolution version of half life that valve now sells
Maybe rockstar wants people playing Gta online not playing free single player mods that are better than the official pc game that rockstar made
Many devs encourage modders knowing it only makes the game better and increases sale of the original game mods are free advertising like video play thrus on youtube
"Why Rockstar and Take-Two would want to bite this hand that very much feeds them is a mystery to me."
It’s very simple. GTAV online is an insane cash cow, and RDR2 similarly makes a huge amount of money from its online component. We’re talking billions and billions of dollars. The reason we haven’t seen GTA6 yet is because they’re still making obscene levels of cash from the previous game.
This changes the dynamic they had before. If you have a mostly single player experience, mods are important because they keep the player base engaged, and a willing and ready market for the next official DLC, the next iteration of the base game or the next title in your roster. It makes good sense to foster this community.
However, this all flips when your focus is online subscriptions and selling digital merch. Someone getting free content is suddenly a competitor to your own paid offerings. Mods that have benign purposes in a single player game all of a sudden become popular avenues for cheaters, and cheaters put other people off playing and paying even if the mod isn’t expressly created to give you a bunch of free in game loot.
So, they’ve decided that while the single player mod community is nice and all, they want that income stream from people who have to pay them to mod their games. It’s probably not a strategy that’s going to work in the long term, and even the most ardent GTA Online player must be reaching the end of their continued interest before too long. But, I suspect that the current management will be too busy doing Scrooge McDuck impressions in the mountains of cash they’re acquiring right now to care if they killed the brand to get it. Like most major corporations, given the choice between making billions now and fostering a great community that will earn trillions over the next couple of decades, they’ll take the immediate hit.
Also, let’s see what lesson they learn from the GTA trilogy disaster. Will it be "we need to ensure we have quality products and we can’t depend on guaranteed income from the GTA brand alone"? Or, will it be "single player isn’t profitable enough, let’s not bother with it"?
Not entirely. That is a rent seeking model and by definition has a limited lifespan. If Rockstar wants to extend that lifespan, they’d be better off allowing the mods to keep chugging along. As any proper mod requires the original game to function, the mods create reasons for the public to keep paying their rent at no cost to Rockstar. Further, it still creates the possibility for new talent hires, and official mod releases, again at little to no investment cost to Rockstar. It’s idiotic, shortsighted, and costly, for Rockstar to be taking down the modders.
That is a problem with the design of the game engine itself, and the current trend of "matchmaking" that the industry implements as a whole. What matchmaking means to developers (read: corporate bean counters) is the players shoulder most of the cost of providing multiplayer services. The players are responsible for providing the computation and bandwidth resources of each multiplayer session. The developers only have to provide a "phonebook" of people who are willing, and allowed, to play at any given moment. After the players are chosen, the players themselves become responsible for keeping everything in the game sync’d up and accurate. As a result, there is no unbiased referee in most modern multiplayer games. With slight variation dependent on the game engine’s design, at least one of the players is the "authoritative server". In which all other players must listen to. If that server says Player Asshat killed you with one shot, from across the map through multiple impenetrable walls, with the game’s weakest weapon, with you at full health, while they were facing the opposite direction, guess what? You died, and your game will abide by it. The cheaters? They altered the game executable, and / or peeked into it’s memory. It doesn’t care and never will. The cheater payed off the referee.
Now some games will check for obvious cheats like these and attempt to block them, but others won’t and never will without an official update forcing them to do so. (Looking at you Nintendo. How’s all that NSO money?) Some games may report suspicious behavior from the "authoritative server" to the developers for further analysis, but cannot make the call themselves.
This is the whole reason behind the "disconnect" problem that sore losers pull when they are about to loose a ranked match. "Oh, my internet cut out right before I would have lost" is an obvious pattern for a human to see. Not so much for a game client, especially if the player in question has had a spotty connection through out the entire match. Should a game client preemptively punish players for having shitty internet? What if the game client in question has shitty internet, all of the other clients can communicate just fine, and the accused cheater is innocent? What if the game client’s shitty internet is the reason why all previous interactions with the accused cheater are considered "disconnect cheating"? Fail to handle those questions properly, and your game will kill it’s own community and your profits along with it.
Other cheats are within the realm of possibility for game’s rules. The chances are low, but that one player may have gotten a blue shell multiple times in a row without cheating. That one player may have pulled off a fatal shot that was graced by the RNG gods. That other player may have noticed the other player earlier or heard them approach, it doesn’t have to be a wallhack. How do you check these? In the case of the first two if the company had hosted the "authoritative server" themselves, it’s a simple check of the logs. (Or just trust in the game developer that they wouldn’t compromise their own server.) In matchmaking, the logs that must be checked are on the machine of the accused, and it’s responses must be considered trustworthy regardless of ownership. (Hint: This is a huge use case for TPMs, and game streaming.) The last one is always an interpretation of the reputation of the accused. The slightest evidence that the possibility of awareness without cheating exists will exonerate most players. It’s only after multiple instances of this that developers will start suspecting someone, and for good reason. They don’t want to alienate a good player for being good at their game. Especially if they can continue making money off of that player.
With matchmaking, the result is a shitty multiplayer environment. But it’s an environment that the developers don’t have to pay for, and therefore it’s the environment that the players will get. Even better, it’s one that the players will pay to participate in (Again, Hi Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony, and all other developers.) and then blame each other for. Nothing like an influencer asking what additional things players would be willing to give up to be free of cheaters. (Your national ID?) Which would be disastrous, but it shows just how warped and biased the current debate is in favor of the developers ever increasing profits for minimal effort.
BTW: The term "authoritative server" had another name back in the 90s and 2000s: dedicated server. (Yes, I’m dating myself here.) Those were trusted servers run either by the developers or even third parties with the resources. Those servers only required that your connection to them was good, instead of the current model where it has to be good with all connected players. Those servers also ran the entire session, and validated the inputs. Those server had to deal with even worse connections than their modern equivalents, dial up anyone?, and some even had advertising on their welcome screens when players first connected or in between maps. Long before the concept of Xbox Live, PSN+, or NSO, existed. And yes, those servers had their own anticheat. (Punkbuster was popular, and just as intrusive as their modern equivalents.) Many of those servers also had no where near the blatant cheating that is common today. Assuming that the server was run by a reputable admin.
So why did developers change to the matchmaking model? Money. Again, it costs them far less if the players shoulder the cost of running the session. Also dedicated servers allowed the communities to continue playing long after the official servers were retired. (Many are still online today, and more can be spun up when needed.) Which doesn’t work well for business models that are dependent on planned obsolescence and forced upgrades.
TL;DR: Blame the developers for making such a shitty game engine design that bribing the referee was made possible.
Neither. The cause of the take down was supposedly the fact that the game contained all of the copyrighted assets from the original release that Rockstar failed to renew the licensing for. Also, apparently the good ol’ hot coffee content was present too. Which should give anyone pause for why Rockstar chose the original release of these games to reuse as a base, given the massive legal problems it caused Rockstar the first time.
If anything, Rockstar’s lesson will be "Who the fuck forgot to destroy the damn evidence!?!?!?!?"
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"That is a rent seeking model and by definition has a limited lifespan"
Yes, and corporate investors tend to demand impossible quarter-on-quarter growth with CEOs regularly bailing out on major failures with a golden parachute and a tarnished brand. I’m not convinced that any CEO in charge of a product that’s raking in billions of dollars will be dissuaded from making bad decisions because in 10 years time the company won’t be making the same revenue.
"It’s idiotic, shortsighted, and costly, for Rockstar to be taking down the modders."
…and if you don’t think there’s a long history of CEOs doing exactly that type of thing to profit in the short term, you don’t know a lot about corporate history.
"That is a problem with the design of the game engine itself, and the current trend of "matchmaking" that the industry implements as a whole"
You spend a lot of time talking about matchmaking, but that’s only one factor. The bottom line is that if you are depending on client code to play, then you are depending on a number of known factors and a confirmed ecosystem. If people can mod the game to remove those known factors, or change them in their favour, then the incentive is to prevent people from making those changes.
Rockstar sure as hell haven’t been perfect, but if the choice is between "allow mods and clean up the mess afterwards" and "ban mods and lose a small subset of paying customers as a result", they’ll choose the latter. Even if they only pay lip service to the bans and end up letting some through, they have shown investors that they’re "trying", and have a nice scapegoat to blame for any revenue loss when some inevitably make it through.
"Neither. The cause of the take down was supposedly the fact that the game contained all of the copyrighted assets from the original release that Rockstar failed to renew the licensing for. Also, apparently the good ol’ hot coffee content was present too."
Yeah, they found a good couple of scapegoats to pretend to investors that it wasn’t because people were laughing at the shoddiness of the product or bad business decisions. Fortunate for them that such "accidents" happened, isn’t it? If I were a more cynical man, I’d suggest that they realised they were about to release hot garbage and made sure they had that excuse if they received a media backlash. Hey, they didn’t release a bad product intentionally, those dumbass 3rd party developers they hired for the remaster included the wrong build is all…
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Which points to a very bad trend in economics nationally, and is the reason why the economy sucks as bad as it does. When the people running the companies have no investment in the companies themselves, they set up the company, and those that depend on it’s success (it’s employees and investors), for failure. When industries as a whole have no investment in their companies, the entire country is set up for failure. That’s not good long term and will lead to an economic collapse.
This site is a testament to that very history. There’s not a week that goes by we don’t hear of some random company, and often the same ones, doing bad shit. The fact that history exists doesn’t justify the bad behavior, nor does it render my criticism of said bad behavior any less valid.
Your bottom line is flat out wrong. The fact that the code responsible for preventing cheating must be executed on the cheater’s device makes the cheater’s device the referee. The cheater will always find a way around restrictions on their own devices. As long as the cheater’s device is the referee you cannot claim that you are doing every thing you can to prevent cheating. That’s like providing the football and then claiming that you’re not responsible when it’s found to be deflated beyond regulation specs.
Matchmaking moves the burden of judgment and enforcement of cheaters onto the very players that may desire to cheat. This is unnecessary, and in the case of ranked matches / competitive play, counterproductive. The developer’s desire to make money by ignoring that one factor should not be tolerated by the players.
How do you propose they do that then? TPMs and streaming? Forcing rents on to the players indefinitely? Forbidding devices from running anything that isn’t approved by Microsoft / the FBI? Make the players give up their personal info just so the developers can make even more money by selling said info? Assigning a trustworthiness score to each player and selling that too? May as well sell it to the credit agencies, you know that they will love denying loans for a house, car, or business to cheaters. How much more are you willing to force society to give up before you say they’ve gone too far in the name of profit?
That’s not a sustainable strategy. The cheaters don’t need the mods to cheat. Again, cheaters can bribe the referee. All Rockstar gains by banning mods is a lot more bad press and pissed off players. Some of those players might think that the bans will fix the cheating issues, but much like the Nintendo Switch Online subscribers they’ll figure out the truth sooner rather than later. Then Rockstar is down one more excuse, and their shareholders will be just as angry with them as before the bans. It’s a waste of money and good will, and if those shareholders had any level of sense, like they should, they’d toss out the CEO’s bullshit before it could leave their mouth.
Those accidents leave Rockstar vulnerable to multiple lawsuits involving commercial copyright infringement, breech of contract, and multiple state laws against allowing sexually explicit material to be sold on store shelves. (That Rockstar itself helped to create with the original release of the "accident" in question.) I’m pretty sure that Rockstar’s investors are not too thrilled right now about these "accidents."
Your reply shows that you clearly are.
Good luck with that excuse in court. "As your games are proprietary, where did said third party get the original materials to make the release in the first place?" Also, "As you have claimed that the third party in question is not the producer of the so called build, should this court assume that Rockstar is the entity responsible for the released build?" No sane lawyer would allow that out of anyone’s mouth. It doesn’t even pass the smell test. As an investor, If I found out that creating grounds for multiple lawsuits was the company’s solution for wasting my money, I’d be firing the leadership immediately, and pulling my funding from them. They’ve proven themselves incompetent and an unacceptable risk.
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"Which points to a very bad trend in economics nationally, and is the reason why the economy sucks as bad as it does"
"Matchmaking moves the burden of judgment and enforcement of cheaters onto the very players that may desire to cheat"
You say this as if it’s not possible to cheat without a "matchmaking" system. You do realise it is, right?
"How do you propose they do that then?"
They can’t with any degree of reliability. But, reality is that their target audience is investors, not their end users…? If the former, they just have to convince people to pay them millions before they decide to bail. Anything after that is not their concern.
"Those accidents leave Rockstar vulnerable to multiple lawsuits involving commercial copyright infringement, breech of contract, and multiple state laws against allowing sexually explicit material to be sold on store shelves"
Hardly. I would bet that the infringement stuff would be waved off with "it was a mistake" and the "we were misled by the 3rd party we hired", while as far as I know games ratings haven’t really been challenged in court to any degree that would matter to them. There was a great controversy, but were there real consequences?
"As an investor, If I found out that creating grounds for multiple lawsuits was the company’s solution for wasting my money,"
If you found out. Right now, there’s an ongoing trial where it’s revealed that Elizabeth Holmes conned many millions from people with a medical device that couldn’t possibly have worked. Which, if you look into the details was insanely obvious as a con. Why would investors in a game be any more clued up?
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Will you stop putting words in my mouth? I never said that. It is possible to cheat with other designs, but matchmaking makes preventing cheating and catching cheaters far more difficult than the other methods. Players upset about widespread cheating should not accept matchmaking because of that unnecessary difficulty.
That’s BS. They can’t pay back those investors with the investment money of other investors. If they try to do so anyway, eventually the investors will catch on, pull out, and the company will be bankrupt. A company’s primary job is to provide services and products that it’s customers want. If they fail to do that, they will not be a profitable company for very long, because they need the public’s money to pay the bills. Guess what? The public gets to decide whether or not to give the company money, not the shareholders. The shareholders have no return to make if the public refuses to give the company money, and therefore will not invest if the public withholds too much of their money. The public is the customer, pure and simple.
They committed commercial copyright infringement. If a single affected rights holder wanted to make some fast cash, they have every legal right to do so. Rockstar might get lucky in this case, then again they might not. You yourself just justified bad company behavior and shitty products solely in the name of profit. Using your own logic, why would any rights holder pass up a free money shakedown?
They are supposed to be. If you openly fund a bank heist or a murder, you can’t expect to use ignorance as an excuse in court. That’s also the reason why many get pissed off at investors, who have unparalleled control and access over a company, yet claim complete ignorance when it’s convenient for them to escape punishment. People wonder why things never change. It’s because the bad actors bank rolling all of this crap are never held accountable. Elizabeth Holmes is also a bad example. The only reason Elizabeth Holmes is in court is because she fucked over the investors. If she had fucked over the public instead, the investors would be lining up to give her more money. Which again shows just how broken our economic system is. It rewards it’s own destruction.
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Nevermind the take down. The trilogy was a garbage product nobody liked, not the console players who got to play it nor the PC players who got a good excuse to demand a refund.
Take-Two and Rockstar are so busy going after mods and save files (??) that they are missing cases of actual copyright infringement.
The game EmergeNYC includes assets taken from GTA 4.
Remember when we used to actually own video games?
Pepperidge Farms remembers
‘Thanks for keeping dead games alive and providing us with a steady income trickle from people who’ve seen mods and are intrigued enough to buy and replay the games, here’s a lawsuit and go eff yourselves, also please keep working on patches to make our games playable so we don’t have to.’
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