If you aren't much into game mods, you may not be aware that the Grand Theft Auto series has a rich machinima and modding tradition. Enterprising modders have have been extending and improving Take Two's beloved titles for some fifteen years now. The goods on offer are numerous, from simple modifications like adding extra cars and costumes, to advanced tweaks like custom car handling profiles and entire new areas, all the way up to turning GTA: San Andreas into an MMORPG. It seems that those mods may be a thing of the past now, though, seeing as Take-Two issued a cease-and-desist letter to the creators of the critically-important OpenIV mod tool, stating that modding the company's games is an "illegal" activity.
A cease-and-desist letter isn't legally binding, particularly given that Take-Two is an American company and the OpenIV mod team are based out of Russia. Still, the company could tie up the OpenIV team in years of expensive litigation, and the developers opted to simply discontinue the tool. Upon launching OpenIV while connected to the internet, users were greeted with the message above. Frustrated, the thousands of disgruntled GTA players that rely on the tool mostly took to Reddit and organized protests like a Change.org petition pleading with Take-Two to change its mind, as well as an organized campaign to trash GTA V's user rating on Steam.
While the efficacy of the latter campaign might be questionable, it has at least accomplished the most basic of its goals. GTA V now sits at an "Overwhelmingly Negative" rating for recent reviews in Steam, a score covering 40,360 posts made in the last 30 days. Just 13% of those are positive. The review backlash even brought the overall rating of the game down to "Mixed" down from "Mostly Positive" just weeks before. Other Rockstar games on Steam, like the rest of the Grand Theft Auto series, have seen similar trashing of their review scores.
Perhaps in response to the massive backlash, Rockstar Games issued a statement on the matter. The company claims that Take-Two took action against OpenIV to protect players of the notoriously cheat-riddled GTA Online. That statement is a little questionable since OpenIV is explicitly intended for modding the single-player portion of the game. Modders have apparently been careful to avoid messing with GTA Online precisely to avoid such a reaction from Take-Two. For example, another popular tool for GTA V called Script Hook V aggressively disables itself if the game enters Online mode.
Take-Two's action against OpenIV may have simply been in error. Yesterday, the massive publisher went after another mod distributor known as Force Hax, a well-known mod that is—sorry, was—less innocuous than OpenIV. Specifically, Force Hax was intended specifically for cheating in GTA Online, and its developers were brazen enough to charge money for it. Take-Two not only got the hackers to shut down the service, but also forced the Force Hax devs to donate their proceeds to charity. Kotaku says that other popular hack tools for GTA Online have also been targeted.
Take-Two's timing couldn't have been worse, because the Elder Scrolls and Fallout communities are simultaneously up in arms about the announcement of paid mods in Betheda's Creation Club. For its part, Bethesda says the Creation Club is "more like outsourcing than paid mods," but the parallels are clear. Here's to hoping that Take Two recants its stance on single-player modding.