On Friday of last week, Take-Two Interactive issued a number of cease-and-desist notices to makers of modding software for Grand Theft Auto V and Grand Theft Auto Online, in a bid to stop gamers from making modifications in the game to give them an edge over players in the online multiplayer portion of the game. This meant that hacking groups like “GTA5hax” were effectively shut down, choosing to voluntarily cease all their operations instead of getting sued by Rockstar and Take-Two.
But the notices served also reached OpenIV, a modding tool created by a group of Russian modders who had been supporting mods in Grand Theft Auto games for over a decade – some of them with Rockstar’s public support and advertising through their blog posts showing the power of mods in Grand Theft Auto IV. This caused a massive backlash with community members, and some of the protests have taken place on Steam, with masses of fans voting down Rockstar-published games.
According to the OpenIV developers, they received a cease-and-desist letter on 5 June 2017, written in poorly translated English, forcing them to stop development of OpenIV. The group took some time to learn more about what the letter was asking, and eventually made an announcement on the OpenIV website and in the OpenIV tool itself with an update later on. Their statement follows:
“It clearly says, that with OpenIV we ‘allow third parties to defeat security features of its software and modify that software in violation Take-Two’s rights’. Yes, this letter is illiterate both technically and grammatically (really, they don’t even bothered with proof-reading the text). Yes, we can go to court and yet again prove that modding is fair use and our actions are legal. Yes, we could. But we decided not to.
Going to court will take at least few months of our time and huge amount of efforts, and, at best, we’ll get absolutely nothing. Spending time just to restore status quo is really unproductive, and all the money in the world can’t compensate the loss of time. So, we decided to agree with their claims and we’re stopping distribution of OpenIV. It was a hard decision, but when any modding activity has been declared illegal, we can’t see any possibilities to continue this process, unless top management of Take-Two company makes an official statement about modding, which can be used in court.”
While the news spread slowly throughout the various communities attached to modding Rockstar’s games with the OpenIV tools, Rockstar issued a statement to several sites overseas about the Take-Two Interactive notices.
“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.”
(Take-Two didn’t send out any press releases of their own, choosing to not comment on the story and not to provide any feedback to IGN, Kotaku, or any other gaming websites that sent their queries by email.)
This did not go down well with the GTA modding community, because it’s well-known that tools like OpenIV and Scripthook are not designed to alter the files in the GTA Online folder. In fact, the developers took every step possible to make sure that their tools weren’t used to mod the online multiplayer for the player’s gain, including throwing up errors when you tried to do this.
As a result, there was a widespread protest that took place on Twitter, one Change.org petition with over 70,000 signatures, and the Steam store pages for the games themselves. On the page for GTA V, more than 49,000 negative reviews have been left on the page, turning the game’s previous “mostly positive” rating to “mixed”. While this might not slow down sales too much, it will impact today’s Steam Summer sale, with people looking for a bargain more likely to turn away from the game now that its rating is not positive.
The protest wasn’t just for GTA V either. The negative review storm also affected GTA IV, L.A. Noire, and Max Payne 3, among others. The three games are moddable with OpenIV and Scripthook, and some fantastic crossover mods have happened in all three games because they all use a different, but somewhat compatible version of the RAGE engine. Iron Man in 1930’s Los Angeles? Sure, that’s a thing.
It’s unclear at this point in time if RockStar or its publishing house, Take-Two Interactive, will ever renege on their decision to drown all modding groups in litigation. Scripthook, a separate tool written by modders located in America, hasn’t been served with the same notices, but it’s also not geared to be as easy to mod the offline versions of these games. Some groups, like the developers behind LSPDFR, are also prepared to voluntarily shut down their operations if Rockstar approaches them, because they don’t have enough money to defend Take-Two’s cease-and-desist letters in court.
People are also not happy with DLC price increases
The same negative review protest action also hit Paradox Interactive’s games over the weekend as well. The publisher recently made a decision to increase the prices of the DLC for Europa Universalis IV in several countries. This came just after the release of the trailer for their latest DLC expansion for the game, Third Rome, as well as announcing a console port of Cities: Skylines.
Most of the countries with already healthy markets saw no price increases for their DLC. However, there were sizeable increases in the price for several countries outside of the United States and Europe, some as much as 30% from the existing base price. In this example, I’m using prices taken from Steamdb.info for the Mare Nostrum Content Pack.
Republic of Colombia
United Arab Emirates
The only countries which do not see increases are those using the Euro, Switzerland, and the United States. These increases aren’t seen across the board for all of the game’s DLC, but it does seem to be higher in some content packs than others, especially in larger packs that expand on gameplay and add new units and missions. These increases also affected older titles published by Paradox, like Crusader Kings 2, and Victoria II. In some cases, the base price of the game rose up to AAA levels at nearly $60, even though it wasn’t newly launched or had seen a DLC update in a while.
The Paradox Plaza and Europa Universalis IV subreddits are filled with many threads complaining or discussing the price increases and it’s clear that a lot of people aren’t happy with the change. It might sting a little more given the fact that there is a Steam summer sale coming, and straight afterwards the games and DLC will return to their original price. In protest, quite a few of Paradox’s titles in Steam now have “mostly negative” reviews on their recent ratings.
Paradox Interactive hasn’t yet commented on the price changes, and it’s unlikely that they’ll reduce them again.