The Grand Theft Auto franchise is among the most popular, most successful and most recognized in the gaming industry. Chances are that someone who has never held a game controller in their hands would understand what you’re saying if you’d shout “did you learn how to drive in GTA?” after someone running a red light. When you have such a big reputation to uphold, it’s understandable if you’re pretty damn serious about it.
Rockstar is pretty damn serious about it. Developers whose online games are rampant with cheaters, hackers and griefers get a lot of flak from the community, and with good reason. A lack of support and moderation is what usually kills multi-player games, as these generally lead to a rapidly decreasing population. GTA 5 is a ridiculously popular game, and GTA Online has an active player base that outnumbers the population of more than half of all the countries on the planet (not combined, of course – that would be absurd). Keeping that many people happy is an impossible task, because this is the internet we are talking about, so even if you’d be doing everything right all the time you’d get a fair share of haters. Keeping most of those people happy on the other hand is, well, a very, very difficult task.
As we’ve said previously, this is the internet we are speaking of. Complete anonymity and a virtually infinite audience is the perfect mixture to create assholes, which is why there is plenty of them online. As with any other multi-player game, GTA Online has its fair share of people determined to ruin the experience for everyone.
Rockstar, on the other hand, is determined to weed out these people from the game, in order to hold on to their good reputation. Recently, they’ve begun to resort to extreme measures to keep the griefers away from legitimate players. Over time, Rockstar has gotten more creative and more ruthless in their crusade against the GTA V cheaters.
Initially, Rockstar relied on basic cheat-detection, some hidden stats and a report system to find the less than honorable players and punish them accordingly. Suspensions and bans were the preferred methods to get these players to reconsider their stance regarding rules, and eventually Rockstar flashed their sense of humor. Those players who were banned for hacking or cheating were not locked out of playing GTA Online entirely, instead, they could only play with other cheaters/hackers. That way, they too need to deal with the bullshit that they put other players through back before they experienced the wrath of the banhammer.
In another stroke of genius, though not directly an attack on hackers, back when GTA V was released for current-gen consoles, Rockstar introduced a ridiculously over-powered vehicle to the single-player portion of the game as a gift to those players to made the upgrade. The so-called Duke’o’Death was a beast of a car, but was omitted from GTA Online for balance purposes. When players figured out how smuggle the car into GTA Online and to store it in their garages, Rockstar sneaked a “feature” into the game, that if anyone entered the Duke in GTA Online, the vehicle would promptly explode. Hilarity and chaos ensued, and this was certainly a more stylish approach than simply banning everyone who made use of the exploit.
But Rockstar’s patience was at an end, and with GTA Online still teeming with hackers, they began to make use of more extreme methods. With update 1.27, Rockstar added more to the game than just the Ill-Gotten Gains DLC. The update was laden with anti-cheating methods, including a host of hidden stats that kept track of various player actions, as well as changes to the code which killed all mods indiscriminately, including legitimate single-player mods.
Even then, the hackers persevered. The genius behind ScriptHookV, the tool used to make mods work in GTA V, updated his software to work with 1.27, but naturally did this with honorable intentions, as many players enjoyed their single-player mods. But of course cheaters also made use of this, and Rockstar got fed up.
Enter update 1.28, which contained a pretty extreme anti-cheating protocol. Basically, Rockstar has filled the game’s code with a brutal amount of dead code in order to make the work of modders that much harder, even if these are legitimate single-player mods. PSA guys: don’t cheat!