After months of rumours, speculation, leaks, and teasers, Rockstar finally released the remastered Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – Definitive Edition collection yesterday. It landed with a thud as players encountered and documented countless visual bugs, gameplay glitches, and odd changes to models and textures. Even viewed in a vacuum, this state of affairs is disappointing, especially considering the $US60 ($82) price tag attached to the collection. But looking at the bigger picture, it gets even worse. These busted remasters seemingly led to the removal of a ton of classic GTA mods, and the original versions of GTA III, Vice City, and San Andreas. With that context added, it becomes a much more frustrating situation, and one which likely doesn’t have a happy ending.
Before Rockstar officially announced the GTA remasters, fans speculated about them for months due to random leakers and insiders on various forums hinting about their possible existence. Around this same time in the summer of 2021, Rockstar and Take-Two Interactive began targeting and removing mods that were related to the classic PS2 games, including popular mods like Vice Cry, which ported Vice City to the GTA V engine. The companies also sued the devs behind a project aiming to release the reverse-engineered source code for Vice City and GTA III, which would have allowed folks to more easily port and tweak these older games.
And because fans had already been speculating that GTA remasters were in the works, and all of these mods were related to those games — often improving them or making them easier to play — many connected the dots and concluded that Take-Two Interactive was clearing the runway ahead of its own official remakes. However, Take-Two and Rockstar have yet to confirm why any of the mods or fan projects were sent DMCA takedowns or lawsuits.
The reasons why didn’t matter to some modders, as many began removing old content or shutting down mods out of fear of legal threats and attacks from Take-Two. In September, shortly after Kotaku reported that Rockstar was indeed developing GTA remasters, the devs behind GTA Underground killed the mod after six years, citing increased “hostility towards the modding community” as well as “imminent danger to our mental and financial well-being.”
As you might expect, modders were furious with Rockstar and Take-Two for attacking mods and fan creators after years and years of letting them tinker with classic GTA games. Many expressed frustration that, after helping to keep games like GTA III playable and popular after 20 years, Rockstar didn’t reach out to modders to ask for help or support with the remasters, but instead lashed out using lawyers and legal notices. It rubbed many the wrong way.
On top of all of this, Rockstar also made the decision to remove the original GTA games from console and PC storefronts, with little warning and no assurance that these classics will ever return. So fans and the GTA community are left with these remasters and not much else. Considering the sorry state of these remasters, many are hoping that modders might once again save the day with free labour and passion. However, that might not happen either, after all the legal issues and takedowns over the past year.
Now, in the wake of the disastrous launch of the Definitive Edition Trilogy, many of the GTA modders I spoke to seemed mostly uninterested in the remakes, beyond sharing silly bugs and glitches on Twitter.
Popular GTA modder Silent, known for his wonderful patches that fix and improve the classic GTA games, told me that he doesn’t “care much” about the remakes, but was happy to see the backlash online. “I think it’s a good thing that it seems like Rockstar may finally be reaching the point where *a lot* of people are fed up with their actions.”
Ash_735, another popular GTA modder, expressed frustration over the whole situation, explaining to Kotaku that many modders and community members have always wished that Rockstar would behave more like Valve or Bethesda, supporting modders and their creations. If that had been the case, Ash reckons this whole situation would have gone down differently and involved a lot more happy fans and players. But sadly, that’s not the approach Rockstar took.
“Instead of recruiting people from this community, I guess something Take-Two and Rockstar see as beneath them, we’re instead dealing with abuse of DMCA and lawsuits,” said Ash.
“Things could’ve been different, things could’ve been more positive but in the end, it’s Rockstar’s and Take-Two’s choice to fight this community instead and sadly it will always be a back and forth, they want to push to make modifying game assets illegal, meanwhile we’ve already got people modding the Definitive Editions, we’ve got people with cracked copies of the game enjoying it whilst actual buyers are being punished by Rockstar’s own launcher.”
Silent has publicly tweeted that folks shouldn’t expect him or most other popular modders to step in to fix Rockstar’s remasters.
“People generally have better things to do than do unpaid work for others that won’t be acknowledged nor appreciated,” tweeted Silent.
As players continue to share videos and screenshots of terrible-looking weather effects, missing fog, annoying bugs, broken textures, and more, it’s obvious someone will need to fix these remasters. And due to Rockstar and Take-Two’s continued fight against modders and fan devs, unlike before, the community most likely won’t be coming to improve these games anytime soon.