NoPixel’s Lead Developer Walks Us Through The Creation Of GTA V’s Biggest RP Server

NoPixel’s Lead Developer Walks Us Through The Creation Of GTA V’s Biggest RP Server

If you’re a GTA V fan and you watch Twitch, it’s more likely than not that you know about the NoPixel role-playing server. It’s the biggest and more popular role-playing server to exist on GTA V‘s online realm, with mods out of the wazoo and plenty of people committing wholeheartedly to their bits.

But did you know that the creator of NoPixel, Koil, is Australian?

Koil is an Aussie streamer and the lead developer behind the NoPixel GTA V RP server. Considering the role-playing element of GTA V Online has largely kept the game alive, NoPixel’s place in the game’s history is huge. That being said, it’s pretty cool that it originated from right here!

I got the chance to speak to Koil about how it all began, how it’s been, and what else is to come.

Before we get into NoPixel, let’s start with the basics. When did you get into Grand Theft Auto as a series? What got you into it?

I got introduced to the first GTA as a teenager at a friend’s house 20-plus years ago. To be honest, even back then the fact you could run over people and do ridiculous things blew my mind even as a top-down game. It was one of the original games to trigger gaming in general for me, along with Red Alert and Diablo 1.

What was it that drew you to roleplaying in GTA V Online?

Lean Bois (Buddha and Lirik who came from Arma 3 RP). I saw the popularity it got via SOE (an OG server) when they played but it was primarily US-focused and very hard to get into with an 18-24 player cap. At first, I didn’t think it would get traction with such a small server population and limited interaction but it worked so well with all the drama both in and out of the server revolving around these types of communities.

How did NoPixel come to fruition?

I started roleplaying in 2015 after watching Lirik roleplay in Arma 3 RP servers. It looked really fun and so I decided to try it out. I had never roleplayed before and did not take it seriously so I quickly caught a ban from the server I was trying to play on.

After a while, that server banned a lot of the content creators and I ended up joining an Arma 3 RP community. I met some great people there, some of them have been part of NoPixel since its creation. That Arma 3 community needed a developer for their server. I had never modded games heavily before, but I decided to see if I could help out and taught myself how to code. I ended up doing most of the dev work for that server by myself, but I found myself unhappy with the way the server was run and had no control over how it managed itself or its staff. In 2016 I decided that it was a better idea to start my own community so that I could decide on my own direction.

A lot of the friends I had made followed me and NoPixel was born. I spent months creating a custom server and map in Arma 3 called Silverlake which launched in September 2016. It was a fully custom map and server and so naturally, a lot of the RP streamers at the time wanted to try it out. It was pretty popular on Twitch too, although the audience was much smaller in those days.

The mainstreaming of NoPixel itself came from being more open with who we let in as other servers were overly dramatic with their criteria of who is good enough to roleplay. The reality was, we were content creators over roleplayers, so allowing anyone to join following some basic rules was our goal and proved to be the right choice. So a big thanks to Blue, Summit, Buddha, SodaPoppin, Lirik, xQc, Moonmoon, Fuslie, Valkyrae, Pokimane, Zerkaa and alike for bringing lots of attention to NoPixel as a whole and giving it a fair shot, as well as the groups like CG that have been here even when the server was dry, I will always be grateful even if we clash heads occasionally.

As you mentioned, NoPixel has hosted a wide range of YouTubers and streamers. What do you think NoPixel has that sets it apart, making people with large followings want to take part?

There are a couple of things that have helped. We always dedicated a lot of time and effort into the development of the servers and being ahead of others with our creations. The first three years it was mostly myself doing all the dev work, however, luckily a lot of talented devs joined us in the last year or two. This results in the content and mechanics always changing so it keeps things fresh.

Since NoPixel’s creation, we’ve had a solid core of roleplayers and content creators. So even if the audience numbers were nowhere near what we have now, people have always been able to see how fun it is to play on NoPixel. And every time a big creator has joined, it has shown a big spotlight on the content creators in the community and they’ve all been able to grow as a result, which made it more likely for other creators to notice NoPixel as well and want to join.

We’ve never tried to force people into a style of roleplay. At times NoPixel has been more serious or more silly, but we try and make sure all styles of RP are welcome in the server. This means that there is something for everybody (both content creators and viewers). It also makes it less intimidating for content creators to join that have never RP’ed before. And from our side, we have always said that we would welcome any content creator to try it out, even if they have never RP’ed before. A lot of them have surprised us as well with how great at RP they turn out to be.

Lastly, there have been many periods of gaming droughts over the years. There just haven’t been that many great games to play and most good games don’t have a lot of longevity to offer for gamers as well as in the creator space. We are working with one of the best games out there as our base (GTA V). And we are able to update it continuously which makes it a lot more fun to play for a lot longer of a time than most games.

What kind of work went into building NoPixel into what it is now?

In terms of development, an insane amount of hours went into it. When I was doing the coding myself for the NoPixel Arma server, and NoPixel 1.0 and 2.0 in GTA V, I would spend months coding before big updates, 12-18 hours a day, seven days a week. NoPixel 3.0 and onwards was created by a team of devs who are very passionate about NoPixel and have dedicated a lot of their time to it as well which has helped tremendously. The help really did come around at the right time; I was very burnt out after years of doing this.

There is also a lot of work that goes on into the management of the community, which has grown more challenging over the years as NoPixel has grown. We are fortunate to have a group of very loyal community members that help out in many ways. We have admins that make sure that people follow the rules and ensure that people can continue to have fun playing together. There are people that will review applications to NoPixel, which can be a lot of work at times.

When NoPixel exploded in popularity in 2019 before we had public servers, there were thousands of applications. There are people who have certain roles in RP that require them to do a lot of work outside of playing as well. For example, the police department needs to be run and function which requires a lot of time and dedication. We have our own judicial system that was created by players. There are also a lot of members in the community who will spend time creating fun events for the rest of the community to enjoy. For example, we just had Pride Month, which was celebrated with a lot of different events all created and driven by the NoPixel community members.

What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced in running such a popular RP server?

The biggest challenge has been keeping it popular and keeping everybody playing happily. From the beginning, NoPixel has always had a core of content creators. Starting in the Arma days through to GTA V, there have been Twitch streamers whose sole source of income was roleplaying and for most specifically on NoPixel. This included my own income as a full-time streamer. In the beginning, it would cost me money to run NoPixel that I was making through streaming on NoPixel. During the months that I was working on a new update, my stream metrics would suffer. Other streamers were relying on it as well, and with every new update their stream would do well, but wait too long with an update and numbers would go down across the board.

In the beginning of 2019, a lot of very big streamers joined NoPixel which put a massive spotlight on all its content creators. A lot of streamers including myself experienced tremendous growth which was great, but at the same time, there was a lot of pressure on me to keep it that way. A lot of streamers were able to turn streaming into a successful career and a lot of streamers were able to start streaming as a full-time job because of NoPixel and its popularity. Most of them, myself included, relied on NoPixel to keep it that way.

It’s also very challenging to keep everyone happy playing together. We’ve been playing the same game with the same core of people for years now. Not everybody gets along all the time and not everybody follows the rules all the time. People get bored or go through stressful times and end up acting out. My goal is to always try and keep everybody together as that ultimately works out best for everyone. However, it also means that sometimes hard decisions need to be made, like banning someone.

There are a lot of loyal NoPixel viewers out there which means there’s a lot of love and support for NoPixel, but there is also a lot of negativity. Some viewers get very tribal about which streamer or group they support, and what’s right or wrong. Honestly, it’s unhealthy for them and sometimes the streamer. There’s a lot of us versus them mentality. It’s something I have personally grown to ignore but it’s very difficult for newer streamers to come in and feel the wrath of the internet sociopaths.

A lot of work has gone into keeping NoPixel servers running. We have done a lot of work on our infrastructure over the years and DDoS protections, as with increased popularity, DDoS is a daily occurrence, and enough to sometimes take out data centres back in the Arma days. It really has been insane.

What are some of your plans for the future of NoPixel?

We are currently working on a NoPixel RDR2 server which will be released sometime in the near future. That, coupled with a few fun events lined up, for example, another streamer-oriented Squid Games event.

For the last few years, I have been saying “when the wave dies out, I will move on and make a game or something”, but it seems every time you think it’s slowing down another big update comes around and everyone is eager to get back into it.

If you’d like to try out for yourself and be the dedicated milkman or old lady with a terrible secret that you’d always dreamed of, you can head over to the NoPixel website for more information.

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