Grand Theft Auto modding tool OpenIV was shut down with a legal threat because it enabled hacking in GTA Online [official site], according to Rockstar. The makers of OpenIV announced this week that they had received a cease and desist letter from the layers of Take-Two, Rockstar's parent company, and neither could nor would defend themselves against The Suits. And so, they have stopped making one of the major modding tools for GTAs IV and V and pulled the downloads. We didn't have a clear idea of exactly why Take-Two were going after mod tools, but now we have a reason. A foolish reason, but a reason all the same.
OpenIV's lead developer says that the cease and desist letter received from Take-Two's lawyers said they "allow third parties to defeat security features of its software and modify that software in violation [sic] Take-Two's rights." The legalese could be read as an attack on modding itself. Not quite, Rockstar say. In a more human response, Rockstar told cheery RPS fansite PC Gamer:
"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."
The OpenIV lead said in the shutdown notice that one of their rules in developing the tool was "absolutely no messing with Online" but presumably someone managed to bend it to naughtiness.
While hacking is a big problem in GTA Online that needs to be shut down, attacking it in this way is both ineffective and offensive. The official source for OpenIV might have yanked the downloads but the software still works and cheaters are hardly above searching dodgy places for forbidden things. Once software is online -- and OpenIV has supported GTA V for two years -- it's out there forever. The cost of making cheating slightly less convenient is alienating some of GTA's biggest fans.
If Rockstar are "working to figure out" how to support modding without enabling cheating, it's unfortunate that they couldn't come up with an answer before Take-Two's lawyers enacted this toothless 'solution'.
This is especially frustrating because GTA players rely on mods for new singleplayer content. While Rockstar give GTA Online a steady flow of free content updates, singleplayer is forgotten. With no singleplayer expansions announced as GTA V nears its fourth birthday, it seems modding is the only way we'll get more GTA outside the online murderworld.
OpenIV isn't the only tool for modding GTA so mods aren't entirely barred, but it is required for mods which add or change assets and dig into data files. With OpenIV forbidden, GTA modding will become less interesting. Which is a shame because modders are making some great stuff.
Disclosure: I vaguely know-ish several people who work on GTA through my flatmate. Like, I know them well enough to say hi if I see 'em out but poorly enough for conversation to peter out.