Distributed across Russia and Ukraine, six dedicated individuals spend their free time building, maintaining and adding new elements to modding tool OpenIV. The system allows creators of in-game content to add their own ideas and objects to PC games built on Rockstar Games’ Rockstar Advanced Game Engine (RAGE), such as Max Payne 3, Grand Theft Auto IV and Grand Theft Auto V.
OpenIV is predominantly used by the mod community that’s grown up around GTA IV and V, and has resulted in the creation of everything from fully customisable in-game cameras that allow you full control over directing movies to pilotable aircraft carriers and even a player model that is the exact likeness of Lionel Messi
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The OpenIV team is currently working on their biggest update to the platform yet, something that promises to radically change the way we perceive GTA V, and alter our perspective in regards to what we mean by ‘large scale’ open-world gaming.
Led by software engineer Yuriy Krivouchko, who started development on the modding tool in 2008, OpenIV is currently working to add GTA IV’s entire Liberty City map into the territorial boundaries of GTA V’s San Andreas state. It’s Americana condensed: recreations of New York City and California squashed together, with the sweeping central corn belt of the country nowhere to be seen.
Liberty City won’t replace any of the existing San Andreas map and will instead be located on its own island – players will have to sail or fly over the sea to visit. The tentative goal is have Liberty City ready for players and modders to access it this spring. It’s Krivouchko’s hope that the additional landmass, familiar to fans of the series, will inspire user-generated content creators to further expand upon GTA V’s offerings in bold new ways.
Cruise through Liberty City without leaving GTA V
© OpenIV / Rockstar Games
“We’re not modders ourselves,” Krivouchko explains. “We make tools for the modding community so they can do whatever they want. We enjoy creating the tools and undergoing the research process to allow that to happen.
“I think what we want to achieve with this Liberty City mod is to make it a base for other mods. People will be able to expand Liberty City with their own content and maybe even some missions or activities. Also, I hope the ability to have both maps in one game will open new possibilities for GTA video creators.”
Despite both GTA IV and V running on the RAGE engine, there are differences in the file formats used by the two games given the technological advancement made between their respective releases. Krivouchko explains that this creates a problem for the OpenIV team, in that it’s not possible to simply take the files that make up Liberty City’s physical construct within GTA IV and dump them wholesale into GTA V.
As a result, a lot of the team’s research is concentrated around how files can be converted in order to work on the version of RAGE used across both games. Not only that, but OpenIV must make it possible for mod creators to add their content in a way that is understood by GTA IV and V. This requires an intimate knowledge of the underlying structures dictating the experience of GTA IV and V, a task made easier given that, alongside Krivouchko, OpenIV’s other members also work in software engineering.
Delving into the RAGE system so directly and deeply has greatly expanded Krivouchko’s knowledge of the engine, and subsequently broadened his horizons as they relate to OpenIV.
Use airports to travel between LC and SA
© OpenIV / Rockstar Games
“Sometimes we have to learn new things about game development in order to make new features for our OpenIV tool,” he explains. “For example, we learned how the animation systems work and as a result we now have animation and cut-scene viewers that works for GTA V, and we have formats that allow for animation editing. When I first began working on OpenIV I couldn’t have ever imagined that those sorts of features would ever be possible.”
The creation of mods for their games is something that Rockstar Games has been supportive of up until this point, but there hasn’t been such a significant example of so much of one game being transplanted into another before now – especially another that Rockstar itself made. It’s been a number of weeks since the Liberty City project was made public and, as of now, Rockstar hasn’t made contact with OpenIV or openly acknowledged the project.
Krivouchko is aware of the possibility that Rockstar might see dissatisfaction with his team’s goal, but he tells us that “we’re trying to make it hard for them to be able to pull the plug” on the idea.
The way OpenIV pulls Liberty City into GTA V is by converting files to allow them to be read by the newer game. Thus, Krivouchko is not creating a means to personally distribute any of Rockstar’s intellectual property. Players must have their own PC copies of both GTA IV and GTA V in order to bring the worlds of Liberty City and San Andreas together. The mod simply allows the two games to talk to one another and share files; it doesn’t add any content that the player doesn’t already have access to.
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This facilitation of communication between technologies gets to the heart of why Krivouchko and his team are so interested in creating OpenIV at all. When asked about why he’s spending so much time working on something that he likely will never see any physical or financial reward from, his answer is a philanthropic one.
“Converting the map from one game to another is indeed a huge task, but it’s a challenge that allows us to make OpenIV and the whole of GTA V better. People are using OpenIV on a daily basis; the programme we created is being used by thousands of people every day from all around the globe. That is what is important for us as creators.”
Just as Rockstar designed recent iterations of GTA to foster a sense of exploration and experimentation amongst players, OpenIV seeks to inspire the same sensibilities amongst modders.
OpenIV’s GTA V Liberty City mod is due spring 2017 on PC. For more gaming coverage, follow @RedBullGames on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
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Category: Tech World News