Grand Theft Auto Online is rife with modders on PC! Is it a lost cause? Or can Rockstar save its community from collapsing in on itself?
Online gaming on PC has always been a roll of the dice. The unfortunate fact is that issues with game mods in multiplayer games are likely always going to be a problem. Game companies often pour untold sums of money into preventative measures, but to no avail. GTA Online is a prime example of this struggle, and to say it’s gotten a bit out of hand is putting it lightly.
The Good Ole’ Days
Playing GTA Online in public lobbies used to be fun. A bit chaotic at times, but fun. Now I find that often times me and my groups of friends will begin our night mulling around in a private server. Clammy hands and furrowed brows abound as we discuss the night’s activities. Do we want to stay isolated, or do we want to venture out into the unknown? An air of anxiety and a cluster of signs are often exchanged before taking the plunge.
It was the case, once upon a time, that playing in a private lobby served us well. We were able to do the heists, complete Lamar’s dubious get-rich-quick schemes, and generally have a night of laughs and stories to take with us to work the next day. Lately however, Rockstar seems to have made a conscious decision to change this. Almost all of the newer content (CEO, Motorcycle gang, Import/Export, Gunrunner, and Smuggler’s Run missions) requires a public lobby to complete.
Now I don’t begrudge Rockstar for making this decision, not one bit. Their intentions were simply to have the community engage with itself more than it had, and it worked. The downside for those of us who previously tucked ourselves away on little private digital islands though, is we now have to deal with the ugly truth: modding and hacking is rampant.
Everything is On Fire
Let me paint you a picture of what exactly I’m so vehement about. Last night, me and a few people jumped online to assist one particular friend with some gun-running. To give a little more background, this particular friend had recently gotten his account back from having it stolen. The hacker who took it seems to have done so to use it as a burner account. I say this because he changed the name to something ridiculous, bumped his level to 8000, and gave himself a ton of money. Not exactly subtle.
When the account was returned, the level was not reverted to where it previously was or even brought back to a reasonable level. It stayed at 8000. My friend refuses to reset his progress and lose all of his hard-earned property, which is understandable. But entering any server with him now immediately becomes a merry-go-round of the same three scenarios. 1: People calling him a hacker. 2: People questioning and harassing him constantly until we leave. 3: People asking him for money (more on that in a bit). So right out of the gate, we drove around with a huge target on our backs.
When I enter a server, I expect to either walk in on an imminent dumpster fire or for it to eventually become one.
Once the initial rabble quieted down though, we began finally running shipments. It was going pretty well. We did a few successful drop-offs without incident, and then the inevitable happened. A modder joined the server. Immediately things started to go awry. Another player and I were flying a shipment of goods back to base, when our cargo-bob dubiously gave birth to a bouncing baby Lambo mid-air. Oh no. A modder was teleporting his car to our location, presumably to kill us. He continued to fruitlessly plummet from our backside a dozen more times before changing strategies.
Suddenly, my character ejected from the helicopter and began plummeting to his death. I did the sensible thing and pulled my parachute immediately, only to have another car rip through space-time to clock me upside the head. Needless to say, this continued until I hit the ground and died. I wish I could say things like this were an isolated incident. But they’ve become so commonplace on the PC version of GTA Online that people often passively accept it as reality.
I’ve been in servers where it was raining airstrikes, everyone on the map kept exploding, there were flying brigades of tanks, invisible tsunamis of cops, you name it. I even had a hacker add himself to my friends list once so he could continue to harass me after I left. The issue has become so pervasive that I can only justify calling it an epidemic at this point. When I enter a server, I expect to either walk in on an imminent dumpster fire or for it to eventually become one. That’s a mindset no gamer should have to be forced into.
Not My Problem
What I find almost as bad as the presence of modders is the passive acceptance of them by more than a few regular players. Often times anyone who calls out or brings attention to these people get targeted mercilessly until they either shut up or leave. For this reason, and I’ve been guilty of it myself, players often end up taking the “not my problem” stance to a modder’s presence. “As long as they aren’t messing with ME, I don’t care what they do.”
The inherent problem with this attitude is that it normalizes and even encourages this kind of behavior. If you entered a server with super-powers and everyone cowered at the sight of you, bending to your every will, you would have very little incentive to stop either. Some people even go as far as to suck up to modders and ask for money. I’m often baffled when this happens, because they get put up on a pedestal as some kind of charitable Jesus-figure, handing out gold shekels to the poor beggar. It becomes this obscene, obnoxious power fantasy.
It would be a simple matter if people were able to identify and kick modders on sight. Although this is very possible in theory, it’s often not so simple in practice. Requests and votes to kick players are buried in the online menu, and some people don’t even know how to access the option. What makes matters worse is that getting killed kicks you out of whatever menu you’re in. So in situations where you are being teleported to and insta-killed every time you spawn, reporting or even quitting the game becomes impossible.
“Try Again, Son”
Me and my friends have had to resort to more creative means of getting rid of these parasites, and we’ve gotten pretty effective at it. We aren’t always successful, but we damn sure give it our all. I recall a specific scenario where a modder kept teleporting to us with a homing rocket launcher and shooting us. Lucky for me, I have made it a habit to always drive around with my heavily armored beast-mobile known as the Insurgent (pictured above). I took a rocket to the tail, handbrake-turned to a stop, and gawked “Nice try. Give me more rockets, plz”.
Once I scoped out the culprit, I ran him over. Realizing he likely had invincibility activated, however, instead of trying to run him over again, I backed over his body and sat on him. I then invited all of my friends in their armored vehicles to come over. I suppose you could say it’s the digital equivalent of sitting on a bully and twisting his arm. He would continue to teleport out of his prison and try to shoot us, but there were too many of us with too much armor. Soon enough he was pinned again. And again. And again, until he lost his cool and left the server.
Another time there were two modders teleporting around with invincible tanks. Once I had taken enough of their crap, I decided to exact revenge. I nabbed a relatively quick car off the street, went into passive mode, and tracked them down. I then proceeded to follow them around with my finger stuck on the horn for around 20 minutes. Childish, I know. But it was ultimately effective in annoying them to no end, as they picked up and left shortly after.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place
As amusing as it can occasionally be, I shouldn’t have to resort to these methods to be able to play in peace. I realize that dealing with issues of this scope isn’t just a simple on-off switch, but I feel that Rockstar needs to brainstorm some new counter-measures. Whatever they are doing now is absolutely not working.
For one, voting to kick these kinds of players should be a lot easier than it currently is. Like previously mentioned, when someone votes to kick a player, it doesn’t seem to overtly notify the server whatsoever. All it seems to do is put a flashing boot icon next to their name in the player list, which is quite easy to miss. It would be much more effective to display these kinds of things on the screen of every player and give them a two-button voting system like so many other games.
When you see a modder, don’t ignore them.
Next, Rockstar really needs to go after any site hosting these kinds of exploits. It’s obviously possible to distribute these kinds of things using more sneaky methods, but getting rid of as many as possible should deter the lazy. This is likely easier said than done, but I can’t imagine that doing so would be a fruitless effort.
Lastly, and this is the most important step, we need to stop passively allowing these kinds of things to go unchecked. I know this sounds like some kind of corn-ball Smokey the Bear PSA nonsense, but when you see a modder, don’t ignore them. Report them. Let everyone on the server know they are there, and try to kick them out asap. An entire server shouldn’t be bullied to leave over just one person.
Obviously, I don’t have all the answers to this monumental problem, and I’m not going to pretend for a second that anything I’ve suggested will be enough. But I feel that it’s a step in the right direction, and I can only hope you take even an iota of what I’ve said seriously. Don’t let the modders win. They don’t deserve the satisfaction.
What do you think? Has GTA Online gone past the point of no return on PC? Or can Rockstar turn things around and drive these modders out? Let us know in the comments, on Facebook, or Twitter. Also consider joining our mailing list below to keep up with all the latest Outpost action.