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Grand Theft Auto History Part Four
Modding Community and Ratings
After the success of Grand Theft Auto III and Grand Theft Auto Vice City, Sam Houser had an idea in his head that would push the boundaries of the PlayStation 2 system, as well as the RenderWare engine. He wanted this new project to be as huge as possible. The setting was the west coast of America in early 90’s.
Besides pushing of technological boundaries, Rockstar Games were set on pushing another boundary: that one of the ESRB Mature rating. Extensive research was done as to what can be put in the content of the game and still retain the Mature rating. If ESRB labeled the game as Adults Only, then major selling chains such as Wall Mart would not sell it in their stores, and that in effect means way lower sales.
The game in itself was done with all the explicit sexual scenes in it, but this was later covered so as to not breach the M rating, although Rockstar Games had in mind to release a patch for the Windows version of the game which would unlock that content. In such way they could actually control, albeit to an extent, who gets the patch and avoid the dreaded Adults Only rating. They locked the content on the disc for the PlayStation 2 version. But there was one thing that Rockstar Games did not consider in this equation. That thing is the modding community. The modding community for the Grand Theft Auto series has grown over the years and it was flourishing. Players who were passionate about the GTA games made mods for it including skins for pedestrians and characters, as well as cars and garages. These people were either professional or amateur programmers who took the code from the PC versions of the games and edited it in any way possible. Rockstar has been silently supportive of this community from the very beginning, even including in the Terms of services for this new game clause which would enable players to legally modify the game. These modders were on the tail of the locked content even from the release of the PlayStation 2 version of the new Grand Theft Auto video game, but due to the limitations of the system they were not able to access it. They were eagerly waiting for the Windows PC version.
This new Grand Theft Auto would be as big and as controversial as both of previous 3D universe games. With huge open world come many big possibilities, and video game community accepted it with arms wide open.
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Grand Theft Auto San Andreas
Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, or simply abbreviated as GTA San Andreas, was released in 2004 for the Sony PlayStation 2 and in 2005 for the Microsoft Windows and XBOX console. The game was a commercial and critical hit, with both critics and players heaping praise on to it. It was last of the main games in the so-called 3D GTA universe.
This game was huge, with the map covering a whole county, or a state, of San Andreas, a fictional representation of the California and Nevada states, with three cities: Los Santos, fictional Los Angeles, San Fierro, fictional San Francisco and the fictional Las Vegas aptly named Las Venturas. Besides these three main cities, there were small towns and villages on the map, as well as a huge desert and ocean spaces, including several rivers and forests. The team at Rockstar North really pushed the technology of the PlayStation 2 system and RenderWare video game engine.
New aspect of the video game was something that Rockstar Games kept away from their games as long as possible. The RPG element. Players were able to customize their main character the way they wanted it, including the customization of the hair, body, clothes and even cars. Almost everything in this game was open for customization. Main character had abilities that were upgradeable, such as the driving or fling skill. Some people praised this new element, others detested it, but they all loved the game.
The game starts with the main character, Carl CJ Johnson, returning from Liberty City to Los Santos for his mothers’ funeral, only to find his family and his friends in disarray. The story follows the main character as he tries to tie the loose ends connecting his family and friends. The story was bigger and more elaborate than the one in the previous games, including long side-missions such as the casino heist and appearance of various characters from previous games, such as Leone Salvatore, Ken Rosenberg and Paul Kent. Rockstar Games outdid themselves yet again.
That thing which was consistently good from the beginning of Grand Theft Auto series was the sound and sound effects. They were updated alongside the game engine and sounded more realistic than in the previous games. There was a lot more music in the Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, with ten music stations and one talk station, including a proper original musical score for the game. The stations included Radio Los Santos, the home of gangster rap, and such stations as K DST, old rock music station, and of course WCTR, West Coast Talk Radio. For the voice talent in this game, Rockstar wanted to push unknown voice actors, such as Young Maylay who gave voice for the main character, but of course they could not go without celebrities such as Samuel L Jackson or Axl Rose, of the Guns ‘n’ Roses fame.
Controversies did not pass this game. Starting from the fact that the main character was African-American (for the first time in video game history) was a gang member, and continuing on the Hot Coffee incident. That locked content from the beginning of this article was discovered within 24 hours of PC version of the game being released. It was spread like a wildfire across the internet. What it practically unlocked were the scene with CJ, the main character, having intercourse with one of his many girlfriends in the game (with clothes on) and also a sexual mini-game. This raised a lot of controversies, with ESRB temporarily labeling the game Adults Only, and it even led to the Congress hearing. Later versions of the game retained the Mature rating and were shipped without the controversial content on the disc.
All in all, Grand Theft Auto San Andreas was a milestone game at the time, with huge open world and story. It was the best selling game for the legendary Sony PlayStation 2 video game console. Just like the first two games it picked up numerous awards, despite the controversies.
Part Four – End
This game had a huge impact on the video gaming community and it also signaled the end of an era. With new consoles and hardware entering the market, the Grand Theft Auto series were ready for the jump from 3D to HD universe. Their biggest project up to date was a success, but it also left a wound with the Hot Coffee incident. The incident helped, in a way, the video game industry to more feverously reconsider the rating system for the video games. Sam Houser did not want to include similar things in the next reincarnations of the game. The lesson was learned the hard way.
The 3D universe will be expanded with two new games, the effective prequels to the Vice City and GTA III, titled Grand Theft Auto Vice City Stories and Grand Theft Auto Liberty City Stories. These games would be released on the Sony’s new handheld console, the PlayStation Portable. They would explore this 3D universe even further on a handheld that had the hardware almost the same as PlayStation 2. While these games were produced, Rockstar took their time to develop the next main title in the series. The next game will simply be named Grand Theft Auto IV.