Earlier this week, early footage from the development of another grand theft auto game, it is supposed to be Grand Theft Auto VI, leaked all over the internet. You probably already know about all this. Since then, it has become increasingly difficult to find the leaked footage and pages – including my box – they are not able to show footage or screenshots of the leaks. But that didn’t stop the dedicated group GTA fans gather in various locations in an attempt to map out as much of the new Vice City and its surroundings using math, MS Paint, Google Earth, and teamwork.
In November 2011, Rockstar Games released the first trailer for the then unreleased game GTA V. Hype around the game exploded, and the very next day, users on the GTA Forums began searching for this trailer in an attempt to map out the game’s virtual world. Over the next two years—as Rockstar released more screenshots, trailers, previews, and more—fans continued to spend hours and hours every day researching and compiling data. And as it turned out, the final map that everyone created before the game was officially released almost perfectly matched the real game world. GTA V. Impressive stuff! And now, ten years later, fans are coming together to remap another one grand theft auto world before it is officially released. However, things are different this time.
Previously, fans used official trailers and screenshots to help them piece together the pieces of Los Santos. This time around, content fans are all trying to map that this new take on Vice City comes from a leak that Rockstar and Take-Two Interactive are actively trying to suppress with legal action and DMCA takedowns. All of this has complicated and created a new problem for keen cartographers: How can you collaborate and map a virtual world when no one can share images of that virtual world online? GTA however, fans are a crafty and dedicated bunch and have come up with several solutions.
The first and most basic method is to completely avoid incorporating leaks into their work. Instead, on the GTA forums, users use Google Earth images as a substitute for screenshots. And to help provide context for some of these photos, a few users have even taken to opening up Microsoft Paint to draw rough but usable renditions of the moments seen in the leaked GTA VI shots. So far, it looks like the admins on the GTA Forums, where some of this collaboration is happening, are allowing it. (Previously, a thread trying to map Vice City was shut down after it contained images from a leaked game.)
However, this limitation has frustrated some dedicated mappers who want to be as accurate and precise as possible in their efforts. And others just hate having to dance around content restrictions. So many have flocked to private Discord servers where they can freely share leaked screenshots and footage. In 2011, it wasn’t even possible GTA V because Discord wasn’t a thing.
People are already making great progress on one of the most popular mapping servers, Discord. The leaked footage contains a lot of useful data, such as in-game coordinates, which greatly helped the mappers to figure out where different locations were in relation to each other.
We’re just days away from the leak, and it already seems like we have a pretty solid, if somewhat empty, version of what Vice City could look like in the final game. This latest map was created by Church of GTA with the help of over 100 other users. Using GTA V and Rockstar’s own engine metrics to help set the benchmark against Los Santos. So far it looks like it could end up being a very large map.
All the people on Discord and the GTA forums are giving different feedback and information. Some look for landmarks in leaked content and then try to triangulate their location based on other leaked footage and math. Meanwhile, some users are combing through every frame of leaked footage and ripping out the in-game minimap to help create parts of the map that can then be linked together. And more GTA fans use their real-life knowledge of Florida and Miami to help fill in the gaps and provide information on freeways and old buildings or demolished roads.
GTA Church they jokingly told me that they were excited for me to share the latest version of their map because it might help make all the hours spent on it “worth it”. Jokes aside, all this detective work is not easy. In fact, it takes a lot of time and effort, with some people already claiming to have spent hours and hours following a single piece of graffiti or a single landmark. But for many of these people, it’s exhilarating to map out what could become a virtual world in which they’ll spend years GTA VI he is finally released.
Of course, I’ll mention here that all of this leaked content comes from a version still in development GTA VI and so everything is subject to change. In fact, this happened during the last attempt to map Los Santos. At some point during development, users noticed minor adjustments to the world that forced them to modify their own maps before the game was released in 2012. It’s likely that the same will happen here.
But for now, these players are giving us our first real look at what could end up being Vice City and the nearby areas. And considering how close they all got together last time, I’m excited to see what they end up putting together between now and GTA VIlaunch.
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