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Hello everyone! We have prepared a special gift for you to celebrate Multi Theft Auto's 20th Anniversary! Here is an exclusive interview with IJs (also known as IJsVogel), the founder and first developer of the Multi Theft Auto project. Read on to see his thoughts on the project in retrospective. Note: more details about Multi Theft Auto's history and timeline can be found on our Wiki article. What had prompted you to create the very first multiplayer mod for GTA3 - a game that did not offer such a feature out of the box? Wow, it has already been 20 years.. I remember the reasoning behind it very vividly! As I grew up in the 90s I was lucky enough to be surrounded by PCs, early internet and PC games from the very beginning (of myself). I was a very fanatical player of Grand Theft Auto 1 and 2, especially so because these games had a multiplayer mode that I could play at home with my brothers. Then, finally in 2002 when GTA3 came out for PC, I was 13 at the time and completely astounded at the possibilities of this 3D open world version of my favourite game for the first couple of months. After a while, it sinked in that this game was missing any ability at all to play with others, which put a huge dent into my appreciation for the game... At the time, I never really played the storylines of games because it didn't quite fit my youthly attention span (my older brother always left the savegames for me to play) and was usually more into the multiplayer and modding aspects anyway. Two completely coincidental things then sparked the start of an attempt at multiplayer. First, a fake French screenshot was being sent around forums, showing a multiplayer mod for GTA3. This raised my hopes tremendously and I was looking forward to testing this so much. When it turned out to be another hoax, my hopes were in shambles and I began thinking about hacking something together to do it anyway. A screenshot of a fake multiplayer mod in GTA3. Surfaced in July, 2002. Secondly, some coders had just released a trainer/cheat tool for GTA3 including its source code in Visual Basic 5 or 6, which was the only language I knew at that time as I was only 14 by then. I started hacking around with the tool to make a synchronized trainer tool, and figured I might as well synchronize car positions, and a very crude attempt at multiplayer was born and it was dubbed GTA3: Alternative Multiplayer (GTA3AM). It was amazing to see it work, it seemed such a stupidly simple hack! This was the first effective prototype of Multi Theft Auto. A not-so-fake GTA3AM 0.1 Client window, win9x style! February, 2003. Were there other people who shared your idea and wanted to contribute? Was it easy to find them? The initial GTA3AM was posted on a well-known Dutch tech forum, and this raised some attention from people over there. It wasn't so much a conscious decision to find people, people really wanted to contribute and we gathered on IRC, with some people helping out with the website, server donations and coding. This grew organically as the users grew. The first months or so was mostly Dutch techies helping out, including a well-known provider sponsoring our hosting, and after the first year or so the team became very diverse, international and well skilled. I am still very grateful for each and every contributor to this project from the very start and later, also because I was still very young at the time, and the project would not have been able to thrive on my contributions alone. I have had the fortune to meet and work together with some of the most skilled people I've met in my entire life, as well as people who simply loved playing around with our creations. Work on ambitious projects like this typically involves solving tough and unusual problems. What was the most significant one that you and the team had to deal with during your time in MTA? And perhaps, maybe there was a really peculiar problem that you also would like to share? MTA has been an amazing learning curve for me, and I believe many other contributors in its 20 year lifetime, to acquire a very special mix of skills. We have had tremendous fun and also frustration engineering the hell out of all sorts of things, and trying to tie worlds together over a network. There are countless things that were tackled and pioneered (even if only personally) in this project, so it is hard to pinpoint out a single thing. I think one of the most groundbreaking efforts of this project however was to restructure the entire project and release it as open-source to the world. As part of that we spent much effort to restructure everything using git (this upset quite a few developers at the time) and published it in 2009 or so on GitHub when it was still in its infant stage (GitHub even mentioned us on their blog at the time). A bit messy in MTA:SA Racemod internal tests. Some time in the second half of 2005. If you had a chance to start this project again, would it be closed-source as it initially was, or would you prefer it to be open-source like it is now? It would certainly be open-sourced again, probably as early as possible. The facilities for open source projects are much, much better now than 20 years ago as well. The move to GTA:SA kind of left the multiplayer mods for GTA3 and GTA:VC in the dark. While there were some alternative mods developed for these games, they did not really leave a lasting impact in the long run. Have you or the rest of the team ever considered bringing back the support for GTA3 or VC after MTA:SA DM 1.0 was released? I do not think there was ever a strong will to revive the GTA3 or GTA:VC versions, because GTA:SA by all means had a better and more capable engine. Perhaps in today's open source world, where contributors are easy to find, it could have had a better chance. My personal opinion (or fantasy) at the time was to "just" build our own game behind it instead, but that obviously never took off. Development build of MTA:VC Blue. Some time in the second half of 2004. What in your opinion are the strongest points of Multi Theft Auto (be it the original 0.x series or MTA:SA)? What do you think the project especially succeeded in? The critical mass of players and contributors, that never seems to die out, and it keeps surprising me. The incredibly challenging technical issues we have had to solve (and still do), sometimes from the ground up. This makes for a very exciting sandbox to work in as a developer or hacker. And in contrast, do you feel there are any shortcomings in MTA? I think one of the missed opportunities in MTA is that we could have developed a bigger framework or other products on top of all the codebase we had written. A bit messy again, this time during MTA:SA DM internal tests. December, 2007. Thinking back, are there any things in the project that you think you would have done differently nowadays? I would have loved to have set up a much more professional collaboration with the entire team that were around at the time the project was open sourced around 2010, using all the knowledge we had all acquired in the process of making MTA:SA 1.0 when it was still very hot. With the knowledge on startups that I have now, I realize that had I been 5 or 10 years older, I might have had some better idea on how to take it to a level to possibly develop our own game(s) or framework on top of it. But alas, for MTA's sake it turned out good either way! The MTA Community is very large these days and scattered across all continents, but that was not always the case. What was the community like back in your time? As with most (modding) projects you usually start out with a very niche audience. For MTA, this was a direct result of me posting on a Dutch tech forum and as a result, the initial contributors in the first months were mostly (if not all) Dutch and Belgian. With the GTA series obviously being a hit in the Western world, more people wanted to contribute (and play). Nearly all of them came from the US, UK, Central and West Europe and the Nordic countries, with a few notable exceptions. I think this pretty much mirrored the demographics of the GTA series themselves. Let's race! Beta tests of MTA:SA DM. December, 2007. I have noticed that you have been involved with various tech projects after retiring from MTA. What are you up to currently? Was your experience from working on MTA useful in these projects? Among some other startup adventures in the past years, I currently lead an audio software company called KoalaDSP that develops virtual audio plugins, instruments, effects and algorithms for a bunch of very big companies out there. We started this company around two years ago in Amsterdam after some previous endeavours, and with around 10+ people working on some crazy software being used in music and home studios around the world. But Multi Theft Auto has given me a lifetime passion for video game development, and after many years or scribbles and notes, I have finally found the time and people around me to developing my second (..after MTA) game idea using 90s retro graphics and voxels. I feel quite strongly that my experience with Multi Theft Auto has been a unique and once-in-a-lifetime gift of skill, much adventure and lasting connections with others. I can't quite pinpoint it, but it feels special. I hope that also still holds to this day for any contributors out there. A long-running project like MTA also means a lot of memories. Do you have any fond or interesting memories from your time working on the project that you would wish to share? I have so many memories of my time during MTA, it is hard to pick out something! Apart from the early memories of all the excitement, healthy stress and testing with all these people during the very, very early days, there is something I remember from a bit later: There was a pretty far-fetched and secret clandestine plan from some of our developers to put a live editor into one of the first MTA:SA releases. Like often with our features, it was really a coding challenge, a show of skill. Are you skilled enough to build this crazy thing? They figured that, in order for the community to enjoy using our mod, they needed an engaging way to create content. So they started building a complete editor inside the game. It required a tremendous amount of work, but they kept to it, others started contributing, and it ended up as one of the key features of the entire release! Some say that editor served as an inspiration to other mods, possibly other games afterwards. Internal tests of the cancelled MTA: Orange. April, 2010. To wrap things up, is there anything that you would like to say to current MTA Team members and/or to MTA fans? Thanks for putting your enthusiasm (and many wasted hours of gaming!!) into this amazing project. Props to all the contributors, past, present and future. MTA, the way it's meant to be played! Interviewed by jhxp.
We recently had coverage on RockPaperShotgun about San Andreas multiplayer mods. It covers both MTA and SA-MP, but is interesting nonetheless. It may be two Grand Theft Auto generations and 11 years old, but GTA: San Andreas is still very much alive. Its two most popular online multiplayer mods currently have a million or more active players between them — one, Multi Theft Auto, had 616,000 players in July (up from just 33k in February 2010), while the other, SA-MP, oscillates between about 15,000 and 50,000 concurrent players. I went to talk to members of both mod communities to find out what keeps them playing... You can read the full article here: https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2016/09/15/why-a-million-people-still-play-multiplayer-grand-theft-auto-san-andreas-every-month/ A big thanks to Richard Moss for taking the time out to cover us. You can find more of his portfolio here. If you're a member of RockPaperShotgun's comments section, we encourage you guys to post comments on the article about your MTA experiences!