Grand Theft Auto pays fan $10,000 for improving game

An amateur developer is getting $10,000 from Rockstar Games after they found a way to reduce load times in Grand Theft Auto by a significant amount.

In February, a GitHub user going by tostercx (who also goes by t0st) detailed a method to reduce the load times in GTA Online by up to 70 percent. It was a long, thorough investigation that concluded that the game’s notoriously long loading mainly due to a massive JSON file and a wonky parser.

To put it simply, your GTA Online takes forever to boot up because it’s trying to prep the staggering number of DLC you can get from the game through JSON file. At least, that was t0st’s theory given the category names in the code with references to “net shop catalog.”

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Rockstar Games, the developer behind Grand Theft Auto, has officially recognized t0st for their efforts and is rewarding them with $10,000, as reported by PC Gamer.

This is welcome news considering GTA Online’s load time is very, very long. It’s not atypical for players to wait up to six minutes. When t0st’s post hit Reddit, multiple users noted how inefficient the game’s code seemed to be.

“This is amazing,” a Reddit user wrote. “The time and effort OP took to do this and explain it in so much detail is just crazy. This sucks that you did their job and they won’t fix it but maybe OP you can make a file we can click on and it will automatically update the fix?”

“Doesn’t surprise me that GTA Online’s Loading is completely broken,” a Reddit user wrote. “This is the same game that, from launch, still has you go through 3-4 lobbies just to play a single deathmatch game.”

“It’s no surprise to me that GTA Online’s code and resource management is a mess,” another user echoed. “The game is already a port from the 2013 version which was designed to run on a console from 2005.”

This last comment is referencing several concepts in game development such as tech debt and feature creep. Old games that constantly receive big new updates cause the code to become increasingly complex.

As a general rule, complexity in programming is bad. Bloated software will have a much higher chance of harboring bugs and other problems than simpler code because there are far more moving parts.

But thanks to t0st’s inquiry, the Grand Theft Auto community can breathe a bit easier.

“After a thorough investigation, we can confirm that player t0st did, in fact, reveal an aspect of the game code related to load times for the PC version of GTA Online that could be improved,” Rockstar Games told PC Gamer. “As a result of these investigations, we have made some changes that will be implemented in a forthcoming title update.”

Rockstar also confirmed to PC Gamer that it is paying t0st a cool $10,000 through the HackerOne Bug Bounty Program. The program is typically used to reward hackers who discover security vulnerabilities in Rockstar’s products, but in t0st’s case, the developer decided to make an exception.

For Grand Theft Auto fans, it was a very well deserved exception.

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