Some thoughts on the GTA6/Rockstar leaks

I’ve gotten a bunch of questions about the leaked GTA6 footage and I thought I would address them today. First, I want to say that I sympathize with the team. This is not how it was supposed to go and it really sucks that the leak happened. There are plenty of things worth getting mad at Rockstar and Take Two over, but this is not one of them. It really sucks when people rush to judgement on your work, especially based on wrong or out-of-date information. This is why publishers usually don’t announce games until there’s something to show. Every game in early development stages generally looks pretty awful.

Second, I encourage you all to read this post if you haven’t: 

[What are the negative impacts of leaks? How damaging can they be for the game?]

Leaks suck for the team because we can’t control the message and there’s always missing context that the leak doesn’t provide. You might see some videos of in-progress work, but you don’t know what the goals for each part of the game are, or how this feature is there to lay the foundation for a much bigger system to be built on top of what you see. There’s a ton of planning, discussion, prototyping, reviewing, and improving of the ideas, designs, art, and technology that happens over the course of the game. Without that context, there’s no way that any outsider would be able to understand what they’re even supposed to be looking for, let alone whether what they’re seeing is good. And there’s no way for us to give outsiders that context without basically showing everything including our discussions, our meetings, our dealings with licensors whose IP we’re using, our technical, scheduling, legal, and budgetary considerations, and so on. That isn’t feasible for a multitude of reasons.

The other thing I wanted to talk about is how the leaks got out. Given the nature of the leaked data - a large number of short video clips of in-development demonstrating features and the like - I suspect what happened was a breach of some kind from Rockstar’s chosen messaging app. I suspect this for a few reasons:

  • Messaging apps aren’t directly behind the company VPN. A lot of companies use Slack or Microsoft Teams for internal messaging, but they do not require the VPN to connect. I need to connect to my company VPN to sync the project, but I don’t need it for email or messenger. I can also access the company messenger app via my phone. This also means that somebody who steals my phone can open up my messenger app and have access to the full content there. It’s also a lot easier to steal a phone than it is a workstation.
  • Internal messaging is a necessity because many of us are still working from home and a requirement to coordinate teams in different time zones. GTA is an enormous project with hundreds of developers working on it, they are likely scattered across the globe.
  • The video clips weren’t only of bugs, but a lot of demos for features. If it were lifted from the bug database, the vast majority of videos would be of bugs. Short video clips shared to various channels in the messenger to show off new features coming online happens a lot

I will remind you that I am no security expert. This is 100% speculation. It is only one possibility that fits the set of facts and is nowhere near the only possibility. It could be this or it could be something else entirely. 

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