Rockstar is renowned for its attention to detail and creating huge worlds players can explore and exist in. With Red Dead Online, it’s easy enough to roleplay an outlaw with the tools the company has provided, but GTA Online needed a little push to live out this virtual fantasy. That’s where NoPixel comes in, a volunteer community of developers and players who build and take part in GTA RP, a collection of PC servers where the cops and robbers fantasy truly comes to life.

Danny ‘DW’ Tracey, co-game director for NoPixel tells me that he and other volunteer developers mod GTA Online on the NoPixel servers to deliver an experience that provides both engaging and entertaining content for streamers while also creating opportunities for roleplay. The devs do this by looking at what creates interactions, as “we don't want someone to talk to an NPC to do or complete an objective if they can talk to another person,” DW says.

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To encourage players to take up civilian jobs such as waiters, mechanics, and store clerks, many roles act as in-betweens for criminals. Need some chemicals to make explosives? Off to the dodgy pharmacy you go. Want a big truck to turn into a ramming vehicle? You’ll need to bribe construction workers and pay off mechanics. “If there isn't a civilian fulfilling that role, then the criminals can't get what they need,” DW explains. “So that's a forced civilian role, where we as developers create that interaction.”

While it’s important to populate the world with believable characters and jobs, doing heists and robbing high-value targets like banks and casinos is what every GTA player dreams of. “Without a doubt it’s the number one draw [to GTA RP],” DW tells me. The NoPixel servers don’t use any vanilla GTA Online heists.

As well as the high-risk high-reward heists, players can also rob businesses. NoPixel 3.0 - the latest iteration - had a real focus on industry, meaning more restaurant and shop owners than ever before. Restaurants have a safe in the back for the robbers to steal cash from, but a line cook can press a silent alarm in the kitchen and alert the police, leading to a hostage situation or car chase.

As fun as this all sounds, it’s very important that the NoPixel team ensures it has a healthy and active community of players. For even a simple burglary to work, you need a gang, a business owner, workers, people frequenting that business to deposit cash in the safe, and cops to catch the robbers. “It's not that you play a cop for this scenario,” DW explains. “You play a cop and that scenario may happen. It's a living, breathing world where these characters exist permanently. The person that owns the restaurant always owns it and the person that wants to rob it is most likely always a criminal.”

Whenever a content creator or player decides to take an extended break, their character is considered dead. That way, others can fill the role they left behind. There’s also an in-game department of justice that oversees all of the business and civilian side of things. DW tells me that the devs do sometimes have to step in to replace characters with access to high-tech weaponry and more uncommon assets, but for the most part they just leave players to it.

Now that we’ve all seen leaked footage of GTA 6, the thing DW is most excited about is new maps to work with. “The backdrop of the GTA 5 map has been in people's lives for almost ten years now. A new surrounding is something that would be incredible for NoPixel.”

Rockstar, a famously litigious company, has been working with the FBI to bring down the hacker that leaked the upcoming GTA game. It also recently issued DMCA strikes against GTA 4 modders working on improving the PC port, so it’s odd it seems to leave the GTA RP community to its own devices. If DW knows why Rockstar hasn’t intervened, he isn’t saying. “That's not something we're really willing to discuss at this point.,” he tells me.

Whatever the case, NoPixel certainly isn’t worried about retaliation from Rockstar, as it’s firmly set its sights on another one of its properties: Red Dead Online. DW says an RDO RP server will be launching “fairly soon,” and he’s excited about the new possibilities it will open up for the community.

A gameplay trailer for RDO RP is coming “very soon,” so keep your eyes peeled for that, especially if, like me, you’re lamenting the death of the game. It sounds like DW is planning on sticking to Rockstar games for the forseable future, “If you think of GTA and Red Dead,” he says. “They’re more home than fantasy.”

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