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Drop a Pin in Liberty City

How some clever (and dedicated) fans used Google tools to add Street View to a map of Grand Theft Auto IV's Liberty City.

If one didn't know any better, this would seem like a Photoshop--but it's actually an interactive map of Liberty City.

78,494 screen shots. 3,019 equirectangular panoramas. 1,029,000 tiles. 125GB of files. One clickable map of a virtual world.

Over the course of two months, "fred" at GTA4.net (who would only tell me his first name, Nick) and others produced a Street Viewable version of Grand Theft Auto IV's Liberty City map.

Since the map originally launched, the page has generated more than 2.1 million views.

It's been several years since Rockstar Games released Grand Theft Auto IV, but tweakers and modders have continued to find new opportunities to expand their engagement through the PC version of the game. GTA4.net published its first interactive map of Liberty City in 2008, utilizing the publicly available Google Maps API tools.

"Rockstar had done a great job making Liberty City feel like a real, living, breathing place so the idea of adding a 'street view' feature followed on naturally," said Nick, the central developer on the project. "At the time, it was just that: a nice idea but not something we could actually do."

There are plenty of hidden easter egg events littered throughout the map.

It's not the first time the popular collection of Grand Theft Auto fansites, Grand Theft Auto Network, published an interactive map. The team created one for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, too.

Nick started reconsidering the Street View idea when someone discovered Google had unlocked Street View within the Google Maps API. There were two problems facing the ambitious fans, though: capturing enough images to make Street View comprable to what people have come to expect and finding a way to implement all the images. And that's to say nothing of paying to host the images.

Enough useful tools had been invented by modders, however, that Nick figured it was possible.

"The scale of it was a bit of a worry, mainly the cost of hosting and serving so many images," said Nick, "but luckily 'Tank,' owner and bill payer for all our GTA fansites [at] gtanet.com, was all for it."

The process took about two months, most of which was taken up by running scripts that wandered the streets of Liberty City, snapping an endless stream of photos.

"A lot of that time was just a case of leaving the PC on overnight," said Nick.

To generate the necessary virtual photographic equipment, Nick and his team looked towards ScriptHook, which allowed them to program a script in any .NET language or C++ and easily plug that back into the game. Naturally, no one knew how to program in .NET or C++, but Nick described it as "surprisingly straightforward."

There's a possibility the same team will produce a map for L.A. Noire, but it's not for certain yet.

The script grabbed manipulated the in-game camera and took screen shots, which Nick then dropped into stitching software to produce the equirectangular panoramic images that would then be cut into tiles and popped into the Google Maps API. You knew, easy stuff.

Nick and company were tasked with virtually photographing 3,019 different locations. Each took 30 seconds to shoot, six minutes to stich and another minute to slice into tiles--we're talking hundreds of hours of work to put it all together.

"It wasn't exactly quick," said Nick.

There are all sorts of secret cameos littered throughout Street View, a few of which Nick would disclose to me. You'll have to figure out the rest for yourself (and then share them in the comments!).

The future versions of this undeniably cool tool is uncertain.

Rockstar is releasing a PC version of L.A. Noire, but the community response is an unknown. It's possible to make some types of maps based on console versions, but capturing the right images is impractical without a configurable PC edition. Nick would like to create one based on Red Dead Redemption, but since no PC version's been announced yet, that's looking unlikely.

Patrick Klepek on Google+
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Posted by patrickklepek
If one didn't know any better, this would seem like a Photoshop--but it's actually an interactive map of Liberty City.

78,494 screen shots. 3,019 equirectangular panoramas. 1,029,000 tiles. 125GB of files. One clickable map of a virtual world.

Over the course of two months, "fred" at GTA4.net (who would only tell me his first name, Nick) and others produced a Street Viewable version of Grand Theft Auto IV's Liberty City map.

Since the map originally launched, the page has generated more than 2.1 million views.

It's been several years since Rockstar Games released Grand Theft Auto IV, but tweakers and modders have continued to find new opportunities to expand their engagement through the PC version of the game. GTA4.net published its first interactive map of Liberty City in 2008, utilizing the publicly available Google Maps API tools.

"Rockstar had done a great job making Liberty City feel like a real, living, breathing place so the idea of adding a 'street view' feature followed on naturally," said Nick, the central developer on the project. "At the time, it was just that: a nice idea but not something we could actually do."

There are plenty of hidden easter egg events littered throughout the map.

It's not the first time the popular collection of Grand Theft Auto fansites, Grand Theft Auto Network, published an interactive map. The team created one for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, too.

Nick started reconsidering the Street View idea when someone discovered Google had unlocked Street View within the Google Maps API. There were two problems facing the ambitious fans, though: capturing enough images to make Street View comprable to what people have come to expect and finding a way to implement all the images. And that's to say nothing of paying to host the images.

Enough useful tools had been invented by modders, however, that Nick figured it was possible.

"The scale of it was a bit of a worry, mainly the cost of hosting and serving so many images," said Nick, "but luckily 'Tank,' owner and bill payer for all our GTA fansites [at] gtanet.com, was all for it."

The process took about two months, most of which was taken up by running scripts that wandered the streets of Liberty City, snapping an endless stream of photos.

"A lot of that time was just a case of leaving the PC on overnight," said Nick.

To generate the necessary virtual photographic equipment, Nick and his team looked towards ScriptHook, which allowed them to program a script in any .NET language or C++ and easily plug that back into the game. Naturally, no one knew how to program in .NET or C++, but Nick described it as "surprisingly straightforward."

There's a possibility the same team will produce a map for L.A. Noire, but it's not for certain yet.

The script grabbed manipulated the in-game camera and took screen shots, which Nick then dropped into stitching software to produce the equirectangular panoramic images that would then be cut into tiles and popped into the Google Maps API. You knew, easy stuff.

Nick and company were tasked with virtually photographing 3,019 different locations. Each took 30 seconds to shoot, six minutes to stich and another minute to slice into tiles--we're talking hundreds of hours of work to put it all together.

"It wasn't exactly quick," said Nick.

There are all sorts of secret cameos littered throughout Street View, a few of which Nick would disclose to me. You'll have to figure out the rest for yourself (and then share them in the comments!).

The future versions of this undeniably cool tool is uncertain.

Rockstar is releasing a PC version of L.A. Noire, but the community response is an unknown. It's possible to make some types of maps based on console versions, but capturing the right images is impractical without a configurable PC edition. Nick would like to create one based on Red Dead Redemption, but since no PC version's been announced yet, that's looking unlikely.

Staff
Posted by TimmyChaw

Holy Crap...

Posted by dhuff

I don;t know what this is for.

Posted by boylie

These people are crazy people.

...It's pretty rad though haha

Posted by yyZiggurat
Posted by Wacomole

So I take it there will be (or is) an overlay for showing the pigeons and jumps?

Posted by MisterMouse

Wow that is crazy, and true dedication. Mad props

Posted by Cincaid

That's...quite amazing.

Posted by ProfessorEss

Consider said excellence soundly applauded.

Online
Posted by SSully

Secret 2 and 3 lead to the same thing.

Also this is really cool. Very impressive someone took the time to do this.

Posted by patrickklepek

The secret links are fixed.

Staff
Posted by I_smell

It's really cool, the idea of the scripted virtual Google Street car driving around a virtual world taking virtual screenshots.

Posted by Sooty

This is cool and all but I struggle to see how they found motivation for doing this. I found GTA IV such a disappointment when it came to the world itself. (and on the whole mostly)

Posted by Mr_Skeleton

I don't get secret 1 and 2, pretty cool though.

Posted by ReyGitano

I'm very excited about the fact that we can do stuff like this now. I'd love to see someone make a virtual map of Skyrim after it comes out.

Posted by Vexxan

Must've taken a hell of a lot of time. Looks amazing thou.

Posted by mosespippy

The video game industry phrase "living, breathing city" needs to die of asphyxiation.

Posted by c_rakestraw

Amazing stuff. Talk about dedication, though.

Posted by KennyBhoy

Kudos! That's an incredible amount of work!

Posted by Mikewrestler5

Seems utterly pointless.

Posted by sirdesmond

@HomemadeZiggurat said:

That's interesting but IGN has had a similar fan edited map for a while.

http://grandtheftauto.ign.com/maps/1/Liberty-City-Map

Considering the fact that the IGN map does not appear to have any sort of street view means that it is almost nothing like this one.

They both act as basic maps, but the idea of this one is the fact that you can visually explore almost every bit of the city from a first-person perspective.

Posted by mr_tickles

I too do not understand the Secrets....... 
 
I are dissapoint. 

Posted by Cybexx

Pretty cool. I kind of wish they went one step further and ran a blur face algorithm on those images then it would have been perfect.

Posted by Zaxex

This is fucking bananas.

Could be useful too. A version of this in development could help developers build the world. Would be great for collectible guides etc. Plus did I mention it's fucking crazy: almost 80,000 screenshots?

Posted by prestonhedges

Um, hey, Patrick, you forgot to ask why.

I guess looking at a map of GTA IV is better than playing it, but other than that, I don't see a reason at all.

Posted by TheDudeOfGaming
@dhuff said:
I don;t know what this is for.
Seriously, the amount of time, energy and effort that went into this....and for what? Fuck i hate people sometimes. Still, you have to admire the dedication of these guys.
Posted by Aranel

Nicely done.

Posted by Otrebor

The dedication of some fans is beyond believable.

Posted by WiqidBritt
@gladspooky: the answer to that question is... why not?
Posted by ChrisInCali

Can those clever fans go back and make GTA IV worth playing?

Posted by ThePickle

GTA fans are fucking crayayayazzy.

Posted by cheapandtacky

So lets summerise this. A load of people took some clever, a lot of 2d assets and made them into a 3d world.
Then; some people who liked that world took some clevers and turned that 3d world into 2d assets which they turned into a 3d map of that world.

One day very soon the internet will implode.

Good job Fred/Nick loving your work.

Posted by prestonhedges

@WiqidBritt said:

@gladspooky: the answer to that question is... why not?

Time.

Posted by bkbroiler

@TheDudeOfGaming said:

@dhuff said:
I don;t know what this is for.
Seriously, the amount of time, energy and effort that went into this....and for what? Fuck i hate people sometimes. Still, you have to admire the dedication of these guys.

You hate these guys because they decided to make something for fun? I assume they enjoyed doing it. You realize we're on a video game website right now, right? And not everything in the world is created in a utilitarian effort to benefit the human race? Jesus, man.

Posted by Parsnip

Eh, that's not really all that clever. Just a lot of grunt work with taking all the screenshots.

Googles map api is pretty easy to use and stuff.

Posted by TheLastNeo

I cant even imagine how much time it must have taken to complete this...  
 
Very very impressive.

Edited by TheDudeOfGaming
@bkbroiler said:

@TheDudeOfGaming said:

@dhuff said:

I don;t know what this is for.
Seriously, the amount of time, energy and effort that went into this....and for what? Fuck i hate people sometimes. Still, you have to admire the dedication of these guys.

You hate these guys because they decided to make something for fun? I assume they enjoyed doing it. You realize we're on a video game website right now, right? And not everything in the world is created in a utilitarian effort to benefit the human race? Jesus, man.

Alright, maybe i took it a step too far...or several. I have no doubt that they had a lot of fun with this mod and that a lot of people will enjoy playing it, and that's great. But hey, Bill Gates could have spent his time making mods for Pong, but he didn't and now he's the richest bastard. Also, Utilitarianism is b***shit because it puts forth the importance of the "usefulness" of actions one does for society, rather than the moral compass of each individual. My point was simply that the amount of time and effort spent on this project doesn't equal the usefulness....fuck, when did i become an Utilitarian?
Posted by Grissefar

@mosespippy said:

The video game industry phrase "living, breathing city" needs to die of asphyxiation.

It's a city you can really immerse yourself in while taking in the breathtaking sights. The gorgeous graphics and crisp soundeffects makes you feel like you're really there. It really improves the fun factor.

Posted by MaxOpower

This is kind of really really old, but still great more people gets to see this. 

Posted by SammydesinasNL

Now remake it with the graphics enhancement mod.
Posted by dcgc

It's a great idea but it's just too late to do such thing IMO.

Posted by Yamoto

Old news is old also gta4 isnt a great game a sloppy story bad gameplay and a horrible multiplayer and ofc the bad framerate 

Posted by MrXD

This is just f**kin smart!

Posted by andrewf87462

That is epic crazy! But I praise the dedication.
Posted by emem

Damn, very impressive.

Posted by ComradeCrash

Haha This is so cool.

Posted by screwed

must be a slow news day, I remember when all the other video games sites ran this story... months ago

Posted by AFenders

Neat but who plays GTA4 anymore?
Posted by Max_Hydrogen

Impressive. The virtual representation of a virtual city; someone should do a Google Earth for WoW complete with economic speculation and weather report, man, we're closer to Virtual Reality.

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