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Why does GTA 3's moon change shape when you snipe it? Because some Rockstar devs couldn't settle a tiff

“A few days later, four artists were at my desk asking me to change the size of the moon.”

Claude in GTA 3.
Image credit: VG247/Rockstar Games

Why does the moon in GTA 3 change size whenever you shoot it with a sniper rifle? It’s a question that’s been haunting all of us for a long time now. Well, Thanks to one of the developers who worked on the game, we now know the answer.

GTA games are known for being home to the odd semi-hidden quirk or easter egg can that make for a great way to impress your little cousin if it’s their first time watching you play. Getting inside the Statue of Liberty in GTA 4 and casually basking in the cartoonish red glow of its beating heart is probably my personal favourite, but I’d imagine it didn’t come about via an unresolved dev argument.

You know what did? The fact that you can cause GTA 3’s moon to change size by sticking a bullet in it. Yup, ex-Rockstar Technical Director Obbe Vermeij - who you might remembeR having previously shared some details about a brief effort to make a Scottish zombie survival game using Vice City’s code - was there, and the whole moon thing was his way of trying to stop his coworkers from arguing with each other.

“The artists gave me a texture for the moon in GTA 3. I placed the moon in the sky, made sure it was visible at night and that it was a reasonable size,” Vermeij explains in a recent tweet (thanks, GamesRadar). “A few days later, [four] artists were at my desk asking me to change the size of the moon.”

“It turned out they couldn't decide what the size of the moon should be,” he continues, “Two of them wanted it smaller to be more realistic. The other two wanted it larger to be more cinematic.” So, what was the solution?

Well, Vermeij decided to make it possible to change the moon’s size between three different options by shooting it with the sniper rifle he was also working on at the time, so his fellow devs could take some time to compare the options, before hopefully reaching a consensus.

Did that happen? Well, the developer’s story ended with him declaring: “The artists never got back to me, so I just left it in. It was still there in [San Andreas].” Classic.

Vermeij also helpfully clarified that he wasn’t responsible for GTA San Andreas’ version of the moon having the ability to change phases, which is kind of sad, mainly because I liked the idea of one specific person being saddled with the responsibility of putting the moon up in early GTA games and making sure it does all of the moon-related things it should.

The GTA series has come a long way since they days of shape-shifting celestial bodies, having now blazed past the 420 million sales mark.

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About the Author
Mark Warren avatar

Mark Warren

Senior Staff Writer

With 2 years' games media experience, Mark (he/him) has seen more mods for Bethesda games than any person ever should. You can often find him enjoying an RPG, getting too invested in Madden’s terrifying franchise mode, or crashing expensive virtual cars into things.
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