GTA: San Andreas multiplayer mods continue to thrive in the age of GTA Online – but why?

In front Rockstar Games‘, the official online version of Los Santos and its surroundings, caused a sensation GTA Online In 2013, many PC gamers had brought chaos to San Andreas before, thanks to modifications that were anything but unambitious.

Longtime GTA fans may remember – or still play – hugely successful mods like San Andreas Multiplayer (SA-MP) and Multi Theft Auto (MTA). Somehow, after all these years and against all odds, they are still going strong and attracting thousands of players every month – last year almost 4,000 SA-MP servers were active, with an average of 25,000 to 40,000 players online at the same time. As for MTA, the current player count at the time of writing this article is around 25,000 players online on 1,246 public servers.

These numbers are particularly surprising when we consider that GTA Online, Rockstar’s official Triple-A alternative, has been running for almost a decade and is growing bigger and more expansive with each major content update.


Chaos reigns on the streets of Los Santos—but we didn’t need to tell you that.

For research purposes (and being a bit nostalgic) I jumped to SA-MP earlier this month. To my surprise, the numbers hadn’t changed much since last year’s reports. Granted I’ve been playing over the weekend, but it was amazing to see multiple free roam and RP servers filled to the brim with players refusing to move to flashier pastures.

And it’s easy to see why: both SA-MP and MTA have an inherent chaos that cannot be replicated with an official online Grand Theft Auto experience. We’re familiar with fan-made mods that get absurdly massive and messy – that happens in both single-player and online play – and the once-huge open world of San Andreas has long been the perfect playground for players and developers alike a lot of time on their hands.


Any excuse to dive back into San Andreas, huh?

Even after about 15 years, SA-MP and MTA are far from robust experiences; These mods are unstable, network issues are common, and the quality of the overall experience is highly dependent on the servers you play on. Regardless, it’s difficult to find multiplayer mods as creative as the ones that a ragtag team of modders – and literally anyone who wanted to help – have been slowly but steadily creating.

San Andreas may be bursting at the seams loading a heavily modified stunt server full of custom assets, but 200 (or even 300!) players are having the time of their lives clashing and finding new ways to perform radical tricks . They may lag everywhere, but performance seems to be part of the charm.

Another key to the long-term success of SA-MP and MTA is how developers encouraged – and even supported – roleplaying when the community started setting up fairly complex servers with custom rulesets and commands. If you’re familiar with the modded RP servers in GTA Online, which have become incredibly famous thanks to streamers, you should check out the origin of it all. In the eyes of some players, the starting place is better than the finishing line.


GTA RPG? It all started here.

We tried to reach out to both SA-MP and MTA developers but they weren’t very communicative. After all, the greatest minds have come and gone behind them, and few of the original developers (who have probably moved on with their lives and work) improve code and revise ideas with no end in sight. If you look at the current development status of both mods, the work structure appears anything but centralized. Oddly enough, it turns out to be quite effective.

It’s not hard to hop onto an “official” (there are so many) Discord server and chat with moderators and veterans who can point you in the right direction. However, if you dig too deep, you will find many dead ends. Things get funnier and more intriguing when you ask who’s in charge, because nobody really knows. Power to the people I guess.


However, we can come up with a fairly reliable schedule of events for both mods. In the case of SA-MP, the revolutionary mod was born from the advances of Vice City Multiplayer, released in April 2005. After a public beta, lead developer “kyeman” (later known as Kalcor) and his team started work on San Andreas, while another group of developers picked up VC-MP – this modification also proved successful, but was inevitably abandoned by overshadowed by the larger GTA.

Work on SA-MP progressed fairly quickly, despite the difficulties introduced by the far larger world of San Andreas. Finally, SA-MP was built on the structure of VC-MP, so much of the code was the same. The first playable release was in May 2006, but a fairly stable build didn’t arrive until June 20, 2007. By the time SA-MP 0.2 was officially released, tools had been released for modders and players to develop new modes and custom servers.


300 people on one server? It’s worth it, fuck the delay.

Not surprisingly, cheats and exploits began to appear shortly after, and shortly after the release of 0.2, the SA-MP team almost quit due to lack of strength and ability to deal with people who just wanted to watch San Andreas burn. In less than a day, however, a huge online petition gave them enough power to crack down on scammers, shut down the main exploit, and develop a built-in anti-cheat system. It was an impressive feat by a team that Kalcor once described as “just a bunch of GTA fans who thought it would be fun to play Vice City and San Andreas as a multiplayer game.”

SA-MP has been improved for years with minor but much-needed updates, but its history becomes fuzzier from 2008 onwards, as the main development team often left, only to return a few days later. As work on the hugely popular mod progressed, it became clear that the minds behind it were blown away by the success of what had started as an experimental project – Kalcor eventually completed with SA-MP in 2019. Today development is fragmented at best, but servers abound and the community still feels like one big family that’s always open to helping newcomers.


Welcome to a chaotic, colourful, twisted world.

On the other hand, the story of Multi Theft Auto started with GTA 3 before moving on to Vice City. Many players were surprised by its accessibility, and that’s a trait the MTA development team has kept close to it as we’ve gone forward and in San Andreas. Additionally, MTA’s approach has always been open source, allowing it to incorporate new ideas and improvements faster than SA-MP ever did.

In the long run, the “let’s build on what the community wants” that dictated the development of MTA has paid off – SA-MP has had a good run as the most popular mod, but currently feels like a holdover from an older era while MTA did this you will become the most cohesive and flexible multiplayer version of classic Grand Theft Auto games.


Ever wanted to play a survival horror game in GTA? You’re lucky.

Big deathmatch and RP servers are still the go-to places for MTA players, but it’s overwhelming to see completely different maps and crazy modes like: In addition, modular extras can be added to fine-tune your MTA experience.

As we look forward to GTA6 – as we keep burning down Los Santos to earn millions of E-Bucks in GTA Online – let’s not forget the series’ unofficial multiplayer past. Looking at some of the more free-spirited modes that have been released over the years, it’s clear that Rockstar has learned a lot from them. And — with the scene looking happier and healthier than ever in 2022 — the studio may continue to do so. GTA: San Andreas multiplayer mods continue to thrive in the age of GTA Online – but why?

Fry Electronics Team

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