My .black project

History of .black – RAGE research project

Author: GooD-NTS
Nizhniy Novgorod, 2010

I started my .black project in May, 2008 when GTA IV’d been just released on xbox360. Right now I don’t remember why I’ve started it, maybe I just want to see how the Rockstar Games use the new engine.


It all started from a small program called OpenRPF, what I’ve made for opening RPF archives. It wasn’t functional enough because it could only open archives directly, not to decrypt anything (at that time I didn’t know about RAGE encryption). During the first days of May I was trying to find out, how the encryption is used in RAGE and how I could decrypt it. As this time I found one great man. His nickname was Listener. I am sure, you all know who it is. I began to ask him different questions about encryption but he refused to give me any information because it was confidential and offered me to find it by myself in assembler codes of GTA IV. He gave me the link to IDA and necessary plugins for it, and gave some pieces of advice.

Next week after that I was searching for it, I’ve never seen PPC ASM before, so it was hard. The whole week I was questioning Listener, and after a week I have done it. So I understood everything I wanted about RAGE encryption and got an ability to continue my work with archives. Also I have joined to Listener and small closed community (on who’ve started the GTA IV research.

In the last week of May I restarted my work taking into account the new knowledge I’ve gained. At this time I began making program that you all know as OpenIV. It was not just a simple app for opening RPF archives. Now it opens both IMG and RPF archives of GTA IV, and has the option of text files preview integrated in it, and other simple stuff. But I still was dreaming of viewing textures, models and scripts etc, including map.

xbox360 texturesDuring the next few months I was working hard in different areas. I have created my first SCO decompiler without any kind of knowledge. With Listener‘s help I’ve made the textures viewer for xbox360 version of GTA IV. I have done more in archive editing and other stuff. It is also important to note that all the time I was working on OpenIV user interface, and even closed beta releases were improving constantly. At this time I began collaborating ideas that now are implemented as openFormats.

In the end of August, 2008 I’ve made my first GTA IV mod, the final result of my summer work on OpenIV. It actually was the first GTA IV mod on the Earth. It was really hard time: I have broken more than 10 DL DVD’s to get something work. While making my mod I had fixed tons of errors in my code. Errors were everywhere: in archives, resources and even in simple UI methods. At last in September, 2008 I published two videos of the first mod to show the progress we had made in GTA IV research.

Next months before GTA IV was released on PC I worked on OpenIV. At that time I had finished the work on new UI for main window. Now it looks like Windows explorer with glass area.

And finally December began. For a long time I could not get my copy of GTA IV. And when I got the list of files in PC version, it appeared to be terrible.

Rockstar done is terrible thing; they’ve refused to use RPF2 in the game. Just small notation: in consoles version all the data files are stored in RPF2 archives, like xbox360.rpf (or ps3.rpf), common.rpf and audio.rpf. But the PC version doesn’t use these archives; all files are simply stored in folders on the hard drive. And this is unacceptable, because OpenIV was made for work with RPF archive not for files in folders. I was upset, because the big part of my work proved to be useless.

But we had to move on. After getting the copy of PC version I had started making “Open content” function, but it appeared to be off-grade and worked slow. Not long after that I’ve made inbuilt OpenIV texture editor.

OpenIV betaAnd then, after OpenIV had become more stable, I had released the first public beta version. It happened 28 December, 2008. After that, in January 2009, as you all know, I have released few beta versions. Then I began fundamental changes on OpenIV code, and still have been doing it. From June 2009 to June 2010 I was keeping away from the project, so there were no changes.

In June 2010 I came back to my normal life, so I continued the work with .black project. Finally I’ve finished my resources code, it gave me an opportunity to make RAGE resources similar to the Rockstar. I have started the OpenIV beta test and began serious work on openFormats code.

And now let’s look at the results of two years’ work after the first public release of OpenIV. Now .black is research project what unites many people, working in one field. .black has several fundamental lines of development:

  • OpenIV application, being the biggest part of .black is the multipurpose tool for PC version of GTA IV, that is able to archive and resource editors.
  • .black application is the tool for researching content of other RAGE games, not only GTA IV PC. It also performs a function of the sandbox where we test our code and results of research.
  • openFormats is simple, powerful and it has an ability to operate with all text-based formats of files. That will give more opportunities for developing the GTA IV mode.
  • RAGE MapprerIV application is the powerful map editor for GTA IV. This app is being developed by Chipsman, not by me.
  • Delphi.Rage code library (for Delphi) that is used in all applications, allows to work with RAGE and GTA archives, RAGE Resources, RAGE Scripts and other files. This is the fundamental part of all.

In conclusion I would like to say that, hopefully, in 2011 year the big work with openFormats and OpenIV will bring more great abilities to the GTA modding community.

Happy New Year!

Best regards, GooD-NTS.