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Former GTA San Andreas Dev Explains Suicidal Photographer And Crashing Planes


A former developer at Rockstar North, the studio behind the immensely popular Grand Theft Auto franchise, has revealed the reasons why sometimes planes in GTA: San Andreas would just randomly crash near the player. He also provided some insight into why a particular NPC in the game would take a photo and then walk off a cliff to their death.

Late last year, former Rockstar North developer Obbe Vermeij posted some fascinating blogs chronicling the development of past GTA games and the original Manhunt. These write-ups are filled with interesting insights and details on how these video games were created. But Vermeij later deleted the posts voluntarily. Since then, he’s been posting similar details on Twitter about how games like GTA: San Andreas and Vice City were developed, and his most recent posts pull back the curtain on two fan-favorite myths.

Why planes randomly spawn and crash near you

First up, on April 2, Vermeij shared a lengthy but informative post on Twitter explaining why planes in San Andreas will, seemingly for no reason, fall out of the sky, crash, and then explode near the player. If you’ve played San Andreas long enough, you’ve likely encountered this at least a few times. It’s also famously caused problems in speedruns.

According to Vermeij’s post, the developers wanted to have small planes periodically fly by the player. He created some code that would look for obstacles in the path of a plane before it spawned. However, to save time he only scanned a small section in front of part of the plane. This means that sometimes tall, thin objects are missed and planes fly into these trees or power poles and crash. And because the game is trying to spawn these planes near the player, you are always close to these random crashes.

Vermeij further explained that sometimes these spawned “fly-by” planes would lose some height when spawned at the incorrect speed. There were also some issues with how the map streamed in buildings and other large models. Sometimes the plane would be created before a large mountain or tower had appeared, meaning the plane was spawned with a “doomed flightpath.”

“I was aware of the crashes and briefly considered removing the fly-by’s altogether,” added Vermeij.

However, thankfully he didn’t, and these odd planes have led to numerous funny moments in speedruns, let’s plays, and random sessions in San Andreas. I know I once had a plane take me out on a dirt bike as I was trying to jump off a large mountain in the game’s desert. Damn plane!

After he posted the explanation, prominent GTA modder and coder Silent further explained that these planes crash more often than they should due to a collision detection bug, something Vermeij was unaware of as confirmed on Twitter.

And no, your luck stat doesn’t have anything to do with planes crashing near you, Vermeij confirmed. That’s just an internet myth.

Why that NPC in San Andreas jumps off that cliff

After posting the explanation about why planes in GTA: San Andreas crash so often and why it happens near the player, a lot of fans chimed in with more questions about the game. GTA: San Andreas is filled with weird myths and urban legends, after all.

One that caught my attention was someone asking about a particular NPC in San Andreas who will sometimes spawn near the ocean on a cliff, take a photo, and then walk out into the water (and to their death). If you look online you can find old videos of people documenting this creepy NPC, usually with scary music in the background.

GTA San Andreas Suicide Photographer

So what’s going on here? Well, it turns out that the devs in GTA: San Andreas used things known as “attractors”—in-game items like an ATM or a chair that NPCs would head toward once they completed a scripted activity or action.

What’s likely happening here is the NPC takes a photo, and, having finished that “action,” looks for a nearby attractor or path to an attractor, and heads that way. Vermeij suggested that for this suicidal NPC, the nearest attractor might be across the water, leading to this creepy behavior.

In another post Vermeij confirmed the fan theory that the ghost cars that spawn in San Andreas are the result of cars spawning on steep hills and then rolling down the slope, creating the illusion of a self-driving but empty car.

Oh, and one more GTA urban legend while you’re here. When asked if Bigfoot is real, Vermeij said no, the primate isn’t in GTA San Andreas. But he did confirm he exists in the real world. Good to know!

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