On the genre-defining success of the PlayStation 2 in 2001 Grand Theft Auto III, if you took out a sniper rifle and shot the moon, it would change size. For years, fans have tried to explain why this fun little secret was included in the game. Was it a reference to something? A smaller part of a bigger secret? Now, in 2023, thanks to new information from a former GTA developer, we know the truth.
Earlier this month, former Rockstar North developer Obbe Vermeij published some fascinating and interesting blogs chronicling the development of past GTA games and the original Hunt. These articles are packed with information about how some of the most successful games ever released were created. But although Vermeij has since deleted the posts voluntarilythe Internet never forgetand luckily we can still delve into these missives and read about why that strange lunar Easter egg was included in GTA III, Vice City, and San Andreas.
According to a blog post titled: Why does the moon change size when you attack it?Vermeij claims that this silly secret was a result of the artists being unable to agree on what size the moon should be in the game. GTAIIIThe night sky.
“The artists gave me a texture for the moon in [GTA III]. “I placed the moon in the sky, made sure it was visible at night and that it was a reasonable size,” Vermeij explained in the post.
A few days later, Vermeij says some Rockstar North artists showed up at this desk asking if they could change the size of the moon. Vermeij told them he could and asked if the artists wanted it bigger or smaller. That’s when it became clear that some people wanted a bigger, more “cinematic” moon. However, other artists wanted the opposite, a smaller and “more realistic” moon. After this discussion dragged on for a bit, Vermeij offered a solution.
“I suggested changing the size of the moon in the game,” Vermeij said. “This way they could decide in their time and let me know the conclusion. Since I was working on the sniper rifle, I made it so that the moon alternated between three sizes (small, medium, and large) as the player shot it.”
That seemed to settle the debate and according to Vermeij; The Rockstar North artists never talked to him again about changing the moon’s size, so he just left it in the game. That code, as already mentioned, would end in Vice city and San Andreas. It’s even in the 2006 spin-off. Vice City Stories. Maybe no one noticed? Or more likely, it became a famous secret and Rockstar left it there.
It’s fun for me to finally know the real story behind this famous and strange secret. For years I remember people theorizing that it was a reference to Bethesda’s 1995 shooter DOS. Terminator: future shock—which has its own strange lunar Easter egg—or that the secret was part of a larger, still unsolved mystery involving aliens on the moon.
No! Turns out he was just a developer trying to help some of his coworkers solve a problem while creating one of the most influential PS2 games of all time. You know, just a normal Tuesday.