Good old-fashioned rampages, destruction and raining chaos are among the best elements of the Grand Theft Auto (GTA) series, but a new woodland creature seems to be bringing its own brand of havoc to the sun-drenched urban sprawl of Los Santos in GTA 5.
Digital artist Brent Watanabe created the virtual deer on a slightly modified version of GTA 5, which replaces a player character with a deer, and programmed it to wander around the virtual 100 square miles of the San Andreas game world and respond to its surroundings.
Watanabe's "San Andreas Deer Cam," a live video stream where viewers can watch the deer's bizarre adventures in the game world, became an unexpected hit on Twitch, the live-streaming gaming website.
Designed to withstand any harm, the invincible deer can keep on wandering despite being regularly shot at, punched, run over by cars and trucks, shelled by tanks and even when falling off of buildings. It can also regularly teleport to a new position on the game map to avoid any potential sticking and keep things interesting. At one point, the deer even found its way to the bottom of the ocean.
"The most difficult thing during the creation of the project was simply teaching myself to modify GTA V," Watanabe told the BBC. "There is an incredibly active modding community and I figured out how to programme the mod through a lot of forum searches and trial and error."
So far, the deer has already been caught in a gangland gun battle, invaded a military base and been chased by police giving it, at one point, a four-star wanted rating.
"I was really drawn to the project because of the slapstick but tragic nature of it," said Watanabe. "And then there is an odd draw to simply keep watching, to see what the deer is going to do next."
Having worked on computer-controlled installations that incorporate animals and man-made environments for more than 10 years, he was particularly fixated on working in GTA 5 due to its "beautiful, vast landscape", Watanabe told Mashable.
GTA 5 continues to be a wildly popular title in part due to the game's active modding community. According to Take Two's financial report for Q3 2016, 60 million copies of the game have been shipped worldwide across all five platforms since its release in 2013.
"It's like having access to a 65 million dollar playground! The deer cam is not that different than another project I did years ago, where I built a video game engine and set a duck loose in a computer generated city," said Watanabe.
More than 285,000 people have already tuned in to watch the deer's unscripted, hilarious and strangely hypnotic escapes via Twitch. The project will run until 20 April.
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