gta.dat

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The gta*.dat file lists which files define the game map. It can be found in the game's data directory, and is known as gta3.dat in Grand Theft Auto III, gta_vc.dat in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and simply gta.dat in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The same file format is also used for the default.dat file in the same directory.

Format

The files are in plain text format so they can be opened with any text editor (like Notepad). Line comments are indicated by the character # (number sign) and empty lines are allowed. They can be placed anywhere in the file. Since there are different types of files, a keyword is needed for each entry. Most entries use the following format, where the path is relative to the game's base directory:

<keyword> <path>

Although the file itself is not split up into sections, entries are usually grouped by type and arranged in a special order according to the game's loading sequence:

Keyword Games Description Example
CDIMAGE GTA III GTA Vice City Links to additional IMG archives (other than the hardcoded ones). In GTA San Andreas, a maximum of five entries are supported; any more will crash the game. CDIMAGE is supported in GTA III and GTA Vice City but it is unused in the default data files.
CDIMAGE MODELS\EXAMPLE.IMG
IMG GTA San Andreas GTA IV
IMG MODELS\EXAMPLE.IMG
IMGLIST GTA IV Links to external image list files.
IMGLIST common:/DATA/EXAMPLE.TXT
WATER GTA IV Links to external water plane placement files. The identifier can hold more than one parameter. It is unconfirmed either this also works for other identifiers.
WATER common:/DATA/EXAMPLE1.DAT
WATER common:/DATA/EXAMPLE2.DAT common:/DATA/EXAMPLE3.DAT
IDE GTA III GTA Vice City GTA San Andreas GTA IV Links to item definition files.
IDE DATA\MAPS\EXAMPLE.IDE
COLFILE GTA III GTA Vice City GTA San Andreas Links to collision files. An additional parameter between keyword and path associates the file to a level. If this is 0, the col file is used by the whole map; a higher number (1 to 3) assigns it to one of the level.
COLFILE 0 MODELS\COLL\EXAMPLE.COL
MAPZONE GTA III Links to zone files.
MAPZONE DATA\EXAMPLE.ZON
IPL GTA III GTA Vice City GTA San Andreas Links to IPL-style item placement and zone files.
IPL DATA\EXAMPLE.ZON
IPL DATA\MAPS\EXAMPLE.IPL
TEXDICTION GTA III GTA Vice City GTA San Andreas Links to external texture dictionaries.
TEXDICTION MODELS\EXAMPLE.TXD
MODELFILE GTA III GTA Vice City GTA San Andreas Links to external model files.
MODELFILE MODELS\GENERIC\EXAMPLE.DFF
SPLASH GTA III GTA Vice City GTA San Andreas Links to splash screens that appear when transitioning between levels. The argument for these is not a path, but just the name (without extension) of a texture dictionary in the \models\txd directory. Might be ignored, though.
SPLASH loadsc2
HIERFILE GTA III GTA Vice City GTA San Andreas Unknown purpose.
EXIT GTA III GTA Vice City GTA San Andreas Stops any further processing of the file.

Since Grand Theft Auto IV has various subdirectories which need to be identified there are new identifiers at the start of the path. They identify the exact location relative to the executeable file. Those are:

platform:
common:

Internally they will be replaced with the internal directory description and appendet to the installation directory of the game. Example:

platform:/DATA/MAPS/MANHAT/MANHAT12.IPL 

gets

PC/DATA/MAPS/MANHAT/MANHAT12.IPL 

which finally is transformed to (e.g.)

C:\Program Files\Rockstar Games\Grand Theft Auto 4\PC\DATA\MAPS\MANHAT\MANHAT12.IPL
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