Crate drops are unlocked after achieving rank 12 and completing the first missions for TPI. Ron will contact the player to advise that there would be packaged air-drops containing special weapons to be tested, but that there would be competition so the player needs to make sure they get them first. They could be considered the online extension of the Story Mode Arms trafficking missions conducted by Trevor from the McKenzie Field Hangar.
When a crate is going to be dropped, a message will appear in the top right corner of the screen saying "A plane is on its way to drop a crate that contains useful supplies". Many crates contain simple but useful supplies such as ammunition and food such as P’s & Q’s.
Before it is dropped, the general area in which that the crate will be dropped is marked by a large green circle on the map. Finally, when the crate is dropped, the player will receive a message saying that it has been dropped, and the green circle on the map will be replaced by a small question mark icon, indicating the exact location of the crate. If a crate is not collected for a while, then it will disappear, saying that "Arms smugglers have picked up the crate".
Usually, after the crate is dropped, there will be a large number of NPCs (usually The Professionals) whose main goal is to protect the crate and presumably take its contents for themselves. These NPCs are well armed, and the player must battle the enemies, and after killing them all, the player will be able to pick up the loot and keep it for himself.
Even if the player has already started the battle for the crate drop, the player can easily run away from the area and will be back to normal.
Rarely, instead of a regular crate, the player will be notified that a special crate is going to be dropped. The player will be notified 10, 5, and 3 hours ahead of the crate drop. Note that these times are in game time, where one hour is two minutes in real life. Unlike the normal crates, whose text is displayed in white letters, the special crates have text in gold letters. These special crates can contain super heavy Armor, 5000 RP, a Minigun or Carbine Rifle, and $5,000 (and possibly a special item during various events). Note that you can only keep the minigun for the duration of the online session if you are not high level enough to purchase it from Ammu-Nation. For your first special crate pickup, you will unlock the Los Santos Belle T-Shirt which can be purchased in clothing stores for $427.
For the duration of the Independence Day Special update, the special crates also contained exclusive Beer Hats, that could only be obtained from the crates. There were 7 different items that could be obtained through the special crates:
- Pisswasser Beer Hat.
- Benedict Beer Hat.
- Patriot Beer Hat.
- Supa Wet Beer Hat.
- J Lager Beer Hat. (was not available for the public)
- Blarneys Beer Hat. (was not available for the public)
- "Happiness is... land." T-Shirt from GTA IV.
Note: The beer hats will immediately appear in your inventory, while the T-Shirt can be purchased for free at any clothing store.
With The Last Team Standing Update there was a special Victory Fist T-Shirt that could be picked up in crates. Rockstar made the crates spawn more frequently in sessions this time, possibly to compensate for the smaller time that the Victory Fist T-Shirt was available in crate drops.
For the anniversary of the release of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas there were special t-shirts with the logos of certain San Andreas radio stations that were only available through Crate Drops. The special t-shirts available were K-Rose, K-DST, K-JAH West and Bounce FM. These t-shirts were available from October 24th to October 26th.
The Halloween Event Weekend, from October 31st to November 2nd 2014, brought three new vintage shirts into the game. The shirts bore the logos of Flash FM, Bobo and Fever 105. These shirts were all released on seperate days of the weekend, with Flash FM being Friday, Bobo Saturday and Fever 105 on Sunday.
The Festive Surprise Event, added t-shirts with logos from Emotion 98.3 radio and some of the businesses from the 3D Universe, these included Base 5, Crocs Bar and Vivisection. These t-shirts were available from December 23th, 2014 to January 5th, 2015. Players also received a second chance to pick some of the t-shirts from previous events:
December 23th - Pisswasser Beer Hat
December 24th - Crocs Bar T-shirt
December 25th - Vivisection T-shirt
December 26th - Base 5 T-shirt
December 27th - K-Rose T-shirt
December 28th - Flash FM T-shirt
December 29th - Emotion 98.3 T-shirt
December 30th - Fever 105 T-shirt
December 31st - Patriot Beer Hat
January 1st - Victory Fist T-Shirt
January 2nd - K-DST T-shirt
January 3rd - Benedict Beer Hat
January 4th - Bounce FM T-shirt
January 5th - Homies Sharp T-shirt
(Due to the PSN and Xbox LIVE being hacked, many players were left unable to obtain special crate drops. Rockstar extended crate drops for the days in which connection issues were numerous.)
January 09th - Vivisection T-Shirt
January 10th - Supa Wet Beer Hat
January 11th - "Please Stop Me" Mask
Note: During this time there was a chance to randomly get a J Lager or Benedict Beer Hat.
The Ill-Gotten Gains event from June 12-14, 2015 added T-shirts with logos from "knockoff versions of Portola Drive's finest luxury retailers" including Dis, Poppin Southside, Santo Crapa, and Le Crew Liberty. These special crates also doubled the cash bonus to $10,000 per crate.
Minimum players needed for special crate drop is 8 and 10% drop percentage without events . However with events they change minimum players needed from 8 to 4 with 100% drop percentage. This happened with LTS Event, SA Anniversary Event and the Festive Surprise Event.
There are 31 fixed locations for crate drops to spawn.
Note: coordinates extracted from game files.
6 types of NPCs spawn inside the green circle.
They spawn with one weapon from a list of specific weapons:
- Combat MG
- Heavy Sniper
- Sniper Rifle
- Advanced Rifle
- Carbine Rifle
- Assault Rifle
- Assault Shotgun
- Pump Shotgun
- Sawnoff Shotgun
- AP Pistol
- Combat Pistol
Most of the NPCs will spawn with a pistol, with the occasional one spawning with another weapon shown above.
NOTE: Some crate drops for the SA Weekend Special dropped in other places, not marked on the above map.
- There was an exploit available prior to the Independence Day Special that enabled a player to get a special crate drop for themselves by waiting in an online session for the special crate drop warning and then going to an invite only session. The duration of the countdown clock was reduced to one in-game hour.
- If a player stands in the green circle, the crate will never drop.
- If a player kills the NPC enemies within the circle before the crate drops the crate will never drop and the player(s) may get a message to state that the pilot was unable to make the drop as the zone was "hot".
- During the DLC period for the Independence Day Special, there were a total of 6 Beer Hats, but only 4 were available to the public. the J Larger and Blarneys were only available to hackers/modders. Though Rockstar Claims all 6 were available.
- Sometimes the player will be notified for a crate drop and others won't, and even sometimes they won't even drop.
- Unlimited Special Crate Drop Glitch
- The SA Weekend Crate Drop stated that crate drops would only happen in Invite Only Sessions if 4 or more player were in the session, however some players still received a Crate Drop even if there weren't 4 players in the session.
- Strangely, other jobs (displayed by the blue markers on the radar) wouldn't show or load.
- If another player joined the session, the Special Crate Drops wouldn't drop, if they did, they wouldn't be Special Crate Drops.
- Most crates will be dropped in Blaine County.
- Sometimes there will be enemies defending the crates, usually The Professionals.
- Killing an enemy defending a crate will give the player 50 RP.
- Wherever a crate is dropped, there will be a red or orange signal flare with red smoke nearby or a green or yellow flare with yellow smoke if it is a Special Crate Drop. The flare is the same one used for Merryweather air strikes.
- Regular dropped crates must be broken open with gunfire or explosions in order to acquire the package inside with the items. Special Crates do not have the wooden external crate and the package (with a smokeless yellow flare flame on top) is immediately accessible, even if the player is in Passive Mode.
- There is a 10% chance that a special crate will be dropped. (This is increased during special event periods such as Last Team Standing Event weekend).
- Special Crates can give out items which players have already collected from other special crates; though some players think this is a bug it's actually intended by Rockstar.
- The Crate Drops do not appear if there is another Free-roam Activity going on like Simeon Import/Export Requests or Armored Truck. Additionally, it will not appear at all if playing on solo/invite only, or in an empty public server, unless one of the bugs above still allow it to appear.
- The plane carrying the crate can be seen and shot down meaning it is possible that the crate will never be dropped. If this happens, a message will appear saying that the pilot was spooked and flew away.
- Items that were not re-released during the Festive Surprise Event were the Vinyl Countdown shirt, the High Flyer parachute bag, and the K-JAH shirt.