Publisher Almost Scrapped the First GTA

Publisher Almost Scrapped the First GTA

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One of gaming's biggest series almost never made it off the ground.

These days, Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto series is easily one of gaming's most prominent landmarks. But things could have been very different, once upon a time - the first GTA was at one point in such bad shape that the publisher wanted to can the project entirely, says one of the original designers.

"[The original GTA] was a real mess for years, it never moved on, it never went anywhere," Gary Penn - who worked on the 1997 title (1998 in North America) while at DMA Design - told Gamasutra. "It was almost canned. The publisher, BMG Interactive, wanted to can it, as it didn't seem to be going anywhere."

Development was hampered by bugs and crashes, said Penn, which meant it difficult to test any features the team actually implemented. "There are probably two key things it fell down on. Two critical things. One of them is stability, which is a really boring one but it crashed all the f*cking time. So even if you did get something in the game, you couldn't really test it."

Given that the core of GTA involved driving cars, you would hope that the game's vehicle mechanics would work well - but that was the other problem, said Penn. "[The] other thing that was a problem was the handling - the car handling was appalling ... the core of playing was fundamentally broken." Ah, so it played more like GTA4 then?

However, one of these bugs ended up being a good thing. One day in testing, the game's police suddenly became uber-aggressive thanks to poor pathfinding - they would try to drive through the player. "That was an awesome moment because suddenly the real drama where, 'Oh my God, the police are psycho - they're trying to ram me off the road' ... that was awesome, so that stayed in."

Just think about it: If the first GTA had never been released, we would never have seen GTA3, one of the most influential games of the last ten years. Rockstar would never have risen to power. The Escapist's Game of the Year might have been Mass Effect 2, StarCraft 2, or Kirby's Epic Yarn.

Crazy, innit?

Check out the full interview at Gamasutra.

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On the topic of great things that almost never existed The Joker was originally going to die at the end of the first comic he appeared in after he was stabbed. It was changed last minute so he would survive.

Erase The Joker from the Batman universe...

John Funk:
Given that the core of GTA involved driving cars, you would hope that the game's vehicle mechanics would work well - but that was the other problem, said Penn. "[The] other thing that was a problem was the handling - the car handling was appalling ... the core of playing was fundamentally broken." Ah, so it played more like GTA4 then?

O SNAP!

Well, that would have been a rather stupid decision, no? 'course, we could have ended up with a totally different, yet equally fun series (excluding GTA4 from said fun series, of course, which is really rather awful). Funny how the police got their murderous tendencies though. The things you learn online...

Ah, GTA 3.

I have such fond memories of all the ps2 games actually, they were so much fun.

Though Red Dead did improve a lot of telling a dramatic story, GTA 4 was in this awkward middle ground, it was kinda boring.

What I remember most about the original was farting in people's faces, setting fire to firemen, and having the tram I was commuting on crash headfirst into another tram travelling in the opposite direction.

I don't even...

guess this shows that if you have enough bugs in a game even a great idea can go to crap.

GTA II still prob my favourite of the series for sheer mindless fun.

Yay for bugs then. GTA3 is probably my favorite.

Cousin_IT:
GTA II still prob my favourite of the series for sheer mindless fun.

I agree. gta 2 was a lot of fun for a top down game.

I played the first one so much, I don't even want to see it anymore. It appears Rockstar still has that link to download the second. I might have to do that.

I feel like we get this story almost every week, describing a highly successful game that almost wasn't. It all reminds me of the story of Lil Brudder, the dog that almost didn't make it, but then he did.

I honestly loved how the cars worked in GTA IV.
It certainly fit with the realism they worked to build, despite Niko mowing through armies of gangsters, but I digress...

Cousin_IT:
GTA II still prob my favourite of the series for sheer mindless fun.

I agree, partially out of default. I really don't enjoy post GTA II games at all. In fact, they are some of my most hated games. However, GTA II was a shit ton of fun.

Ah, I remember some smart-ass sneaking that game onto our school computers, and playing that secretly during computer classes. It almost seems like the only way to play the original GTA.

psrdirector:
guess this shows that if you have enough bugs in a game even a great idea can go to crap.

See everything ever made by Spark Unlimited.

What was that? I was to busy listening TO THE GREATEST GTA SONG EVER:

Anyways, damn. Near miss.

And I probably wouldn't have cared in the slightest...

I agree with gta4 being a disappointment but if there was no gta i would be sad.

John Funk:
the car handling was appalling ... the core of playing was fundamentally broken." Ah, so it played more like GTA4 then?

Damn straight- Words can't describe how downright awful the car handling in IV is.

Just think about it: If the first GTA had never been released, we would never have seen GTA3, one of the most influential games of the last ten years.

Oh I dunno about that. It's quite likely we still would have got Body Harvest, and GTA3 sort of progressing out of that anyway.

Even if there was no GTA, I think I could have handled it. We would still have had Driver, and Driver 2 with walking included. Hell, without all the 'GTA clone' stigma maybe Driver 3 would have gone on to be the revolutionary game it might have been, had not True Crime or the Getaway got there first. Games were always heading in that direction. GTA just got there first.

I feel like we seem to get this kind of news (big series almost never made it!) a lot. Am I mistaken?
To be honest, I'd have probably just save money if the series wasn't alive. It's not really my thing.

Oh noez da gta 4 had different handling from the previous 3 games, how dare they make a change it must be te suxx.

At this point could we just get over the fact that it feels differently and realise that different doesn't make it bad.

OT: I wonder how long it would have taken for sandbox to be put in everything without gta 1.

Ive actually met one of the guys who worked on the original game. His kid goes to the primary school my mum does learning support at. The game first came about when, while developing a top down racing game, someone wondered what would happen if the little guy could get out of the car and jump into another car. The guy was there, helped to do the little animation frames of the guy getting out of the car, and the rest is history.

And we'd probably never would have Red Dead Redemption..

The startled reaction to what reality could be deserves this epic face: o___O;!

imagine being one of the guys who wanted to scrap it and see how popular its become lol.

I will always remember GTA3 as the founder of my childhood....... so many good memories.

So police don't try to run you of the road in real life? I guess that makes my town special.

 

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