You won’t be seeing a GTA film any time soon.
“If GTA IV was a classic New York story,” says Rockstar’s Dan Houser, head writer and vice president of the studio, “[GTA V] is the endpoint of the American dream.” It’s where everything America hopes and lusts for, reinvents its past for, lives, or dies; the plastic, fake land of missed opportunity. Los Angeles is the dream that America invented, and the Rockstar team has spent over 100 days combing every last inch of the real LA to make the game world, in a process that started in 2010 at the height of the sub-prime financial crisis. But, Houser admits, creating the world is always the largest part of development. The team spoke to everyone it could, from cops to FBI undercover agents, Mafia experts and gangsters. “We even went to see a proper prison,” said Houser. “These poor buggers in the middle of the salt flat desert, miles away. It was eye-openingly depressing.”
Houser sees this process as a step on from film. “It’s the being rather than the doing,” Houser says. “You’re going to see different things than another player, and when you walk up a hill yourself and see the sun setting on the ocean, that’s a lot different to me taking a camera up there and making you see it.” Not that Rockstar is likely to make a film based on GTA, though there have been offers. It has declined each one, on creative control grounds. The last thing GTA needs, Houser thinks, is an “amorphous ‘that won’t test well’ attitude” taking over from, and replacing, innovation. GTA is Rockstar’s crowning jewel, and there’s no sense risking a property as valuable as that over some temporary plaudits. Besides, there’s too much in GTA to condense it into a movie format; a TV series would be a better bet, but even then it would lose player agency and freedom, the two elements that, Houser believes, really make GTA special.
“We love games and we think we’ve got something to say in games, and that games have plenty to say,” Houser concludes. “So shouldn’t we just continue doing that?”
You haven’t much longer to wait for this one. Grand Theft Auto V is due for Xbox 360 and PS3 on September 17th.