See GTA evolve from ant farm to cops and robbers; but nobody wanted to play the cops.
“It was like trying to nail jelly to kittens,” remembers Gary Penn, producer of the very first Grand Theft Auto. “Eventually there were enough hands to hold this thing together, but please nobody move, because this thing is going to fall apart.” In advance of the latest offering in the franchise, the Guardian newspaper has put out a video short subject, showing you how – and why – Grand Theft Auto almost flopped before it began. If ever you’ve wondered what it takes to ship a game when nobody on the team, bar that guy in the back with the coffee fiend nerves, has ever even made a game before, this is the video to watch.
“We’d have conference calls at least once a week with the US,” says Penn, recalling his time at DMA Design. “They wanted to kill it every week. Every week they wanted to kill this game, and we’d have to argue to try and keep it going, because we had some faith.” But while faith can move mountains, pixels move in more mysterious ways, and it wasn’t until the team realized that the blocks it was trying to stick together could be viewed as a top-down city that the game began to take shape. It was DMA Design’s ant farm, which would only do something interesting if you poked it. “And I can poke it by being bad!” Penn remembers, a look of glee plastered all over his face.
Penn’s a Denki man these days, but the game he and the team put together has become one of, if not the, biggest franchises out there, with more than 100 million sales worldwide. Good going for a game that, as Penn recalls, “looked rough at the start, and looked rough at the end.” Grand Theft Auto V, Rockstar’s latest, is out September 17th.