Original Grand Theft Auto "almost canned"

DMG dev: "car handling was appalling"

Sandbox behemoth Grand Theft Auto very nearly never came into being, with the original game in the series a hair's breadth away from being cancelled while still in production, according to a new interview with one of the original developers.

Speaking to Gamasutra, DMA Design's Gary Penn explained "[The original GTA] was a real mess for years, it never moved on, it never went anywhere," before adding, "the publisher, BMG Interactive, wanted to can it."

According to Penn, there were two main issues that dragged down development.

"One of them is stability, which is a really boring one but it crashed all the fucking time," he explained. "The designers couldn't test stuff out or try things out, it just kept crashing as simple as that.

"Now the other thing that was a problem was the handling - the car handling was appalling... the core of playing was fundamentally broken."

The turning point came when a glitch in the code sent the police AI haywire, making them try to drive you off the road.

"One day, I think it was a bug, the police suddenly became mental and aggressive. It was because they were trying to drive through you.

"Their route finding was screwed, I think," he continued, "and 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."

Grand Theft Auto eventually launched on PC in October 1997 to huge sales and considerable controversy. The rest, of course, is history.

DMA Design became Rockstar North in 1999 after being acquired by Take-Two Interactive. Penn now works at independent Scottish social game studio Denki.

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Fred Dutton

Fred Dutton

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Fred Dutton was Eurogamer's US news editor, based in Washington DC.

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