How the first Grand Theft Auto was almost cancelled

"Anarchic makes it sound sexier than it ought to be. It was messy."


Ahead of the release of Grand Theft Auto 5, some of the creators of the first Grand Theft Auto game have discussed its troubled, four-and-a-half year development and revealed how it was nearly cancelled before release.

In a video feature published by The Guardian, ex-DMA Design (now Rockstar North) staff recall the making of the 1997 PC and PSone game, which presented an open world from a top-down perspective.

"The writers were driving at one way. The level designers were driving at another way. They weren't meeting in the middle," Gary Penn, the producer and creative director who joined the project to help bring it all together, said.

"So you ended up with something that read badly, that made no sense, and it kept breaking."

Penn said GTA was almost cancelled multiple times as the development team struggled to turn its vision for open-world design into a workable and fun video game.

"The milestones they were meant to uphold didn't really materialise," Penn said. "We'd have conference calls at least once a week with the US. 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.

"Anarchic almost makes it sound sexier than it really ought to be. It was just messy."

The GTA team at Scottish studio DMA Design was made up of a number of young developers, only one of which had created a video game before, and former staff admit that for much of the game's development it struggled. It was only when Penn came in that a release became a reality.

Penn, now internal development manager at Denki, said: "It was like trying to nail jelly to kittens. Eventually there were enough hands to hold this thing together, but please nobody move, because this thing is going to fall apart. That's what it felt like right at the end. It was like, we'd just got to put this out now because if we don't it's just going to break again and we've lost it forever."

The video also discusses the controversy over the violence in the game, and GTA's transition into a 3D title with Grand Theft Auto 3 following the Housers' involvement.

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Wesley Yin-Poole

Wesley Yin-Poole

Deputy Editor

Wesley is Eurogamer's deputy editor. He likes news, interviews, and more news. He also likes Street Fighter more than anyone can get him to shut up about it.


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