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Original Grand Theft Auto design docs

A cop mode that required the map?

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

Grand Theft Auto was once known by the provisional title Race'n'Chase and was planned for release on SEGA Saturn and "Ultra 64" (Nintendo 64).

Race'n'Chase would pack a mode whereby players could be cops and chase chase criminals, hurriedly consulting an accompanying printed map while street names were barked over the radio.

That's according to the original design documents, which have been uploaded to Flickr by Mike Dailly - part of the original DMA GTA team.

"The aim of Race'n'Chase is to produce a fun, addictive and fast multi-player car racing and crashing game which uses a novel graphics method," the design document pledged.

"Players will be able to drive cars and possibly other vehicles such as boats, helicopters, or lorries. Cars can be stolen, raced, collided, crashed (ramraiding?) and have to be navigated about a large map. It will also be possible for players to get our of their car to steal another one. This will mean controlling a vulnerable pedestrian for a short time. Trying to steal a car may result in the alarm being set off which will, of course, attract the police."

Back then there were to be multiple modes: Cannonball Run (a straight race with the option of bots); Demolition Derby (free-roaming smash-'em-up where the last man standing wins, although an alternative version where players would be reincarnated and their successful smashes totted was also mentioned); Bank Robbery (rob a bank and race to a safe point while hotly pursued by police) and Bank Robbery (Cop), where the roles are reversed.

The document promised that "when enough crimes have been completed, the player can move on to a different city". However, "the robber's game is up when he gets killed or is captured by the police".

DMA talked of a "very, very large - multiple screens" playing world, and of how rubbish PCs could reduce detail, making the cityscape look "something like the original Sim City". Those who wanted to run the flashy SVGA mode would need "a very fast processor (e.g. Pentium)".

But be careful, there are pedestrians, and they're "wandering about all of the time". "They can be run over by cars," the document grimly pointed out - pedestrians such as "school children and lollipop lady" and "dogs".

In total, Grand Theft Auto would require code space of 1MB and sound space of 1MB.

Grand Theft Auto was eventually released for PC and PlayStation in 1997 - a delay of over a year, according to the design documents.

The start date was to be 4th April 1995 and the game design completed by 31st May 1995. The first milestone, the engine, would be reached by 3rd July 1995; the second milestone, "Look & Feel", by 2nd October 1995; the third milestone, "1st Play", by 3rd January 1996; and the fourth milestone, Alpha, by 1st April 1996.

The end of the project was scheduled for 1st July 1996.

And the rest, they say, is history.

Today, GTA can be squashed onto an iPhone.

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