In anticipation of the release of GTA V tomorrow, The Guardian has produced a video of the making of the very original GTA. This gathers together some of the people involved – including myself – and lets them talk about the trials of bringing the game to reality.
The first I knew that something was happening was a number of Lemmings references in my Twitter stream a few days ago. Without any warning it seemed that overnight a handful of Lemmings statues had appeared, climbing over a wall.
It wasn’t until today that I was able to get the time to go and have a look for myself, camera in tow. But my timing was spot on. Not only had the weather cleared after a few days of mist, chance had favoured me.
A few years ago I, along with the usual suspects Mike, Dave and Russell, were interviewed by BBC Radio Scotland. You can find the interview here, although despite being on YouTube it’s audio only. At the time I wrote a blog post about it, of which I’ve placed an expanded and updated version below the fold. Dave Jones, as you can guess from the title has been called the Spielberg of Gaming, an accolade which goes all the way back to the 90s. At the time I wondered who the Roger Corman of gaming was. I still don’t have an answer for that, other than to note, somewhat slyly, that a Mystery Science Theater 3000 for games would be an astonishingly funny, if technically challenging, thing to do.
It’s always amazed me how persistent DMA Design has been in my life. (Even with my current day job I leave at five and walk past the old DMA offices.) Immediately after the DMA exhibit opened in the MacManus Galleries, I was interviewed by James Christie from BBC Radio Scotland as one of the founders of DMA Design*.
It was to be a half hour documentary, and it has just aired this morning. I’m always nervous when something is broadcast with a contribution from me in it. And yes, I’m still astonished – when I think about it – that I can casually write a sentence like the previous one. This one, however, was especially nerve-wracking for reasons that I can’t quite put my finger on. Would I sound OK? Did I make sense? Would my contribution even get used? There are certainly no guarantees on that score. As per my first ever encounter with TV: an interview about games piracy.
There’s a new book out called Grand Thieves and Tomb Raiders and I’m guessing this is what I have to thank for the recent upswing in page views.
Hello new readers!
I’ve bought myself a copy and am pleased to see that I’m even mentioned in it. Mike Dailly over at DMA Design ORG claims that this is all down to him, which means namechecking me in all those interviews he does. It’s all part of some grand scheme of his, no doubt.
I’ll get onto reading it properly soon as I can and jot down my thoughts. I hope it conveys the flavour of DMA more accurately than Jacked did…
The history of GTA has been somewhat more illuminated in recent years than previously. To this end it is now common knowledge that the original design doc called it Race ‘n’ Chase. It was only ever meant to be a temporary name, even when at the time DMA had a habit of keeping temporary names for the final product. Through inaction, mainly.
But not in this case.
Although the final chosen name of Grand Theft Auto has an origin which is lost to time (at least no-one has staked that claim) it wasn’t the only suggestion. At the moment I am sorting through all my old DMA documents (both mine and those which have fallen into my possession!) and am delighted to have found a notebook page with the title game names. It part it reads like so:
Race ‘n’ Chase
- The Ton
- Floor It!
- Highway to Hell
- Sunday Drivers
- Driven Insane
- Hazard Lights
Judging by the date on the following page, this would have been September 1995. Doing a ton, of course, refers to achieving 100mph in British parlance. Interestingly enough, Carmageddon has nothing to do with the real game of the same name. Just one of those obvious neologisms, I suppose. It’s worth pondering how the development of the game might have changed with a different title. Each suggests a slightly different feel, doesn’t it?
Update: I’ve been informed that a likely candidate for coming up with the GTA name was Andrew Wright of BMG. Updated update: Yep!
So, obviously I’ve heard of the closure of Psygnosis. Not that it has been called that in many years, in the same way that Rockstar North isn’t quite DMA Design. I don’t have many memories of that publisher down on the Liverpudlian waterfront, but DMA visited there regularly and I went along for a couple of those trips.
We weren’t always on the best of terms, but the partnership which started with Menace on the Psyclapse label lasted long enough to bring Lemmings to the world as well as Hired Guns and others.
I got my break in the games industry by converting graphics from Psygnosis’ games Ballistix and Shadow of the Beast. They created the hires shiny images for the Amiga and I crammed those same images into a Commodore 64 character set. Mike Dailly did the coding for C64 Ballistix and together we ported it.
Although the standing joke was that Psygnosis did the flashy graphics and DMA did the gameplay, Dave Jones was always a little envious of their ability to turn around high quality images quickly, once bemoaning the fact that we never seemed able to do that. Indeed, once the decision was made to add some story tweentros and endings to the PC Engine version of Shadow of the Beast it seemed only weeks until they were delivered.
This was another project I was involved with, along with Mike, and we were most disappointed when they decided to remove all the hidden messages we’d placed in the levels.
And while I couldn’t claim to have any great influence, I couldn’t help noticing that they created their own parody newsletter, Shagg, after seeing my Not the DMA News.
At the time it was more money than I’d ever seen before in my life. So while I will always be fond of my time at DMA, none of it would have been possible without the existence of Psygnosis. And although my visits to the HQ itself were rare, they formed some of the nicest memories from that time; the best pizza I’ve ever had, staying at hotel where an admin error meant I had a penthouse suite to myself, and being crammed in the back of Ian Hetherington’s Porche 911 as a bunch of us went for a meal.
It’s a sad day.
Scottish Games are now allowing me to write a monthly column about games, DMA, and even me. I’m reprinting them here after a month’s delay. I’m putting them in a single location and also apply any corrections which are necessary. I may even expand on the original, time permitting. You can find the first one here.