Gun Artwork

Remember this image? It’s some of the artwork which was created for GTA 1.


Well I was rummaging around looking for pics for a different post and found one of the source images. I don’t know who was holding it or who took the picture, but it was with the old (really old!) Kodak digital camera from 1996.

Some GTA imagery was based on real-world objects

A GTA Pistol

The background is one of the units at Dundee Technology Park, once DMA had grown so much that it had started spilling into other buildings.

An Update…

Yes, it’s been a little quiet around here, but I hope to add more content in the near future. I’ve been writing some material in the background and there’s a little announcement I hope to make in a few week’s time which will mean I’m kind of compelled to write more! I also hope to post previously unseen photos and some original DMA material, not seen on the Internet before.

A GTA Roundup

The Independent has a feature about the creativity of Brits bringing in the cash. GTA gets brief mention, but the article is also concerned that the talent is being snapped up by overseas companies.

Planet Ivy meanwhile has an overview of Rockstar with a nod to DMA while some of the talent who didn’t become part of Rockstar are now plying their trade at YoYo Games. It only mentions “tech veterans” but it’s actually Russell Kaye and Mike Dailly (at least).

Flesh Eating Zipper reviews Jacked and finds that although it purports to be about GTA, it somehow isn’t really.

GTA at the V&A

Grand Theft Auto is now also to be part of the 2012 exhibition at the V&A British Design 1948 – 2012: Innovation In The Modern Age. For the cost of a small round of drinks, you too can admire what has been achieved, and wonder at the long journey from pariah to plaudits.

Lemmings was already part of the exhibition. My source leads me to understand that it will be GTAIII on show, rather than any of the other releases.

Just the facts, Jacked


The history of Grand Theft Auto

Shortly to go on general sale is Jacked! the “unauthorised” story of Grand Theft Auto by David Kushner. An extract was printed in Edge, covering some of the time at DMA Design. This led to a lively discussion amongst some of the ex-DMA people on Facebook. Since then, I’ve found a much more sizeable extract on Google Books which ironically, I stumbled across while searching for something else. Naturally I’m interested, since as I tell everyone who can’t get away from me, I was moping around the DMA offices at least for part of the time period covered.

So this is a great chance to apply the ‘calibration test’. In other words, take what has been said in the book, check against my own experiences and judge accordingly. And whether I would wish to buy it. Early indications weren’t positive. The extract from Edge seemed to owe more to novel writing than to journalism, in an attempt to jolly-up the story. Opinion from those members of the GTA team who chipped in, was that at best it got the fact of the existence of GTA correct. Why so harsh a judgement?

There is a fascinating book waiting to be written about DMA Design, but this isn’t it. How did an unassuming Cops and Robbers game come to be so controversial? What decisions were made along the way and where did the inspiration come from in the first place? What thought processes led to it? How did Dave Jones think of GTA? Did he in fact think up GTA?

We’re not going to find out. DMA is skipped over in a few chapters, but it does indeed contain the reason for Dave coming up with Grand Theft Auto. Unfortunately that reason appears to be complete invention, for reasons I’ll explain. It is clear that Kushner had tried to panel-beat the real life events into a coherent and dramatic narrative, something which reality isn’t always good at accommodating, and in this case reality doesn’t. I wonder if it is a hopeful attempt at supplying the raw material for the next The Social Network. Certainly the story as I experienced it firsthand is interesting, but it’s a different, more technical, kind of interest from the bang bang bang look at this material, which tends towards the lurid.

And while the people involved behind the scenes are perfectly ordinary, mostly balanced, individuals with normal life-stories, such details don’t make for good drama. Hence Kushner seems to have moulded the ‘characters’ into the sort of personalities that we might imagine could appear in GTA itself. William Gibson, famously, tells a story about Neuromancer:

Actually, one time I was in New York signing books, there was this godawful huge roar outside the bookstore, and these two huge motorcycles screeched up to the curb, and these two huge guys covered in leather and studs and chains and shit got off, and came into the store. When they got a good look at me in my loafers and buttondown shirt their faces just fell, you know? One of them pulled out this copy of one of my books and said, ‘Well, I guess you can sign it anyway.’

Yeah, that's me. Back against the wall in the Design Department

Drunk in charge of a computer

I suspect that there is something of this going on here too. The GTA team are painted as the bad boys within DMA, noisy, boisterous, rowdy, while the rest of the geeks are ‘toiling away on Lemmings sequels’. The creation of badassery requires one to be badass? Well, no. In truth, none of the teams were that different from each other. In fact much of the technical expertise underlying each game was created by the same guy.

To suit this dramatic narrative, Dundee is required to be the sort of place where Grand Theft Auto could originate, a grim, gritty place that you would reasonably expect to be carjacked if you weren’t careful. Kushner even refers to the Huns and the Shams, real gangs which really did exist in the town. Well, sure, they existed if you were in Dundee in 1975. And is Dundee is a rough town as described? During the 90s Dundee was undergoing a lot of renovation in the town centre. Pedestrianised areas, a new shopping centre and the return home of the RRS Discovery, leading to the current slogan ‘City of Discovery’ and, yes, a measure of optimism and pride. It was nowhere close to being the sort of downbeat place intimated in the book.

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GTA Challenges Hollywood

Friday’s edition of the Guardian had an article about the challenge to Hollywood posed by videogames. Dave Jones was quoted as saying that video games were still in the stone age.

I remember a meeting we had in the 90s where he said exactly the same thing.

The whole of the DMA staff had been taken to the Swallow Hotel, just a five minute walk from the offices in the Technology Park and treated to some food and drink. Dave gave what amounted to a state of the union address where he made the “stone age” comment for for the first time. He must have been improvising much of it, because he also said that this was the “age of steam” for computer games.

Oh No! More Lemmings (Graffiti)

The graffiti keeps on coming! Well, grafitti and other artwork. But is there more than just Lemmings out there? Are Lemmings the most recognisable characters from the DMA stable? Where is the fan art for Walker? For Cheule and Rorian? For Uniracers? (Serves me right for not giving the unicycles names, eh?) Well for the moment the Lemmings are carrying the day!

Pots Tavern

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Grand Theft Auto was almost Canned

I’m a bit late to the party here. The news broke onto the web a few month’s ago, as you can see here.
GTA Almost Canned

News Roundup

The University Observer has posted this retrospective for GTA III, in the aftermath of the tenth anniversary. C&VG has this to say about the whole DMA phenomenon, with particular emphasis on GTA of course.

Computer Game Exhibitions through the Ages

“British Design 1948-2012: Innovation in the Modern Age” is a forthcoming exhibit at the V&A to “showcase the best of British design and creative talent” which happens to contain some special British computer games. But as we’ll see, it’s not the first time a Museum has displayed some of DMA’s games.

From the V&A press release:

There will also be an immersive computer-gaming installation at the centre of the final gallery, featuring specially designed projections of five video games developed in Britain: Elite (1984), Lemmings (1991), Tomb Raider (1996), Grand Theft Auto (1997) and Little Big Planet (2007).

It will run from 31st March to 12th August 2012. This also affords me the opportunity to ramble for a bit.

DMA Exhibition at the Mcmanus Gallery

Not the DMA News 3

This is especially nice, because the V&A will be opening in Dundee in the future, lending a further level of connection, where of course Dundee was home to DMA. However, there is already a DMA exhibit in Dundee, hosted at The McManus, an art gallery and museum. I like this one very much because my name is in there someplace, along with an issue of Not the DMA News 3, a parody of the DMA Newsletter, which was my doing.

This is not the first time that computer games have been on display in an exhibition. Back in the day, the late lamented Museum of the Moving Image had Lemmings as part of Re-Play, a “special feature” which ran from 29th Nov 1996 to 15th May 1997. At the time they had an appeal for old computer software and hardware to create the first national archive of computer games. To quote the press pack:

Around 80% of films made in cinema’s silent era, presumed lost. Similarly much of early television has alos disappeared. Determined to ensure a similar fate does not await one fo the newer image formats, the British Film Institute (BFI) has begun to preserve video games at its National Film and Television Archive in Berkhamsted.

MOMI Re-Play Pamphlet

MOMI Re-Play Cover

A small subset of DMA made a pilgrimage during its run, travelling down to London on the train. During the modest amount of research I did for this post, I uncovered a “report” I’d written at the time from the opening night of the exhibition. There, jammed between the pamphlets, were three pages of my own words of which I had entirely forgotten and which didn’t appear to exist on the computer. It may have been printed as part of the old DMA Newsletter, but I’m not sure it ever was. In addition to writing the parody of the DMA Newsletter, I also wrote the DMA Newsletter…

I’m typing up the report at the moment, cleaning up some of the grammar/ de-typo’ing it and will post the result sometime soon, along with a handful of photos I took on the night.