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Edge Magazine Looks at the Making of GTA

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Edge Magazine is giving more insight to the game that started the greatest series we know: the original Grand Theft Auto. They note that turning points in the middle of development are hard for most to remember but the early days are a little less fuzzy.

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"The one thing that everyone agrees on is that they didn’t make Grand Theft Auto, but that’s not strictly fair: the other thing that everyone agrees on is that everybody made Grand Theft Auto. Talking to those that worked for DMA Design back in the late ’90s it’s difficult to get anyone to claim significant credit for themselves, although they’re generous with praise for others. Development of Grand Theft Auto, or Race’n’Chase as it was originally known before a clash with a Matchbox slot-car racer forced a change, was collaborative and often tempestuous, and as a consequence it’s extremely difficult to pin down the specific turning points, even for those who were there at the time.

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Developers at DMA had grown tired of the stereotyped settings and implausible enemies that seemingly existed for no reason other than to harass the player, constantly reminding them that they were playing a game. They wanted something more convincing, more immersive. ‘Living’ environments seemed to be the answer and several of the designs being worked on at the Dundee-based developer took this idea to heart. Body Harvest, for example, would be set on a series of sparsely inhabited islands, but the most ambitious of these worlds would be to make an entire city.

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Elements of the game were added as they were thought of, often as a consequence of some casual tinkering with the behaviour of the living city.

'The Gouranga bonus is a really good example of that,' he points out. 'One of the programmers came up with a routine that had pedestrians following each other. This led to the idea of a line of Krishnas following each other down the street and then, once we had all experimented with ploughing through them all in one go, the Gouranga bonus became an obvious addition.'

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Missions weren’t the only thing he remembers having to scale back. 'There were a number of background ‘living breathing city’ features that got dropped. The player could break traffic light boxes and a repairman would wander around fixing them. Of course the player could kill the repairmen and stop all repairs. There was a TV crew that went to major accidents. This got dropped, though the TV van itself stayed in. San Andreas was supposed to have a tram system like San Francisco’s cable cars, working similar to the train system, however we couldn’t get it working nicely with regular traffic so it was removed, though the cable art stayed in.'

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As BMG took on more people from within the industry, some began to voice concerns, as Jones recalls: 'We could not compete graphically with, say, Ridge Racer, so we were banking on the fact that the game was radical in terms of gameplay and its edgy content. The content side was never an issue. BMG supported us 100 per cent to put whatever we wanted into the game; coming from the music business nothing fazed them. It was a real shame to see BMG losing its fresh approach and become more like a games publisher. BMG US didn’t think you could release a top-down game into the market. They said it would simply not sell and we should drop the title. This was only three months from completion. I was confident the sheer fun and originality factors would make it a success, and we also had great backing from BMG Europe. Luckily, we won the argument.'

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A diverse range of tunes was also needed to make the radio convincing 'It wasn’t good enough for the music to sound good enough for game music; people had to believe they were listening to real bands they just hadn’t heard of,' as Anderson puts it. This proved very useful – and was taken somewhat literally – by Baglow when publicising the game. 'I let it be known that the bands and tracks were all real and licensed especially for the game,' perhaps one of the more understandable exaggerations (see ‘Don’t believe the hype’). Sadly not all the audio work could be used. The tank, for example, lost an interesting sounding, if perhaps credibility-straining, version of the Star Spangled Banner."

Read the full article here and join us at the Grand Theft Auto V forums! Thanks to our friends at Rockstar Base for the heads-up.
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