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IGN: How Grand Theft Auto III Was Made (2001)

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IGN's GTA III anniversary article, "How Grand Theft Auto III Was Made," is a pretty good behind the scenes look at what went into the game straight from the people that made it. Some excerpts below...

"Perhaps more than any other form, video games are bound by the expectations of their audience. What is thought possible is based on what has been done in the past. Acolytes and apologists spend a lot of time talking about what video games might one day become or what they could theoretically be capable of. It's lucky to encounter a person or group not willing to postpone that future. With Grand Theft Auto III, Rockstar Games made history by refusing to accept the idea that there were places games couldn't yet go. Instead, they took them there. This is how they did it.

'We felt that not only was the content of video games becoming very staid, focused primarily on fantasy, children's characters or science fiction, but also the gameplay of those games was becoming very predictable,' Dan Houser told Design Museum,'We felt that video games, interactive entertainment or whatever you wanted to call it could also appeal to a bigger, wider audience - older people who enjoyed playing games, but did not do so to the exclusion of everything else. People with an interest in film, music, books and a broader sense of popular culture.'


'I can recall Sam, more than a few times, asking "Are we crazy? Is this going to work?", and he wasn't just asking rhetorically, he was really questioning it,' Jeremy Pope told IGN. Pope, now an independent game producer and consultant, joined Rockstar in early 2000 and served as an associate producer on GTA III. 'We were looking at a gray, blocky world. Nothing had been textured yet. It was easy to see there was massive potential, but no one was completely floored.'


'The underlying principle for us when creating the game's concept was for us to create a city and breathe as much life into it as possible,' Leslie Benzies, DMA's (and now Rockstar North's) lead producer, told IGN in 2001. 'Give it an underworld, complete with turf wars, fights and so on. Populate it with everyone from muggers to respectable businessmen. Fill it with a load of cars and then let the player loose in the underworld. They can do whatever they want in it.'


'One of the things we tried to do was use the missions to introduce new tidbits in the game. We'd lead you up onto this rooftop where you'd get the sniper rifle. Even though it had been there the whole time, you probably weren't going to find it on your own. Using little things like that helped to keep the missions interesting.'


As GTA III drew nearer to its October release date it was hard to know how big an impact the game would have. 'We weren't entirely sure that people were going to get it and really take their time to see how much was there,' Pope said. 'Seeing the reaction at E3 to State of Emergency and the relative ignoring of GTA III because we were 10 feet away at another kiosk--I think that cast some doubts. But in the back of our minds we all believed we had made something pretty special.'

The team received another shock six weeks before the release date when the 9/11 attacks cased Rockstar's downtown Manhattan offices to shut down for almost a week. Rockstar decided to make a few last minute changes out of respect for the event, removing a jumbo jet that would periodically cruise through Liberty City's skies, deleting a side character, and changing the color scheme on the police cars so as not to draw comparison to the NYPD."

There's plenty more to read in the full article here.

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