Original Grand Theft Auto 'almost canned'

Then-series developer DMA Design's Gary Penn says top-down title nearly shelved because it was "awful"; GTA: IV life-to-date sales sit at 17 million.


Grand Theft Auto 2
Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories / Vice City Stories
Grand Theft Auto IV: Episodes From Liberty City

The Grand Theft Auto franchise is one of the most recognizable brands in the game industry, with the latest entry, Grand Theft Auto IV, scoring a top rating and selling 17 million copies since debuting in 2008. However, the first entry in the series almost never got off the ground.

In an interview with industry site Gamasutra, Gary Penn of DMA Design (which later became Rockstar North) said the original series entry was nearly shelved; not because of politics, but rather because the game was unstable and "awful."

The game that started it all.
The game that started it all.

"It never really felt like it was going anywhere. It was almost canned," Penn said. "The publisher, BMG Interactive, wanted to can it."

"There are probably two key things it fell down on; two critical things. One of them is stability, which is a really boring one, but it crashed all the f***ing time. So even if you did get something in the game, you couldn't really test it."

The other key feature of the title that wasn't operating as DMA Design had planned was the vehicle component to the game.

"Now the other thing that was a problem was the handling; the car handling was appalling. There was a point in it where you used to have a button for opening the doors, and it was just rubbish," he said. "I can't remember if this is true because we used to joke that you even had to start the engine. It was awful; it was too sim-y."

Then, a revelation came in the way of a game error that made police behave erratically, which turned into exactly what the developer enjoyed most.

"Then one day, I think it was a bug, the police suddenly became mental and aggressive," he said. "And that was an awesome moment because suddenly the real drama where, "Oh my God, the police are psycho...they're trying to ram me off the road."

"They're after you. They're trying to ram you off the f***ing road. Everybody suddenly went, 'Hey this is actually pretty cool.' There's something in this; this is working."

The original Grand Theft Auto, which released in 1997, is available for free via the Rockstar Classics Free Download Series. For more on the franchise's latest entry, check out GameSpot's review of Grand Theft Auto IV.

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