During the original Grand Theft Auto’s development, a former producer at British video game firm DMA Design, now known as Rockstar North, recounts a time when internal trust in the game was low. Grand Theft Auto’s development team did not see much potential in the game and could not have guessed that it would go on to become one of the most popular video game franchises ever due to a variety of developmental challenges.
A veteran of the video game industry, Colin MacDonald joined the DMA Design team in 1997, just before Grand Theft Auto was released, though it was not yet known by that name. The first Grand Theft Auto core games were top-down experiences with early iterations of the series’ defining open-world framing. Years later, in the early 2000s, the franchise would receive widespread praise for games like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, and Grand Theft Auto 3.
MacDonald worked as a producer on Grand Theft Auto 2, allowing him to see how the first games in the series came to be. In a recent interview with the BBC, MacDonald said that about halfway through the first game’s production, a staff survey was done, asking members which of the games they felt would be most and least successful at the moment. Grand Theft Auto was selected as having the lowest chance of success out of the seven games under development, which is hilarious considering how well-known the game has become in the 25 years since its debut.
According to Colin MacDonald, the intended purpose of Grand Theft Auto was unclear during the game’s development. In the interview, the developer noted, “It was also quite buggy – you couldn’t play it for more than a couple of minutes without it crashing, so certainly at the grassroots level, there wasn’t a lot of confidence in it.” Throughout its development, the game underwent some design revisions that included the addition of series mainstays like police confrontations, vehicle gameplay, and the first of many classic Grand Theft Auto criminal characters. The 1997 release of the game served as the model for the open-world sandbox Grand Theft Auto games that are still enjoyed and lauded today.
Grand Theft Auto has established itself as the industry benchmark for sandbox games, although the series’ early installments are noticeably more modest than its later blockbuster releases. The quantity of success that would result from the creators experimenting with various concepts lead to them discovering gold. The development of modern gaming would have taken a very different turn if they had given up on the endeavor in the middle. Grand Theft Auto is already a well-known brand in gaming culture that has withstood the test of time. With Grand Theft Auto 6 confirmed to be in the works, its legacy will endure for the foreseeable future.