Just for a bit of a change of pace, I found these whilst trawling Flickr. No context, but it’s nice to think that our little games made a lot of people happy!
There’s a new book out called Grand Thieves and Tomb Raiders and I’m guessing this is what I have to thank for the recent upswing in page views.
Hello new readers!
I’ve bought myself a copy and am pleased to see that I’m even mentioned in it. Mike Dailly over at DMA Design ORG claims that this is all down to him, which means namechecking me in all those interviews he does. It’s all part of some grand scheme of his, no doubt.
I’ll get onto reading it properly soon as I can and jot down my thoughts. I hope it conveys the flavour of DMA more accurately than Jacked did…
The history of GTA has been somewhat more illuminated in recent years than previously. To this end it is now common knowledge that the original design doc called it Race ‘n’ Chase. It was only ever meant to be a temporary name, even when at the time DMA had a habit of keeping temporary names for the final product. Through inaction, mainly.
But not in this case.
Although the final chosen name of Grand Theft Auto has an origin which is lost to time (at least no-one has staked that claim) it wasn’t the only suggestion. At the moment I am sorting through all my old DMA documents (both mine and those which have fallen into my possession!) and am delighted to have found a notebook page with the title game names. It part it reads like so:
Race ‘n’ Chase
- The Ton
- Floor It!
- Highway to Hell
- Sunday Drivers
- Driven Insane
- Hazard Lights
Judging by the date on the following page, this would have been September 1995. Doing a ton, of course, refers to achieving 100mph in British parlance. Interestingly enough, Carmageddon has nothing to do with the real game of the same name. Just one of those obvious neologisms, I suppose. It’s worth pondering how the development of the game might have changed with a different title. Each suggests a slightly different feel, doesn’t it?
Update: I’ve been informed that a likely candidate for coming up with the GTA name was Andrew Wright of BMG. Updated update: Yep!
So, obviously I’ve heard of the closure of Psygnosis. Not that it has been called that in many years, in the same way that Rockstar North isn’t quite DMA Design. I don’t have many memories of that publisher down on the Liverpudlian waterfront, but DMA visited there regularly and I went along for a couple of those trips.
We weren’t always on the best of terms, but the partnership which started with Menace on the Psyclapse label lasted long enough to bring Lemmings to the world as well as Hired Guns and others.
I got my break in the games industry by converting graphics from Psygnosis’ games Ballistix and Shadow of the Beast. They created the hires shiny images for the Amiga and I crammed those same images into a Commodore 64 character set. Mike Dailly did the coding for C64 Ballistix and together we ported it.
Although the standing joke was that Psygnosis did the flashy graphics and DMA did the gameplay, Dave Jones was always a little envious of their ability to turn around high quality images quickly, once bemoaning the fact that we never seemed able to do that. Indeed, once the decision was made to add some story tweentros and endings to the PC Engine version of Shadow of the Beast it seemed only weeks until they were delivered.
This was another project I was involved with, along with Mike, and we were most disappointed when they decided to remove all the hidden messages we’d placed in the levels.
And while I couldn’t claim to have any great influence, I couldn’t help noticing that they created their own parody newsletter, Shagg, after seeing my Not the DMA News.
At the time it was more money than I’d ever seen before in my life. So while I will always be fond of my time at DMA, none of it would have been possible without the existence of Psygnosis. And although my visits to the HQ itself were rare, they formed some of the nicest memories from that time; the best pizza I’ve ever had, staying at hotel where an admin error meant I had a penthouse suite to myself, and being crammed in the back of Ian Hetherington’s Porche 911 as a bunch of us went for a meal.
It’s a sad day.
Tuesday July 31, 2012 — 9:51 PM
Scottish Games are now allowing me to write a monthly column about games, DMA, and even me. I’m reprinting them here after a month’s delay. I’m putting them in a single location and also apply any corrections which are necessary. I may even expand on the original, time permitting. You can find the first one here.
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.
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.
Friday June 8, 2012 — 4:22 PM
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.
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.
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.
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.’
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.