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The Making of Grand Theft Auto 51

Edge Online has another fantastic feature, discussing the creation process behind GTA. From the article: "One of the defining moments of the series happened in early 1996, not long after Baird joined the team. 'At that time, we were still a series of small missions,' he says. "We had a long, long brainstorming session where we picked up on an idea for one long level containing multiple missions proposed by one of the level designers, Paul Farley. We took this and expanded it into the open-ended structure that the game shipped with. This meant a big expansion of the scripting and improvements to game systems — they had to handle the game running over multiple missions instead of the short structure.'"
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The Making of Grand Theft Auto

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  • by Jonah Hex ( 651948 ) <hexdotms@@@gmail...com> on Monday July 03, 2006 @05:46PM (#15652639) Homepage Journal
    Driving from the top-down perspective drove me crazy with the first GTA, and trying to walk around using the keyboard made me want to ignore the game and just kill all those virtual people. I can't imagine how many times I was killed while walking for a mission, for me it totally overshadowed the "living city" aspect they go on about in the article. Hell I don't even remember that I noticed it was "living" at all, since like most GTA games then and since you merely have to move out of the zone you're in and back into it to find everything "reset"; no crashed cars, dead bodies, etc. Where the hell are all the tow trucks, EMT's, and coroner's that mysteriously clean up behind me? Why can't I kill them too so the wreckage stays? Do I just need to install a "decal limit" hack? ;)
    Jonah HEX
    • You would have hated the PlayStation version then. Things would sometimes reset on screen in that crime of a conversion. But the game itself kicked ass. Your blasphemy confuses and enrages me.

    • You mean the ambulances and firetrucks that would run me over after I left the crime scene ?
    • by Mac Degger ( 576336 ) on Monday July 03, 2006 @10:29PM (#15654176) Journal
      Memory constraints...heard of them?

      Not only that, but you got frustrated using the /keyboard/? In that day and age, when the first GTA came out, keyboard was de rigeur. You wanted to drive with the mouse instead? You're crazy....driving with a mouse must have been possibly the worst control mechanism you could come up with for a top-down driving game.
      • by Jonah Hex ( 651948 ) <hexdotms@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @01:00AM (#15654682) Homepage Journal
        Memory constraints can be overcome, even in that day and age, however that section of my comment was mostly tongue in cheek. The article goes on about how they wanted to make a living city, however the gameplay really never felt that way due to the respawn action.

        As for keyboard control, trying to walk in the original GTA felt to me like I was trapped on a square grid, I could never get turned the right way at the right time. Of course I wouldn't have used the mouse, any driving game I've ever tried which supports mouse steering gets it turned off ASAP. I can recall many top-down view games that had excellent keyboard control without feeling like I was using something with less control than an original Pong analog controller. Even some of the early flight games had great keyboard control, I played F-117A Stealth Fighter with keyboard only and kicked the shit out of my joystick using friends. Hell I still prefer keyboard control, I own neither a joystick or gamepad to this day.

        Jonah HEX
      • by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @07:10AM (#15655505)
        Memory constraints...heard of them?

        True of GTA 1 & 2, possibly true of GTA 3+ on the PS2. Certainly not true on the PC. One of the most annoying aspects of playing GTA 3 / VC / SA on the PC is that you can turn 360 degrees and everything behind you - vehicles, pedestrians etc. has respawned as something else. The only things that pass the rotate test are stolen / wrecked cars, enemies & bodies, but they too have some low timeout. If your typical MMPORG (e.g. WoW) can have literally hundreds of player chars, all individual and replete in their own kit on screen at once, then I don't see a technical constraint with GTA being able to track a couple of hundred peds and cars in your immediate vicinity.

        The reason that it exists I feel has more to do with GTA being a port. But if they can revamp the graphics and controller, then why not the game engine? Here's hoping the next gen game is attempts to resolve these issues. The driving aspect is actually very good, but the environment is too static and predictable. It needs smarter peds, less obvious spawning, proper indoor areas, destructable landscapes and long term memory of the mayhem you've caused.

        • I'm guessing it's mostly a QA thing. Plus the fact that, compared to GTA on consoles, PC sales are probably really small.

          Memory management, "smarter" peds, non-static environments on a large scale all take serious work (and money). And, most of the time, it isn't worth it. Buyers are more interested in the graphics...

    • Ok tell me the truth, did you play GTA when it first came out or AFTER GTA3 made the series popular.
      Obviously going backwards is an experience in low tech, but the original GTA was amazing for its day and time. Give credit where credits due.
      • Actually I'm talking about my experience at the time GTA was first released. Of course it was pretty damn good for the day, but the control system really sucked IMHO, see my posts above. I'm 35 now, started my puter life on a Trash-80, ran the elite Xenogenesis BBS in 313 using TAG on a 286 originally then Obv/2 on a 486. To tell the truth I was always more impressed with another DMA classic: Lemmings!

        Jonah HEX
        • Ahh Lemmings, I forgot that was DMA.. Yummy.

          To add to the off beat conversionation: I'm 27 and arrived a bit late on the BBS sence, made my own one day with quick BBS (actually spend several weeks on the artwork and whatnot) only to have my father cut the extra phone line cause I was spending too much time on the computer :(.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 03, 2006 @05:49PM (#15652656)
    http://www.rockstargames.com/classics/ [rockstargames.com]

    Download GTA 1 & 2 for free from Rockstar. Gotta love it. 2 is just plain awesome.
    • Nice - if i could only find Burnin' Rubber for my old C64 it would be a nice summer !
    • I have to throw in my two cents and agree that GTA2 was a stellar game. GTA3 was actually a let-down for me in comparison, since it was basically the same thing in 3d.

      GTA2 had so much replay value... the top-level missions in the third city were INSANELY difficult. The best feature may have been the deathmatch multiplayer though. The interactions between the different weapons were quite well-balanced, which is pretty surprising since the multiplayer in general felt somewhat unpolished, and many weapons were
      • I think the 3d was an improvement for GTA since it meant better sight of where you are going and the ability to have stunts in the game.

        What I do remember about GTA2 was when my computer was too slow so it ran in slow motion and I was dodging bullets like Neo in the matrix.
  • The open-ended freedom of gameplay in the GTA series is the thing I liked already in the GTA 1. The graphics was mediocre at best, but it rocked. Although it had many flaws, it was still revolutionary in many ways. GTA 2 didn't introduce anything beneficial to the series, but GTA 3 rocked. Since that every sequel has been getting better and better. I don't have much time to play computer games anymore but I love San Andreas and every once in a while I forget myself in front of the computer, for many hours i
  • Too Bad (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MBCook ( 132727 ) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Monday July 03, 2006 @06:10PM (#15652780) Homepage
    It's an interesting article. Makes me think I'm missing something.

    I've played almost all the GTAs. GTA 1 & 2 were fun little distractions, I played them when they were relased for free.

    But people go on and on about 3+ and say how great they are and I just don't get it. To me, it's like the whole world is blind to what is right in front of their face.

    GTA 3 was kind of fun. They all were. Driving around is fun, and I liked the radio and such. The driving controls weren't that great but they worked and that may even be one of the reasons why they were fun. But the rest of the game just SUFFERS. I know there is supposed to be a great story and tons of missions, and I've played some of them. But the shooting/targeting/aiming controlls have been abysmal.

    Legend of Zelda: Occarina of Time invented the Z-Targeting system in what, 1997/1998? It worked great. So why is it that a game released 4 years later had such a lousy targeting system? It made fights with one person a struggle, and figts with a mob basically unplayable.

    So I gave up on it and then tried Vice City a few years later. The music was fun and the story was interesting, but it had the same problem. The controlls were terrible. STILL.

    So now there is San Andreas. It's supposed to be the best yet. I haven't tried it and I don't intend to.

    Then there is Liberty City Stories. This is the game that is supposed to be so amazing that they put on the PSP. Guess what, the controlls are terrible. The lack of the second analog stick probably makes things worse. Too bad they aren't using Z-Targeting which would have made up for that.

    But even on the consoles, they could have used FPS controlls and they would have worked just fine. Heck, the old Resident Evils seemed to have better shooting controls.

    I've posed this before. What's the response I usually get? "Try the games on the PC!". So the solution to bad controls on a console is a port that they made later? If they can't get it right on a console (where I can at least rent it) then why should I shell out money for the PC version?

    I know they are making another GTA. Maybe the controls will be decent this time. Probably not. But what score will every magazine and game website give it? A 5/5, a 98%, or something similar. Buggy graphics and gameplay? Doesn't matter (note: I never experienced that, other than the terrible pathfinding in GTA 3). Abysmal controls for some of the most crucial parts of the game? Who cares! Cram the game onto a console with even WORSE controls? We'll keep the score the same because they are the first to put a GTA style game on the PSP.

    As long as your game is fun for those people who don't mind playing the same part over and over because they can't get the character to do what it's supposed to because the controls are terrible, it's OK to give the game a 100% type score.

    PS: Yes, I KNOW this entire post is basically sacrilege. But when I see this series contine to get great marks and held up as this great thing when then controlls are just SO BAD while other great games get marked down for comparativly petty things, it infuriates me.

    The living city thing is VERY cool (even if it has serious limitations in the form of PS2 games, maybe on next-gen). But as people say about Id shooter games: "Neat demo, maybe now someone will make a game out of it".

    • Did you play the same GTA everyone else did? What was so difficult about the controls? Target, shoot, then cycle through your enemies with the L,R buttons until they were all dead. (Gee, just like Z-targeting in OOT) Not only was it trivial to kill a dozen enemies without trouble, it was almost too easy - which is a common complaint.

      Can you elaborate on how you found it difficult to play with the controls as is?
      • Did you play the same GTA everyone else did? What was so difficult about the controls? Target, shoot, then cycle through your enemies with the L,R buttons until they were all dead.

        That's a gross over-simplification of the play mechanics in these games. One of the things you could do in the PC versions of GTA was to shoot out tires in moving cars. Heck, you could even kill the drivers in moving cars with ease. This mechanic is virtually gone in the console versions and takes some of the fun out of the gam

    • But the shooting/targeting/aiming controlls have been abysmal.

      As of at least Vice City, you can hold down left trigger to auto-target, and use the d-pad left/right to switch between targets. It's simple and lightning quick, and works with most weapons. The assault rifles, sniper rifles and rocket launcher all force you to aim first person, which is accomplished by holding the left trigger (exactly like the auto-targeting). The first person aiming really isn't much of a problem, though. Maybe a littl
      • It didn't take me more than a moment to get used to driving in the games, that is a ton of fun. I know there are other games with worse controls. I've played some of them. Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories comes to mind. It's just that of all the games with terrible controls (which usually die fast) GTA keeps getting held up as some kind of "perfect game".
    • The controls aren't as bad as you make them out to be.
    • Re:Too Bad (Score:3, Interesting)

      So now there is San Andreas. It's supposed to be the best yet. I haven't tried it and I don't intend to.

      This amuses me greatly, since SA is such a huge jump from it's predecessors, and it includes the Z-Targetting you've got your pants in a mess about.
    • Re:Too Bad (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MobileTatsu-NJG ( 946591 ) on Monday July 03, 2006 @07:17PM (#15653201)
      GTA 3 was kind of fun. They all were. Driving around is fun, and I liked the radio and such. The driving controls weren't that great but they worked and that may even be one of the reasons why they were fun. But the rest of the game just SUFFERS. I know there is supposed to be a great story and tons of missions, and I've played some of them. But the shooting/targeting/aiming controlls have been abysmal.

      Though I'm a raving GTA fan boy, I don't consider this sacrilege. You bring up good points. One thing I'd mention, though, is that it's fairly clear that you played this on the PS2 and not the PC. I played GTA3 and Vice City on the PC. Though the driving suffered a little, it made the targetting problem a LOT better. When I played San Andreas, well it was on the PS2, and frankly this change in perspective illuminated your points quite clearly. I don't think any GTA fan out there who's being honest with himself could tell you that those problems don't exist. As a matter of fact, San Andreas is the EXACT reason I will not be getting a PS3. I do NOT want to go through this control-hell again. I cannot BELIEVE that they did the exact same controller again. It's not right.

      "I've posed this before. What's the response I usually get? "Try the games on the PC!". So the solution to bad controls on a console is a port that they made later? If they can't get it right on a console (where I can at least rent it) then why should I shell out money for the PC version?"

      Err.. I'm sorry... I wrote the previous paragraph before reading this line. I was heading towards 'try it on the PC!' Well, should you? I cannot promise you that you'd love these games anywhere near as much as I did. I really don't know anything about your tastes other than you liked Zelda. I can sympathize, there. I can tell you that the targeting problem is a LOT better on the PC versions. Perfect? No. You're not going to get Zelda's top-notch control here. But it's still good, and yes, the games are rewarding. The mouse is FAR better for taking shots with. I would suggest that if you can find Vice City for $15, it'd be a good gamble for you. (Though GTA 3 was good, Vice City was considerably better, and that one may actually convince you to give SA a try. I don't imagine you taking the leap from GTA3 to SA...) If you balk at paying $15 (I don't even know if you can find it that cheap... but it's the amount I'd pay to try something recommended.) then let it go. S'alright, man. Even though I think these games are great, I get the impression from your post you did give them a serious try. GTA did earn its spot in gaming history, even before the Hot Coffee pitchfork party.

      • Re:Too Bad (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        in europe you can get gta 3 now for less than 5eu and vice city for 10eu now.

        about the controls - the ps2 control is quite right as long as you use autoaiming trigger and dont do those damning model airplane missions ... those were the ones where i needed the mouse badly, everything else is just fine with pad for me

        i even do so far on the pc version to play with both, pad and mouse, because i love the analog trigger for driving and flying - i switch to keyboard and mouse for walking and shooting

        i believe th
    • But the shooting/targeting/aiming controlls have been abysmal.

      That's because you were playing the lame-ass console version. There are no such problems on the PC. Here, if the aiming sucks, it's not really the aiming that sucks, but you and your aiming skill.
    • Re:Too Bad (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      My GTA experience is basically the exact opposite of yours...with the exception of a few hours fiddling with one of the earlier version, my only experience has been playing San Andreas on PS2...and only because my roommate bought it.

      Perhaps that's why none of your critiques make any sense to me. There was really only one thing in San Andreas that really bothered me...the story line. As much as I tried to play around it, I finally had to bite the bullet and go through the stupid missions (as much fun as sh
    • GTA was a pc game. It was made for it and designed for it. Console exlusivity didn't happen until Sony came along.
    • I think the problem is mostly with the scope of the game. The range of gameplay means that the game engine has to be A) a driving game, B) a shooting game, and C) an adventure-style game, all at the same time. None of these aspects are quite there, maddening those of us who expect a polished control and gameplay experience.
    • I bought a PSP a few weeks ago. I know, I know... I really wanted to play Loco Roco (it's out in Europe, and it's an awesome little game - not worth getting a PSP for it, though).

      I've never played a GTA game before, but I read all the hype and figured it was a save buy. I played True Crime, which I liked and which was supposed to be a GTA clone, but worse than GTA. So I figured I would like GTA even more than True Crime. Played GTA last week. Man, that game has issues!

      The main problem seems to be that it'

  • Carefully attributed to "research."
  • GTA1, on the PSX, was the first game I played on that console that was really buggy. It froze, reset and occasionally let you unable to play the game. For example, if you left the vehicle when you were inside/under a building, you couldn't see what you were doing and sometimes could neither get back inside and drive off, or walk out. I think it's really important that you test properly stuff that you can't patch after release, and it made me a lot more cautious about buying console games after that.
  • Grrrrr (Score:2, Funny)

    by sabit666 ( 457634 )
    I want to put a bullet in the head of the guy who came up with stupid Helicopter/Plane training missions.
    • I found them very frustrating too - until I tried to change the camera perspective to 'in cockpit'. After that those missions were relatively easy.
  • by Pearson ( 953531 ) on Monday July 03, 2006 @09:48PM (#15654015)
    I like all the games in the series, but with the move from GTA2 to GTA3 they lost one of my favorite features. In 2 there were three gangs in each level. They each had a gang they hated and a gang they were indifferent about. So to do missions for one gang, you had to be hated (to a certain degree) by their rival gang. The fun part was that when you finished all the missions for one gang you could go on a rampage in their turf and get jobs from their enemies. It felt like you got 3x the gameplay for each level.

    Also the humor was lost in the transition to 3D. For example the wandering line of Elvis impersonators who were especially skittish, but if you managed to run over all of them at once you got a bonus and the words "Elvis has left the building!" Or the announcer's voice when you got an insane stunt bonus.

    The score multiplier, which would get zeroed by an arrest, along with charging in-game money to save the game, added real tension to the game. You didn't want to save very often because it was expensive (the way to get out of the level was to get a certain amount of money), and you loved the multiplier which gained +1 each time you completed a mission without getting busted or killed. So, by the time you had a 6x multiplier you were on edge for any sign of the cops since you would lose so much. Naturally, the missions were designed to get the cops all riled up which was very thrilling.

    In the 3D ones, you save whenever and don't care (which limits the risk to repeating once single mission), there is little humor, and the levels are pretty linear, as far as the missions go. That said, I like the 3D versions, and absolutely love Vice City (80s music + the PCJ = ftw!)
  • I really enjoyed the way there were a bunch of mini missions within the whole thing. I t made me wanna go back and play some that I missed not knowing in the first levels, but it reall made a huge difference when I had trouble with a couple of the missions, I wasn't STUCK. I twas nice to be able to continue enjoying the game play when finding a portion beyond my capability.
  • by Da Rabid Duckie ( 731742 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @09:33AM (#15659643)

  • I hate GTA:SA with a fiery passion. GTA3 was fantastic, the city was incredibly immersive, I loved just wandering around its streets and listening to the sound of the city, I wasted hours doing this. People complained about the Joe Nobody main character, but I liked him, he WAS ME, not some goof ball in the 80's or some lame gang banger in the 90's, neither of whom I could relate to in the least. The story was minimal and unobtrusive, and the creativity of most of the missions was great. Then GTA:VC happe

Executive ability is deciding quickly and getting somebody else to do the work. -- John G. Pollard