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Who Created GTA?

Category: DMADesign Tags: History Web Twitter


Well, that was interesting. A quick catchup of Twitter, I saw Polygon describe Dan Houser as the creator of GTA. I objected to that and said so. Then I went back to the Playstation, finished my cup of tea, gamed for a bit then had another look.

Retweeted a few dozen times. Almost a hundred likes. Huh, unexpected.

Then it took off. By this morning almost 300 retweets and 4000 likes. As I write this it’s still going. I’m still bemused by it all since, swearing aside, I didn’t think it was that controversial. Most agreed with me, thankfully, but a decent-sized fraction didn’t. Most were polite, the remainder snarky and I only had to block one guy!

There was a some defence for Dan Houser. It was based on what seemed to me to nothing more than “GTA III onwards was successful” and I, to be charitable, am not. Attack the heroes and, by implication, you attack their fans. I didn’t think I was attacking him, but this led to by far the most fascinating responses: pointing out his success, that GTA only became a phenomenon under the stewardship of the Housers.

Well, okay. Never said otherwise.

But that the Housers didn’t create Grand Theft Auto is a boring old matter of record. They took it over eventually, took it to new heights, of course. (And there’s a caveat in saying “they” but I’ll get to that.) However, they didn’t create it.

That was us – DMA Design – in early 1995.

So I had a look through my old DMA files, specifically the DMA diary I’d kept for the whole of 1996. That covered the early stages of GTA, amongst other things. The closest I found to Dan Houser’s involvement was an entry for 14 June 96 – a whole year and a half after the project had started – where I wrote about the then-rumoured cancellation of GTA by BMG:

“Co-incidentally, some BMG folk were up. The story was false and now they have put out a statement to that effect. Curiously enough it almost had the ring of truth because one of the guys at BMG US hated GTA. Dan something. Today Dave said that the opinion was formed because BMG US really had [sic] a chance to play it properly, working as they were from a really old and buggy version.”

“Dan something.”

That’s how involved they were.

But there’s a larger point here, which some of the – let’s call them respondents – made about the human tendency to put a single face on any endeavour, no matter how many people were involved in it. It’s a team effort.

Yet we seem to need heroes. Hence all those lone scientists in Science Fiction, inventing away wholesale, no sign of the legions of lab staff or teams. In retrospect I see that a lot of the response to my Tweet was for those unsung masses. All those devs you never hear about, buried under crunch to make the deadlines imposed from above.

And that struck a nerve with many.

Because the amount of unsung devs working on a AAA game is enormous and each is essential.

 Extra Intel Additional Intel

I use British English spelling and idioms, if you tend to worry about that sort of thing.

Additionally I'm Scottish, so 'outwith' is unquestionably a real word. As is 'drookit', 'puggled' and 'numpty'. I am occasionally all three of those.

I created this site using a combination of W3 CSS, Jekyll, Emacs and my inability to enjoy web development IDEs.

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My name is in the very first paragraph of the first page of the first GTA design document*. (Excluding cover and table of contents. I mean, right?)

I directed Britain's first ever Star Trek fan film, which we started production of in 2003 and released in 2007. We're still making episodes: Starship Intrepid