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Once a firm idea was in place and pitched to publisher BMG Interactive, work began on Race 'n' Chase (the early name for Grand Theft Auto) straight away, putting flesh on the living city's bare skeleton. "We went a little overboard on the simulation," says developer DMA's studio boss Dave Jones. "Buses following routes, people getting on and off, traffic lights working properly, a rail network. The more we could make it a mini living world, the morefun the game became."
Unfortunately, when development began several problems with the original concept emerged."No one wanted to play the cops, so we ditched that," recalls Jones, something that he has hopefully resolved - his new studio, Real Time Worlds, is currently producing APB, an online action game where players have to make exactly that choice.
The inherent problem with the 'cops' part of this cops and robbers game was that being the good-guy all the time was hard, as anyone who tries to play the final game as a law-abiding citizen will testify. It's harder not to run people over. DMA lyricist and PR head Brian Baglow summarises the problems: "If traffic was heavy you, as a cop, couldn't decide to drive on the sidewalk, or plough through a busy park. We couldn't let the player do that and reward them. Driving safely and sensibly to your destination - observing all road safety - was about as much fun as Sim Driving Instructor."
Above: Praise for GTA's scale commonly highlights the footprints of its cities and the hustle and bustle of their streets
Changes on this scale were typical of the entire game's development. Although it was very collaborative it could also be extremely fluid, and occasionally contentious, as Baglow remembers: "I sat through heated design meetings, which resulted in tears. Screaming, punches and arguments were common.
"We didn't have a clear concept of exactly what the final game would be like. We knew we had some great mechanics in there and some really innovative new ways to interact, but the details were impossible to pin down until you had most of the other elements in the game. Once you knew how the cars would handle and how the pedestrians would react, and so on, you could incorporate that into level design and bonuses."
Elements of the game were added as they were thought of, often as a consequence of some casual tinkering with the behavior of the living city. "The Gouranga bonus is a really good example of that," he points out. "One of the programmers came up with a routine that had pedestrians following each other. This led to the idea of a line of Krishnas following each other down the street and then, once we had all experimented with ploughing through them all in one go, the Gouranga bonus became an obvious addition."