This was to be only one of the more minor changes during the development. Several, although essential to making the game a success, would cause a lot of work to be thrown away, as programmer Brian Baird recalls: "If we'd stuck to the original design, GTA would have flopped. The scale of the missions was very small, with the design being a series of short, sharp five-minute missions, returning to a mission select screen in between. Originally the player started as a delivery boy and worked his way up to the top. We quickly found it wasn't fun delivering pizzas."
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."
Many ideas and approaches were bandied about, some quite different to the final game. Baird remembers suggestions for a horror theme. "A large chunk of missions were originally planned to be Omega Man-inspired. The team loved the idea of running over hundreds of zombies but we couldn't fit it into the structure and the time it'd take wasn't worth it. Everything zombie-related got dropped."
Above: The top-down perspective was explained as coming from the DMA News Chopper, hovering over the city
Missions weren't the only thing he remembers having to scale back. "There were a number of background 'living breathing city' features that got dropped. The player could break traffic light boxes and a repairman would wander around fixing them. Of course the player could kill the repairmen and stop all repairs.
"There was a TV crew that went to major accidents. This got dropped, though the TV van itself stayed in. San Andreas was supposed to have a tram system like San Francisco's cable cars, working similar to the train system, however we couldn't get it working nicely with regular traffic so it was removed, though the cable art stayed in."
Check back tomorrow for the final segment of our three-part feature.
Did you miss part one? Click here.