What devs think of Grand Theft Auto III

We ask notable game designers about their experiences in Rockstar's watershed game, and how it has shaped the industry

--Todd Howard, Studio Director, Bethesda Game Studios

The game was groundbreaking in a few ways. It ushered in the era of the true open-world game, and was also a narrative pioneer, representing a turning point in games as an adult medium. It would be no exaggeration to say that GTA III changed the industry, and we can basically separate the time before and after its emergence as distinct eras.

The imagination and physical ability to make a game of this magnitude is incredible. I tend to focus more on bringing back the classics, and my fighting titles have a sort of retro feel to them [laughs].

--Yoshinori Ono, Producer, Capcom

--American McGee, Founder/Creative Director, Spicy Horse Games

Grand Theft Auto III is one of my favorite, most memorable games of 2001, and still reminds me of just how important it is for a game to aim for a specific tone. While the game's violent or deviant content ended up getting a lot of mainstream attention, I was much more struck by the game's beautiful and fully realized world, as well as its pitch-perfect, artful, confident sense of style. The seamless, clockwork world was just stunning to look at and interact with. I remember when I first started playing, I instinctively tried to obey the traffic laws as much as possible, and felt guilty when I'd bump into another car on the road.

As the freedom I had in that world dawned on me, I was blown away... this game was a simulation of life without consequence. It's something I think many of us fantasize about but can never truly experience. It was like a grown-up version of being a kid in a sandbox, and the game executed on that experience so well. Not only that, I'd long since accepted that playing games was this pretty nerdy thing that wasn't for everyone. But GTA III just felt cool, everything about it, from the soundtrack to the presentation... at long last, here was a game I could show my brother, who doesn't care anything about games, because it could even get a guy like him to say wow.

--Greg Kasavin, Creative Director, Supergiant Games

For me, GTA III was the first time I really recognized how using the world itself the environment as a living, breathing character could really change the way I thought about making games. The way the city was created made it engaging to interact with in a way I had only thought about doing with characters. Being able to interact with every single part of the world and having each interaction be as rich as any of the main gameplay mechanics was intoxicating. Seeing how they used in-game environmental visual cues instead of HUD elements for so much of your information was a direct inspiration for the HUD-less gameplay of Fight Night Round 3. The living elements of the world were a big part of why we incorporated environmental hazards in the Def Jam Icon fighting system. I was really taken by the use of audio in GTA – not just the soundtrack, but how the use of audio brought together gameplay and art elements in a way that really made audio a standout value add instead of a supporting element.

When I first played GTA III, I wished I could just lose myself in the experience without the perspective of someone who makes games. But looking back, it was such a fundamental shift in how I approach the experiences I build. I would not have had it any other way!

--Kudo Tsunoda, Creative Director, Microsoft Game Studios

With GTA III the series really touched on the potential for a whole new genre of games, ultimately to be called "open world." Just like Doom spawned the beginnings of the first-person shooter, GTA III touched on what a living, breathing world could eventually become. And looking at open-world games today, they are beyond what even Rockstar, or any developer at the time, imagined.

GTA III really opened the possibilities for anarchy and craziness that the open-world genre would ultimately bring to games. I'll never forget using cheat codes to compete with friends in our own made up "longest to survive the police onslaught" competitions.

--Scott Phillips, Lead Designer, Volition

Now, what were your experiences with Grand Theft Auto III? Did it have a lasting impact on you? Do you find yourself wanting to steal cabs? Share your favorite Grand Theft Auto memories in the comments below!

Oct 18, 2011

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Sophia is a transplanted Canadian who loves video games, dogs, poutine, snowboarding, photography, food, and naps.
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