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What devs think of Grand Theft Auto III

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The mark of a truly great game is how many people try to recapture or emulate it and fail. There’s a long line behind this one. Forget everything that came before, this was the game that put the PS2 on the map, and made open-world freeform gaming the best kind. The writing and delivery of the story were top notch. In many respects, this series represents the crossroads of video gaming: can people look at gaming as seriously as other forms of entertainment? If the Sopranos can be hailed as the best TV show ever, how can this game be viewed any differently?

--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

GTA III, for me, was one of the few games that I bought more than once. It happened because I was so addicted that I'd give the game away to friends just to stop myself from playing. In terms of how it affected gaming, I'd mention two things. First, it showed how seamless integration of game play and game world could be achieved by modeling on players' expectations of how things should work, as opposed to how the game designers thought they might reinvent how things work. Second, by making a game truly "mainstream" in terms of content, stylization, marketing and reach it was effectively the first casual-game blockbuster, able to reach audiences that previous games closed themselves off from.

                                                       --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

GTA III was one of the first games I played that I clearly remember wishing I was not working in the game industry. It is so hard, when you make games, to fully lose yourself in an experience without constantly looking around at all the things you would want to learn from. Clearly, there are so many obvious things to call out in GTA III – how the sandbox nature of the game changed how people thought about a campaign, the amazing variety and polish on all the mechanics. It was truly one of the most engaging videogame stories ever.

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!

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5 comments

  • azureguy - October 20, 2011 5:55 a.m.

    I'm shocked that nobody is adressing the game's flaws it had. Was I the only one who thought that the controls weren't any good back then? After playing Resident Evil 4 and Gears of War, there is no going back for me to the PS2 GTA controls. Also, the radio music wasn't as groundbreaking as in Vice City or San Adreas. The story was better in these two as well, and they had a more interesting worlds (80's and nature!). I'll accept that GTA III came first and it made the open world/sandbox setting popular, but each subsequent sequel was miles better than it. If anything, the replayability just isn't there in GTA III, whereas I play the other games just because of their music.
  • presc1ence - October 19, 2011 9:13 a.m.

    I think your all getting confused. it wasn't until vice city that gta3 was really any good, as it managed to tie together the massive crazy world with and an actual narrative framwork. Before this it always felt a little bit like and empty sandbox.
  • Felixthecat - October 18, 2011 4:23 p.m.

    GTA is my 3rd favourite series ever and I've been playing them since a fairly 'early' age (I was always told to put the TV on mute, mind you). I love GTA3 and everything you could do in it in comparison to the other games around that period. I loved the life that the game had and how cinematic it was. Thinking about it, I think games would be in a fairly different position if GTA3 hadn't been born and made every other developer step up their own game.
  • Turboash - October 18, 2011 4:09 p.m.

    They're probably all thinking... "Wow, look how little hand holding there is! And what's this? No QTE!? Blasphemy!"
  • flabslapper - October 18, 2011 1:27 p.m.

    Yeah this game was what got me to buy a PS2, I played it at my friend's house and the threat of the game getting pulled from store shelves (ultimately a rumor) got me to buy the game before I even had a PS2 to play it on lol

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