Did you know that Grand Theft Auto was developed by an independent game studio that was, originally, based in Dundee, Scotland?

No! Well, you might do now.

You see in the late 80s a games studio called DMA Design was founded by David Jones, Russell Kay, Steve Hammond and Mike Dailly. This little Scottish studio developed games for the Amiga, Commodore 64 and Atari ST. They only really had minor success until their breakthrough game, Lemmings, in 1991. Lemmings sold over 20 million copies of 21 different systems. The basic objective of the game is to guide a group of lemmings through a number of obstacles to a designated exit.

It was a dynamic puzzle game that spawned a series of sequels, including a Christmas special, and won fans worldwide with its gameplay and character design.

However, it was the development of Grand Theft Auto that was to really change the landscape of gaming, but it was anything but an overnight success.

The original top-down 2D game was released first for the PC in the mid-nighties, and the controversy that has since followed every release started. With the good old Daily Mail calling for a complete ban of the game (something which is not exclusive to GTA I might add. The list of things that the Daily Mail has wanted banned over the years would be quite extensive…)

Soon after DMA was bought out by a larger Publishing house in 1997, Gremlin Interactive, though they were still an independent studio and not one of the main players. A couple of years after, and there were a few more game releases (nothing spectacular), even more buy-outs and yet more publishing moves (which, due to financial agreements, became increasingly complex), until Rockstar bought DMA outright in early 2002.

In the meantime, GTA London 1969 and GTA 2 (both in 1999) had been released to some success. These continued the top-down game play of the original Grand Theft Auto, which didn’t change until the groundbreaking release in 2001 of Grand Theft Auto III.

The game’s concept and gameplay, coupled with the use of a 3D game engine for the first time in the series, contributed to Grand Theft Auto III becoming the biggest seller on the PlayStation 2.

From there, of course, you all know the rest. GTA Vice City followed (with yet more controversy), and now GTA V has been released (with yet even more controversy).

Each release has had widespread critical acclaim, and has broken sales records across all types of media.

Not bad, coming from a small independent game design studio in Dundee really…

Lee Smith
For more articles like this you can download the PDF of Issue Zero or you can read it online

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