Rockstar’s co-studio head shares some stories from the GTA III days
It has now been been over 21 years since Grand Theft Auto III was released and the stories of even the older games are still as fascinating. In a recent interview with Game Informer Rockstar North’s co-studio head, Aaron Garbut, shares some inside stories about GTA III’s development. Garbut started at DMA Design in 1996 as an artist on the original Grand Theft Auto game. He’s raised through the ranks from art director on almost every GTA game from III to V to now where he is the co-studio head with Rob Nelson. This new Game Informer interview was done to discuss how GTA III fundamentally changed open world games and it gives us some great bits of information.
Time to prototype a new GTA game
When asked if he remembers “earliest iterations or prototypes” of Grand Theft Auto III, Aaron said that over the course of a few weeks “we had some time to prototype and come up with ideas. We also got access to a couple of Dreamcast devkits.” A fun note, only one GTA game released on the Dreamcast, GTA 2.
During those weeks of prototyping the team “managed to create a number of blocks of a city with docks, retail areas, and brownstones.” Garbut states “We were playing, really, but we added characters walking the streets and cars driving around.”
Turning GTA into 3D is “too complex”
The first two GTA games were 2D top down games but Sam Houser, co-founder of Rockstar Games “had been desperate to move GTA to fully 3D for a long time.” In conversations with coders on the Grand Theft Auto team, Aaron Garbut explains how they “dismissed as being too complex” when talking about putting GTA in 3D. Some early exploration was done though. In the old GTA engine they tried having the camera set further back but was no where near where the leads wanted to take the game. Aaron looks back on this time with fondness: “We were enjoying ourselves; we were young and arrogant and made a conscious decision to redirect the project to be GTA – we knew we could do it, and it had a lot more appeal to us.”
We highly recommend reading the full interview here which contains even more details from Aaron Garbut’s perspective. You are also able to find this interview in Issue 341 of Game Informer. For more GTA news, stay tuned to RockstarINTEL.