In February 2019, Polygon spoke to a handful of anonymous Rockstar Games alumni who worked on the now-canceled Agent to create a relatively finalized story on the development of the mysterious Rockstar project.
The original article is long, interesting, and has much better craftsmanship so we recommend heading there right now and reading it.
To go over major points, Agent was apparently a test project for Angel Studios (now known as Rockstar San Diego) to show their worthiness under the Rockstar umbrella. It was originally a demo before Rockstar was impressed enough to greenlight it, but according to the devs it had a “full-size crew” from day one.
The team also claimed that it crunched hard while working on the Agent demo, a change from the usual flexible hours they got before the Rockstar acquisition. Agent was intended to be a spy game inspired by the James Bond films and The Professionals, and the “player would have a variety of weapons and gadgets at their disposal, such as a briefcase that would double as a rideable go-kart and “a camera drone type of a thing,” as one developer calls it, which players could throw and use to take pictures.”
Agent’s development was troubled, with staff being detained abroad while doing research for the game in Washington D.C. and Cairo, Egypt. The teams detained in Cairo caused tension between Rockstar staff and the police, but they eventually got home.
While Agent required the team to change its engine heavily, apparently Rockstar management requested San Diego to instead focus on the story which caused more crunch and stress for the developers. According to Polygon’s sources, “Rockstar New York continually shifted gears with what it wanted from the game and its story. And despite the extensive crunch for many team members, some in San Diego didn’t always have much to work on as things shifted and changed, since the game had been a fully staffed project from the start.”
Due to some departures and “untimely deaths” at the company, San Diego’s Agent team were swapped around and under new direction which made the game’s development even more unorganized. It was worked on for another year after these events. The frequent engine updates were instead used for Red Dead Redemption rather than Agent.
“I don’t know how much of it was us trying to convince them or Sam knew he wanted to do Red Dead anyway, but somehow the decision was made to just shelve Agent and take all the work that we’d done and start Red Dead Redemption,” a team member says. “Because, you know, the tech was usable [on] either project — and probably maybe even more suitable for Red Dead Redemption.”
As for right now, no one knows what is happening with Agent. Most presume it has been cancelled, and that seems to be the best theory, however Polygon says studios like Rockstar Leeds and Rockstar North worked on Agent after San Diego went to work on Red Dead Redemption but those studios eventually moved on to Grand Theft Auto V’s development instead.
You can read Polygon’s full feature here. We encourage you to.