Was there a deliberate attempt to be controversial with ideas such as being able to run down whole lines of Hare Krishnas?
GP: Mostly not I think. There's an impishness, a kind of childish quality to everybody working on games - you've got to have a sense of that child within you. It's a gamey thing. Forget, just for a minute, that they are people and forget that they are supposed to be a line of Hare Krishnas. Look at it purely in game terms.
I've got this toy that I'm thrusting down the street. Forget it's even a car. I see a line of something that I can influence in a dramatic way as I run into them and it clearly reacts to the fact that I run into them. I chain them, that's a gamey thing to do. That's really the motivation. It's not, "Hey, it would be really good if you good run down a Krishna."
There is definitely an element of that -- don't get me wrong -- but it's not a pure driven thing. The bulk of it is about the player experience, where you're trying to make these gamey things work.
Certainly a lot of the language was very strong -- we had to tone all that down -- but there's a cheat mode in the first one, if you type your name in as "I am Gary Penn," you get the super swearing version.
But then you had Max Clifford in charge of the PR, stirring up the controversy. Was it a deliberate attempt to get MPs crying out against your game?
GP: I can't remember because the main thing I remember was that we were so desperate to get the game finished and that it was really difficult getting it to work for the PlayStation because it just wasn't viable in that format. We were just so hung up on getting it finished that we didn't really get involved in any of that stuff.
In a few of the interviews during the development of Grand Theft Auto 2 there was talk about trying a 3D version that didn't work. What's the story?
GP: We tried it with the first one actually, but it was definitely beyond the team's capabilities at the time. We tried other 3D elements but the challenge was too high, so there were actually three or four attempts to do a 3D one before Grand Theft Auto III.
It was the core of the Space Station Silicon Valley team who took over GTA III and they were an incredibly capable team. They had just done Silicon Valley in 3D, so they had the attitude and the ability to take the 2D game and put it in 3D.
So yes there were a few attempts to do it before that, but it didn't really work out. It just felt like we'd never be able to make this work. It is incredibly difficult. That's why Grand Theft Auto still has so little competition. It's a really fucking hard game to make. It's a really hard game to make in 2D, it's really, really hard to make in 3D. So that the third one ever came out, it's really impressive. It's a great achievement in that respect.
So you were surprised they managed to do it?
GP: No, I had absolute faith. The core team on that -- they were just such a really capable quartet. Those four guys were just so good. I had absolute faith in them being able to deliver. There was never really any doubt. It was really, I guess, about when.
You know, how long this stuff would take because it's such an involved thing to do and the fact that they did it in the timescale they did -- it's unbelievable. It really is.
What do you think of what the game's become?
GP: Erm, it's got what I like in it. The thing is I never liked the missions in it at all. I never liked them in the first one, the second one, or the third one. I don't like missions. The missions bore the hell out of me. They always feel fake, they always feel long-winded. That's the one thing that's always fallen down for me.
The one thing that never got built up enough was that kind of Elite aspect, where you would take on jobs and the jobs would be more generic than specific missions and through that you would earn cash. When we were doing Grand Theft Auto III at the beginning, the plan was to build an entire city system. A sort of generic city system that we would use for all sorts of different types of things, all sorts of different types of games.
You've basically got a core toy set that compromises of a bunch of boxes for a city, a couple of vehicles, some action figures that can run around and use weapons. That's the core which sounds deliciously simple but is incredibly complex as a result. That's at the heart of Grand Theft Auto.
Grand Theft Auto III was kind of a first step to building the city system. The idea was with the city system you could do all sorts, you could do story driven stuff, you could do less story driven stuff. You could re-use the same city over and over again.
Of course Grand Theft Auto now doesn't need that. They've so successfully mined one aspect of that, there's no need for the rest of that. Nothing is even near them. I mean, it's anything but a lazy game but they don't have the pressure if no one else is doing it anywhere near as well as they're doing it.
My point of view is it's stagnating. That's not, from tens of millions of people's perspective, a problem. But for somebody who's over exposed to playing games, it's not moving fast enough for me. But I'm not the audience, so it's kind of irrelevant.