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The Replay Interviews: Gary Penn
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The Replay Interviews: Gary Penn

January 31, 2011 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

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.

Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

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Frank Lack
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Heh, reading about their problems with first GTA kinda proves what is said about Rockstar: that those people just can't make good games for PC. And before you say "no, they can", think how screwed up GTA 4 was when it was released. Or how poorly GTA 3 was working on PCs that were in shops in that times. Only reason next GTA3-engined games were working better was because PCs were going forward, while engine was still the same.

I bet only reasons why Red Dawn Redemption isn't on PCs is because they can't handle making stable, not working in 5 fps max. game. And quite possibly that's the reason why Max Payne 3 suddenly dropped dead and nothing can be heard about game that was supposed to be here over one year ago - R* said there will be PC version, but it's still totally screwed and not working fast enough, so they hidden it until everybody will have GeForce 7xx or Radeons HD7xxxx (or whatever numbers next gen will have).

Sting Cool
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You apparently didn't read the article because they clearly said the core engine team was replaced between GTA2 and GTA3. The problems with the PC version have nothing to do with Rockstar and everything to do with the publisher. The game is fantastic on 360, if Rockstar sucked, it wouldn't be any good on any platform.

Wylie Garvin
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Frank, there was a 10+ year gap between GTA 1 and GTA 4, a lot can change in a game studio over that time. For one thing, their development staff probably expanded by a factor of at least 10x over that time, and any of the original developers who stayed around are probably much more experienced by now. GTA 4 was developed by a team of hundreds of people.

There are also many factors that might affect the quality of the PC version; according to wikipedia, the main development for GTA 4 was done by Rockstar North (in Scotland) but the PC port was done at Rockstar Toronto and it sounds like it was their first big PC project they'd ever done. It sounds like there was about an 8-month gap between the release of the console version and the PC version; a lot of changes were apparently made to rendering engine. They integrated copy protection, Games for Windows, 32-player and LAN support, etc. It had high system requirements, but I'll just point out that the required PC specs were *lower* than the power available in the consoles it was originally written for (Xbox360 and PS3). I don't know how many developers worked on the PC version, but its likely that the PC version was only worked on by a small number of people out of the whole team, who had a lot to get done in only 8 months.

Anyway, unless someone who worked on it wants to give an interview about it or something, its hard to know what went right or wrong for them.