Grand Theft Original

By Shamus Posted Friday Jul 6, 2018

Filed under: Retrospectives 71 comments

GTA might be one of the most successful, big-budget, high-tech franchises in history, but it actually began as a rather sad, cheap, and not-yet-impressive top-down 2D game.

While the screenshots might make you think the game was perhaps isometricIsometric means you’re looking down from above, but the angle is skewed so you can see the sides of things. like Diablo (one of its contemporaries) or even orthogonalLooking directly down an axis with no perspective. like Hotline Miami, the game is actually “3D” in the sense that the buildings are made of polygons and you get some parallax between the stuff on the rooftops and the more distant action on the ground. It does a good job of giving a sense of scale and speed, but it does so at the expense of visibility. You’ll often end up unable to see what you’re doing because a walkway, bridge, or rooftop ends up between your character and the camera.

Stiff and Awkward

I can't see myself (or what's in front of me) because I'm driving under a bridge. Top-down views do not mix well with multi-layered environments.
I can't see myself (or what's in front of me) because I'm driving under a bridge. Top-down views do not mix well with multi-layered environments.

The game is played from a bird’s-eye view, and you run around a sprawling city and shoot things. From this you might assume it’s some kind of twin-stick shooter, but alas it’s not. Maybe aiming is based on using the mouse? Nope. Auto-target? Pfft. You wish. The game is actually built around tank-style steering controls, even when you’re navigating the city on foot. The turning speed manages to be simultaneously frustratingly slow yet unplayably fast. If a foe gets behind you then you’re screwed because you’ll be dead long before you can pivot your character all the way around to shoot back. If a foe is in front of you then you’ll discover the turn speed is too jumpy to actually line up a shot. You’ll be shooting ten degrees to the right of your foe, and then after the slightest tap on the arrow key you’ll have rotated to shooting five degrees to the left. Meanwhile, the AI doesn’t have much of a problem aiming. There’s a trick you can do where you backpedal and lead enemies into your stream of bullets. Once you discover this, the game goes from “impossible” to “boring and repetitive”. At no point do you really get to feel like you’re mastering the systems of a game. It’s just an unfair game with an exploit that enables you to win.

The car controls aren’t much better. It’s hard to just stay in a given lane. Since you’re probably steering with a keyboard, you can’t make fine-tune course corrections. Every input results in an abrupt jerk of the steering wheel in one direction or the other. Things get worse once you get up to speed. (Like in a high-speed chase, which is obviously a big part of the game.) The camera will only allow you to see so much of the road ahead of you, and above a certain speed you just can’t see far enough to make corrections. Sooner or later you’re going to slam into an obstacle that you couldn’t see coming.

Visuals

This is not great, even by the standards of 1997.
This is not great, even by the standards of 1997.

The visuals weren’t particularly special either. GTA came out in 1997, the same year as Quake II, Jedi Knight, and Tomb Raider 2. This was a year after Duke Nukem 3D. Gaming was moving into glorious 3D, and this thing looked and felt like a bit of a throwback. If we want to compare it to contemporary 2D games we have Curse of Monkey Island and Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee, both of which had dramatically more impressive art. Even if we compare it to other top-down titles, it still comes up short. Dungeon Keeper was top-down, and it feels like it’s an entire graphics generation ahead of GTAThe lighting and particle effects help, as does the novelty first-person view..

I’m not trying to dump on this game or suggest it was some garbage shovelware title. I’m just saying it wasn’t (yet) anything special in terms of technology.

There’s no real story. No leveling mechanics. The menu allowed you to choose a character portrait, but they all look basically the same in-game and they don’t have any stats or bonuses to differentiate them.

The game feels very “arcade-y” to modern sensibilities. You walk to a pay phone and some text will pop up, directing you to a job. Maybe you need to shoot some peopleWhich would involved driving somewhere., or steal a carWhich would involve shooting some people., or pick up an item from A and bring it to BWhich would involve driving a car and shooting some people.. If you’re successful, then your score multiplier will go up. If you get busted, your score multiplier will get cut in half. Your goal is to continue to rack up points so you can unlock the next in-game city. There’s no real save system, which forces you to complete a city in a single game session. The game remembers which cities you’ve unlocked, but nothing else. If you exit the game and come back later, your score and multiplier are reset.

The whole thing is a loud, chaotic, arcade-style game that’s fun for twenty minutes yet it forces you to play for hours if you want to make meaningful progress. It’s got brain-dead shooting mechanics, a shallow gameplay loop, unremarkable visuals, and strange, frustrating controls. This does not look like the launch of one of the greatest videogame franchises of all time. Other giants like Doom, Super Mario, or Diablo exploded onto the scene with their core attributes and identity already visible, but GTA began in a very awkward place. If it wasn’t for the later titles then GTA would probably only be remembered as an obscure 90s also-ran.

Open World

The first game showed a title card announcing the name of the car as you enter it, a feature that remains today.
The first game showed a title card announcing the name of the car as you enter it, a feature that remains today.

But what the game had going for it was pretty remarkable. This was one of the first of the so-called “open world” gamesSure, lots of RPGs let you roam around at will. But the trick is that those games had transitions and loading screens between regions, while GTA pretends it’s simulating an entire persistent city in realtime.. GTA did for urban settings what Elite did for outer space. The world was there, just waiting for you to interact with it. Sure, you could engage with the structured parts of the game, but you could also wander around, cause trouble, and observe how the system responded.

It felt like a living city. Pedestrians milled around. Cars obeyed traffic laws. The police and fire systems responded to your shenanigans. It was a world based on rules.

While the game wasn’t actually simulating the entire city, it did an incredible job of using smoke and mirrors to make it feel like you were at the center of a detailed simulation. Behind the curtains, the game was actually only simulating the immediate area around the player. You could discover this by clogging up traffic and then going to the next intersection. When you returned to the site of the traffic jam, you’d find it had been magically cleaned up and traffic was flowing again.

The game spawns cars around intersections as you get near, and poofs them away when they go out of view. This results in the annoying situation where there wouldn’t be any cars around when you first appeared. So you end up walking some distance to find a ride. But once you do find one, the streets will be filled with traffic and you’ll have other drivers in your way, even though the place looked like a ghost town a second ago. In fact, 20 years and 15 sequels later, the game still does this.

I can shoot people, punch them, or run them over. Seems obvious now, but back in the day this was a Whole New Kinda Thing.
I can shoot people, punch them, or run them over. Seems obvious now, but back in the day this was a Whole New Kinda Thing.

The game was also incredibly transgressive by the standards of the day, simply because the mechanics made it possible to slaughter civilians. This sort of thing wasn’t unheard of, but it was uncommon enough to raise some eyebrows. Mortal Kombat still took the gold in the “Pay attention to me look how edgy I am!” Olympics, but Grand Theft Auto was fighting for that silver medal.

Grand Theft Auto 2

I don’t think there’s much to say about the second game. (Which was actually the fourth, but you know what I mean.) All of the other numbered sequels represented major leaps forward in technology, but GTA II was very much like its predecessor. The game added a save system and some cool lighting effects, but it was still a top-down 2D-ish open world game with odd controls and a subversive streak. At the time, it might be reasonable to assume the franchise had found its groove and this was all the game was ever going to be. We’d had four games, and they all looked and played roughly the same.

If the developer had stuck with this design then I’m sure GTA would be relegated to a historical footnote. It would be one of those odd off-brand games like Carmageddon that are remembered more for their shock value than for their gameplay.

But that’s not what happened to GTA. Instead, something impossible happened.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Isometric means you’re looking down from above, but the angle is skewed so you can see the sides of things.

[2] Looking directly down an axis with no perspective.

[3] The lighting and particle effects help, as does the novelty first-person view.

[4] Which would involved driving somewhere.

[5] Which would involve shooting some people.

[6] Which would involve driving a car and shooting some people.

[7] Sure, lots of RPGs let you roam around at will. But the trick is that those games had transitions and loading screens between regions, while GTA pretends it’s simulating an entire persistent city in realtime.



From The Archives:
 

71 thoughts on “Grand Theft Original

  1. Marslineman says:

    I played these games when they were released. I also played (and enjoyed) Doom, Quake, Duke 3D, Daggerfall, etc. I might’ve actually spent more time playing GTAs I-II than any of those.

    Why? For the same reason I occasionally fire up GTA V- there simply is no better chaos/ destruction simulator out there. The GTA games (right from the start) do an excellent job of presenting a city-wide simulation- a playground for you to wreak total (and satisfying) havoc. I would also argue that GTAs I-II are actually far more gleeful in their depiction of total carnage than the later 3D versions (ex- starting a chain reaction of exploding cars in traffic, setting pedestrians on fire as part of an in-game challenge (after which they run around screaming and setting fire to other people/ cars, etc))

    And while it’s true that the visuals/ controls were nothing special even at the time, the audio design was top-notch right from the start. They absolutely nailed the soundscape of a living city- filled with sirens, traffic, engines humming, shouting pedestrians, etc. Radio stations in the cars. Not to mention the sickenly satisfying sound of crunching pedestrians under your wheels. It all sounded true to life, and gloriously sick/ depraved (especially for 1997). Very subversive, and very unique for the era.

    1. Karma The Alligator says:

      As far as Chaos/Destruction simulators go, I find the first Prototype to be better than GTA. It’s immensely fun to grab a car and run up a busy sidewalk, mowing pedestrians by the dozen.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Im really sad that prototype was not turned into a successful yearly franchise,because those two games are way better than any other.That includes saints row too,which is definitely fun,and offers some things you cant do in prototype(running around town butt naked),but prototype is the best mayhem open world game*.

        *The only exception may be that game where you have electric powers,but that one is console exclusive,so I cant really judge since I am a pc snob.

        1. Lars says:

          You mean infamous. But only the Second and later entries. The first one was so boring.
          Other destruction simulations: Zone Of the Enders (PS Exclusive Kojima Mecha game), Red Faction they where the first games, where you could destroy 3D-Level architecture.
          More: Megaton Rainfall – you are a godlike flying creature that can blow up buildings or entire cities.

      2. Kavonde says:

        If Prototype’s story hadn’t insisted so hard that the main character was a basically good guy, it would have been a much better game. Like GTA IV, it had a real dissonance between the narrative and the gameplay. Never picked up Prototype 2; did they end up embracing the whole “main character is straight-up a supervillain” thing?

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          In 2,the main guy of the first one is the main villain,and is full on evil.You play some other guy who cares only for revenge against mercer.

    2. Disc says:

      This was pretty much how we’d play GTA I and II back in the late 90’s. We’d use some cheat codes to give you easy access to weapons and infinite lives and go on a rampage. You’d try to do a mission every now and then, but the random carnage was where the fun was. Funny thing is, the fact that there actually were other cities in the first game is news to me. I grew up thinking that was a thing that only came with later games.

  2. Olivier FAURE says:

    Oh oh oh do a retrospective on Oddworld next!

    That series is short enough that it won’t take weeks, but insane and diverse enough that there will be a lot to talk about.

    1. retrogue says:

      Oh, I would absolutely love this. I somehow racked up about two hundred hours of Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus over the last year, just by replaying it start to finish every so often. >.>

      So yeah, I’d dig a long-form analysis of the Oddworld series.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Im not sure about short…I was digging around for oddworld games couple of years back because there was a sale or something,only to find out that there were actually FOUR of them,not just TWO.

      Also,I dont think Shamus is that into platformers.Especially janky ones like those two(four?).

      1. Lars says:

        5 games. Where “New ‘n Tasty” is a really good remake of the first one. And Oddworld is more of a puzzle-game – if you want to save all/most of the modokons.

        Even though I hate 2D platformers, I still love the Oddworld series. So: +1.

  3. Redrock says:

    Didn’t they add a feature in one of the top-down ones where the outline of your guy or car becomes visible when you’re under a bridge? Or is my memory playing tricks on me?

  4. Joshua says:

    “even by the standards of 1997”. Ugh, those graphics look more like 1987 to me. Maybe arcade or top of the line computer, but still more like late 80s/early 90s technology of the games I was playing back then.

        1. Iunnrais says:

          Not quite fair to compare Arcade Cabinets to any other medium of the time, PC or Console.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Pfft!Those two look more like 1957

    1. Nimrandir says:

      In fairness, the graphics here hold up better than Final Fantasy VII’s exploration-mode character models. I mean, FFVII’s backgrounds are better, and so are the combat models, but GTA managed to look better than one part of FFVII.

  5. zackoid says:

    Shamus: This does not look like the launch of one of the greatest videogame franchises of all time.

    I have to disagree with that one. I played the demo for hours and hours while the PC release was delayed for what seemed like an eternity, and even then I thought if they could ever make a 3D version of this game it would be the greatest game of all time.

    As much as it was a game of slaughtering innocents, it did offer some benefits to society. Those red superbikes were so impossible to control it gave me a healthy respect for motorcycles.

    It also had a (DOS only? Maybe GLIDE only?) himem mode that had better graphics than the above screenshots iirc. I think this might be a screenshot from that.

    1. Richard says:

      I think that screenshot is GTA 2.

      I remember playing both demos, definitely never bought it though.

      “Z” is another example of 1996 2D graphics:
      Z

      Also a game where the demo was far better than the game.
      I remember being so disappointed by the rest of the game after I bought it.

      1. Sarfa says:

        The last screenshot is not GTA2. In GTA2 the protagonist wears a black sleeveless top, not the yellow top that the protagonists of GTA1 wear.

        1. Bob ArdKor says:

          Also, Excalibur is definitely a neighbourhood of GTA 1

          http://gta.wikia.com/wiki/Excalibur

  6. John says:

    Yeah, this was approximately my impression of GTA back in the day. Apart from a few transgressive thrills–steal cars, shoot innocent people, be a bad guy!–it really didn’t seem to have a lot going for it. I saw it at a friend’s house and while I was often jealous of his computer and games collection–this is the same friend who introduced me to Tie Fighter and Command & Conquer–GTA left me cold. I guess he had fun with it for a while though.

  7. Asdasd says:

    The camera will only allow you to see so much of the road ahead of you, and above a certain speed you just can’t see far enough to make corrections. Sooner or later you’re going to slam into an obstacle that you couldn’t see coming.

    Ah, the Sonic the Hedgehog school of game design.

    This is a very fair write-up. I remember trying to find the fun in GTA 2, and I just couldn't. The first two games constitute a great and novel idea marred by awful controls and generally shoddy execution.

    The reason that the series was successful enough to get as far as 3 was largely because, here in the UK, Rockstar (nee DMA Design) benefited handsomely from publicity surrounding a moral panic stoked up in the tabloids over whether these games were corrupting the yoof, a trick they would repeat with Manhunt and (the excellent) Bully.

    (It was cynicism all round; for all their self appointed moral guardian grandiosity, the newspapers’ key interests lay in exploiting their self-made controversy to boost their own circulation.)

    1. Decius says:

      Yes. Without people like the now-disbarred Jack Thompson making a career of publicizing games like GTA and trying to get them banned, GTA would never had spawned a sequel.

      1. Redrock says:

        Jack Thompson only got interested in GTA after GTA III. I don’t really remember people getting up in arms about the top down ones. Too abstract and arcady to seriously consider them murder simulators or whatever.

        1. Sarfa says:

          In the UK (which, at least back then, was where the series was mainly developed) people were fairly up in arms about the first game. Now in the UK what the US calls “Grand Theft Auto” we call “joyriding”. So there was this case where a woman had bought the game for her son and kept saying “I didn’t know what it was about, I just saw the word “auto” in the title and thought “it’s about cars!”.”

          Which begs the question, how did she miss the word “theft” in the title and thus figure out that the game may involve crime?

          1. Decius says:

            She wasn’t wrong. It IS about cars.

            If she didn’t want to know any more about it, that’s her choice.

          2. Bob ArdKor says:

            Yeah, here in France too, we had a little controversy about the first one.

            Something about a police officer realizing that his son was playing a game where he had to murder a crooked police officer, IIRC.

      2. houser2112 says:

        Ah, the Streisand Effect at work.

  8. Daemian Lucifer says:

    It would be one of those odd off-brand games like Carmageddon that are remembered more for their shock value than for their gameplay

    That is really a shame,because carmageddon actually has good gameplay as well.Im not that sure about the original,but 2 had cars behaving differently,damage models were really advanced for its time,and you had multiple ways of winning each track(though frankly,destroying all enemies was the preferred method for everyone).Plus,youd get money for doing damage to other players and to the world,so even if you lost the track you could still improve your vehicle.

    1. Richard says:

      I absolutely loved Carmageddon 1 and 2.

      The driving felt great, the tracks were fun and it was the first driving game I’d ever played where crashing actually mattered without being an instant fail.

      Somehow Carmageddon TDR 2000 lost that, and I don’t know why.

  9. IanTheM1 says:

    This does not look like the launch of one of the greatest videogame franchises of all time. Other giants like Doom, Super Mario, or Diablo exploded onto the scene with their core attributes and identity already visible, but GTA began in a very awkward place.

    I feel like saying this does a disservice to the history behind those games. Super Mario Bros. was hardly the first Mario game, and built upon the limitations and mistakes of earlier efforts. Same with Doom being preceded by three other, more primitive 3D shooters. Diablo 1, for all it accomplished, was overshadowed entirely by its successor and very few games choose to evoke its style over D2’s.

    1. Decius says:

      Three previous shooters? Wolf3d, Blake Stone… are you counting Ken’s Labyrinth or Catacomb 3-D or Hovertank 3D?

  10. PhoenixUltima says:

    I rented the PS1 version of GTA way, way back in the day, and all I really remember is that the controls were borderline unplayable. Like, the steering controls were tank controls with a fixed camera perspective, so if you were driving downwards you had to press left to turn right on the screen and vice-versa. and if you were moving horizontally, in either direction, left and right turned you up or down. Just that alone was enough to make my brain go “ugh, this is awful, please stop doing this to me”. If they had just made the steering screen-oriented instead (up always turns you up, left always turns left, etc) it would have improved the game 1000x.

  11. RFS-81 says:

    The game was also incredibly transgressive by the standards of the day, simply because the mechanics made it possible to slaughter civilians.

    It seems strange to me that there weren’t more moral panics about strategy games. I mean, Civ was a popular game, and you could raze entire cities.

    1. Gaius Maximus says:

      Probably for the same reason that no one panics about Chess teaching kids to assassinate heads of state, i.e., it’s extremely abstract. In Civ I, you could raze a city, but all you’d see was colored squares bouncing off each other.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        Very much this, also Civ games are not nominally about razing cities and exterminating the populace but about building your civilization up*. That said, if I were less charitable I’d say that if Civ had pictures of, say, the displaced populace walking with their meager belongings past heads on pikes and the burning ruins of a city it would probably get some attention from the moral guardians. As it is, the coloured squares bouncing of each other does not quite draw the media attention as well as a pixelated car turning a line of pixelated pedestrians into (pixelated) puddles of strawberry jam.

        *Though I’ve seen some people have recently started to complain that the CIV games are primarily about being expansionist and militarist.

        1. John says:

          Once, when I was in college, a girl I knew observed me razing cities in Africa in a game of Civilization I. She wasn’t outraged, exactly, but she did tell me that it was awful. I asked her if it was any more awful than wandering into the forest to kill innocent wildlife for gold and XP, which I’d seen her doing the previous week in some RPG. She did not press the issue, since she’d come to talk to me about something else anyway.

          For the record, yes, it is absolutely more awful to park tanks outside Zulu cities and wait for them to build military units so that you can wipe out the cities entirely rather than capture them and get stuck with lots of boring administration than it is to kill a few giant crows. I guess that what I’m really saying is that back in The Old Days, we had to work for our awfulness. Not like you kids with your Civilization Vs and your “Raze City” buttons. Get off my lawn!

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Not like you kids with your Civilization Vs

            Pft,go back to the nursing home,grandpa!Its civilization VI now.

      2. RFS-81 says:

        Fair enough, though I doubt a school-shooting themed abstract game would go over very well.

        I guess it’s an important difference if you* are worried about children being harmed by seeing graphic violence, or if you’re worried about children emulating behavior they see in games or movies. Both alternatives mostly let civ off the hook, though.

        * general you, of course

    2. Veylon says:

      Moral panics are visceral. They get dressed up in vaguely rational or philosophical looking clothes, but at the heart, they are all about feels.

      I actually made this exact point about this exact game back in the day. Sure, the one guy may have ripped the other guy’s spine out in a horrific spray of blood, but I’d just slain several million enemy civilians in a multi-year siege with artillery and bombers so who was I to judge? All I got back was a confused, “Oh.”

      1. BlueHorus says:

        I remember having this discussion with someone who put forward a similar argument: it’s about the consequences.

        See, if you kill people in GTA (or similar games), the cops come after you. If you resist, more cops appear – and they’re endless, so most of the murder sprees in those games end in your more-or-less inevitable death or arrest.

        But other games lack these consequences – most of the time your killing is encouraged or rewarded. There’s often an excuse (they’re foreigners, terrorists, bandits, infected etc) that makes it okay, and there’s often no other option than murder when it comes to solving problems. Games like The Division or Call of Duty: The Modern Versions are in a sense less moral than GTA.
        But where are the moral guardians decrying these games…?

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          But where are the moral guardians decrying these games…?

          Its the same reason why xmen movies are rated pg13,despite having some of the most horrific violence,while raunchy comedies get nc17 because they show a nipple or use too many “fucks”.Its all about emotions,not logic.

          1. BlueHorus says:

            True enough. I think it’s also a sign of the messy, incomplete compromises these situations end up in, though:

            Group A wants to censor a thing, group B doesn’t want thing censored – and the people in charge of censorship have to serve both sides. Hence a system where horrible things can happen in a film as long as you don’t show the blood, and you can have lots of sex as long as there’s no nipples or genitalia onscreen. Or have any swearing.
            Neither side really gets what they want, and the real winners are those who know how to game the system. There’s something very human about it all.

            1. RFS-81 says:

              Well, compromises are all about making everyone equally unhappy, right? Though in this case, it looks like everybody loses. Making violence look more harmless is not a win for the Moral Guardians.

        2. Matthew Downie says:

          I don’t think consequences are a big deal in terms of game morality.

          A crime simulator where you can get arrested and go to trial and serve a lengthy prison sentence is still a crime simulator.

          In a game, the consequences aren’t real. I can have fun dealing with the consequences, or go back to an earlier save, or start a new game, or play something else.

  12. emptyother says:

    Multiplayer was fun.

    GTA was the only game where I managed to run multiplayer over COM ports (serial ports? Those smaller ports often placed next to the printer/LPT ports). My first non-splitscreen multiplayer game.

  13. JDMM says:

    I always took the overhead style as a deliberate stylistic choice, that the GTA devs were imitating things like the Cops surveillance tapes you’d be seeing on TV back in those days, taken from police helicopters
    Obviously technical limitations were the deciding factor (because of course) but watching it that’s how I always thought of it

    1. Mr. Wolf says:

      As I recall, that’s exactly what the manual said: you were being observed by a news helicopter. Of course that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense most of the time (why are they watching me when I do nothing illegal? are the police watching this?), but whatever.

  14. Matt K says:

    I only played Vice City (got the complete collection a long time ago which had everything but the newest). But once I plated Saint’s Row 3, I never really felt like playing GTA. SR was just more fun. Although I did enjoy the cab missions in Vice City.

    If anyone was interested in move of the development side, Slopes Game Room did a pretty good retrospective.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vX0Fk8ZOXXA

    1. Noumenon72 says:

      There is no content from the game developers in that. It’s just a guy saying stuff like “The next game in the series came out in *year*. It had better graphics. Vice City is like Scarface.” Not worth a click.

  15. MelTorefas says:

    This is the only GTA game I ever played. Didn’t care about the single player, it was annoying and dumb. But playing 4 player deathmatch with my older brother and his friends was hilariously awesome. Never even tried to play the 3D iterations, as I dislike ‘realistic’ depictions of violence, especially with the juvenile approach the games seem to take.

    Funnily enough, I had actually come to believe that whatever game I had played as a kid was not GTA, since in my memory it was nothing like the modern games. Good to know I wasn’t wrong; it was just literally that different.

  16. Shamus you forgot to mention a key aspect of GTA, the radio stations.

    They are satirical or sterotypical. They have news or hosts that comment on the world and sometimes stuff the player does as part of the main story.

    And… Lazlow. Without Lazlow I don’t think GTA would have become what it is today. He went from being a same named DJ/host character on the in-game radio, to writing dialog for various street and side characters and writing the scripts for the radios. I would not be surprised if Lazlow is credited as co-Lead Writer in GTA VI.

    According to IMDB https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1105472/
    If you want pedestrian dialog, radio scripts, commercials, anything that ads spice to the worlds scriptwise aside from the main story line, Lazlow’s your guy be it GTA, Red Dead Redemption, Max Payne or LA Noire.

    You should try and contact Lazlow and see if he’d want to hang on your podcast, talk about the stuff most gamers kinda gloss over. (Random guy on street in GTA V:) “H
    ey, you’re my dude right?” that was written by Lazlow, as was the other thousands of lines in all the RockStar games.
    Not to mention the radio shows. I can’t see it here but I think Lazlow mostly directed all the radio stuff as well. And it seems he write the stuff for the in-game websites in GTA V as well.

    Without Lazlow (the character) as well as the actor/developer/writer, we wouldn’t have had the awesome stations and funny street dialog. Some of the stuff is “meh”, some is “ok” and a many are laugh out loud hysterical.

    I’ve got a lot of respect for Lazlow and his talent, if somebody said he wrote Trevor I’d have believed it.

    Ah her we go, more factual than my vague ass memory. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lazlow_Jones#Grand_Theft_Auto_series

    besides Dan Houser and Sam Houser, Lazlow is probably the guy that knows the most about GTA’s “feel”.

    He’s got a “Contact” form at the bottom of his site http://lazlow.com/

  17. Jimbo says:

    Yeah, this game was hilarious fun in local multiplayer. GTA2 was a staple at LAN parties for my crew for a good few years. I remember playing it single player a bit, but multiplayer was where it was at

  18. Iunnrais says:

    Honestly, as bad as Tank controls are, I vastly prefer them to twinstick. Can’t stand twinstick… divorcing movement direction from shooting direction, outside of a FPS, just drives me up the wall. I played GTA 1 when it first came out… I played it a lot… and I’ll fully admit that tank controls while walking around are not ideal. But still better than twinstick.

    I *hate* the modern indie scene’s love of twinstick, and its sibling “wasd to move, mouse cursor to aim”. I would LOVE to love Bastion, for instance, but the controls just…. don’t work for me. Maybe it was growing up with the old NES? Weapon fire was *always* relative to player position and direction. Now I just can’t do it any other way.

    1. John says:

      If you’re having trouble aiming in Bastion there’s a lock-on feature you can use. If remember correctly, it automatically locks on to the nearest target but you can cycle through targets using (I think) the right thumbstick. I generally prefer Bastion with mouse and keyboard, but despite my general ineptitude with a controller I’ve beaten it that way too.

  19. BACK IN MY DAY... says:

    … WE WOULD MIND CONTROL INNOCENT BYSTANDERS TO SERVE AS ZOMBIE BULLET SHIELDS AND TORCH ONCOMING TRAFFIC WITH MINIGUN FIRE JUST TO WATCH THE LITTLE BURNING PEOPLE JUMP AROUND AND SQUEAL! UPHILL BOTH WAYS!

    Man, Syndicate was an *evil* fucking thing. Even by today’s standards. But common talk eats common sense for breakfast, and GTA grabbed all the headlines for itself ~circa 2002, so here we are. Two dozen GTA games and no Syndicate. I repeat: NO SYNDICATE GAMES WERE EVER MADE SINCE 1993 and a damn shame that is.

    All that said, I loved San Andreas when it came out, especially for the insane stunts you could do with motorbikes thanks to the broken physics engine.

    1. Decius says:

      I’m not sure if you are in denial (re: Pineapple open-faced sandwiches, the number of Star Wars films released to date) or unaware of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syndicate_(2012_video_game)

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Its the third option.Otherwise known as the correct way to view the world.

  20. MadTinkerer says:

    Doom, Super Mario, or Diablo exploded onto the scene with their core attributes and identity already visible

    If you really want to be fair to GTA; Doom, Super Mario Bros, and Diablo were each the equivalent to GTA 3. You need to look at Catacomb (or Wolfenstein; and no I don’t mean Catacomb 3D or Wolfenstein 3D), the Game & Watch games, and the original Rogue if you want to see the real starting points of the gameplay and graphics of those franchises.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      But if we start this whole “games that inspired it”,we will draw all the games back to pong(or even further,back before computers).Shamus is correct in focusing on franchise starters while ignoring their inspirations.Because technically,not even the first gta sprang out of nowhere.

      1. Cubic says:

        Pong is infamous for its patriarchal design: two square shouldered men who take turns to abuse a round woman, and you lose the round when you stop hitting her. Thankfully it couldn’t be released today.

  21. Onodera says:

    Shooting in GTA was a pain, but I *loved* the game as a kid. My classmates and me would spend hours looking for tanks and other secrets in every level, and no other game in 1997 let you play the getaway driver. I don’t remember car controls being particularly annoying either, I could make J-turns just fine.

  22. Shinan says:

    I remember the first GTAs turned me off from GTA because for some reason the game (or probably a demo) had been installed on all the computers at our school’s computer classroom.

    I did not go to that class so I was not part of the group that seemed to play GTA on every single break. On the rare occasion I got to spend time in that classroom, everyone seemed to be playing it and I decided it was probably garbage because I was a teenager who didn’t want to conform with what the others were doing (and instead played Final Fantasy while scoffing at those other guys)

    Basically it took me ten years to give in and try GTA3 that everyone was so hyped about (and all I could think of was that ‘shitty’ game everyone else had played back in school) and… I quite liked GTA3. It was very good.

  23. Ebalosus says:

    GTA 2 was my introduction to the series, and I still think very highly of it. For me at least, it was imaginative, fun, had a killer soundtrack, and was pretty funny. The next GTA I really enjoyed was Vice City, as it felt like they had nailed the transition to 3D by then. GTA 3 felt like it didn’t want to be too progressive in gameplay from the previous entry, thus was alienating for people like me who loved GTA 2. Different gangs yes…but none you could connect to because the writer was railroading you through the story. Simplified controls and a top-down view…that tended to make a lot of the gameplay mechanics feel either frustrating (missions where you had to drive and shoot while also keeping the vehicle alive) or schizophrenic (missions that were laughably simplistic followed by obnoxiously difficult ones).

    Don’t get me wrong, I definitely think that GTA 3 has merits. Just that as a fan of GTA 2, it felt like they hadn’t quite nailed the extra dimension yet.

  24. Paul Spooner says:

    GTA 1 and 2 were my introduction to the series. There were a couple “shared” versions floating around Bible School, which I played and enjoyed. There was no small amount of moral consternation over it, though it was rather overshadowed in the larger culture by the Twin Towers falling.

  25. MaxEd says:

    Some time around GTA 4 came out, I tried to get into the series by playing the first GTA. As you can guess from Shamu’s description, this didn’t go very well, and to this day I remain uninterested in the whole franchise.

    By the way, Carmageddon is well-remembered for the gameplay, too. Its car collision and damage physics were unmatched for the longest time, and it was really fun to destroy other cars. Personally, I never liked the “run down the pedestrians” aspect of it, so I always played German version, where pedestrians were replaced with robots (the first game) or zombies (the second game).

  26. Baron Tanks says:

    Fun to see a couple people here have a similar experience with GTA 2. I think the game had been out for a couple of years, but the most I played of it was in my high school where some computer club kids had installed it in the computer library (10ish systems on a LAN) and we would play multiplayer whenever we’d get the chance.

  27. Blake says:

    If I remember correctly, GTA2 also added rival gangs to the mix.
    Also: the greatest vehicle to grace the series, that one firetruck that had a flame-thrower instead of a water hose.

  28. SimeSublime says:

    If I recall correctly, GTA 2 fixed up the turning aspect by auto-correcting your car in line with the street if it was slightly off. Stopped the problem in the first game of tacking across the road when you were a degree or so off.
    The second game also added the gang system, where the city would be divided between three gangs. By completing a mission for a gang you’d gain respect with them, but also lose it with another gang. Members of a gang with negative respect would shoot you on sight. It made the world even more chaotic.
    I loved the first two games, as was people mentioned previously the key was to use cheats to unlock all the cities and give yourself infinite lives and ammo, then just go nuts. Multiplayer was even better. I have fond memories of causing enough destruction so that my friend and I both had firetrucks, then racing them around the huge freeway that encircled San Andreas.
    I tried to play GTA 3, but the controls were awkward and the more realistic world was really offputting. The first two games were ridiculous over the top chaos (like how Kill Bill treats gore), GTA 3 was just depressing. I never played a GTA game after that.

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