Dailly News: GTA’s Original Design Document

By John Walker on March 22nd, 2011 at 11:38 am.

Your race got chased!

Mike Dailly, one of the key men behind Lemmings and Grand Theft Auto, has just posted the design documents for the original GTA on his Flickr pages. Race’n'Chase, as it was originally intended to be called, began life on the 25th January 1995 in a design doc authored by K. R. Hamilton. The version posted is 1.05, from 22nd March, explaining how the multiplayer racing game would perhaps also feature a cops and robbers mode. And it makes for excellent reading.

The initial description is almost unrecognisable.

“The aim of Race’n'Chase is to produce a fun, addictive and fast multi-player car racing and crashing game which uses a novel graphics method.”

However, other features are more familiar.

“There will 3 cities [sic] with a different graphical style for each city (e.g. New York, Venice, Miami). There will be many different missions to be played in each city. This is so that players can get to know the routes through a particular city. In each game type, it will be possible to progress to different cities only when certain goals have been attained.”

And its naughty ways were there from the start, too.

“Players will be able to drive cars and possibly other vehicles such as boats, helicopters or lorries. Cars can be stolen, raced, collided, crashed (ramraiding ?) and have to be navigated about a large map. It will also be possible for players to get out of their car and steal another one. This will mean controlling a vulnerable pedestrian for a short time. Trying to steal a car may result in an alarm being set off which will, of course, attract the police.”

Originally the game was going to feature four modes, Cannonball Run (a straight race across the city), Demolition Derby (aiming to cause as much damage to other players as possible), Bank Robbery (Robber) (driving a getaway car and trying to escape the police, committing as many crimes as possible), and Bank Robbery (Cop) (controlling the police, chasing after the getaway car). These was all themed around the game’s intention to be multiplayer at core, played across a network on PC, and with two people at the same console. The top-down perspective was in there from the start, with the camera able to zoom in and out automatically, along with discussions over the correct control method for such an angle.

A rather bold “end of project” date was set for just a year and three months after its start date, aiming for 1st July 1996. The game would originally take twice that long to make, eventually reaching us in October 1997.

Take a look at the rest of the details. And a big thanks to Dartt for alerting us.

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28 Comments »

  1. Navagon says:

    I bet they had no idea what they were embarking on with Race ‘n Chase all those years ago.

    If nothing else this does serve to remind us how the series’ ever increasing seriousness is detrimental to what made it popular in the first place.

    • JohnnyMaverik says:

      I’m not really sure we can say it’s been detrimental to it’s popularity. I mean the original 2 GTA games certainly were extremely popular, I remember friends going wild over it and I was only 7 when it came out. But it’s probably more popular today, simply because the gaming community is larger and the games remain something that send people wild. The release of GTA games these days feel like an event. I mean I listen to TalkRadarUK a lot and when even the possibility of a GTA V announcement is brought up (regularly) the participants audibly jizz.

      I would however agree that GTA 4 was far too self serious, although they seemed to rectify that with The Ballad of Gay Tony. On the flip side Vice City, probably the least serious game in the Rockstar GTA series was the only one I’ve actively disliked. That may however be more to do with my dislike of Floridian culture rather than it actually being bad, and just as a short disclaimer, if anybody is from Florida and takes offence to that statement, bare in mind my impressions of Floridian culture consists of knowing it’s fairly right wing, is a hot bed for Scientology, and there’s a Disney Land there. I’m sure there’s a lot more to it than that but I’m a terribly prejudice person who’s too lazy to check the facts and therefore probably doesn’t have the right to hold opinions… so there we go.

      Edit: Reading back over your comment I now realise you weren’t actually saying they’re becoming unpopular but that they’ve lost sight of what the original games were about. Can’t be bothered to edit that first paragraph but that’s probably a fair point, although I’m not sure it really matters any more since GTA is now primarily a console franchise, Rockstar a console developer, I doubt we’ll even see the next game on PC, and the people around today who really, really love GTA, note love and not like, I quite like it but I don’t love it, probably either haven’t played the original games, or didn’t appreciate them as much as they do the new series.

    • Spakkenkhrist says:

      I’m sceptical that GTA V will get a PC release seeing as Red Dead Redemption and the upcoming LA Noire aren’t being ported.

    • Bhazor says:

      Well I love GTA 4 partly because it does take itself so seriously. When I compare it to Saints Row 2 what stands out the most is pacing. In Saints Row 2 the first mission includes fist fights, fire fights, a car chase, a boat chase, a mounted turret sequence and a fuckton of explosions. After that what’s left to do? Its just repetition, you’re just treading water for hours before you get another mission on that scale. Compare that to GTA 4 where it ramps up much more gradually and ultimately where getting a heavy weapon feels wieghty exactly because you’ve had to wait so long.

    • Navagon says:

      “Reading back over your comment I now realise you weren’t actually saying they’re becoming unpopular but that they’ve lost sight of what the original games were about.”

      That’s it alright. GTA 4 may have had massive hype but I found the game to be… less than compelling, to be honest. The distractions such as going bowling, etc just further detracted from the… dare I say purity of the experience? But you know what I mean.

      GTA was a fun mix of comic book violence and commentary on modern society delivered through arcade style gameplay. The second abandoned much of the social commentary for grimdark. The third captured the essence of the first one added some of the more cinematic qualities that took increasing precedent later on.

      When it boils down to it, it’s the same with how a lot of modern FPS insist on telling their ropey stories at the expense of the actual gameplay. Sure, it’s popular, but not with me.

    • Vandelay says:

      @ Spakkenkhrist – I would probably much rather see Red Dead Redemption or LA Noire than GTA V on PC, if I’m entirely honest.

  2. Snargelfargen says:

    It sounds as though they played an early build of the game without the races implemented and realized “Hey, stealing cars is fun!”. GTA2 was one of my favourite games back in the day.

  3. Javier-de-Ass says:

    Nice. I like the indirect control idea.

  4. kyrieee says:

    Ah, seeing that screenshot takes me back

  5. karry says:

    Once again, multiplayer tried to ruin everything we know and love…but for once – it failed.

  6. mickiscoole says:

    I remember reading somewhere that GTA originally contained dinosaurs, but they’re not mentioned anywhere in the design doc.

  7. rayne117 says:

    This was absolutely fascinating.

  8. Bhazor says:

    It is interesting how much it dovetails with the core ideas of APB. The Cop/Robber mode in particular sounds just like a lo-fi take on APB.

    Really adds credence to the idea that APB is the game GTA was supposed to be and is what David Jones has been working towards all these years. Just a shame it came out about six years too late and still only half finished.

    Anyone else notice the mug ring (a perfect circle about two thirds down) on the cover?

  9. Bilbo says:

    Damn, the design documents I have to do for uni are more detailed than this. It’s this form over content bullshit that’s made me entirely lose interest in working in the industry, which is probably for the best because I’m a *terrible* programmer.

  10. nuh uh no way says:

    fuck. this reminds me of how much i LOVED GTA IV’s Cannonball Run race-type.

    am i the only one?! i could never, NEVER get anyone to play it with me. did it once and that was it. all the other players complained the entire time and most just ragequit.

    aaaaaargh.

  11. somnolentsurfer says:

    I love how it reads really seriously, as though it were just a open world version of all the boring race games that had gone before, and then just throws in comments like “oh, by the way, you’ll be able to mow down children. And dogs.”

    Also, the idea that it would be designed so you would have to park up and consult a paper map. Buy it off Steam and you’re screwed.

    • nuh uh no way says:

      Today is really shaping up to be The Day RPS Commenters Forgot What Context Was.

      “Also, the idea that it would be designed so you would have to park up and consult a paper map. Buy it off Steam and you’re screwed.”

      This design doc is from the 1990s. There is no way this game would have come in any format other than a CD in a box you had to buy from a store.

      edit: and FURTHER, if a modern game were to do this they would just include a fucking PDF that could print out or alt-tab to. i really shouldn’t be getting so flustered over this but my god! really man!

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      FFS. I was referring to the way they considered real world interaction with an actual physical object an essential part of the gameplay experience, and how impractical that would be in today’s context. Was that not obvious? Or if not, could you not have queried it without being abusive?

      For the record, I have a copy of GTA 1 in my Steam account. They don’t provide any maps to alt-tab to. Nor can I imagine that I would do that if they did, because it would be fucking ridiculous. Thankfully, I also have a boxed copy, and fond memories of doing exactly what they describe in 1997. If a game came out today that needed that, I’d ask why they hadn’t built in a proper in game map, and think it a design failing. Especially if they restricted my ability to pause the game as well!

  12. _Jackalope_ says:

    I remember when GTA was featured on Working Lunch, it was a feature about the UK games industry. My Grandad was telling me all about it, the stealing cars, the radio stations, etc when he picked me up from school that day and it sounded awesome. Think it was about a year or so before it was released and it didn’t disappoint. I quite liked the multiplayer mode, just driving about causing chaos and ambushing my mate.

  13. Alphabet says:

    One month for the engine, one year for the project, and they weren’t clinically insane to aim for that pace. Those were the days!

  14. Papageno says:

    I’m a big fan of the top-down GTAs. My only beefs with the first game were the lack of a save feature, and the fact that the powerups didn’t regenerate.

  15. Kerbobotat says:

    I rmember the sheer terror of sneaking into my brothers room to play GTA: London, and being terrified that if I opened the playstation while the disc was spinning I would cut my fingers off. Damn you disc swapping, it was another two years before I ever got to play GTA: London.

  16. kregg says:

    Just for those who don’t like or have trouble browsing through the images, I’ve made a PDF version of the high-resolution image documents for convenience. All pages are in the right order.

    Also, I don’t own any rights to these images, these still are of Copyright to Mike Dailly, I’ve just put the images together in a PDF format for easy reading.

    Back to topic, such an interesting read. I feel so fortunate to have seen these documents! In a dream world, I’d like to see more background information about games… except Farmville.

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