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Grand Theft Auto started life as a dinosaur tech experiment

UPDATE 29/11/22: Grand Theft Auto’s original programmer Mike Dailly has added some clarification to Colin Macdonald’s story about GTA starting out as a “dinosaur game”.

Dailly replied to this news on Twitter, saying “the game was called ‘dino’, because the early C code framework came from a dinosaur game – several Dave-demos earlier.” Dailly went on to “[copy] code and [keep] the useful bits.”

Macdonald replied to Dailly’s update by saying “Ah bugger, I was sure of that – ah well, it’s a nice story, but at least I know now!”

The original story continues below.

ORIGINAL 29/11/22: There are many things that come to mind when thinking about the Grand Theft Auto series. The characters, the settings, the weapons and cars, an awful lot of chaos – I could go on.

However, one image that probably isn’t immediately conjured up in your head when thinking about Rockstar’s long-standing franchise is a whopping great big dinosaur rampaging the streets. And yet, this is actually the sort of game Grand Theft Auto started life off as.

Speaking to the BBC alongside the series’ 25th anniversary, developer Colin Macdonald revealed “GTA went through a lot of different iterations and [had] quite a troubled development”, stating the first game “wasn’t really regarded well for most of the time it was in production.”

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Macdonald went on to reveal that one of these iterations was a “tech experiment” from the game’s original programmer Mike Dailly.

Dailly wanted to show how buildings could look in “3D from top down with a little bit of perspective” and in doing so came up with what Macdonald described as a “dinosaur game”.

In this game, users were presented with a city to explore, and by explore I mean you were a dinosaur that could “[roam] around and [destroy] the buildings”. Macdonald didn’t say what kind of dinosaur featured in this version of the game, but in my head I am picturing a tyrannosaurus rex.

In order to bring some more life to this city, Dailly proceeded to add in “little cars driving around”. This idea then evolved further still, when another developer suggested seeing what it would “be like driving one of the cars rather than controlling the dinosaur”. This eventually saw the dino tech experiment become a driving game.

“It was called Race ‘n’ Chase for a good while,” Macdonald recalled. “Then someone realised, ‘oh, actually we’ll try letting the player get out of the car and run around and jump in and out of other cars’… It was really only at that point it morphed into Grand Theft Auto.”

Needless to say, the series has come a long way since its dino days. Its most recent release, Grand Theft Auto 5, has now shifted over 170m units worldwide.

Earlier this year, Rockstar confirmed that Grand Theft Auto 6 is currently in development. This release will reportedly feature a pair of protagonists akin to Bonnie and Clyde, with the action taking place in and around a modern day Vice City.

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