Grand Theft Auto is now one of the most successful video game franchises ever. However, the first GTA was almost never released.
"[The original GTA] was a real mess for years, it never moved on, it never went anywhere," GTA dev Gary Penn told Tristan Donovan in an interview reprinted on Gamasutra. "It never really felt like it was going anywhere. It was almost canned. The publisher, BMG Interactive, wanted to can it, as it didn't seem to be going anywhere."
There were two big issues confronting the project. The first was the game's instability. Penn says it "crashed all the fucking time."
"Now the other thing that was a problem was the handling -- the car handling was appalling," Penn added. "There was a point in it where you used to have a button for opening the doors and it was just rubbish. I can't remember if this is true because we used to joke about it that you even had to start the engine. It was awful, it was too sim-y."
However, another glitch - this time with the police A.I. - served as a turning point for the project. "Then one day, I think it was a bug, the police suddenly became mental and aggressive. It was because they were trying to drive through you. Their route finding was screwed I think and that was an awesome moment because suddenly the real drama where, 'Oh my God, the police are psycho -- they're trying to ram me off the road.'"
Gamers seemed to like these deadly chases as well. The first GTA did well with critics and fans and spawned numerous sequels. The transition to 3D with Grand Theft Auto III was a smashing success that brought the series into the mainstream. The developer, DMA Design, was purchased by Take-Two Interactive in 2001 and renamed Rockstar North.