Saturday, 17 March 2007

The Lost Interview with Sam Houser

"The Lost GTA Interview come to life"

Sam Houser, the President of Rockstar Games, once said the following:
"When people that like our games see the [Rockstar] label, they'll know they're picking up something that's quality."


The Rockstar Games Logo

"[They'll know] a lot of love and passion has gone into the games. We care about the people that buy our games. If someone's going to hand over $50 for your game...that's a lot of money."
So we could jokingly claim that we expect to get 20% more "love and passion" this coming Fall than in any previous GTA game since we'll all be paying $60 instead of $50 for a copy of Grand Theft Auto IV.

However, in order for Rockstar Games to live up to Houser's statement, GTA IV is going to have to make a leap equal to or greater than when the franchise went from GTA2 to GTA III.
"We always knew from GTA 1 that, when you took GTA into 3D, it was going to get people over the leap of faith you had to make in that top-down, 2D perspective."
Even a year before the release of GTA III, the company knew little of the doors they were opening for the gaming world.

GTA III Beta Screenshot (2000)

"Sometime in the summer of 2000, the geniuses in Edinburgh [Rockstar North] had a city up and running. You could jack a car and drive around, but it was very crude compared to where we ended up. Just being able to do that, you thought, 'Okay, this is interesting."
The company knew that they were entering new territory, but it wasn't until a few months before the release of GTA III that the developers realized just how innovative their game was going to be.

GTA III Beta Screenshot (2001)

"Every month, something new was finished. That following summer (2001) something happened that made me think, 'We're going to new places with this stuff...this is the start of something interesting. It may be 15 or 20 years before we really get there, but this is the foundation. That, to me, was a moment."
The game was nearing completion. Everything was looking good for Grand Theft Auto III. But one month before the release, terror struck on September 11. A month and a half later, the game was on store shelves, but it didn't take long for fans to notice that two characters were missing.


GTA III's Lost Character 'Darkel'

One of these characters was named Darkel. Rumors swirled that his character was removed because of the terrorist attacks. There were rumors of missions that this character would have given to the player. One person stated that someone playing the game would reportedly be tasked to steal an ice cream van, use it to attract pedestrians and then blow it up. Another made a wilder claim saying that one of Darkel's missions involved flying a Dodo plane into the Love Media building. That claim is a bit unrealistic, though, since flying a plane in the game is extremely hard to begin with. However, it is believed that the ability to easily fly in the game with the Dodo was also pulled from the final build.

The Darkel character removal never made headlines or came back to bite Rockstar. Darkel's character textures remained in the game files, but after five years of searching, it appears that there are no traces left of any mission code. Now only if the same precautions were taken with "hot coffee" ...

As said before, Darkel didn't come back to hurt Rockstar, but the violent nature of the games did.
"There's a total lack of understanding that games are an art form. I think people need something to talk about. In the '80s, it was Ozzy Osbourne and those guys. It was rap music in the '90s. You have to have someone to blame. We've seen the patterns before."
Houser was not done talking, though, as he made another valid point that everyone needs to take into consideration:
"The other issue we have is that we're pretty sure the people that come at us really aggressively have never played the games. That's like slagging off a rap record without listening to it or a movie without having seen it. If someone wants to sit down and have a thoughtful, constructive debate that's not about political agendas and isn't about someone trying to make some money off us, then we'll have that conversation."
Most of the people that you see on the news that have attacked Rockstar Games such as Hillary Clinton and Joseph Lieberman have not played the games. If you took the labels off consoles and placed them side-by-side, they probably wouldn't be able to tell a PlayStation 2 from a Nintendo DS.

Houser stated that he finds all of the bickering against the company "a little bit upsetting" and said the following:
"We're all human beings here. If there was any proven connection between what we do and things actually going wrong in the world, we wouldn't do it. But there is no connection."
Rockstar Games is not the only company that you could say is at fault. However, they are normally the ones to take the heat. After GTA III was released and out for a few months, a trend began to form. Games such as Def Jam Vendetta and True Crime: Streets of L.A. began to come out. They were copycats, and Houser does not believe the games would ever have been released if not for the original release of GTA III:

Two Noteworthy GTA Copycat Titles

"No, I don't think it would have happened. I think these guys are good at using formulas, aren't they? I've got a lot of respect for all the companies in the business, and I love this industry. I respect EA because they're at the other end of the spectrum from what we do. But they do approach it from a tracking trends and 'what's hot, what's not' perspective."
So how does Rockstar choose which games they will develop? Do they take orders from investors? Of course not, and they have the line-up of titles to back up their claims:
"We make games from our guts. We say, 'This is a vibe, we're into this...let's do it.' We didn't make San Andreas into an "urban" or "hip-hop" game because we want to be urban or hip-hop. We grew up in Britain looking at the East Coast and West Coast hip-hop and aspiring to it. This isn't some bandwagon we've jumped on. I'm glad these other companies are doing [these kinds of games]; we need to work together as an industry to prevent the detractors from trying to pull us back."
One game that Rockstar made from their "guts" was Table Tennis. Everyone thought it was an odd choice, but Rockstar just wanted to make it.

The company made it through a ton of turmoil from lawyers and politicians, especially after the "hot coffee" incident. But this is not stopping Rockstar from taking the second leap for the GTA franchise. How do you improve on Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas? The graphical jump is obvious. Having a new story with a slate of new characters is also obvious. Packing in content to keep players occupied is a must. However, this could easily turn into a game that, while it looks prettier than previous franchise titles, might feel just like a GTA game you already played...plus some new features:
"I'm not the biggest fan of games coming out with new versions year after year. Putting out the same game every year, plus ten percent, that's not our thing."
Some might argue that the recent "Stories" games violate what he just said. I look at it from a different angle, though. When Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was released for the PlayStation 2, a completely different GTA game was released on that exact same day. It was simply called Grand Theft Auto and was released only for Nintendo's Game Boy Advance.


GTA for GBA

On that day, I couldn't help but think about how amazing it would be to see a game like San Andreas on a portable device about the size of the Game Boy Advance. So far, Rockstar Games has brought Liberty City and Vice City to the portable device known as Sony's PlayStation Portable. They look and play amazing. However, I think that the reason the "Stories" games weren't hugely successful is due to the time of release.

Liberty City, in its current form, was first released in 2001. Four years later, the portable version of that city was given to us. Four years was also the span of time for Vice City to go portable. If Rockstar had shortened that gap of time, the demand for the portable versions may have gone through the roof. However, they had to wait on the hardware.

The "ten percent" comment cannot be applied to the "Stories" games. However, I believe that the company will hold true to their statement when it comes to the leap to Grand Theft Auto IV.

In an extremely important section of Houser's lost interview, he went in-depth on the possibility of the one thing that could make the leap successful: online multi-player.

Houser responded with exciting details when he was asked if GTA would "translate well into the online area" and if it is something that Rockstar is going to try.
"Definitely. It's something that's been talked about for an awfully long time. It's something that presses all of our buttons."
Next, we get a hint. This is where we get a statement that almost completely confirms that an online experience is how the leap will take place with, hopefully, success:

The Transition from GTA2 to GTA III

"Like the way that from 2D to 3D was a magnificent jump, I think the same is true when we do that jump into online. How we do it, when we do it, and what it is that we do...those are the question marks."
What can we not expect? What will Rockstar be sure not to do in the future games such as GTA IV? He went on to reveal some tidbits:
"Just giving people deathmatch, or even a cooperative deathmatch...that's not GTA. When we [go] online with GTA, it's got to be right."
Personally, I see the mediocre multi-player modes of the "Stories" games as being a testing platform to gauge what might work in a PlayStation Home or Xbox Live environment. Houser wasn't done revealing, though:
"I'm more inclined to look at areas, believe it or not, like EverQuest and use that for inspiration. Because we know we can make the action fun and engaging."
Taking all of this into consideration, one might ask if there is a plan for what is to come after GTA IV. Looking back to GTA III, Vice City and San Andreas, Houser stated that doing those three games in those three locations was the plan from "a long time ago."


The Trilogy Looking Sexy

The company knows the value of planning. They only created one of the most revolutionary trilogies of the previous console generation. Make sure you have a stable Internet connection. You might be using it a little extra come October.

Thanks goes to PlanetGTA for the information

LINK: PlanetGTA

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