Creating Grand Theft Auto and Zzap!64: the life and stories of Gary Penn

I still can’t get over hearing that Grand Theft Auto was nearly canned – the Grand Theft Auto, the original, the game that started it all. What would have happened if it never came out? And it very nearly didn’t, to hear Gary Penn talk about it, senior producer and then creative director on it. “That game was pretty much nearly canned every bloody week,” he tells me in episode 20 of One-to-one, now available to all premium Eurogamer supporters.

Why was it nearly canned? Because “it was going nowhere and it was awful” – Penn isn’t one for mincing his words. “I don’t know why I used to defend it every week,” he says. “I think I just believed that it could be something, as did Sam Houser who used to work there as well … he was one of the other few people who believed in it.” (Sam Houser went on to co-found Rockstar with his brother Dan and do very well out of GTA, of course.)

There’s an audible sigh as I ask Gary Penn what was so awful about it, as if it’s painful to remember. “For a start it rarely worked,” he begins. “It would crash constantly – full-on, full-scale crashing, not sort of ‘oh, slightly inconvenient’. You couldn’t play it for more than a few minutes.

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