June 21, 2024

Obbe Vermeij, a former developer for Rockstar North, had been relishing a few weeks of rehashing some stories from decades past. Looking back on his many years working with the Grand Theft Auto creator, Vermeij wrote on his own blog about sharing behind-the-scenes details of titles like Vice City and San Andreas, where he said everyone was having a great time. Up until the arrival of Rockstar North.

Obbe Vermeij joined the firm in 1995 and worked on concurrent projects. He had previously worked as a technical director on Rockstar games, going all the way back to Grand Theft Auto III in the early 2000s. Up to his departure from the company in 2009, he had similar roles in numerous GTA titles that the studio released. Vermeij had been posting anecdotes about the game development process on his retro Blogger blog for the past few weeks, apparently with no ill will or malicious purpose.

These revealed fascinating details about the first and second Grand Theft Auto games, such as how heavily the PC versions of the titles had to be altered in order to operate on the PlayStation 1. Vermeij says, “I recall a specific instance where all of the textures for the PS version had been reduced to 16 colors.” “Cursing was expressed by the artists upon viewing the outcomes. Still, there was no other option. Making difficult decisions was necessary to make the game to work on a PS.”

A Dreamcast prototype of the first GTA game, GTA III, is mentioned in a post regarding the game! The game’s developer speaks kindly of the process, describing an idyllic, seasoned workforce with little pressure to meet deadlines. An additional bug-related post honors testers and their efforts in addressing 70,000 issues in San Andreas. A charming anecdote describes how GTA IV developer Alexander Roger made a rifle that fired ragdoll creatures in order to test maps.

One post, dated November 11, discussed how, after working on Vice City, some Rockstar artists wanted to create a zombie survival game. According to Vermeij, “Z” was the working title, and it was “pronounced Zed, not Zee.” Set on a “windswept foggy Scottish island,” where players would always be under attack from the undead, Vice City’s code was supposed to be used. Players would mostly concentrate on getting fuel for their cars, but the team seems to have decided that after only one month of development, it was simply too sad. Instead, they set to work on San Andreas.

After a few weeks of these wonderful insights and experiences, it appears that for some people at Rockstar, the boundary was crossed. After getting an email from Rockstar North, Vermeij took down the majority of the postings on the site on November 22 and published a new one stating that “some of the OGs there are upset by my blog.”

I genuinely didn’t think anyone would mind me talking about 20 year old games but I was wrong. Something about ruining the Rockstar mystique or something.

Anyway,

This blog isn’t important enough to me to piss off my former colleagues in Edinburgh so I’m winding it down.

The developer, who is currently based in Ottawa, Canada and is working on several projects, expressed his dissatisfaction with Rockstar’s refusal to discuss any of their processes in public, regardless of how long ago they may have happened. “I hope Rockstar will share more information about how the trilogy was developed,” Vermeij added, “but it doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen anytime soon.”

You know, nothing disappears on the internet, of course. Every post is a wonderful, inspiring read. Obbe Vermeij was contacted by us but declined to comment. Additionally, we’ve contacted Rockstar; if we hear back, we’ll update.

Hopefully, Rockstar will eventually stop this self-mythologizing nonsense so that entertaining and thought-provoking stories about years of work can be openly exchanged. Apparently, this isn’t the day. “Maybe I’ll try again in a decade or two,” Vermeij says in closing.

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