|Type||Subsidiary of Rockstar Games|
Computer and video games
|Headquarters||Edinburgh, Scotland, UK|
|Key people||Leslie Benzies, Aaron Garbut, Adam Fowler|
|Products||Grand Theft Auto series (2001 - present)
Rockstar North is a British video game developer based in Edinburgh, Scotland, best known for developing the Grand Theft Auto franchise.
The company was formed in 1999 as part of the multinational company Rockstar Games, owned by Take-Two Interactive. It is the primary developer of the Grand Theft Auto series as well as working alongside other Rockstar studios on titles such as Red Dead Redemption and L.A. Noire.
Rockstar North was founded in 1999 by Leslie Benzies, Aaron Garbut, Adam Fowler, Obbe Vermeij and Andrew Semple after DMA Design was bought out by Take-Two Interactive. For the first couple years the company remained under the name DMA before changing to Rockstar North in 2002. The studio was originally populated by around twenty-five staff and was based in the Leith area of Edinburgh. The company has since grown to around three-hundred staff and has moved to their current Carlton Square offices. Their first game, Grand Theft Auto III, was released in October, 2001.
Early 2000s: Development of GTA III and Vice City
Development of GTA III began as early as 1998 as Leslie Benzies and Aaron Garbut experimented with 3D simulators following the completion of their game Space Station Silicon Valley. After fleshing out a city including pedestrians and vehicles they began to allow control over players that included the ability to enter and drive vehicles. As the concept grew their experiment began to resemble a 3D version of GTA while the 2D, top down GTA 2 was currently in development by the original team across the studio. It became clear that a 3D solution to the GTA series was needed and that the former Space Station team were the ones to achieve this. They officially began development on GTA III in the newly opened Edinburgh studio mid-1999.
Although the initial experiments used the Dreamcast, the team soon asked Tools Director Adam Fowler to look at the PlayStation 2 as a released platform for the game. Since this involvement Adam became a core member of the development team as Technical Director alongside Obbe Vermeij as well as remaining as Tools Director for the studio as a whole. It was from this point that the core development team on GTA was formed consisting of Leslie, Aaron, Adam and Obbe; a team that has remained largely intact until Obbe departed the company in 2009. As the company was so small at the time, around twenty-five people, a lot of team members had a large amount of input and ownership over the game although every decision went through the core team.
Grand Theft Auto III was released in October 2001 on the PlayStation 2 becoming the biggest system seller in both the U.S. and Europe at the time. Although sales were initially strong, it was following high review scores and high profile appearances that sales really picked up. After completing GTA the team were then given only nine months to develop their follow up. Originally envisioned as an add-on, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was expanded into a standalone game with the addition of an expanded story line and more vehicles including motorbikes. In May 2002 Rockstar Games announced that the company was changing its name to Rockstar North in order to reflect the change in structure as well as to more fully integrate the studio with its parent company based in New York.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was released in October 2002 for the PlayStation 2. This time there was no wait for sales to pick up; Vice City was a huge hit on release both commercially and critically eventually going on to become the fourth highest selling game on the PlayStation 2. Following the release of Vice City the studio refocused onto Manhunt which had originally been worked on by the team that made Body Harvest. The game was released in November 2003 to generally favourable reviews.
Mid 2000s: San Andreas and IV
Following Manhunt the studio again refocused back onto the Grand Theft Auto series with development on San Andreas starting in part immediately after Vice City and then fully, after Manhunt. San Andreas expanded the scope and variety of what was possible in open world games creating a world that was much bigger and more populated than previous GTA games. After two years of development Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was released in October 2004 and was again an immediate success eventually going on to become the best-selling game ever on the PlayStation 2. The game was also hit with controversies, most notably the “Hot Coffee mod” which was a normally inaccessible minigame which was made accessible on the Windows port of San Andreas released in 2005 by a modder.
After the release of San Andreas the Rockstar North team had been in an almost constant state of development since work began on GTA III. The team had also grown considerably to around two hundred people necessitating a move away from their Leith office and into their current one at Carlton Square.
Once in the new studio the team entered simultaneous development of Grand Theft Auto IV for both the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Development took four years with the game releasing in April 2008 gaining many 100% scores from review magazines. Rockstar North also released two pieces of episodic content which were timed exclusives for Xbox 360 with Microsoft paying a reported $50million for the episodes to be released for Xbox 360 first. Both The Lost and the Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony were released for Playstation 3 and Windows in April 2010, around a year after Xbox 360. In 2009 Obbe Vermeij left the company with Adam Fowler becoming the sole Technical Director for Rockstar North.
At Sony’s E3 conference it was announced that Agent was being developed by Rockstar North for the PlayStation 3. This was later confirmed in an interview with Ben Feder, President of Take-Two. However no new information has been released on the game since.
Present: Grand Theft Auto V
Grand Theft Auto V was announced on the 3rd November 2011 revealing that it would be set in a re-imagined modern day Southern California initially seen in San Andreas. Initially stated for release spring 2013 the game was actually released on 17 September 2013. On release it became the fastest selling video game of all time going on to break seven sales records. Developed and shipped alongside V but set slightly before the story mode events, GTA Online was released two weeks after V. For V the team also took away the traditional three island style map, allowing players free movement around the map, from the start for the first time. Multiple playable characters were also introduced for the first time allowing control over one of three protagonists which players could switch between at most points.
By this time the studio had grown to around three hundred staff although it has been stated that at least a thousand people from all Rockstar studios have worked on the game at some point. This is due to the way Rockstar studios collaborate on projects with Rockstar North also having a hand in Rockstar San Diego’s Red Dead Redemption, Team Bondi’s LA Noire and to a lesser extend Rockstar Vancouver’s Max Payne 3.
On 2 June 2009 at Sony's E3 conference, it was announced that Agent was being developed by Rockstar North for the PlayStation 3. This was later confirmed in an interview with Ben Feder, President of Take-Two Interactive. The game will be set in the world of the late 1970s. According to Rockstar North, it will "take players on a paranoid journey into the world of counter-intelligence, espionage, and political assassinations".
|Grand Theft Auto III||2001||PS2|
|Grand Theft Auto III||2002||PC, Xbox||With Rockstar Vienna for the Xbox|
|Grand Theft Auto: Vice City||PS2, PC, Xbox|
|Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas||2004|
|Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories||2005||PSP, PS2||With Rockstar Leeds|
|Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories||2006|
|Manhunt 2||2007||PS2, PSP, PC, Wii||Oversaw the development|
|Grand Theft Auto IV||2008||PS3, PC, X360||With Rockstar Toronto for the PC|
|Grand Theft Auto: The Lost and Damned||2009|
|Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars||PSP, DS, iOS||With Rockstar Leeds|
|Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony||PS3, PC, X360|
|Grand Theft Auto: Episodes From Liberty City||2010||With Rockstar Toronto for the PC|
|Red Dead Redemption||PS3, X360||With Rockstar San Diego|
|Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare|
|L.A. Noire||2011||PS3, PC, X360||With Team Bondi|
|Max Payne 3||2012||With Rockstar Studios|
|Grand Theft Auto V||2013||PS3, X360|
- Reilly, Jim (2 June 2009). "Rockstar's 'Agent' Announced For PS3". IGN. Retrieved 5 June 2009.
- "Take-Two grooming Agent to be the next GTA". Retrieved 5 June 2009.
- Rice, Brad (2 June 2009). "E3 09: Sony announces new Rockstar exclusive Agent". Destructoid. Retrieved 5 June 2009.
- "Grand Theft Auto V is Coming Spring 2013". Rockstargames.com. 30 October 2012. Retrieved 25 September 2013.
- Official website
- Rockstar North Limited at MobyGames
- The DMA History Site by Mike Dailly
- Rockstar founders form 4mm Games