Rockstar North office building as seen from Calton Hill in central Edinburgh.
Computer and video games
|Founded||As DMA Design:
Dundee, Scotland (1988 )
As Rockstar North:
Edinburgh, Scotland (2002 )
|Founders||As DMA Design:
As Rockstar North:
Sam Houser, Dan Houser, Leslie Benzies, Aaron Garbut, Adam Fowler, Andrew Semple, Obbe Vermeij
|Key people||Leslie Benzies (president, producer)
Andrew Semple (studio director)
Aaron Garbut (art director)
Adam Fowler (technical director)
|Products||Grand Theft Auto series (1997 - present)
Lemmings series (1991 - 1994)
Body Harvest (1998)
Rockstar North (formerly DMA Design Ltd) is a British video game developer based in Edinburgh, Scotland, best known for creating the Grand Theft Auto and Lemmings franchises in its earlier guise as DMA.
Since September 1999 the company has been a 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 Games studios on titles such as Red Dead Redemption and Max Payne.
- 1 History
- 1.1 DMA Design
- 1.2 Rockstar North
- 2 Games
- 3 References
- 4 External links
Late 1980s: Foundation
DMA Design was founded in 1988 by David Jones in Dundee, Scotland, whose first employee was Mike Dailly followed by Russell Kay and Steve Hammond. The name DMA was taken from the Amiga programming manuals (where it stood for Direct Memory Access) and the initials were later 'retrofitted' so that they briefly stood for Direct Mind Access (DMA was also jokingly referred to as "Doesn't Mean Anything" by a company founder). In 1988 DMA signed with UK label Psygnosis and developed Menace and Blood Money – side-scrolling space shooters which gained attention from gamers and critics for both their high-quality presentation and difficulty. As with all the company's early games, Menace and Blood Money debuted on the Amiga, one of the leading platforms for video games in Europe between the late 1980s and the early 1990s. A Commodore 64 port was published immediately after, later followed by DOS and Atari ST versions.
Early 1990s: Lemmings
DMA's major breakthrough came with 1991's Lemmings, a dynamic puzzle game that sold over 20 million copies on 21 different systems. It debuted on the Amiga and it was available on other major platforms like the NES, Sega Mega Drive/Genesis and Macintosh, and more obscure systems such as the FM Towns computer and the CD-i. Much of DMA's time over the next few years was devoted to Lemmings follow-ups (Oh No! More Lemmings, Lemmings 2: The Tribes, All New World of Lemmings, and two Christmas-themed Holiday Lemmings special editions). They also released two original titles: 1993's Walker (a side-scrolling mech shooter) and 1994's Hired Guns (a first-person tactical shooter game with a four-way split screen). Other Lemmings sequels and spinoffs, such as Lemmings Paintball and Lemmings 3D, have appeared over the years, but these were produced without DMA.
Mid-1990s: Nintendo arrangement, Body Harvest and Grand Theft Auto
1994's Uniracers, a 2D platform racer featuring riderless unicycles, was the company's first game to debut on a console (the Super Nintendo). Published by Nintendo, it also marked DMA's first game without Psygnosis, which was bought out by Sony in 1993. This was the beginning of what would be a long and often bumpy relationship with the Japanese console giant. After spending some time experimenting with various next-generation consoles (particularly the 3DO), DMA was asked by Nintendo to join their "Dream Team" of developers for the upcoming Ultra 64 system (later renamed Nintendo 64), alongside such other developers as Rare, Paradigm, Acclaim, Midway Games, and Lucas Arts.
Under this arrangement, DMA would produce a title for the N64 that Nintendo would publish. The result of this collaboration was Body Harvest, a third-person 3D vehicular action game with a storyline about aliens arriving on Earth to harvest humans for food. Nintendo requested a number of major overhauls, such as the addition of puzzle and role-playing elements to make the game more appealing to the Japanese market. After numerous delays Nintendo dropped their publishing plans prompting Gremlin Graphics and Midway to pick them up. Body Harvest was released in 1998, three years after the game was first shown to mostly favourable reviews.
In October 1997 the company released (through the short-lived BMG Interactive label) Grand Theft Auto for the PC whilst neighbouring developer Visual Sciences converted the PlayStation version. Initially called Race and Chase, development began in 1995 with a relatively inexperienced team after a large group of new artists and programmers were hired. On release GTA gained huge critical and commercial success with sales picking up dramatically in part due to the controversy attracted for its violent content, with the Daily Mail calling for an outright ban. This controversy was due in part to publicist Max Clifford planting sensational stories in tabloid newspapers to help boost sales of the game. Due to this success the London 1969 and London 1961 mission packs were released in 1999.
Late 1990s: Rockstar and Dundee studio closure
During the late 1990s DMA went through a series of financial moves which saw the company sold three times in two years. In October 1997, DMA was bought by British publisher Gremlin Interactive, with Jones becoming Creative Director of both companies. BMG Interactive, who had purchased the rights to both GTA and Space Station Silicon Valley, were bought by Take-Two Interactive in March 1998 forming Rockstar Games. Later that year in October both Space Station Silicon Valley and Body Harvest were released for the N64 to favourable reviews. After the release the core team behind Space Station began to experiment with a 3D city concept using the Dreamcast and the Body Harvest team worked on a follow up to their game while at the other end of the studio, Grand Theft Auto 2 was in development.
As Gremlin Interactive began to falter with a lack of top name games and huge competition from other publishers they worked out a deal which saw them bought by Infogrames for a reported £24 million in March 1999. Complicating the sale was the pre-existing deal between DMA and, the now named, Rockstar Games for the publishing rights to the Grand Theft Auto series. Due to a growing desire from many of the DMA staff an Edinburgh office was opened in June 1999. This studio was populated by the Space Station and Body Harvest teams with the intention to work on follow ups to their previous games. At the time of the move it was decided that a 3D solution for the GTA franchise was needed and due to their experiments with 3D city simulators the Space Station Silicon Valley team were given development of the third instalment. Grand Theft Auto 2 was released in September 1999 to mixed critical and commercial response. Set in a retro futuristic metropolis, it did add a few new features however it was criticised for being too similar in both visual quality and game mechanics to its predecessor.
Soon Infogrames sold DMA Design to Take-Two with Rockstar Games publishing the Dreamcast version of Wild Metal Country (retitled simply Wild Metal) and Grand Theft Auto 2 for the PC, PlayStation and Dreamcast. It was at this time that Jones left the company setting up a new development studio in Dundee as a subsidiary of Rage Software. Through a management buy-out, this later became Realtime Worlds. Not long after the buy out the Dundee studio was closed marking the end of the DMA Design Dundee studio. DMA had several announced projects that were subsequently cancelled in mid-development: Nintendo 64 ports of Wild Metal Country and the original GTA, Clan Wars (a real-time 3D castle building and siege game set in medieval Scotland), Attack! (a caveman-themed platform game for the N64) and a port of Epic Games' PC hit Unreal for the Nintendo 64 disk drive.
Late 1990s: Founding as DMA Design
In 1999 shortly before the closure of DMA Design's Dundee studio, a new DMA studio was opened in Edinburgh by Rockstar Games. The studio originally had several former employees of the Dundee studio who had previously worked on Space Station Silicon Valley and Body Harvest with both working on new Rockstar projects. The Space Station Silicon Valley team began work on Grand Theft Auto III while the Body Harvest team started work on what would become Manhunt.
Early to mid-2000s: Grand Theft Auto III and name change to Rockstar North
Development on Grand Theft Auto III was started as the studio's first project, Rockstar wanted the game to be technically different as Grand Theft Auto III's predecessors, so the team started experimenting with 3D worlds using Body Harvest 3D world as inspiration for the game. As development went on the game began to resemble a 3D Grand Theft Auto with the ability to enter and exit cars using 3D models. Grand Theft Auto III was released in October 2001 and became the PlayStation 2's biggest system seller in both the US and Europe at the time.
In March 2002 Rockstar Games announced that DMA Design's name was changing to Rockstar Studios to more fully integrate the studio with its parent company based in New York. Just two months later in May the name was changed again, this time to Rockstar North. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was released in October 2002 for the PS2 after nine months of development. The game retained the engine and core gameplay of GTA III while adding a number of refinements and a roster of top Hollywood voice talent. In 2003, the company released a PC port of Vice City, as well as a two-pack of both GTA III and Vice City for Microsoft's Xbox console which had been ported by Rockstar Vienna. The developer's next release, also for the PS2, was Manhunt in November 2003 after the studio refocused post Vice City. The game was released amidst a media frenzy surrounding some of game's violent content.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas followed for the PS2 in October 2004 and became the highest selling PS2 game ever with 17.33 million copies sold. It went on to sell 27.5 million copies total after ports to Xbox and PC were released in 2005. Following in 2005 and 2006 respectively, Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories were two new instalments for PlayStation Portable both developed by Rockstar Leeds under supervision from Rockstar North. Both subsequently received ports to the PlayStation 2. After San Andreas was released and due to growing staff numbers the company moved from their Leith offices to the current studio's location at Calton Square. Starting from an original team of around twenty-five the studio now has over three hundred and fifty staff.
Mid 2000s to present: Grand Theft Auto IV and V
Grand Theft Auto IV was released on 29 April 2008 after around four years of development for both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 marking the debut of the developer’s wildly popular Grand Theft Auto franchise on the seventh-generation of video game consoles. GTA IV was another huge financial and critical success breaking sales records amongst all types of entertainment media. Rockstar North continued work on GTA IV in the form of two pieces of downloadable episodic content. The first of which titled The Lost and the Damned was released on 17 February 2009 with a second, The Ballad of Gay Tony, released on 29 October 2009. Rockstar later released a disc based version of both episodes for the PlayStation 3, PC, and Xbox 360 titled Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City.
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".
On 17 September 2013, the studio released Grand Theft Auto V on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, which became one of the most critically acclaimed games ever. The game was a return to the fictional city of Los Santos last seen in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The game also introduced multiple playable characters for the first time in the series allowing players to switch between Franklin, Michael and Trevor. It quickly became the studio’s most commercially-successful release as well as one of the highest-grossing video games of all time, surpassing the total gross of Grand Theft Auto IV within its first week and breaking the one-day gross record for video games.
Rockstar North collaborations
In addition to collaborating with Rockstar Leeds on the portable Grand Theft Auto games, Rockstar North has also collaborated with Rockstar San Diego on their Red Dead Redemption, Team Bondi's L.A. Noire and with Rockstar Vancouver's Max Payne 3.
|Menace||1988||Commodore 64, Amiga, Atari ST and DOS|
|Ballistix||1989||ports to MS-DOS and Commodore 64|
|Shadow of the Beast||ports to MS-DOS and TurboGrafx-CD|
|Blood Money||Amiga, MS-DOS, ST and C64|
|Lemmings||1991||Amiga, CDTV, MS-DOS, ST, C64, Spectrum, CD-i, Lynx, Amstrad CPC, Amiga CD32, 3DO, Macintosh, Master System, Mega Drive/Genesis, NES, TG16, FM Towns and Game Gear|
|Oh No! More Lemmings||Amiga, ST, MS-DOS, SAM Coupé, Macintosh and Archimedes|
|Hired Guns||Amiga, MS-DOS|
|Christmas Lemmings 1993||Amiga, MS-DOS, OS/2||Known as Holiday Lemmings 1993 in North America|
|Lemmings 2: The Tribes||Amiga, MS-DOS, SNES, Game Boy, FM Towns, Archimedes, Mega Drive/Genesis and ST|
|All New World of Lemmings||1994||Amiga, MS-DOS||Known as The Lemmings Chronicles in North America|
|Christmas Lemmings 1994||Amiga, MS-DOS, OS/2||Known as Holiday Lemmings 1994 in North America|
|Unirally||SNES||Known as Uniracers in North America|
|Grand Theft Auto||1997||MS-DOS, PC, PS1, Game Boy Color|
|Space Station Silicon Valley||N64, PS1, GBC|
|Grand Theft Auto: London, 1969||1999||PC, PS1||Expansion pack for Grand Theft Auto|
|Grand Theft Auto: London, 1961||PC||Free expansion pack for Grand Theft Auto: London, 1969|
|Wild Metal Country||PC, Dreamcast|
|Grand Theft Auto 2||PC, PS1, Dreamcast, GBC|
|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||With Rockstar Studios|
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- 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.
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- "Grand Theft Auto V Release Dates and Exclusive Content Details for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC". Rockstargames.com. 12 September 2014. Retrieved 15 November 2014.