DMA Design

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DMA Design
Industry Interactive entertainment
Computer and video games
Fate bought by Rockstar Games
Predecessor DMA Design
Successor Rockstar North
Founded

1988 (as DMA Design)[1]

2002 (as Rockstar North)
Headquarters Dundee, Scotland, UK
Key people
David Jones, Russell Kay, Steve Hammond, Mike Dailly
Products Grand Theft Auto series (1997 - 1999)
Lemmings series (1991 - 1994)
Body Harvest (1998)

DMA Design was a British video game developer based in Dundee, Scotland, best known for creating the original 2D Grand Theft Auto and Lemmings franchises.

The company ran from 1988 when work began on their first game, Menace, and ended with the last game developed by DMA, Grand Theft Auto 2 in 2000.

History[edit]

Late 1980s[edit]

DMA Design was founded in 1988 by David Jones, Russell Kay, Steve Hammond and Mike Dailly in Dundee, Scotland.[2] 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).[3] 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[edit]

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[edit]

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.

Nintendo arrangement[edit]

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 favorable reviews.

Grand Theft Auto[edit]

For more details on this topic, see Grand Theft Auto (series).
The front cover of GTA 1
The front cover for Grand Theft Auto.

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.[4] 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.[citation needed] This controversy was due in part to publicist Max Clifford planting sensational stories in tabloid newspapers in order to help boost sales of the game.[5] Due to this success the London 1969 and London 1961 mission packs were released in 1999.

Late 1990s[edit]

During the late 1990s DMA went through a series of financial moves which saw the company sold three times in two years and saw all the founding members leave with a new company set up in its place.

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 favorable reviews.[6][7] 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. With DMA’s most lucrative property owned by another company and the company’s debts rising, Infogrames looked to offload DMA. 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. At the time of the move Rockstar Games were pushing for a 3D solution to the GTA series, and with the Space Station team essentially creating a 3D demo version of GTA, development of GTA III was to be started by the Space Station team in Edinburgh.

In September 1999 DMA both published their last game and were sold to Rockstar Games with GTA 2 becoming DMA’s last game as the original company. Released to a mixed response the game was criticized for not moving on as much as it could have from its predecessor. The day before GTA 2 was released, Take-Two officially purchased DMA Design. This new company was based around the Edinburgh Office with the Dundee studio closing very soon after. Formed around Leslie Benzies, Aaron Garbut, Adam Fowler, Obbe Vermeij and (originally hired as producer for the Body Harvest follow up) Andrew Semple this new company was focused almost exclusively on the development of GTA III. Jones went on to found a subsidiary of Rage Software, which then turned into Real Time Worlds after a management buy-out. The company was most notable for releasing Crackdown for the Xbox360.

Games[edit]

Title Release
year
Platform Notes
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
Walker 1993 Amiga
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
Body Harvest 1998 N64
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
Tanktics
Wild Metal Country PC, Dreamcast
Grand Theft Auto 2 PC, PS1, Dreamcast, GBC

References[edit]