Rockstar Leeds

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Rockstar Leeds Limited
Formerly
Möbius Entertainment Limited (1997–2004)
Subsidiary
IndustryVideo games
FoundedDecember 1997; 22 years ago (1997-12)
Founders
  • Gordon Hall
  • Jason McGann
  • Dave Box
  • Ian J. Bowden
Headquarters,
England
Key people
Alastair Dukes (studio director)
ParentRockstar Games (2004–present)

Rockstar Leeds Limited (formerly Möbius Entertainment Limited) is a British video game developer and a studio of Rockstar Games based in Leeds. The company was founded as Möbius Entertainment in December 1997, by Gordon Hall, Jason McGann, Dave Box and Ian J. Bowden. The company developed numerous titles for Game Boy Advance, including an adaptation of Remedy Entertainment's Max Payne (2001), which was published by Rockstar Games in late 2003. In April 2004, Rockstar Games' parent company, Take-Two Interactive, announced that they had acquired Möbious Entertainment. As part of the agreement, the company became part of the Rockstar Games label, and was renamed Rockstar Leeds.

As part of Rockstar Games, Rockstar Leeds primarily focused on game development for PlayStation Portable, developing Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, Vice City Stories and Chinatown Wars. Other project undertaken around this time include PlayStation Portable ports of Rockstar San Diego's Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition (2005), Rockstar Toronto's The Warriors (2005), and Rockstar London's Manhunt 2 (2007), as well as their own game Beaterator (2009), developed in collaboration with Timbaland.

By August 2007, Rockstar Leeds had announced their intentions to switch from handheld game development to next-generation games, where their first such project was the Microsoft Windows port for Team Bondi's L.A. Noire (2011). Formerly the studio's president, Hall resigned from Rockstar Leeds to join Activision's The Blast Furnace studio in August 2012, while art director Bowden left for GameDuell in August 2014. Other studios founded by Rockstar Leeds alumni include Double Eleven, founded by Lee Hutchinson and Matt Shepcar in February 2010, and Red Kite Games, founded by Simon Iwaniszak in June 2012.

Rockstar Leeds has most recently collaborated with all other Rockstar Games subsidiaries to develop Max Payne 3 (2012) as part of the Rockstar Studios collective, and assisted Rockstar North with the development on their Grand Theft Auto V (2013).

History[edit]

As Möbius Entertainment (1997–2004)[edit]

Möbius Entertainment was founded by Gordon Hall, Jason McGann, Dave Box and Ian J. Bowden in December 1997.[1] The new studio's first project was Alfred's Adventure, a Game Boy Color remake of Alfred Chicken, released by SCi in June 2000, exclusively to the European market.[2] The original Alfred Chicken from 1993 was developed by Twilight, which formerly also employed Möbius Entertainment founders McGann and Box.[3] A 3D remake of Alfred Chicken, this time eponymous to the original, was developed by Möbius Entertainment's Monkey King division and released by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe in 2001. Another early project by Möbius Entertainment, Titanium Angels, was announced by SCi in January 2000, alongside a game based on the 1960s television series Thunderbird.[4] In September 2000, SCi revealed that they anticipated the game to release for PlayStation 2 in Q3 2001.[5] The game went silent afterwards, however, when questioned about it in October 2003, Möbius Entertainment stated that the game had been cancelled "some time ago".[6][7]

The company's focus would stay on handheld games, as they signed with The 3DO Company to develop a Game Boy Advance conversion for High Heat Major League Baseball 2002, the then-newest entry in the High Heat Major League Baseball series,[8] and later extend to High Heat Major League Baseball 2003.[9] Both titles were met with mixed reception.[10][11] In late 2002, The 3DO Company also released Möbius Entertainment-developed Army Men: Turf Wars.[12] Another entry in the High Heat Major League Baseball series, High Heat Major League Baseball 2004, was announced in late 2002.[13] Although the game was completed, and the game's Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 2 and Xbox version had already been released, The 3DO Company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May 2003,[14] leaving Möbius Entertainment's Game Boy Advance version cancelled.[15] In the resulting bankruptcy auction, Microsoft acquired the High Heat Major League Baseball intellectual property (IP) for US$450,000, while Army Men's assets were purchased by Crave Entertainment for US$750,000.[16][17]

Throughout 2003, Rockstar Leeds continued releasing Game Boy Advance adaptations, such as those of Bionicle and Drome Racers, both for Electronic Arts and Lego Interactive,[18][19] of Barbie Horse Adventures: Blue Ribbon Race and Barbie Horse Adventures: Wild Horse Rescue for Vivendi Universal Games and with Blitz Games, as well as of American Idol for Codemasters.[20] On 5 December 2003, Möbius Entertainment announced that they had acquired Spellbound, another West Yorkshire-based Game Boy Advance developer, who had previously developed the Game Boy Advance versions of Colin McRae Rally 2.0, TOCA World Touring Cars and Starsky & Hutch.[21] The acquisition added over 30 employees to Möbius Entertainment, especially engineers and artists.[22] The last game to release from Möbius Entertainment was the Game Boy Advance version of Max Payne, which was announced in November 2003.[23] The game sought to include all details present in the original 2001 game by Remedy Entertainment, though in an isometric view, rather than the original's third-person view.[24] The game was released by Rockstar Games on 16 December 2003,[25] and received very positive critical reception.[26][27][28] The last game developed under the Möbius Entertainment name was A Sound of Thunder. The game was originally announced at the 2002 Electronic Entertainment Expo in May 2002, set to release alongside the film of the same name.[29] As the film was delayed again and again, the game's publisher, BAM! Entertainment, decided to release it in Europe in February 2004,[30] but reschedule the North American release to the film's September 2004 date.[31] Even though the film had not released yet, BAM! Entertainment released the North American version of the game in February 2005, citing financial issues that would arise if the game was kept on hold for much longer.[32]

As Rockstar Leeds (2004–present)[edit]

Acquisition, PlayStation Portable projects (2004–2009)[edit]

On 8 April 2004, shortly after the European release of Max Payne for Game Boy Advance,[33] Take-Two Interactive, the parent company of Rockstar Games, announced that they had acquired Möbius Entertainment.[34] As part of the deal, the company became part of the Rockstar Games label, and would henceforth be known as Rockstar Leeds.[35] Sam Houser, executive producer at Rockstar Games, stated that they were "very impressed with the [Möbius Entertainment] development team from the time they began work on the Game Boy Advance version of Max Payne".[36] With the acquisition, Rockstar Games sought to strengthen their position in the market for Game Boy Advance and PlayStation Portable games,[37] although the new studio's focus shortly shifted to only PlayStation Portable.[38] By this point, Möbius Entertainment employed around 30 staff.[39] Necroscope, an unannounced game based on Brian Lumley's eponymous horror novel series that was in development at Möbius Entertainment at the time of the acquisition, was presumed to be cancelled because of it.[40][41]

Rockstar Leeds' first projects under Take-Two Interactive's ownership were announced as early as January 2005, that being a PlayStation Portable port of Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition and an original PlayStation Portable game in the Grand Theft Auto series set in Liberty City, the location previously seen in 2001's Grand Theft Auto III.[42][43] The Midnight Club 3 port was developed under the oversight of the original game's developer, Rockstar San Diego, and released in June 2005.[44][45] In May 2005, the original Grand Theft Auto game was revealed to be Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, developed in conjunction with series creators Rockstar North.[46] Like the studio's Max Payne conversion, Liberty City Stories sought to include everything that was previously found in Grand Theft Auto games, just in a smaller format, so to optimise it for a handheld platform.[47] Liberty City Stories was released in October 2005, to very positive critical reception.[48][49] A successor to the game, Vice City Stories, was again developed by Rockstar Leeds and Rockstar North, and announced in May 2006.[50] Released in October 2006,[51] the game attempted to vastly improve on the previous instalment, and "smash expectations of portable gaming".[52][53]

As was announced in October 2006, Rockstar Leeds developed a PlayStation Portable port of The Warriors.[54] With the original game's developer, Rockstar Toronto, overseeing the porting process, the port was released in February 2007.[55] In his review written for IGN, Jeremy Dunham introduced the game with "If anything else, The Warriors proves that Rockstar [Leeds] knows how to port console games to PSP.", further elaborating "Fortunately, the port authorities from Rockstar Leeds have succeeded in moving those original console-based mechanics to PSP with few hitches."[56] Another PlayStation Portable port, this time of Rockstar London's Manhunt 2, was announced in February 2007,[57] and released in October 2007.[58] In March 2007, Rockstar Games announced Beaterator as a new, original game by Rockstar Leeds, again for PlayStation Portable.[59] The game is based on Rockstar Games' online Macromedia Flash application of the same name, which was originally released in March 2005.[60] Beaterator was mostly reimagined to centre around American producer Timbaland, who acted as consultant, composer, and advertisement figure for the game.[61][62][63] The game went silent following the announcement, and only reappeared in August 2009, with a release date set for the following month.[64][65] The resulting product was later used for music education in public schools around New York City, the city in which Rockstar Games is headquartered.[66]

Within the time of Beaterator's covert development, Rockstar Games also announced Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, partially considered a spiritual successor to Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories, in February 2009.[67] The game marked the Grand Theft Auto series' debut on Nintendo DS, and was developed specifically to make use of the platforms touch screen capabilities.[68][69] The game was released for Nintendo DS in March 2008,[70] with a PlayStation Portable port announced in August that year.[71] As the Nintendo game card format was able to store more data than Sony's Universal Media Disc, Rockstar Games claimed early that the game would be bigger on Nintendo DS than its PlayStation Portable counterpart,[72] however, Rockstar Leeds worked around the file size limitations to retain all of the game's contents on both platforms.[73] Although critical reception for Chinatown Wars was extremely positive on both platforms, with some gaming outlets giving it perfect review scores,[74] the game fell behind commercially, only selling roughly 88,000 copies within its first year of release.[75] As of November 2013, the game held the highest-ever aggregated review score for a Nintendo DS game on Metacritic, at 93/100.[76]

For the 2009 Develop Industry Excellence Awards, Rockstar Leeds was announced a finalist for the "Best Handheld Games Studio" and "Best In-House Team" awards, while Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars was nominated in the "Visual Arts" and "Technical Innovation" categories.[77][78] Out of the four accolades, "Best Handheld Games Studio" was won by Rockstar Leeds.[79][80]

Other projects, departures (2007–present)[edit]

In August 2007, the studio announced that they were branching into next-generation game development, seeking to develop their own new intellectual property, and step away from handheld development.[81][82] Their first such project was the port of Rockstar San Diego's Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis from Xbox 360 to Wii, as was announced in July 2007.[83][84] Based on fan reception, Rockstar Leeds implemented the game to utilise the Wii Remote's motion detection capabilities, which was found to be ideal for a table tennis game.[85] The port was released in October 2007.[86] Their only other port to be developed outside PlayStation Portable since was Team Bondi's L.A. Noire, for which Rockstar Leeds was given the task to port it to Microsoft Windows.[87] The port was announced in June 2011, just a month after the original game's release,[88][89] and released in November 2011.[90][91] By July 2013, Rockstar Leeds started teasing that they would "bring [their] latest titles to the PC platform", seeking to employ new graphics programmer] alongside it.[92][93][94] Journalists suspected that these "latest titles" would be Rockstar San Diego's Red Dead Redemption (2010) and Rockstar North's Grand Theft Auto V (2013).[95][96]

In February 2010, Lee Hutchinson announced that he had left the company to establish a new development company, Double Eleven.[97] Hutchinson aimed for the studio to primarily focus on games for iOS, as such return to what he calls "bedroom coding", as opposed to working to AAA titles.[98][99] Following the studio's establishment, Hutchinson was joined by Matt Shepcar as the studio's first employee; both, Hutchinson and Shepcar, were previously employed at Rockstar Leeds as senior developers.[100][101] In June 2012, senior designer Simon Iwaniszak announced that he had resigned from Rockstar Leeds to join Double Eleven, though also left that studio shortly to found Red Kite Games, also an iOS developer.[102] In August 2012, founding member Hall, who until then acted as president of Rockstar Leeds, announced that he left the company for Activision's mobile-focused The Blast Furnace studio.[103][104][105] The studio, formerly known as Activision Leeds, previously hired Mark Washbrook and Mark Lloyd, former studio heads of Rockstar London and Rockstar Lincoln, respectively, in May 2012.[106][107] Hall was later succeeded by Alastair Dukes, a programmer who originally joined the company through the Spellbound acquisition, as general manager. In August 2014, founding member Bowden, until then the studio's art director, announced that he had exited Rockstar Leeds to head for German social-network game developer GameDuell, and assume a new art director role.[108][109]

Games developed[edit]

As Möbius Entertainment[edit]

Year Title Platform(s) Publisher(s) Notes
2000 Alfred's Adventure Game Boy Color SCi N/A
2001 High Heat Major League Baseball 2002 Game Boy Advance The 3DO Company
2002 High Heat Major League Baseball 2003
Alfred Chicken PlayStation Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Army Men: Turf Wars Game Boy Advance The 3DO Company
2003 Drome Racers THQ
Bionicle
Barbie Horse Adventures: Blue Ribbon Race Vivendi Universal Games Co-developed with Blitz Games
Barbie Horse Adventures: Wild Horse Rescue
American Idol Codemasters N/A
Max Payne Rockstar Games
2004 A Sound of Thunder BAM! Entertainment

As Rockstar Leeds[edit]

Year Title Platform(s) Publisher(s) Notes
2005 Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition PlayStation Portable Rockstar Games Ported only; game developed by Rockstar San Diego
Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories Android, Fire OS, iOS, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable Developed in association with Rockstar North
2006 Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable
2007 The Warriors PlayStation Portable Ported only; game developed by Rockstar Toronto
Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis Wii Ported only; game developed by Rockstar San Diego
Manhunt 2 PlayStation Portable Ported only; game developed by Rockstar London
2009 Beaterator iOS, PlayStation Portable N/A
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars Android, Fire OS, iOS, Nintendo DS, PlayStation Portable Developed in association with Rockstar North
2010 Red Dead Redemption PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 Supportive development for Rockstar San Diego
2011 L.A. Noire Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One Supportive development for Team Bondi; also ported to Microsoft Windows
2012 Max Payne 3 macOS, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 Developed as part of Rockstar Studios
2013 Grand Theft Auto V Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One Supportive development for Rockstar North
2018 Red Dead Redemption 2 Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Stadia, Xbox One Developed as part of Rockstar Studios

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