Profile: Scotland's Rockstar North

Profile: Scotland's Rockstar North
Will Freeman

By Will Freeman

August 28th 2009 at 11:39AM

The infamously controversial GTA studio in focus

Year founded: 1988 (As DMA Design)

Headcount: Unconfirmed

Key staff:
Leslie Benzies (studio head)

Previous projects:
Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Grand Theft Auto IV, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, Manhunt, Manhunt 2

Currently working on:
Grand Theft Auto: The Ballard of Gay Tony, Agent

Founded in 1988 as DMA Design by David Jones, Russell Kay, Steve Hammond and Mike Dailly, the studio is most famously responsible for the Grand Theft Auto series – the impact of which continues to resonate, influencing game design and courting extraordinarily high sales.

Before its open world crime-romp debuted, DMA’s biggest success was the Lemmings series, which continues to court iconic status today, and remains a testament to the developer’s knack for witty, hugely popular output.

Shortly after relocating from Dundee to Edinburgh at the turn of the century, Rockstar bought DMA after a complicated flurry of acquisitions and deals that saw the developer pass through the hands of Gremlin Interactive, which was itself purchased by Infogrames.
In the wake of the name change that came with the sale, Rockstar North has primarily focussed on the Grand Theft Auto series, and is largely responsible for the brand within the wider organisation.

GTA IV

Shortly afterwards, GTA III was conceived and created, and the move into 3D that it brought about is largely responsibly for the ongoing popularity of sandbox gaming. Rockstar heads Dan and Sam Houser continue to be fundamental contributors to Rockstar North developments, and have contributed to the Grand Theft Auto games as producers, voice actors, and writers, often without official credit.

Rockstar North is also infamous for the evocative nature of much of its output, and has often faced accusations of being sensationalist, immoral or, alternatively, tabloid-baiting. The studio has inflamed the senses of numerous public figures, and has been outrageously blamed numerous times by the press for influencing real world crimes.

The Manhunt series makes for the best example of Rockstar’s talent for the controversial, and the sequel to the original game still stands as one of the most contentious releases yet submitted for release. Recent months have seen Rockstar North demonstrate an increasing interest in downloadable content in the wake of Grand Theft Auto IV. The Lost and Damned expansion is already set to be followed by a sequel, The Ballard of Gay Tony, which marks the studio’s next release.

At E3, Rockstar North confirmed that Agent, a new piece of IP, is underway, and is set in the Cold War era. The game promises to take players to a world of counter-intelligence, espionage and political assassinations; a topic the studio is sure to be able to infuse with its trademark layer of cultural referencing and, perhaps, tongue-in-cheek humour.


CONTACT:
Rockstar North
Calton Square
1 Greenside Row
Edinburgh
EH1 3AP