What Do Grand Theft Auto And Lemmings Have In Common?

Rockstar North is a video game developer known and respected the world over as the creators and continued custodians of the core Grand Theft Auto series.

That's earned it a reputation as a specialist in the field of mature, cinematic video games. Games where drugs are dealt, prostitutes killed and people say fuck with a straight face.

So it's easy to see how people forget it's also the same studio that made Lemmings.

Rockstar North hasn't always been called Rockstar North. It was once an independent video game developer known as DMA design, which was founded in the Scottish city of Dundee in 1988. After releasing a couple of games for cult hero publisher Psygnosis, in 1990 the team designed a game called Lemmings. It starred stupid little creatures with green hair that you had to save from repeated and grisly doom.

It would go on to sell over 20 million copies.

For the duration of the 1990s, Lemmings' success (and production line of sequels and spin-offs) allowed DMA the indulgence of experimenting with as many game genres as they could get their hands on. They released a racing game (Uniracers), a Space Hulk-esque tactical shooter (Hired Guns), a side-scrolling shooter (Walker), a platformer (Space Station Silicon Valley), a tank combat game (Wild Metal Country) and a weird 3D action game called Body Harvest.

Oh, and also a little something called Grand Theft Auto, along with every core console game in the series to date.

So why is Rockstar North simply the house that GTA built, and not also the house built by some of the PC's best titles of the 90s, including one of the first great casual successes in the platform's history? There are two reasons.

One is simply the name change. After a succession of messy purchases, sales and transfers in the late 1990's, DMA ended up becoming a part of the newly-formed Rockstar Games, which in turn was owned by Take-Two Interactive, after which DMA's name was changed to Rockstar North, which it still uses today. So the DMA-to-Rockstar link isn't explicit if you don't know the history.

Another is a key change in personnel. For a long time DMA was headed up by David Jones, one of the studio's founders and the man often given credit for the creation of both Lemmings and the Grand Theft Auto series. Yet just before the transition from DMA to Rockstar North, Jones left the company, and would go on to found Crackdown and APB developers Realtime Worlds (which has since gone bust).

While the people at the top changed as dramatically as the studio's name during that transition period (Jones replaced at the top by Sam & Dan Houser, who continue to head up not just Rockstar North but Rockstar Games as a whole), it's still the same studio. Many developers carried over during the shift, bridging the gap and ensuring the "DNA" of DMA remained intact.

It wasn't a case of, as you see so often these days, a studio literally closing down and some of its former members relocating elsewhere. This was the same studio simply given a new name.

So next time you see somebody saying they hate Rockstar, that all they make is cinematic fluff, that all they do is bait tabloid newspapers with risquee content, remember: they also made Lemmings! Sort of.

Total Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends.

Comments

    I must confess, I did not know (or had forgotten) they made Space Station Silicon Valley or Body Harvest... both awesome games for the N64.
    Respect up.

    Walker was an AMAZING game on the Amiga. I loved it. You got to stomp around in what was basically ED209 from the Robocop films, but about 10 storeys tall, mowing down little soldiers, shooting down choppers, etc. Awesome fun.

    I loved Hired Guns, too. Was a bit like a sci fi version of Dungeon Master, and Dungeon Master was pretty close to my all-time favourite Amiga game.

    Man I played so much Lemmings, Psygnosis was right up there with Team 17 (for Assassin and Alien Breed, not Worms) and Bullfrog as the game companies whose logos made me grin when I saw them on my flickery Amiga monitor.

      Oh man, I miss Bullfrog. Theme Hospital and Dungeon Keeper 2 remain two of my favorite games to this day. Not to mention everything else they ever put out.

    I would not describe any of Rockstar's recent (past 15 years) games as Mature, with perhaps the exception of LA Noire.

      What about Red Dead m8

    I still remember the DMA logo walking around until it was run over in the first GTA.
    The fire engines were among the fastest vehicles in the game once they got up speed on a long straight stretch, but very difficult to control. Much tougher than the quick-but-volatile police cruisers, though.

    Uniracers and silicon valley <3 how did I forget about these gems!

    they always tried to hint newer generations about their roots with their intro screens, I loved the tape sound un vice city.

    I got an opinion on this. Since Max Payne 3 is being relsaeed is March, why would GTA be relsaeed in April? I mean yeah, I hope it does get relsaeed around that time, but do you think that we would be seeing more trailers about it? GTA IV trailer with actual gameplay and stuff was relsaeed like 5 months before it came out and we only seen a small bit of the trailer (TEASER). So in my basic opinion, I honestly think that the game will come out 4-5 months after Max Payne. When it does come out, I'll be on it alot, gonna do story mode than online. I was actually hoping that they would hold up on Max Payne and release GTA before but I think Rockstar will release GTA V in October just becuase they want to make sure they got the stuff they need to do done with it and probably a more high durability of them getting game of the year on it.

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