DMA Design LTD – Grand Theft Auto 1 Design Document


Here’s a classic — DMA Design LTD’s (now Rockstar Games) Grand Theft Auto 1 design document! Cheers to the anonymous contributor that emailed this in.

In Grand Theft Auto, the player takes the role of a small-time criminal trying to make it big with the mob. Stealing cars, doing jobs for the gangsters and behaving generally anti-social are the way to success.

The action moves through six levels spread over three different cities, each based on a real US city: Liberty City (based on New York City), San Andreas (based on San Francisco) and Vice City (based on Miami). To finish a level, a certain score must be reached. Stealing cars and crashing into traffic, driving over pedestrians and killing cops all raise the score, but the big points are made through jobs. Answering phones or entering special cars brings mission assignments, from simple “ditch-a-hot-car” jobs to supporting bank robberies or carrying out assassinations. Completing a mission will raise the score substantially and also increase the score multiplier, so that completing the next felony will gain even more points.

Criminal behavior comes with a price of course: if policemen witness a crime, the player’s wanted level rises. At the lowest level, a single police car might give chase, whereas at the highest level whole car squads hunt the player, the police set up roadblocks and shoot to kill. The only way to evade the cops is to find a respray shop and get a new paint job with new license plates. This costs money which is deducted from the score, however. But even dying or being arrested are not the end. The player has several lives, and ending up in jail simply results in being stripped of all weapons and armor and the score multiplier being lowered.

The entire action is viewed from a top-down perspective, which zooms out while driving a car, for a better overview at high speeds. The cities are many screens large and can be freely explored. Crates are scattered over the cities, which might include weapons (from pistols to rocket launchers), armor or other bonus items: extra lives, police bribes (used to reduce the wanted level to zero) and get-out-of-jail-free cards (used to retain score multiplier and weapons when busted). Dozens of different vehicles are available for the taking, each with unique characteristics: a bus will handle very differently than a sports car.

Source: Anonymous contributor pointing me to Mike Dailly’s Flickr. Cheers!

Grand Theft Auto Design Document

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7 Responses to “DMA Design LTD – Grand Theft Auto 1 Design Document”

  1. Street Rally says:

    for sharing a review on this game! I am a big fan of the GTA series. But
    speaking of GTA, check out a game we developed called streetrally.
     This might interest you because of its GTA feel. Here is the link for
    the game . Thanks! 

  2. […] I came across was the Irrational Games – Bioshock Pitch Document!. Although, there is a Grand Theft Auto 1 Design Document posted also. What are you waiting for? Go check out the site now and thank me later! […]

  3. xploder says:


    […]Game Pitches | Game Pitches[…]…

  4. […] some good stuff on there – from the GTA design doc to Spider’s original concept doc. Note to fledgling designers: they’re impressively […]

  5. Hadisazabeen says:

    hey i want to say that is this is a game in which the camera is really on the upper side 

  6. Robert Chomiak says:

    Thanks so much for providing this. Just wanted to note the page numbering is out of order: pg 5 should be moved up as it is currently “pg 8.”

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