Today in Gaming History: Grand Theft Auto III Helps Brings ‘Open World’ to the Mainstream

grand theft auto iii

The early 2000s saw a rise in popularity of open world gaming, thanks in a large part (not solely) by Grand Theft Auto III. Though the series had been known for its arcade-style 2D gameplay, its journey into the third dimension would become much more revolutionary.

grand theft auto iii
In 2000, the exciting graphical possibilities of the new console cycle had prompted many game series’ to jump from 2D to 3D. The newly rebranded Rockstar Games saw their time to shine with a third Grand Theft Auto game. Having worked on the two previous entries in the GTA series, developer DMA Design faced new challenges in translating that distinct style and gameplay to a 3D landscape.

In order to take advantage of the larger DVD storage capacity of the PlayStation 2, the 23-person team decided to create a large living cityscape for players to interact with. To accomplish this, the developer tasked themself with building a new game engine.

“You needed to be able to get into a car and drive at full speed and not have everything break down. It took a lot of tuning and technical tricks to get that done.”

– Jeremy Pope, former Rockstar Games writer, producer

The game’s script was heavily based on the gangster dramas of Martin Scorsese. Keeping track of the narrative and gameplay elements could become so complex at times that entire rooms would be filled with post-it notes.

grand theft auto iii post its
When Grand Theft Auto III was put on store shelves on October 22, 2003, critics and fans widely praised the game’s open world design, gameplay, and cinematic quality. Many recognized the high bar set for the open world genre.

Not everyone would give it their seal of approval (GameSpy would actually give the opposite). Numerous outlets condemned the game’s depiction of crime and violence against police, even though the game went out of its way to punish the player for disobeying the law. Go figure.

What do you think? Does GTA III still hold up? Are the 2D games better? Does the thought of Grand Theft Auto offend you to your core? If so, why did you click on this? I’m curious.

All these questions and more can be answered in the comments below!

Eric Hall2555 Posts

Phone-browsing Wikipedia in one hand and clutching his trusty controller in the other, the legendary Eric Hall spreads his wealth of knowledge as a writer for Don't Feed the Gamers. Be sure to catch his "Throwback Thursday" segment for a nostalgic look at trivia from the past.


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