Inside Rockstar North

Published on October 6, 2013

The Scoop: Rockstar North

Rockstar North Origins

When Rockstar North was founded in 1988 as DMA Design, the Edinburgh, Scotland-based studio had no idea it was on track to become one of the hottest video game developers in the world. DMA’s fearless leader, David Jones, would famously become the creator of the Grand Theft Auto series, driving parents and politicians across the world insane with his graphic depictions of real-world crime, which included drug usage, prostitution, and quite a bit of blood.

Rockstar North

Before GTA, though, the studio gained prominence for early side-scrolling shooters but it hit the pay dirt with its wildly popular Lemmings series, which took a much more playful vibe than DMA/Rockstar North would become known for. Following the release of Lemmings, DMA worked on several different games before they found unlikely success with the original top-down Grand Theft Auto.

The House that Grand Theft Auto Built

According to current studio director Andy Semple, who boasts the distinction of being one of the few originals at the studio, DMA/Rockstar North began as a 25 person operation, but has since grown to a massive 360 person team. The studio itself is noted for its wide-open design, with practically no walls or high cubicles dividing the 40,000 square foot studio, which some may say influences its signature open-ended game design.

Rockstar North

Without a doubt, the Grand Theft Auto franchise has changed the way games are made, and following the unprecedented success of Grand Theft Auto III, so many games have blatantly copied its gameplay that Wikipedia has an entire article devoted to the games that mimic its “sandbox”-style play called “Grand Theft Auto Clones”.

Yet, while Rockstar North is the originators of the now-classic style, the entire Rockstar network of studios has become sort of a family, and President of Rockstar North, Leslie Benzies, says that, “everyone works on GTA, or Red Dead, and so on, then we move on to the next thing” and that it now takes over 1,000 people from all over the world to finish one of Rockstar’s critically acclaimed games.

Track Record of Excellence

Rockstar North’s marquee games, the Grand Theft Auto series, Red Dead Redemption, LA Noire, Manhunt, and Max Payne 3 all have received excellent scores from critics and the studio’s most recent release of Grand Theft Auto V has an aggregate score of 97 out of 100 according to the ratings site Metacritic.com. The fifth installment has not been without controversy as it has been criticized for its representation of torture and long-time GTA opponent Jack Thompson has continued his crusade against the franchise.

Rockstar North

Despite some bad press, the game has been lauded for its huge, ambitious world as well as its character development and engrossing plot and it shattered sales records. According to Forbes, GTA V sold over 13 million units amounting to over $800 million in sales in the first 24 hours it was on sale, and proceeded to do over $1 billion in sales over three days, which established the game as the fastest selling entertainment product in history.

If that isn’t a testament to Rockstar North’s level of craftsmanship, then the definition of “testament” is severely flawed.

What Comes Next?

While GTA V has been shining brightly in the spotlight, Rockstar North has been working on their next opus, Agent, quietly for the past few years. The game has been kept deep undercover and current details are scarce, aside from the fact that it takes place in the late-1970’s and is steeped in Cold War-era espionage and a couple of leaked screenshots.

Knowing Rockstar North, it will likely depict a more sinister and realistic version of the dark world of CIA spooks, rather than the candied up James Bond universe of spy-gadgetry and scantily clad women. Actually, since it is a Rockstar game, scantily-clad women are likely a requirement. Nonetheless, the game is a lock to be amazing and while it lacks a set due date, we can all trust Rockstar North to release its next masterpiece when it’s ready.

The hard workers at Rockstar North like to think that they strive for absolute perfection, and those who have played their games would have to wholeheartedly agree. Rockstar has revolutionized the world of gaming and they do not look