The original Grand Theft Auto was almost axed, saved by psycho police car bug


A developer who worked on the very first Grand Theft Auto has revealed that the game came extremely close to being canned completely, but was saved by a lucky bug that turned all of the police cars in the game into psychopathic maniacs.

Speaking to Gamasutra , designer Gary Penn mentions how close GTA came to cancellation. "It never really felt like it was going anywhere. It was almost canned. The publisher, BMG Interactive, wanted to can it, as it didn't seem to be going anywhere."

Penn cites two critical reasons why the game was failing. The first was that the game would constantly crash, and was too unstable to even test. "The other thing that was a problem", explains Penn, "was the handling -- the car handling was appalling. The core of playing was fundamentally broken."

Penn claims that a fortuitous bug turned the game around, when a quirk of coding caused the police cars in the game to become very, very angry. "One day, I think it was a bug, the police suddenly became mental and aggressive. It was because they were trying to drive through you. Their route finding was screwed I think and that was an awesome moment because suddenly the real drama where, 'Oh my God, the police are psycho -- they're trying to ram me off the road.'"

"That was awesome, so that stayed in," he adds.

Tom Senior

Part of the UK team, Tom was with PC Gamer at the very beginning of the website's launch—first as a news writer, and then as online editor until his departure in 2020. His specialties are strategy games, action RPGs, hack ‘n slash games, digital card games… basically anything that he can fit on a hard drive. His final boss form is Deckard Cain.