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DMA Design (now Rockstar North) is a developer of computer and video games, formerly based in Dundee, Scotland, and now located in the heart of Edinburgh. It is the primary developer of the Grand Theft Auto series, including Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which are three of the best-selling games of this console generation; in its earlier guise as DMA, it was responsible for originating the monumentally successful Lemmings franchise.
Founded by Dave Jones, the name DMA was originally taken from the Amiga programming manuals simply because it sounded cool and did not actually mean anything. The initials were later 'retrofitted' so that they briefly stood for Direct Mind Access, a play on the computer term Direct Memory Access, before finally standing for Doesn't Mean Anything, thus making official the playful notion that they were indeed meaningless.
DMA scored two early successes with Menace and Blood Money -- side-scrolling space shooters which gained some attention from gamers and critics for both their high-quality presentation and punishing level of difficulty. As with all the company's early games, Menace and Blood Money debuted on the Amiga, with DOS ports coming later.
Early 1990s: Lemmings, Body Harvest and Grand Theft Auto
DMA's major breakthrough came with 1990's Lemmings, a deviously simple puzzle game that went on to sell over 20 million copies on 21 different systems (ranging from major platforms like the NES and Macintosh to such relatively obscure formats as the FM Towns and the Philips CD-i). Much of DMA's time over the next few years was devoted to Lemmings follow-ups (Oh No! More Lemmings, Lemmings 2: The Tribes, All New World of Lemmings, and two Christmas-themed Holiday Lemmings special editions), although they did manage to release two original titles: 1993's Walker (a coolly received side-scrolling mech shooter) and 1994's Hired Guns (an innovative first-person strategy game with a four-way split screen). Other Lemmings sequels and spinoffs, such as Lemmings Paintball and Lemmings 3D, have appeared over the years, but these were produced without DMA's involvement.
1994's Uniracers, an odd 2D racer featuring disembodied unicycles with a heavy emphasis on stunts, was the company's first game to debut on a console (the Super Nintendo). Published by Nintendo, it also marked DMA's first game without Psygnosis -- their publisher since Menace -- and the beginning of what would be a long and often bumpy relationship with the Japanese console giant.
After spending some time experimenting with various next-generation consoles (particularly the 3DO), DMA was asked by Nintendo to join their "Dream Team" of developers for the upcoming Ultra 64 system (later renamed Nintendo 64), alongside such other developers as Rare, Paradigm, Midway Games, and LucasArts. Under this arrangement, DMA would produce an N64-exclusive title that Nintendo would publish. The result of this collaboration was Body Harvest, a third-person 3D vehicular action game with a decidedly un-Nintendo storyline about aliens arriving on Earth at various points in history to harvest mankind for food. However, whereas Psygnosis took a hands-off approach towards its outside developers, Nintendo was far more demanding, requiring a number of major overhauls to the original design (most notably the addition of puzzle and role-playing elements, intended to make the game more appealing to the Japanese market). The game underwent numerous delays, and Nintendo finally decided to drop their publishing plans. Midway picked up the rights and finally released it in 1998—nearly three years after the game was first shown at the N64's Japanese unveiling. Reaction was mostly favourable, although more than a few gamers criticized the decidedly sub-par graphics (no doubt a result of the inordinately long production schedule).
In the interim, the company released (through the short-lived BMG Interactive label) Grand Theft Auto for the PC and PlayStation, which applied the Body Harvest play mechanism of allowing control of any vehicle in the environment to a top-down 2D game of cops-and-robbers, putting the player in the role of a petty hood who works his way up through the criminal ranks in three fictional U.S. cities; Liberty City, Vice City, and San Andreas. Despite its undetailed retro graphics and tongue-in-cheek humour, GTA (as it was soon known) still attracted controversy for its violence, with the Daily Mail characteristically calling for an outright ban. The uproar no doubt contributed in some part to making GTA DMA's biggest success since Lemmings, but its most distinguishing feature was the incredible degree of freedom afforded to the player, with vast, fully explorable cities and dozens of optional missions. DMA's second N64 title, Space Station Silicon Valley, was yet another take on the multiple vehicles concept, this time in a 3D platforming environment and with robotic animals—each with unique abilities, such as hovering sheep and turret-equipped turtles -- instead of cars and trucks.
Late 1990s: A change of publishers
In 1997, DMA was sold to British publisher Gremlin Interactive, with Jones becoming Creative Director of both companies. Gremlin managed to publish two DMA titles—the UK release of Body Harvest and the PC version of Wild Metal Country, a seemingly simplistic tank combat game with a complex control scheme and extremely realistic physics—but DMA left the Gremlin fold shortly after that company's acquisition by Infogrames in 1999. Jones left DMA at this point, setting up a new development studio in Dundee as a subsidiary of Rage Software, and through a management buy-out, later became Real Time Worlds. DMA's next title, Tanktics, a real-time strategy game for the PC, was published by Interplay in 1999, to generally poor reviews; DMA then forged a publishing deal with Rockstar Games, a new division of Take Two Interactive, who proceeded to release the Dreamcast version of Wild Metal Country (retitled simply Wild Metal) and Grand Theft Auto 2 for the PC, PlayStation and Dreamcast.
2000s: More Grand Theft Auto, Manhunt, and beyond
Whereas GTA2 had been an incremental improvement on the original, keeping the top-down 2D perspective and adding a few new features (namely a somewhat complicated system of forging alliances and rivalries with numerous competing gangs), 2001's Grand Theft Auto III was a huge step forward, bringing the series into full 3D (plus a roster of top Hollywood voice talent). It became the PlayStation 2's biggest system seller in both the U.S. and Europe; Sony, realising that the game was a sure-fire success, paid Rockstar to keep it a PS2 exclusive for some time. Rockstar bought DMA outright, renaming the company "Rockstar North" in early 2002. That same year saw the release of a PC version of GTA3, as well as Grand Theft Auto: Vice City for the PS2, which retained the engine and core gameplay of GTA3 while adding a number of refinements. In 2003, the company released a PC port of Vice City, as well as a two-pack of both GTA3 and Vice City for Microsoft's Xbox console (ported by Rockstar Vienna).
Manhunt was released for the PS2 in 2003. The game is a violent stealth adventure in which an apparently executed death-row inmate finds himself the star of a Running Man-esque game show, fleeing expert killers in a struggle for survival. Rockstar North released Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas for the PS2 in October 2004, and ports to Xbox and PC followed in 2005.
Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, a new instalment exclusive to PlayStation Portable, was released in October 2005. It was developed by Rockstar Leeds, under Rockstar North's supervision. It was ported to the PS2 in 2006. Also in 2006, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories was released for PSP and PS2.
Grand Theft Auto IV was planned for a 2007 release, but was eventually released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2008. The studio is currently working on an GTA sequel for the Nintendo DS called Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars which is scheduled to be released late 2008.
DMA's history is also marked by several announced projects that were subsequently cancelled in mid-development: Nintendo 64 ports of Wild Metal Country and the original GTA; Clan Wars (a real-time 3D castle siege game set in medieval Scotland); Attack! (a caveman-themed platformer for the N64); and a port of Epic Games' PC hit Unreal for the Nintendo 64 disk drive (cancelled when it became clear that Nintendo had no enthusiasm for the add-on device, which was never released outside of Japan). Additionally, a PC update of Hired Guns utilizing the Unreal engine was in development at start-up Devil's Thumb Entertainment and scheduled for a 2000 release, but cancelled following the dissolution of publisher Psygnosis.
- Menace (1988) (Amiga, ST and PC)
- Ballistix (1989) (MSDOS, C64, TG16 ports)
- Blood Money (1989) (Amiga, C64)
- Lemmings (1990) (Amiga, CDTV, MS-DOS, ST, Spectrum, CD-I, Lynx)
- Shadow of the Beast (1991) (C64, TG16-CDROM ports)
- Oh No! More Lemmings (1991) (Amiga, ST, MS-DOS)
- Walker (1993) (Amiga)
- Hired Guns (1993) (Amiga, MS-DOS)
- Holiday Lemmings 1993 (1993) (MS-DOS)
- Lemmings 2: The Tribes (1993) (Amiga, MS-DOS, SNES)
- All New World of Lemmings (1994) (Amiga, MS-DOS, 3DO) (published in the U.S. as The Lemmings Chronicles)
- Holiday Lemmings 1994 (1994) (MS-DOS)
- Unirally (1994) (SNES) (published in the U.S. as Uniracers)
- Grand Theft Auto (1997) (MS-DOS, Windows)
- Body Harvest (1998) (N64)
- Space Station Silicon Valley (1998) (N64)
- Grand Theft Auto 2 (1999) (PC, PlayStation, Dreamcast)
- Grand Theft Auto: London, 1969 (1999) - Expansion Pack for GTA
- Grand Theft Auto: London, 1961 (2000) - Free Expansion Pack for GTA: London 1969
- Tanktics (1999)
- Wild Metal Country (1999) (PC and Dreamcast) (Dreamcast version published as Wild Metal)
- Grand Theft Auto III (2001)
- Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (2002)
- Manhunt (2003)
- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004)
- Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories (2005)
- Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories (2006)
- Grand Theft Auto IV (2008)
- Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (2008)
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