Seems ridiculous, what with Rockstar's epic crime series still a benchmark for open-world gameplay, but did you know that the very first GTA came close to never being released?
It had nothing to do with politics, or censorship, either. Instead, it was regular old-fashioned development troubles that nearly robbed the world of one of its most cherished and influential franchises.
"It never really felt like it was going anywhere. It was almost canned", says Gary Penn, who worked at original developers DMA Design on the game. "The publisher, BMG Interactive, wanted to can it, as it didn't seem to be going anywhere."
"There are probably two key things it fell down on. Two critical things. One of them is stability, which is a really boring one but it crashed all the fucking time. So even if you did get something in the game, you couldn't really test it."
The other? The cars.
"Now the other thing that was a problem was the handling — the car handling was appalling...the core of playing was fundamentally broken."
Luckily a few tweaks were made, such as making the police car AI psychopathic, and the game was good to go. Millions of copies and nearly fifteen years later and it's still going!
The Replay Interviews: Gary Penn [Gamasutra]