Rockstar North Ltd. (formerly DMA Design Limited) is a developer of computer and video games based in Edinburgh, Scotland. The company is a part of Rockstar Games which is owned by Take Two Interactive. 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 on sixth-generation consoles; in its earlier guise as DMA, it was responsible for originating the Lemmings franchise.
DMA Design was founded in 1988 by David Jones, Russell Kay, Steve Hammond and Mike Dailly in Dundee, Scotland. The name DMA was taken from the Amiga programming manuals (where it stood for Direct Memory Access) and the initials were later 'retrofitted' so that they briefly stood for Direct Mind Access (DMA was also jokingly referred to as "Doesn't Mean Anything" by a company founder). In 1988 DMA signed with UK label Psygnosis and developed Menace and Blood Money -- side-scrolling space shooters which gained attention from gamers and critics for both their high-quality presentation and difficulty. As with all the company's early games, Menace and Blood Money debuted on the Amiga, one of the leading platforms for videogames in Europe between the late 1980s and the early 1990s. A Commodore 64 port was published immediately after, later followed by DOS and Atari ST versions.
DMA's major breakthrough came with 1990's Lemmings, a simple puzzle game that sold over 20 million copies on 21 different systems. It debuted on the Amiga and it was available on other major platforms like the NES and Macintosh, and obscure formats as the FM Towns and the 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). They also released two original titles: 1993's Walker (a side-scrolling mech shooter) and 1994's Hired Guns (a first-person tactical shooter 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.
1994's Uniracers, a 2D platform racer featuring riderless unicycles 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, which got bought out by Sony in 1993. This was 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 storyline about aliens arriving on Earth to harvest humans for food. Nintendo requested a number of major overhauls, such as the addition of puzzle and role-playing elements, 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, almost three years after the game was first shown. Reaction was mostly favourable, in particular for the game's innovation and free-roaming gameplay, although a few gamers criticized the graphics.
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. The game put the player in the role of a petty hood who works his way up through the criminal ranks in three fictional US cities; Liberty City, Vice City, and San Andreas. Despite its undetailed retro graphics and tongue-in-cheek humour, GTA (as it was soon known) attracted controversy for its violence, with the Daily Mail calling for an outright ban. The uproar no doubt contributed in some part to making GTA a success.
Its given the player 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 such as hovering sheep and turret-equipped turtles -- instead of cars and trucks.
In 1997, DMA was bought by British publisher Gremlin Interactive, with Jones becoming Creative Director of both companies. Gremlin published two DMA titles -- the UK release of Body Harvest and the PC version of Wild Metal Country, a tank combat game with a complex control scheme and realistic physics. In 1999 Gremlin was acquired by French publisher Infogrames for £24 million. Complicating this sale was the pre-existing deal between DMA and BMG Interactive, which had published the first version of Grand Theft Auto, and by 1999 itself had gone through some complex financial moves, becoming Rockstar Games, an internal label of publisher Take-Two Interactive.
Infogrames sold DMA Design to Take Two. Rockstar published the Dreamcast version of Wild Metal Country (retitled simply Wild Metal) and Grand Theft Auto 2 for the PC, PlayStation and Dreamcast. Prior to DMA becoming part of Rockstar, Jones left, setting up a new development studio in Dundee as a subsidiary of Rage Software. Through a management buy-out, this later became Real Time Worlds.
DMA had 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 building and 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.
Whereas GTA2 had been an incremental improvement on the original, keeping the top-down 2D perspective and adding a few new features, 2001's Grand Theft Auto III brought the series into 3D. It was the first high profile game to use middleware technology; in this case Criterion Software's RenderWare graphics engine. 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 a PC version of GTA III was released, 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 (plus a roster of top Hollywood voice talent). In 2003, the company released a PC port of Vice City, as well as a two-pack of both GTA III 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 a death-row inmate must flee killers. Rockstar North released Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas for the PS2 in October 2004, and ports to Xbox and PC followed in 2005. The studio has Currently Completed work on Grand Theft Auto IV for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It was due to be released on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in October 2007, but on August 2, 2007, the game's release was delayed until April 29th 2008. It's release was met with critical praise, and GTA IV holds the top two spots on gamerankings and sold over 6 million copies at launch.
Rockstar North is continuing work on Grand Theft Auto IV in the form of two pieces of episodic content for the Xbox 360.
Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, a new installment for PlayStation Portable, was released in October 2005. It was developed by Rockstar Leeds, under Rockstar North's supervision. It has been ported to the PlayStation 2 and features a slightly better framerate and draw distance than its PSP counterpart. A second PSP Grand Theft Auto title, Vice City Stories, was also developed by Rockstar Leeds, under Rockstar North's supervision for PSP, and released in October 2006. It was also ported to the PlayStation 2.