Codex Gamicus

DMA Design was a Scottish video game developer, best known for creating the Grand Theft Auto and Lemmings franchises. The company was purchased by Gremlin Interactive in 1997, and became part of Infogrames when Infogrames bought Gremlin Interactive in 1999. In September 1999, Infogrames sold DMA Design to Take-Two Interactive. Earlier in 1998, Take-Two Interactive acquired the assets of the then-dormant publisher BMG Interactive (who previously had a publishing deal with DMA Design). BMG Interactive's assets were passed to a new subsidiary of Take-Two Interactive, Rockstar Games, in December 1998; in 2002, DMA Design was rebranded as Rockstar North.


Late 1980s[]

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.

Early 1990s[]

DMA's major breakthrough came with 1990's Lemmings, a dynamic 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 was 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, Acclaim, Midway Games, and LucasArts.

DMA Arrangement[]

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.

Grand Theft Auto[]

In the interim, the company released (through the short-lived BMG Interactive label) Grand Theft Auto for the PC whilst neighbouring developer Visual Science converted the PlayStation version, 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. 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.

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

Late 1990s-2002[]

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 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. Take-Two Interactive acquired DMA Design in 2002, renaming the company to "Rockstar Studios" in March 2002, followed by a rebrand to "Rockstar North" in May 2002.

Developed Video Games[]

Year Title Platforms
1988 Menace Amiga, Atari ST and MS-DOS
1989 Ballistix Commodore 64, MS-DOS and TurboGrafx-16
1989 Blood Money Amiga, Atari ST Commodore 64 and MS-DOS
1990 Lemmings Amiga, CD-i, CDTV, Atari Lynx, Atari ST, Commodore 64, MS-DOS and ZX Spectrum
1991 Oh No! More Lemmings Amiga, Atari ST and MS-DOS
1993 Walker Amiga
1993 Hired Guns Amiga and MS-DOS
1993 Holiday Lemmings 1993 Amiga and MS-DOS
1993 Lemmings 2: The Tribes Amiga, MS-DOS and Super Nintendo Entertainment System
1994 United StatesThe Lemmings Chronicles
European Union All New World of Lemmings
3DO Interactive Multiplayer, Amiga and MS-DOS
1994 Holiday Lemmings 1994 MS-DOS
1994 United StatesUniracers
European Union Unirally
Super Nintendo Entertainment System
1997 Grand Theft Auto Game Boy Color, Microsoft Windows, MS-DOS and PlayStation
1998 Body Harvest Nintendo 64
1998 Space Station Silicon Valley Nintendo 64
1999 Grand Theft Auto: Mission Pack #1 - London 1969 Microsoft Windows, MS-DOS and PlayStation
1999 Grand Theft Auto: Mission Pack #2 - London 1961 Microsoft Windows and MS-DOS
1999 Tanktics Microsoft Windows
1999 Wild Metal Country Dreamcast and Microsoft Windows
1999 Grand Theft Auto 2 Dreamcast, Game Boy Color, Microsoft Windows and PlayStation
2001 Grand Theft Auto III PlayStation 2

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