In terms of vehicle design in Vice City, how close could you get to the cars that provided the inspiration?
You have to be pretty far away. Really, the idea was that they would evoke the feelings of cars of that era rather than being specifically those cars. The best example of that would be the Porsche. The guy who was modelling the cars at the time created an absolutely perfect Porsche, like an ’85 Carrera, and Tommy had an animation to get in and open the top, and you just looked at it and it was like, “That is never going to get through”. When the artist had to change that it was probably one of the sadder moments involved in the project. But no, listen, if we could license the real cars for these games, I think we would, but no car company is coming near us.
Can you pick your personal favourite moment from Vice City?
It would have to be sitting on a PCJ600, driving down the main strip listening to Out Of Touch by Hall and Oates. I always liked Hall and Oates but that was the track that I wasn’t familiar with. A lot of the music we put in that game was stuff that we kind of re-researched and rediscovered, so it was either kind of newish to us or it felt very fresh. So, going over the issues I had initially with the real-life music, by the time the actual game was finished I was so connected with it that I thought it was just stunning.
In terms of other moments, what also worked for me was Lance Vance, played by Philip Michael Thomas, who is actually one of the nicest people you could ever meet, a seriously cool bloke. I thought some of the interplay between him and Tommy Vercetti was awesome. It really captured the Crockett and Tubbs vibe that we wanted – I thought the fact that we could get that from a game was incredible. The game as a whole package captured and evoked that era of Miami in the ’80s, and it was made by a bunch of British people – even though obviously there was the crew here in New York, too. The guys up in Edinburgh only went to Miami once, and it was quite a piss-up when they did. They obviously did a lot of work but it was straight after GTAIII, and we all went to Miami, the whole crew, and from the first day to what Vice City ended up being, it was a mental feeling. And we were making it very much for ourselves, because after the previous game we’d gone from having no expectation to maximum expectation, but internally we were still feeling that whether we sold ten copies or 1,000 copies, we’d be doing well. You can’t say, “Well, the previous game’s sold ten million and counting – this game has to do that as well.” You can’t live like that.
A lot of people still talk about Vice City as their favourite game in the series. Do you think that’s related to the music, or the atmosphere, or something else?
I think it’s because of what we would call the vibe. I think it’s the combination of the music, the clothing, the vehicles and other things. The way I look at is that suddenly your PS2 had become like a little time machine, and it could take you anywhere, and this was just the first place that it happened to take you. If you could have made time stand still then, and made a hundred things in the mould of Vice City, there were so many things you could create, whether it was a fantasy-themed thing or something else entirely. It just made a lot of things make sense, and when it connected with the audience in a meaningful way it proved a lot about what we’d been thinking and hoping about people feeling about games. You know, you’re shooting in the dark and speculating, but when people get it you’re like, “Wow, that’s fucking cool. It’s not just us tossing our own selves off – people actually get it”. And with that game all of the things we set out to do with it, and all the little details, everyone picked up on everything, and I think that’s awesome.
Some of this material originally appeared in E187’s The Making Of: Grand Theft Auto.