The road to GTA 6: how a single image spawned the iconic franchise

(Image credit: Mike Dailly)

The first Grand Theft Auto game sped onto PlayStation in 1997, and over 20 years later we're patiently waiting for official confirmation from Rockstar Games that GTA 6 is in the works.

While it doesn't look likely we'll be hearing about GTA 6 anytime soon, we now know a little more about how the iconic series came to be - thanks to an image tweeted by creator Mike Dailly (via Kotaku). 

Check it out below:

It started with an image...

Mike Dailly is the creator of both GTA and Lemmings, and one of the founding members of DMA Design (which became Rockstar North). 

While it seems Lemmings and GTA couldn't be further apart in terms of content – apart from the unnecessary death – Dailly explained that the above image was the foundation for Lemmings, and eventually spawned the GTA franchise.

According to Dailly, the image – from 1994 – was for an isometric rendering engine. In the most basic terms, it was the engine used to create that kind of blocky 2D style that we see used in the original Lemmings. While we know that this isn't the engine used for GTA, it was the first step on the path the the GTA engine, a version 1.0 where GTA came into being a few steps later.

Over time, the isometric rendering engine evolved into a 'rotating isometric engine' which, essentially, allowed for more fluidity. 

Dailly pointed out in an interview with Retro Video Gamer last year that this rotating isometric engine "could" have been GTA, however once 1996 strategy game Syndicate Wars came out "it was clear that just wasn’t going to work" as the "gameplay was boring". 

The original Lemmings game, born out of the original isometric image

The original Lemmings game, born out of the original isometric image (Image credit: DMA Design)

Instead the rotating isometric engine evolved into the 'top-down perspective engine' used in the original Grand Theft Auto game - so you can see how the original image created the path to today.

We have come a long way from that original engine in two decades, especially when you consider the Rockstar Advanced Game Engine used for more recent Rockstar titles like Red Dead Redemption 2

The inevitable GTA 6 will likely be built on an updated version of the Rockstar Advanced Game Engine, and looking back over the route, it's suddenly easy to appreciate how far the series has come.

If you want to learn more about the early engine then you can check out an animated version Dailly created or the GTA Flickr gallery

  • GTA 6: all the latest news and rumors for Grand Theft Auto 6
Vic Hood
Associate Editor, TechRadar Gaming

Vic is TechRadar Gaming's Associate Editor. An award-winning games journalist, Vic brings experience from IGN, Eurogamer and more to the TechRadar table. You may have even heard her on the radio or speaking on a panel. Not only is Vic passionate about games, but she's also an avid mental health advocate who has appeared on both panels and podcasts to discuss mental health awareness. Make sure to follow her on Twitter for more.