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GTA: Vice City almost got turned into a Scottish zombie survival game

The idea “quickly ran out of steam” because it “seemed depressing”.

Tommy Vercetti in GTA: Vice City.
Image credit: VG247/Rockstar Games.

GTA developer Rockstar once had a go at making a zombie survival game set in Scotland using Vice City’s code, but quickly gave up because people found it too depressing a concept to keep working on.

No, this isn’t satire. This project was apparently something Rockstar North’s developers worked on as a bit of a change of pace in between putting out the equally beloved Vice City and GTA San Andreas in the early 2000s.

This is according to Dutch developer Obbe Vermeij, who served as the studio’s Technical Director between 1995 and 2009 and has recently decided to start a blog discussing what he worked on during his time in the role. In one of the entries he’s posted so far, Vermeij delves into some games that never ended up actually making it onto shelves, with one of these being that zombie game, which was given the working title “Z”.

“After Vice City there was a sense within North that it would be nice to do something else. Something that wasn't GTA,” the developer recalls. “Some of the artists wanted to do a zombie survival game. Programmers like fantasy. Artists like zombies. Not sure why that is. We pursued the zombie idea for a while.”

As to what it might have looked like, Vermeij explains: “The idea was to use the Vice code as is. The game was to take place on a windswept foggy Scottish island. The player would be under constant attack from zombies. The player would need to use vehicles to get around, but vehicles would need fuel. Acquiring the fuel would be a big part of the game.”

Sadly for those who love hunting for petrol in the pouring rain while trying to avoid becoming someone’s dinner, the developer says the game was only worked on for something in the region of a month before the studio gave up on it.

“The idea seemed depressing and quickly ran out of steam,” Vermeij says in the post, “Even the people who originally coined the idea lost faith. We dropped the idea and got on with San Andreas.”

So, that was the end of that, it seems. Though, the developer does also touch on Agent, the James Bond-style spy game the studio worked on after putting on San Andreas, which got as far as being announced at E3 2009 before its team joined Rockstar’s company-wide push to get GTA 4 done.

“We tried to cut [Agent] down in an attempt [to] get the bulk of it done before the inevitable call from NY would come. We cut out an entire level, I think Cairo, and maybe even the space section,” Vermeij reveals. “I think it was handed over to another company within [Rockstar], but never got completed.”

If you’re in the mood for more Rockstar nostalgia, you might enjoy reminiscing about how great GTA 5’s trailers were by reading this piece.

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