While GTA 6 City of the Week looks at one location in the USA and evaluates it as a possible setting of the next installment in Rockstar Game’s popular open-world action adventure franchise every week, Foreign City of the Week, as the name suggests, looks beyond the borders.
Once again lacking any city that has been making international headlines with anything other than tragedies, how about we look into something else for inspiration. Something like the history of Rockstar Games itself? Or rather, the history of the GTA games?
History lesson: the first GTA game, titled Grand Theft Auto, obviously, was developed by a small development studio based in Dundee, Scotland, called DMA Design. Prior to this game, they produced several classics such as Shadow of the Beast and Lemmings. Initially, the company operated out of a small loft space above a baby accessories shop.
DMA’s parent company, which held the rights to GTA, was then bought by Take-Two Interactive, which promptly created Rockstar as a subsidiary, and distributed some DMA labels, including GTA. After some time, DMA was moved to Edinburgh and renamed Rockstar Studios before once again being renamed as Rockstar North, which is currently the main studio of the company.
Taking a quick glance at the map, Dundee is close enough to Edinburgh to be placed on the same map, while also incorporating a nice stretch of countryside in between. So, let’s see just how well the cradle of GTA would actually work as a setting, shall we?
Edinburgh (and Dundee)
Called by some as “The Athens of the North”, Edinburgh is the capital and second most populous city of Scotland. While Glasgow has been edging close to taking over as the center of finance and economy of the country, Edinburgh still holds that title, as well as being the unchallenged cultural heart of Scotland. It is a popular tourist attraction, second only to London within the UK in terms of popularity, and is also a favored educational destination due to the four prestigious universities located in the city.
Edinburgh is considered a highly intellectual city, and not only due to the presence of the universities. The primary industry driving the second largest economy in the whole of the UK is scientific research and financial services next to higher education, though as we’ve mentioned before, tourism and thus hospitality are also major sources of income and employment.
The city boasts having the highest number of professionals among its population, with over 43% of residents holding a degree, professional qualification or higher. Several internationally Acclaimed banks have their headquarters in the city, as do various investment and insurance firms.
As the center of the Scottish government, obviously the state is also one of the major employers in the city. Edinburgh houses most of the headquarters of government entities and other state-owned service providers ranging from sanitation to transport, covering most such services.
The city is also host to several world-renowned events, including the Edinburgh International Festival ( a pretty non-descript title), which is one of the biggest events focused on the performing-arts in the world.
Dundee, the other city we’re looking at in this double-feature, is further up north. The fourth largest city in the country, Dundee is an up-and-coming economic center. Though DMA Design may have since been rebranded and relocated, Dundee is still characterized by the game development industry. Several smaller studios are present in the city still, making it something of the center for the UK game industry.
Bioengineering and biomedicine, two relatively new industries, are also a staple of Dundee, and the main reasons for the recent growth seen in the city’s economy. Education is also pretty strong here, though not as notably as in Edinburgh, as Dundee only features two universities, though granted, both are pretty renowned in their fields.
Dundee sits on the north bank of the river Tay, which is spanned by the Tay Road Bridge, considered a major landmark. Over the course of the Dundee’s history, the town was plagued by a lack of, or poor, city planning, resulting in a recent, rather costly, modernisation push to get more and more of it “up to date”. Several hastily assembled prefabricated neighborhoods originating from the early 60’s are being systematically demolished and replaced by modern buildings of a higher standard.
Dundee and several nearby (or not so nearby) historic Scottish cities and towns are heavily featured in both albums of the relatively recent fantasy-power-metal band Gloryhammer. Hopefully, if Rockstar ever decides on using these cities as a setting, some of the licensed songs in their music lineup could be from the group.
We leave our geographical examination for last, seeing as we’re looking at not one city, but two as well as the stretch of land in between them. Edinburgh lies on the south bank of the Firth of Forth, while Dundee lies on the northern bank of the river Tay as mentioned before. Between the two bodies of water is a large peninsula-esque growth of land which would potentially serve as the wilderness portion of the map, though the area in real life is populated by many villages and towns.
Above you can see an image of what the region looks like in real life. Now, seeing as the sea is very close-by to both cities from the east, with a bit of video-game magic, Scotland can be made much narrower than in real life, resulting in the western sea hopping much closer to the cities as well. Below you can see a quickly done mock-up of what the area would look like once adapted to be a GTA map.
Based off this map, we could select Edinburgh and Dundee as the two main urban areas, while keeping, say, Perth, Falkirk and Crail as secondary, smaller settlements, and omitting the other settlements (sorry!). The two inlets neatly slice up the map into three clear sections, allowing Rockstar to set up a progression-unlock system as seen in earlier games.
Yeah, no, this just does not fit GTA. Funnily enough, the two cities which collectively form the cradle of one of the most crime-heavy game franchises in the industry are extremely peaceful. Last year, a grand total of 7 people were murdered in Edinburgh, while we were unable to find any definitive numbers for Dundee, though crime rates in that city are generally lower than in the capital, making the possibility that no homicides took place at all quite real.
On the flipside, however, break-ins are very common in both cities, as are other non-violent crimes such as vandalism and burglary, shoplifting and other forms of theft. Both cities also suffer from pretty high rates of rape, resulting in a re-definition of what constitutes as ‘rape’ legally, broadening the definition to include several situations formerly covered by sexual assault, which resulted in a less-severe sentence, generally speaking.
Vehicle theft is pretty average in both Edinburgh and Dundee. That said, both cities attribute most of their crimes to intoxication, wherein either the perpetrator, the victim, or both, were drunk beyond the point of reason.
Now, unfortunately these profiles don’t exactly facilitate a GTA game, do they?
Edinburgh, being the capital of Scotland and such a popular tourist attraction would be instantly recognisable to many foreign players, we imagine. Dundee, on the other hand, is relatively unknown on the international stage, so to say. UK residents might be able to identify it from various landmarks, though foreign players would generally be at a loss.
In Edinburgh, the Castle, Old Town, Standard Life Building, St. Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh Park and the Traverse Theatre are all highly iconic landmarks. In Dundee, the Tay Road Bridge, Cox’s Stack (don’t laugh), St. Mary’s Tower, Ninewells Hospital and the City Chambers might be more recognizable for some players.
Going back to their roots, Rockstar might opt to go full meta with their story, and write up a tale of a group of inexperienced and poorly funded university graduates who set up an independent game development company in the GTA version of Dundee, in the loft of a baby accessories store. However, lacking funds, they turn to small-time crime for quick and easy money.
However, before they know it, they are drawn into the Scottish underground, racking up considerable debt. How do they get enough cash to pay it off? Make a popular video game, of course. The story would involve kidnapping experienced programmers who are too expensive for the team, blackmailing publishers to carry their game, steal enough cash to fund the game and so on.
The story would begin in Dundee, showing how the main cast get dragged into the world of crime and how they amass their debt. After some time, the central countryside area would open up with some missions full of rural shenanigans. Finally, the southern section would also unlock with Edinburgh as launch day approaches.
Pros: Geography, story potential, meta value, good recognition in Edinburgh
Cons: Low crime rates, poor recognition in Dundee
Honestly, looking at things objectively, the cradle of GTA just wouldn’t be all that good as a setting for a GTA game. However, taking into account just how entertaining it would be playing the game in the area where it was conceived would make this game worth making. Maybe as a spin-off instead of a main numbered entry?
Would you like to play a GTA game set in the Edinburgh-Dundee area?
What do you think? Sound off below!