Video game history is also being written behind the scenes. The year was 2009. E3 was still in its heyday when the industry stopped for a few days under the Los Angeles sky to show the world the next steps in video games. PlayStation did not miss this event. During their press conference, one game stood out from the rest. Called Agent, Rockstar North collaborated with the publisher to publish exclusively for PS3 an open-world spy game taking place in a 1970s Cold War setting, which would “take players into the world of counter-intelligence, espionage and political assassinations.”
14 years later, very little has happened around it. Years of silence, its cancellation between the lines and many wishes that fell by the wayside. However, in the last few days more light has been shed on the development thanks to a person who was involved. That person is Obbe Vermeij, technical director at Rockstar North between 1999 and 2009. The veteran has decided to start a blog to share his experiences on the team, including his time on Agent.
Vermeij describes how the concept for the game came about between the two main parts of the brand. “After San Andreas we REALLY wanted to do something that wasn’t gta. Rockstar San Diego were working on a James Bond style game. Leslie Benzies was keen to do something along those lines. We did a demo doing some spy stuff in San Andreas. I think there was a hang glider and a car turning into a submarine or something.”
These ideas about the material they already had “impressed R*SD and NY,” and they immediately started working on it. They split Rockstar North into two teams, one on Agent and one on Grand Theft Auto 4. The name he was known by internally was Jimmy. Since it was a James Bond game, James’ name in Scottish is Jimmy, so they chose that as a wink.
“The game was to be set in the 70s, be more linear than GTA with a number of locations. There was a French Mediterranean city, A Swiss ski resort, Cairo and at the end there would be a big shootout with lasers in space,” Vermeij explains. “Classic James Bond. The vibe was very cool.”
Vermeij admits that they worked on the project for about a year, but development did not progress as they had hoped. “It was inevitable that eventually the whole company would have to get behind gta4. We tried to cut the game down in an attempt the get the bulk of it done before the inevitable call from NY would come,” he says. Among the cuts were sections like space. Eventually, it was decided that the project was a distraction for the members. Vermeij says that development was handed off to another company within the Rockstar Games label, but ultimately came to nothing.