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Rockstar Created A Small International Crisis During Agent Development

Members of Rockstar Games' development team quite literally put their lives on the line for Agent, the 2009 spy game that never was. In a recent interview, Rockstar San Diego project leader Luis Gigliotti divulged the entire frightening story of the time he had to call in reinforcements from the United States Embassy in Cairo, Egypt to stop his team from being held on house arrest under false charges.

Gigliotti told Game Informer that Agent was slated to take place all over the world, including in Cairo, but the development team couldn't find any usable satellite reference images of Cairo online. Because of this, they decided to travel to Cairo themselves to take their own photos. As Gigliotti came to find out, though, "there's a reason why you couldn't get satellite imagery of Cairo."

When senior environment artist Joe Sanabria researched a trip to Cairo, he came across warnings that taking photos in Cairo could lead to legal issues as people unknowingly snap images of government buildings. However, he decided it was worth the risk. Sanabria and Gigliotti recalled a very serious moment on the trip where an Egyptian official noticed a small group of team members taking photos and, when the conversation became heated, the official pressed a gun to one person's ribs.

Things only got worse for Rockstar when, a few days later, the team was told they were not allowed to leave their room. They had been spotted taking a questionable amount of photos of various districts in Cairo, which is something they apparently needed armed guards and paperwork for. When a team member tried to leave the trip early, "They hold the plane, and they said, 'Look, we've received a tip that you guys are in the country filming pornography,'" Sanabria recalled.

The team made it out of Cairo safely and without any charges, but unfortunately, nothing came of their risks: Agent never made it out of development. The game was taken over by Rockstar North when Rockstar San Diego began work on the first Red Dead Redemption. However, after nearly a decade of waiting for Agent to release, Rockstar parent company Take-Two abandoned Agent's trademark, making it just another Rockstar game that fans will never get to play.

Although nothing came of Agent, the trip to Cairo did teach a lesson to Rockstar San Diego team members about how seriously the team would take game development. "With that trip behind us, we were like, 'Okay, we've kind of demonstrated that we are serious about what we're doing,'" Sanabria said. "But then at the same time, too ... 'Okay, we're serious but we also have to be balanced.' Because at the end of the day, like, these are just video games."