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Stewart Waterson is a 2D & 3D artist and game designer who previously worked for DMA Design during the development of the original Grand Theft Auto. He is credited as one of the major players in giving the Grand Theft Auto series the identity that it is well known for today.


Waterson grew up in Scotland in the United Kingdom.

In 1993, he was asked by a group of friends to attend an art exhibition, located in a small gallery above a pub in Edinburgh, Scotland. He pulled some of his previous work together and decided to attend. While there, the Art Director for DMA Design at the time, David Osborne, happened to see his work and offered him an interview and job at DMA Design. Waterson became employee number 30 by the end of 1993.

Once working for DMA Design, Waterson's first assignment while learning game development was level designing on the game The Lemmings Chronicles, a piece of the established Lemmings series of the 1990s. Waterson claims it took nearly a year to finish the game, working by trial-and-error, while teaching himself how video games are constructed.

Work on Grand Theft Auto

Waterson's next project was a new game called Race'n'Chase. He was the first artist assigned to the game and was in charge of designing, modelling and rendering the 3D vehicles, as well as the 3D animation of characters and pedestrians. He was also involved in a number of key game design features, which the game was built on and still feature to this day.

Race'n'Chase was never meant to be a game about criminality. It was a driving game with various game modes like Race, Cops and Robbers, and Demolition Derby.

Waterson and Ian Johnson, a new coder at DMA Design and Waterson's flatmate, fixated on the idea of the protagonist being a getaway driver. This was when the theme of criminality first struck home.

An early piece of concept art Waterson drew for the game's boxart featured the strapline "You can't drive with handcuffs on".

Waterson had a tongue-in-cheek title for the game - ‘Get In. Get Out. Start Fucking About.’ This is the idea he kept building on top of. While working on making these ideas mission specific, or building new missions to justify their existence, Waterson and the design team would simply add anything they found cool and fun to play around with. While working with some of the accepted norms of game design at the time, the teams continued to force in wanton destruction wherever they could. Even if ideas were turned down by senior staff, they were usually forced into the game anyway. As soon as the ability to hijack a car was implemented, everyone started committing grand theft auto.

Waterson believes one of the turning points for the game was when he and Ian Johnson joked about implementing tanks into the game. At the time, Waterson says "it was so ludicrous. There was no reason for them. There was no concept behind their involvement, apart from that they are almost indestructible, highly dangerous, and a load of fun to smash stuff with." After a short trip to the local store, their minds were set and they began mapping out thier plan. The premise was that there was a vehicle code that they could use, and also a ballistics code that allowed a rotating pedestrian to shoot bullets in eight directions. The idea was to put a pedestrian on top of a car, and make the car drive much slower than it normally would and massively increase the damage of the bullets it fired. This was the original version of the Tank.

Waterson modelled the base for the tank and tracks in 3D, and textured it with camouflage using Alias Wavefront on a Silicon Graphics machine. Then he set about building the turret. "The turret was like a player character sat on top of a car that could move independently, allowing the player to drive the vehicle, aim the turret, and fire." After staying late at work to test the Tank, they quickly implemented it into the game's code andleft it for the QA testers to find the next day. The testers and other designers loved the Tanks, and they were left in the game as a staple of the series to this day.

Later Works

After Grand Theft Auto was released in 1997, Waterson at some point left DMA Design and moved around a few other game design companies for around 10 years before appearing to leave the business.

The first company he worked for was VIS Entertainment, where one of the games he worked on was the Rockstar Games and Take-Two Interactive published State of Emergency, which released in 2002.

In December 2021, Waterson began giving interviews to the website GamerHub regarding his work on the original Grand Theft Auto. These interviews were published every two weeks, going in-depth on various details of the game's design.

Employment History

November 1993November 1996DMA DesignArtist
19962004VIS EntertainmentGame Design/Director
August 2004August 2005Traffic GamesExecutive Producer
August 2006August 2009I-PlayHead of Art & Design
September 2012October 2013brightsolidProduction/Design
January 2015December 2015Insurgent Studios LtdConsultant
December 2015December 2018Square Slice StudiosChief Product Officer
February 2021July 2021Yaldi GamesMentor
January 2022PresentRebelstudios.ioHead of Game Design
Head of Product

Video Game Credits



External Links