‘Grand Theft Auto’ tank was originally a person on a car

The tank nearly never happened

An interview with an artist that worked on the original Grand Theft Auto has revealed that the game’s tank started out as a pedestrian on a car.

Stewart Waterson, an artist at DMA Design in the 1990s, shared some insight into the game with Gamerhub. He and coder Ian Johnson pushed for Race’n’Chase, originally a driving game, to be turned into a game about crime – i.e. Grand Theft Auto.

Waterson explained how adding tanks was a turning point for Grand Theft Auto, transforming it into a game for sandbox rampages. “It was so ludicrous,” he explained. “There was no reason for them.”


Waterson and Johnson spent a lunch break figuring out how to make a tank work in a game that was never meant to support them. “The premise was that there was a vehicle code that we could use,” Waterston explained. “There was also a ballistics code that allowed a rotating pedestrian to shoot bullets in eight directions. Our idea was that if you put a pedestrian on top of a car, and made the car go slower and massively increased the damage of the bullets, then you’ve got a basic version of a tank.”

From there, the rudimentary tank was developed. “The turret was like a player character sat on top of a car that could move independently,” Waterson noted. It allowed “the player to drive the vehicle, aim the turret, and fire.”

Grand Theft Auto Tank concept art
Grand Theft Auto Tank concept art. Credit: Stewart Waterson.

The duo snuck the tanks in, staying after everyone else had gone home to do so. Waterson was convinced “we’re going to get our asses kicked for this tomorrow”. Instead, it paid off. “A bunch of testers and team mates who had gotten in early were playing with the tanks. And they were having an absolute blast, literally,” Waterson explained.

From there, things took off for the game. “whilst we had to conform to some accepted norms in game design, that core kernel of absolute mayhem – wanton destruction – was forced into the game by the teams who controlled those key parts. We would fight to try and get a chance to make it happen, and if it got turned down, we’d just fucking do it anyway,” noted Waterson.


While you’re reeling from the idea of there being a Grand Theft Auto without tanks, there’s more news out there. Final Fantasy 7 Remake has had its pricing removed from the Epic Games Store after a significant backlash. The game was originally priced at $65.

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