Interviews// Tomb Raider

Posted 25 Jun 2011 11:00 by
Games: Tomb Raider
Lara Croft is back, unlike anything you?ve ever seen before. Crystal Dynamics is rebooting the Tomb Raider franchise once again, and creative director Noah Hughes has a lot to say about it. So much so in fact, that we?re just going to let you get on and read it. No intro for you. If you want, you can read my awesome E3 2011 preview of the game first, and then come back here.

SPOnG: You must be excited to be involved with revitalising the Tomb Raider franchise.

Noah Hughes: Yeah, it?s an honour really to be able to not only work with Lara and Tomb Raider but be able to do this. For a while now at Crystal, we?ve had the pleasure of making a few games that we?ve learned a lot from. To be able to distill everything that we want to do with the franchise in an entirely fresh way is inspiring.

SPOnG: So are you seeing this as a totally clean slate?

Noah Hughes: We are, yes. It is a clean slate. It?s her origins story, but it also represents a reboot of the franchise. We won?t necessarily tie this directly to other elements, but we will carry this vector forward as we see Lara growing into the heroine that she?ll become.

SPOnG: Is this fresh start going to be a canon that references Lara?s future adventures, or is this going to be like Back to the Future where this new start creates a whole different timeline?

Noah Hughes: It does start a whole different timeline. Like I said, there?s not necessarily an assumption that it will connect exactly to past events (or should that be future events? - Svend) but we are taking Lara through this origins story and recreating a character who really is true to the previous Lara, but modern and relevant. Once we?ve established her in this introduction role, we?ll then take her on entirely new adventures.

Certainly, we love catering to some of the fan?s favourite moments within the franchise too. So as much as we?re not beholden to hit every story point that existed before, we will enjoy playing with signature Tomb Raider things that people would want to see in the franchise.

SPOnG: I saw in the demo that Lara has this kind of survival instinct ability. Hitman Absolution has a similar feature. Is that a result of some collaboration between Square Enix studios?

Noah Hughes: We actually share a lot. It?s great to have such a talented sister studio as IO Interactive. Having said that, this idea of the vision mode - helping you navigate parts of the world and even giving some exploration and detective hints along with it - is really something we?ve admired in a number of other games. What?s important to us though, is to deliver this through that whole theme of survival. So as we expand on that system, we?re really going to be selling the idea that it?s Lara in these intense moments of survival and it?s her way of seeing the world.

SPOnG: One of the big things that struck me during the presentation was the motion capture and how realistic Lara looks. Can you explain a bit more about the motion capture techniques you?re using?

Noah Hughes: We partnered with a number of external facilities and talents. I don?t know if we?re actually announcing them yet, so I?ll leave it at that! This process was important for us in trying to make Lara real again, to really apply technology to that as well as include creative storytelling. We would capture the performance of all of the actors in a scene, their voices captured in that very moment.

In terms of the camera... although we could go in and add in additional virtual cameras to the motion capture stage, we wanted to begin our filming with real cameras so that the actors were aware of each other and the equipment. We feel like we get a much stronger, real performance out of that process. As much as we?ve learned from this first round and there?s things we want to dial up moving forward, I think we?re going in absolutely the right direction to try and bring Lara to life.

SPOnG: The puzzle set pieces are really impressive. Who gets involved in the creation of these gameplay elements? Surely you have to have the input of the level designers and the programmers themselves to think them up, but I?d imagine you?d also have something of a physics genius involved in the process as well?

Noah Hughes: Yeah, one of the great things about working within a game team is you have people from vast backgrounds and understanding. So you see people step up and become champions within these various types of gameplay. The environmental challenges that we present, the physics-based world simulation and how Lara can interact with it is one of the more complex level design problems that we?ve tackled.

It is something that we will not only get our best minds on, but also iterate a lot. We will put something in there, play with the system, we see what?s fun for the players, and evolve it from there. As always, it?s the result of expertise on the team combined with re-iteration and player insight.

SPOnG: The environments look absolutely beautiful. I?m curious as to what you guys did in terms of research and inspiration for the world around Lara. I?m sensing clear vibes of the TV show Lost for example.

Noah Hughes: I think there are parallels with a number of other properties. One of the things that we try to do is trace all that we do back to its roots - the idea of survival being really a core human instinct, and the idea of mystery really hooking you and pulling you through a story. That?s in addition to the character arc.

We take inspiration from a number of different places, but I think some of my favourite inspiration points have been some of the real world stories - the idea of people who have gone through these extraordinary situations, done the unthinkable and come out alive. And that?s something we really want to capture - not just another entertainment property, but that core human experience, man versus nature.

SPOnG: You must pay attention to films like 127 Hours and things like that?

Noah Hughes: Absolutely, that?s an inspiration for us as well.
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Games: Tomb Raider

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