Tomb Raider Design Comments
July 24, 2012 8:48 AM   Subscribe

Tomb Raider: Anniversary, a remake of the original Tomb Raider, had an interesting bonus feature: the designers of Tomb Raider Anniversary and Tomb Raider discussed the differences in the two games, the process of the remake and what it was like creating the game in 1996. Youtube playlist
posted by Cloud King (14 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Tomb Raider Anniversary was one of the best next-gen game re-imaginings to recapture what was great about the original while updating and extending it. Legend comes first, and developed most of the updated game mechanics, but Anniversary is kind of amazing in combining the feelings of novelty and familiarity. It's definitely a new game, with new puzzles, new ways of getting around, and new awe-inspiring new sights to see, all the while making you feel like you've definitely been here before.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is amazing in the same way. Getting to China was this fantastic mix of "Ah! This is exactly like Deus Ex!" and "But it's completely new!"

It's also really bizarre to play Anniversary or Human Revolution and then go back and look at the originals and see how much blockier and cruder they are than I remember. When we spend time imaginatively inhabiting these 3D spaces, the brain apparently fills in a whole lot of details, but that process seems to be especially stimulated by playing these more-detailed remakes. (I had a similar experience re-visiting Half-Life after Half-Life 2.)

(Also, how on earth did I ever enjoy playing the original Tomb Raider with those ridiculous controls? Moving Lara was like driving a tank.)
posted by straight at 9:44 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Anniversary is definitely my favorite of the Crystal Dynamics-era Tomb Raider games, even though I really enjoyed all three of them. Although the game was much shorter and more linear than its original version, I didn't feel like it was overly watered down in difficulty. The original game was seriously Nintendo Hard (warning: TV Tropes; don't click if you, like, need to work anymore today), but Anniversary kept the challenge mostly intact without making the game impossible to finish...well, except for that goddamn shaft climb near the end.

Not sure what I think of the reboot coming next March, which looks like a giant ripoff of Uncharted. I dunno, I like my Lara Croft assured and badass, not vulnerable and inexperienced.
posted by timetoevolve at 10:03 AM on July 24, 2012

It's also really bizarre to play Anniversary or Human Revolution and then go back and look at the originals and see how much blockier and cruder they are than I remember.
straight -- I had a similar feeling when revisiting Morrowind , after Oblivion and Skyrim. Everything was so much blockier and cruder than the next gen stuff, but there were some fabulously fantastic elements to the Morrowind setting (Ash storms! Fungus houses! Silt striders!) and these all did great things to invoke the fill engine of imagination. Like, if the all too detailed simulacrums of CGI creates the Uncanny Valley, then dialing back some of the visual detail while maintaining immersion through audio or text cues can fill in some of the depths of that.
posted by bl1nk at 10:09 AM on July 24, 2012

I recently replayed the original Command and Conquer campaign. Man, I remember that game as being much harder when it originally came out.

Same too, with Military Madness - although, I haven't played any of the remakes; only the original in a TurboGrafx16 emulator.

I would love, love, love for Lucasarts to revisit and update the Dark Forces series. Don't change the plot or anything, just update the graphics. Tie Fighter, too, while I'm wishing for things that won't ever happen.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:11 AM on July 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

They should release a version of the game in which Lara Croft is visibly sixteen years older than in the original.
posted by hermitosis at 11:10 AM on July 24, 2012 [4 favorites]

This is a pretty solid column about one of the major failings of Tomb Raider Anniversary: The fact that it trades a sense of discovery and stark terror that may very well come with finding hidden dinosaur dungeons in South America with slick fake John Woo gloss.

That being said, I am a pretty big fan of the last few Tomb Raiders. They've done an awful lot in making Lara Croft actually chart on the outer limits of what a human being might look like, and have done as good of a job of avoiding the typical male gaze bullshit that the franchise was built on as anyone could expect. The fact that they are solid puzzle laden exploration games helps as well. It's too bad that the latest reboot (the fourth in the series, if we are including the overhead co-op game as one) is shaping up to be a textbook example of everything wrong with "blockbuster" games.
posted by Shadax at 12:54 PM on July 24, 2012

They should release a version of the game in which Lara Croft is visibly sixteen years older than in the original.

So basically get rid of all that youthful climbing and parkour and gymnastics that makes the game fun and focus on provoking and shooting animals, breaking and smashing her way through ancient archeological sites, the airtight plotting, and the clever dialogue? Actually I take that back. The Indiana Jones movies give us plenty of justification for a Lara Croft in her 40s to go tomb raiding, as long as she mutters, "I'm too old for this shit" every once in a while when she's hanging by her fingertips with a shotgun on her back, a couple pistols on her belt, and a backpack full of ammunition and first-aid-kits.

Lara Croft actually chart on the outer limits of what a human being might look like, and have done as good of a job of avoiding the typical male gaze bullshit that the franchise was built on as anyone could expect.

Well...except for the the parts where completing the game unlocks bikini outfits for Lara. And that level in Legend where she's running around in a torn-up cocktail dress. And all the other ways that the Crystal Dynamics games are way more into the male gaze fan service than Eidos ever was.

Totally agree about the terrible cutscenes and quick-time events--and really the combat in general--in Anniversary. I just played it on the easiest setting to get the combat over with as quickly as possible. The most recent one, Underworld, was the best at getting rid of all that lame stuff and focusing on what Tomb Raider does well.

(And maybe we could just pretend these games don't actually have a plot or dialogue or characters besides Lara.)

Sheesh. It sure doesn't sound like I love these games, but I really do. Exploring all those fantastically designed environments is so fantastic it outweighs all the negatives.
posted by straight at 1:58 PM on July 24, 2012

Thanks for this. I've played all the new-ish Tomb Raider games (Legend, Anniversary, and Underwrold) and Anniversary is my favorite of the bunch. (well, come to think of it, I also quite liked "Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light", but I don't really think of that as a "Tomb Raider" game.)

By the way, if you enjoy the gameplay of the Tomb Raider series, you owe it to yourself to play the Price of Persia series. Or at least the good ones, which are, "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time", "Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands", and "Prince of Persia" (the 2008 reboot).

There's two other games, "Prince of Persia: Warrior Within" and "Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones" that are, in my opinion, rubbish and not worth bothering with.
posted by jcreigh at 9:35 PM on July 24, 2012

And all the other ways that the Crystal Dynamics games are way more into the male gaze fan service than Eidos ever was.

I've no idea what you're talking about. I know that whenever I go SCUBA diving to a couple hundred feet of depth, I keep my legs completely bare and my torso-only wetsuit partially unzipped.

And if I'm hiking in some snow-covered mountains? Hotpants and a tank top. It's just practical.
posted by jcreigh at 9:55 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was always disappointed that Galleon got so mired in development hell - it was really the true follow up to Tomb Raider, and a better realisation of Toby Gard's ambitions and art style. Lara was always supposed to be a caricature, an iconic comic-book figure, but with the PS1's low poly counts it was hard to distinguish that from an attempt at realism. I once went to meet Toby while Confounding Factor were working on Galleon, early 2000 - I remember taking a bus through Bristol, past Lara Croft Lucozade billboards, to visit this nondescript little office and the guy who'd created Lara and then walked away.

jcreigh, I've been on a PoP bender recently, digging out my GameCube copy of Sands of Time, and grabbing Forgotten Sands from XBL for something like 800msp (that game far surpassed my expectations based on its reviews - yes, it's warmed over and unambitious, but basically plays like SoT++, and who could want more than that?). Anyway, did you know that the Wii version of Forgotten Sands in an entirely different game? Different plot, setting, mechanics, characters - it only shares the title. So anyway, that's next on my list, along with the 2008 reboot.
posted by phl at 3:28 AM on July 25, 2012

I just want to say that Prince of Persia 2008 has one of the greatest endings of any video game ever, which does successfully what Bioshock tried and failed to do with it's big twist.
posted by straight at 10:19 AM on July 25, 2012

Sands of Time was a fantastic experience. The excellent plot, writing, and voice acting elevate the entire game in much the same way those same elements transform Portal into something much greater than an excellent puzzle game. The experience of playing Sands of Time was wonderful in a way few games are, including Two Thrones.

But except for the story (including dialogue, voice acting, and character design) and maybe the chariot races (I didn't mind those, but some people hated them), Two Thrones surpasses Sands of Time in every way.

The platforming is deeper, more varied, and more fun, the level design is better, the puzzles are better. The graphics and the environment art are better. (Sands of Time has a better sense of place, of slowly working your way through a coherent location; I'd include that under story, and Two Thrones does it pretty well too.) The combat is much, much better.

Two things really stand out. Two Thrones is one of the few games to get quicktime events right. You get into position and wait for your dagger to flash. There's no ugly "Press X" message, just a flash. If you time your strike correctly after the flash, you do a cool-looking finishing move. If you fail, there's no insta-death-go-back-and-watch-a-cutscene-then-replay-the-last-five-minutes, you just have to fight the regular way, which is itself fun.

The second thing comes out of the first. By giving you the option of using platforming to sneak up on your enemies and take them out with a quick finishing move, Two Thrones unites the combat and platforming. It feels more cohesive, much less like combat and platforming are separate games that you alternate between. (It's almost the polar opposite of Prince of Persia 2008* in that way.) And stealth is always just an option. It’s not a separate “You have to use stealth to get past this level” thing.

The first time I played these games, I loved Sands of Time much more, partly because of the novelty of everything that both games do well, and partly because the story was so good. But I replayed them both recently and this time Two Thrones was much more fun.

(*I enjoyed the combat in 2008 more than Sands of Time, but both feel like a separate mini-game to break up the platforming. I also need to give a shout-out to Forgotten Sands for letting you knock over crowds of enemies like bowling pins. That remained fun for pretty much the whole game. (Spider-Man: Web of Shadows does the same thing even better with swinging feet first into crowds of zombies.))
posted by straight at 10:56 AM on July 25, 2012

Okay straight, you've convinced me: I need to give The Two Thrones another shot.

I'm curious: What platform did you play it on? And if on the PC, did you use keyboard+mouse, or a gamepad?

I have it on the PC, and was attempting to play it with my Xbox 360 controller, but the gamepad support is pretty bad. (The default bindings have the top and bottom triggers swapped. No problem, I thought, I'll just rebind them. Except you're not allowed to rebind the bottom triggers, because of some stupid bug.)

So between the controller issues, and not really liking having to learn a bunch of combos for the combat, I just kinda gave up. But if it gets good, I'm willing to try again.
posted by jcreigh at 11:50 AM on July 25, 2012

I played it on PC just using the keyboard without the mouse. You can't really control the camera in the Sands Trilogy anyway, so I'm not even sure how you would use a mouse -- they're not like the Crystal Dynamics Tomb Raider Games or the 2008 PoP that can be controlled WASD-style.
posted by straight at 5:57 PM on July 25, 2012

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