Exclusive: Noah Hughes and Darrell Gallagher Discuss the Dark Side of Tomb Raider
Tomb Raider will release for Xbox 360 and PS3 on March 5, 2013. We recently sat down with Crystal Dynamic’s Head of Studio, Darrell Gallagher, and Creative Director, Noah Hughes to get some insight into the horrors ahead.
Read on to learn why Lara Croft’s origin story is dark, gory and violent!
AMANDA DYAR: The new Tomb Raider has a lot of gory deaths, blood and violence. What prompted this new direction and the need for a darker, grittier tone?
NOAH HUGES: One of the things that we wanted to do this time was to tell Lara's origin story, and introduce people to a more human Lara Croft. She had become an icon that was sort of invulnerable in a way and that made it harder to root for her as a character. We wanted to create a story that wasn't clear if Lara was going to succeed and survival became sort of our vision for that theme. We realized at some point that part of that sense of life and death situation that survival represents--really survival is that fight to live in the face of death--which gives a sort of man versus wild theme to our story. We didn't really want to have to necessarily sanitize that and wanted to create an experience were the island really did feel lethal. When you succeeded you felt that great sense of success because you earned something in the game like an upgrade or something like that. But if you failed, you also felt that ‘ouch that hurt,’ this is not just a vacation on a tropical island. This is a life or death situation. Once that was created then that was a force powerful enough to ask Lara to grow as a character then we could turn this young, ambitious archeologist into a more hardened survivor and ultimately walking the path toward becoming that tomb raider that we all know and love. It was really a matter of sort of being true to the vision of life and death survival being the catalyst in which we would forge Lara Croft.
AMANDA: In rebooting such a well-known franchise, how did your team approach that while staying true to the fans?
NOAH: That was king of the core-balancing act that we knew we were taking on. We certainly wanted to celebrate what people loved about Tomb Raider and bring all of our classic fans along for the journey. But we also knew that when you talk about the forces that inspired our sort of reboot when you look at franchises like James Bond that it is inspiring to see them flourish fifty years after their inception. So for us there is a sense we feel that Tomb Raider as a franchise and Lara Croft as a character have those exciting attributes that can keep it fresh. This is a franchise where you can talk to my mom and they know who Lara Croft is. There is a sense that, as scary as it is, to change it but there is an obligation to continue to make it fresh and relevant. We went into it knowing that we had a difficult balance and deliver both that Tomb Raider experience at its core but deliver in a way that people had never seen before. We just feel confident that was the right thing to do.
AMANDA: An exciting new edition to Tomb Raider is the expanded multiplayer. What was the motivation in adding this to the series when it was only included previously as a DLC?
DARRELL GALLAGHER: For us it was more of an evolution then something that was new. It really started with us saying we wanted to try something different with the franchise and we had to take some bold steps to do that as the creators of the game and where the industry is at. We don't want to be afraid of doing something new and Guardian of Light was the first expression of that when we did co-op multiplayer. We did this for a couple of reasons, first we enjoyed the challenge of creating something that was traditionally a single-player experience into co-op. And two because of how much people enjoyed playing it which was a real foundation that we could actually try new things and take bold chances and it would work. The third thing is that we have the technology and the engine and the we hadn’t done before for the multiplayer. For all of these reasons, we realized the next step was to take the game to multiplayer. We spent so long crafting this island, this world, this fiction, as well as all the mechanics that go with it, and we felt it would be nice actually to have a reason to stick around and enjoy those things for longer and play multiplayer versus a single player game.
NOAH: We also knew that necessarily not all of our fans would want to do that. We also approached it in a way that we did not want to trade single player campaign for Lara’s origin story experience for multiplayer. So we ended up just creating a complimentary experience that players can jump in and pick up some play real quickly while having fun with their friends. We still felt in a way that we could focus internally at Crystal Dynamics on a single player story that wouldn’t feel like it was sacrificed because of multiplayer. We really approached it as something that would add to the experience rather than offer instead of what people expected out of Tomb Raider for single player campaign.
AMANDA: There have been many terrifying enemies throughout the series, did the team try to top this with the new release. Also, what takes the enemies in Tomb Raider to the next level?
NOAH: A lot of what we try to do with the enemies in the game was a similar approach to the rest of the game which was to ground it a bit. Things that are scary to me about enemies is when they feel real and feel like a part of the world--rather it is the wildlife when the wolves are coming out of the shadows growling--but a part of that is to make them feel like a threatening part of the environment versus a video game character thrown in. Same thing with the inhabitants on the island, we really wanted to ground their story into the island’s story and make them feel like a part of that world. Obviously their motivation puts them at odds with Lara, and their way of operating makes them a great threat to Lara and that builds a conflict there. Part of what makes them scary and intimidating is that you sort of believe them within the context of the game. Another thing we really tried to do was treat the island as almost an enemy. We tried to create a sense of foreboding atmosphere--so the island itself really presented physical threats through perilous climbing and these man versus nature situations. Also, the weather and the idea of snow, rain and lightning--that is another thing that helps with having a strong effect from the enemies is placing them in a context-rich atmosphere and really leveraging that atmosphere. For us, the island really become a type of enemy in that way as well.
To learn more make sure to visit the official Tomb Raider website.
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