I recently discussed the new Tomb Raider video game (releasing today, March 5) with Darrell Gallagher (Crystal Dynamics Studio Head) and Noah Hughes (Crystal Dynamics Creative Director). Crystal Dynamics developed this recently released reboot featuring the female adventurer hero Lara Croft, as well as the previous four Tomb Raider games. Publisher Square Enix purchased Eidos and took over this popular 16-year-old game franchise recognized as the “Most Successful Human Virtual Game Heroine” by the Guinness Book of World Records. The character development and gameplay elements expand in this installment along with a new multiplayer mode. Tomb Raider is also the first installment with an M rating, where Lara learns in a wide variety of scenarios.
Gear Diary: How did the M (mature) rating offer more opportunities to develop Lara’s character, offer more gameplay variety, and expand the content of the story supported by the cutscenes and gameplay?
Noah: It’s one aspect. We wanted to make sure the stakes felt high. Something that would motivate character growth. Being this is an origin story; the stakes were as high as they could be. We try to connect people with both and highs and lows of Lara’s adventure experience and not make it sanitized. A real impactful human journey. It’s also important for us not to be gratuitous in any way. Not just simply lethal or brutal, but to reach beyond the extent of human endurance.
GD: How did you create the tension and use a player’s potential fears to create a stronger connection to Lara Croft through the crimes committed against her in situations where her familiar adventurous will is taken away?
Noah: If you could measure an impact on players, then we try to move that needle. Gameplay typically demands players save up enough to buy upgrade. We wanted that sense of triumph…to move that needle and get a visceral response. Being claustrophobic. Using the lighting. Creating vertigo. We shape camera and visuals that are selling that precarious situation. We create exploration and feeling along the journey with Lara. We leverage those base human responses for players to connect to the experience.
Darrell: Yes, push emotional and mechanical. On one hand, you have the game design and on the other hand, it’s the emotional side. It’s such a rich space to pursue both sides. To fuse them trying to get the feeling of the player to more closely mirror the situation the character is in…to climb the tower. I think people react in a way or imagine what she’s going through. Claustrophobia was a good one early on. We have some great experience in the third section…in a tunnel where players you have to hold the head up high. We really do see a visceral reaction from player. Being in a dark room. It’s something we really wanted to push.
GD: Do you envision new game elements and technology (like 3D) in future installments?
Darrell: In general, it’s just like multiplayer mode. Just offering what’s new. The main criticism of franchises is that they don’t’ evolve. It’s tough to innovate. This criticism is fair in some cases. We thought let’s experiment. Let’s not get stuck doing same thing over and over. We embraced change in our franchise. Our philosophy was to present a different take. Something very bold. Both internal and external. Our take allowed the room to experiment. Thankfully, ideas haven’t been unsuccessful. They were embraced which is nice. Reactions have all been good. We consider the choices, but are not afraid to try something new at this point.
What do you think about the Tomb Raider game series and its potential?
My thanks to Darrell Gallagher and Noah Hughes at Crystal Dynamics for their insight and time. Check out the full Tomb Raider game review.