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[music] Intro Karl Stewart (brand director) and Tim Longo (franchise director) from Crystal Dynamics
Q: With the new atmosphere, etc., how will this still be recognized as a TR game? How are you going to present this character as Lara Croft with all her history from the previous games taken away?
A: We are very aware that there are certain iconic things about Lara we don’t wanna change. We want that new tone (dark, gritty, blah blah) but when you look at the cover, you still see a Lara Croft there. We felt like we needed to modernize the franchise. The iconic things we came to love about 90’s Lara can still be seen in a new light. We’re telling the story of how she became a TR, which you didn’t really get in the previous ones, where she started out with all her abilities and faculties already there at the apex, and we wanted to start from ground zero and build that up. We need her to fit in with the modern generation and other franchises. She was those things in the 90’s, but it’s just about taking that and showing it in a new light.
We are NOT changing the pillars of what it means to be TR or Lara. We’ve been studying iconic characters throughout all media, and we’re focusing on making Lara culturally relevant. This reboot process is similar to what was done with the Batman and James Bond in recent years. Batman is still a vigilante, the story is just told in a way that is relevant to this generation.
Q: Will this new Lara become like Classic Lara through the game by attaining the pistols, backpack, etc. as she goes along? What are Lara’s acrobatic capabilities? How will they evolve as the game progresses?
A: Not ready to talk about how the game will end. She is going to start off as a sort of naive, young, just out of school archaeologist who has something to prove and will be tested time and time again. We’ll return to some of those iconic things that the fans love, but we’re not ready to talk about those yet. But, as she goes, she’s really going to have a character change that you haven’t seen before with this character. On the acrobatic side, we’ll be looking at the survival side – she’s a very intelligent character, and a very physically able character. She’s going to have athletic abilities that allow her to get through the predicaments she is in. There will be some effort in her move set. She starts off unsure how she will get through this situation – we kinda start off putting her through the meat grinder. She’s going to be using her tools we talked about, like the pickaxe, that’s something that she’ll be able to utilize from a movement perspective.
Q: Who will voice Lara?
A: Haven’t made the final call. We’ve gone through lots of voices. Whoever we choose will be with us for a while. Focusing on nailing down the experience first.
Q: Has the studio considered the impact an M rating will have on younger fans?
A: Blah blah, M rating limits what you can do with advertisement, blah, research age groups, blah. M rating is the only way to tell a gritty[, sandpapery, gravelly, scratchy and somewhat discomfiting...Iol! How many times am I gonna have to type gritty?] story. Something that feels more true. A lot of the fans have grown up w/the franchise, and a good number of them have grown past the T rating and are ready for something a bit darker. Some fans are gonna be left behind, but this was done for the sake of the future of the franchise and in order to tell that sort of gritty/dark story. We’re not going into M for the sake of M. Don’t expect lots of cursing, the M was done for the story.
We needed to commit to the M rating to tell a survival story and actually show what a real human being is going to go through to do that instead of playing the fence on the T rating and sorta half doing that.
There are points in survival stories where people have to make decisions on their own, like Aron Ralston. We were looking at the movie 127 hours, and that is an ultimate story of survival. He had to do something that was above and beyond what any human wants to have to go through. And that I think is more psychological than it is about the gore of having to cut your own arm off. Lara will NOT be cutting her arm off!
You cannot tell that psychological experience with just the T rating. You have to be willing to get darker.
Q: How many hours of gameplay?
A: LOADS. We’re aiming above the 10hr benchmark.
Q: Is Lara going to be able to swim? How will she interact with large pools of water? Will water have a big role in the gameplay dynamics/puzzles?
A: Like what was discussed in the article, the physical properties of water (e.g. buoyancy) and fire have a big role in problem solving. Water puts fire out (if you walk under a waterfall), objects will float, and you can light floating objects on fire. The island is sort of a character. Water, rain, mud, and fire we wanted to have actual gameplay purpose. We want the player to think about how they’d react to the situation in real life, like “I’m going to use water in this way.”
Some of the feature sets we haven’t made the final decision on, so whether she can swim or not, um, our primary goal is to make sure the experience rises to the top, and that uh, if the experience isn’t good enough for something right now that...would not be included. So it’s all about making sure that water is going to play a part to our physics, to our realism and that it makes it all enjoyable.
Q: How many diverse regions on the island? Will the weather effect the gameplay, or is it just there to set mood?
A: Can’t talk about the regions yet – it’s integral to the entire game. We’re working with animators and programmers to make Lara react to the weather more realistically. You will see in the different regions how weather effects her – it plays a monstrous role in the game. It’s a big, big deal for us.
Q: We noticed the XboxLive and PSN logo on the TR website. What kind of online options can we expect – DLC, multiplayer?
A: Too early to say. We have lots of irons in the fire. There are tons of options to consider, we have them all in a big board in the office. If it doesn’t fit into the experience of the game, we’re not going to shoehorn it in just for the sake of doing it. Everything has to have a purpose.
Q: What sort of enemies will be on the island?
A: Can’t say. The first focus is on Lara, then later we will introduce enemies into the environment. The focus right now is kinda strictly on Lara – how she got there, why she’s there, etc.
Q: Will there be melee combat? Will it be possible to use two pistols at the same time?
A: We’re constantly testing systems, we really want to make sure we need to nail it. This is one of the most tested and earliest tested games we’ve ever done. Combat is a big big deal for us. We hope from what (Meagan saw at the demo) that you know we’re willing to take risks.
Q: How are the puzzles going to be more organic than past games (with switches, pressure plates, and so on)?
A: Utilizing the physics system to get all the pieces. Counterweight systems, buoyancy, fie, teeter totters, levers, act like you’d expect in the real world. We’re moving away from the ancient machine idea and more towards ‘what would I do?’ if I were in that situation. So physics is a huge role, so that’s how we’re going to make it more natural. We have a cool rope system, and we mentioned water as well having a big role. We wanted it to feel like a real place.
Q: (referring to the scavenger’s den from GI mag article, how she escapes using the physics elements)
A: There is some variability in how you can get around because of the physics engine. Because physics has that dynamic nature, the player can do things a little out of order, which has made the level design more difficult because you have to account for all those variances.
Q: What makes this TR and not “creepy island survival”?
A: There will be tombs. She’ll have to get in and out of them as fast as possible. You still have to raid tombs, it’s just a bit of a different experience. You’ll have to go in there to get equipment that you’ll need to survive. It won’t be like in the older games where you pick up a jewel, put it in your backpack, and it disappears.
(they talk about how Indiana Jones used a statue to smash through a wall and make his escape using physics) Even in tombs, there are still situations where physics can come into play.
Q: How will treating injuries be handled?
A: It’s putting the feeling of a real human character into those situations. When Lara gets injured, you will see her being injured for a period of time, and that will affect her ability to play specific – in particular ways. Things like water, equipment will help you heal quicker. We’re trying to get away from the teflon-esque feel to Lara Croft, where she’d fall 20-30ft and just barrel roll and move on. In order to have a real human character, we have to show that she’s injured, that she shows pain and emotion. So, like we said, a big part of the game isn’t going to be that she’s picking berries but she will be injured, and you have to heal that injury. We’re working on making injuries a part of the gameplay rather than just tonal.
Q: Will the game be divided into missions or stages, or will you use a different system to divide up the gameplay?
A: The structure is going to be different from what we had in the past, like level-loadscreen, level-loadscreen. We want to give players more options than they had in the past. It won’t be the traditional TR structure for sure. It won’t be the same structure from our competitors, either.
Q: Would you say there’s more freedom to explore?
A: We’re not an open world game by any means, but yeah, there are definitely areas in the game that give the player some freedom that we haven’t had before.
You will have freedom, it just won’t be open world – you can’t just run from one side of the island to another. This is very specific areas of freedom and control.
We still wanted to have some control of the pacing of the game, the macro-beats, etc. We wanted to have some freedom, but we wanted to have specific moments happen at the same time for everybody.
Q: Will the button prompts be implemented in such a way that they feel natural and won’t break the immersion?
A: We’re still testing. If you’re supposed to kick something, you press the kick button, if you’re supposed to interact with something, you press the interact button. So it’s not abstract, sorta simon-says quicktime events, we wanna stay away from that. The goal is to get the player to feel what the character is feeling as much as possible. For the most part it will feel like regular gameplay, it was just done to deliver things in a more cinematic fashion, but then still give the player more interactivity. We feel like that’s a better option than just having them watch a cutscene. Now we give you more control, and there will be consequences if you move too far too fast, you get in trouble, so you feel more like you’re participating instead of just watching a cutscene.
Q: Sliding on inclines is a fully analog event; in the past the slides have all been sorta 45 degree angles with very specific parameters, but with (TR 2011) it’s fully analog – you’re sliding down the hill and dodging stuff.
A: Referring back to the left and right trigger button prompts in the mag, it’s about putting the player as much into that situation as possible. Rather than button pressing, you’re using the left and right triggers in that instance to go hand over hand to escape toward the light – it’s about really immersing the player.
Q: How long have you been working on the game? What stage of development is the game in?
A: We don’t normally talk about how long we’ve been working on the game. We’ve a major step back at the studio to reevaluate the franchise. We wanted to be creative and do things like GOL. We’ve been working on pushing the engine above and beyond anything we’ve done before. We’re at that stage of testing mechanics and pillars and putting everything together. We won’t be announcing anything until mid-next year. We won’t be releasing it half-baked, we want the experience to be 100%.
Q: Do you have a new engine? Are the cutscenes pre-rendered or in-game?
A: It’s actually our Legend engine that we used for Legend and Underworld, the only difference is that now we brought in 20 magicians who literally sit there rebuilding it from the ground up and have done some phenomenal things with it. It’s exactly the same engine, and we think people will be surprised with what we’ve done with it.
Nearly all the cutscenes are going to be in-game rendered. We might have some pre-rendered stuff, that stuff is still going to be discussed. The screenshots that are in the article are the game. We do full mo-cap with multiple actors, movement and voice all at once. It should be up to par, if not better than stuff we’ve seen out there, actually. We’ll be talking over the next few months about the new advances in mo-cap technology that we’ll be using. Yes, the screenshots in the mag are from the game.
Q: When we get to see the first trailer or gameplay footage?
A: I was sitting there last night looking over the latest passes from the trailer. We’re not that far away from it, we just want to make sure it’ll get across the emotions we’re going for. It’ll be ready when it’s ready. It’s exciting, we don’t want to give too much away.
The goal for the first part of this campaign is to introduce you to this character. Expect them to tell you about Lara and how she got in this situation.
[cut to music]