Join Date: Jan 2006
Core Design interview from 1996
One of my best friends gave me Prima's "Tomb Raider: Game Secrets" book, which was published in 1996 (basically a walk-through guide, but I like to collect pre-21st centuary TR stuff). It includes a interview with the makers of Tomb Raider and I thought it would prove to be a nice piece of nostalgia for some people on this forum. For those people (whoever they may be), here it is. My comments are in [these].
"The Making of Tomb Raider
Wow - what a game! Tomb Raider is probably the first 32-bit adventure game to give the player complete freedom of movement in a 3-D enviroment. I'm sure we're going to see many more adventures of this kind - they're just so addictive and rewarding to play! Hundreds of hours go into creating a masterpiece like Tomb Raider. Graphic designers, programmers, sound engineers, level designers - there are all kinds of jobs involved in putting together the huge levels and making them as realistic as possible for the player. This final chapter will hopefully give you an insight into the creation process involved as we talk to the creative minds at Core Design, the developers of Tomb Raider...
Q. Where did the idea for Tomb Raider originate?
A. At the beginning of 1994 the game industry appeared to be moving towards a glut of Ultima Underworld rip-offs like Doom for instance. We concieved the idea of taking a corridor style game and introducing a main character, moving away from the first person feel. The idea was the create a game that would look as visually exciting as a cartoon but that offered the same complete freedom of movement that Underworld had.
Q. Why did you decide to have a woman as the protagonist?
A. Bored of the stereotypical main character, I suppose. Also, if you're going to spend the entire game staring at a character, it may as well be an attractive one! [Also because they would have been sued for copywrite infringement for their original male Indiana Jones-y character...]
Q. Was Lara based on any women you know? How did you make her animations so realistic without using motion capture?
A. No. Motion capture is a bit of a non-starter for a game like this. The problem is that in order to maker something move smoothly, the various animations have to link at the cross-over point. If you use motion capture, you just can't get a person to move into exactly the same position time and time again. If you look at motion capture stuff the feet tend to jiggle around like anything. To avoid that sort of thing you would have to spend so much time cleaning it up, you might as well have key framed it in the first place. We also have direct control over each animation, for instance how fast Lara runs, how quickly she can come to a stop, how far she can jump. These aspects directly influence how the game play and needs to be tweaked during the game's development. [And, in case anybody's interested (as it wasn't mentioned here), Lara's influences have been cited as Tank Girl and Neneh Cherry.]
Q. Does Tomb Raider take place in a certain geographic location or historical period?
A. The game takes place in the modern world, in four geographical locations, starting in an Aztec temple in South America and then - well, you can see for yourself!
Q. Can you explain the dynamics of the game?
A. In Tomb Raider there are non-player characters you can interact with, but only in a limited way. The game is not trying to be an RPG, so you can't hold any conversations. The gameplay is divided between frenetic blasting action, platform elements, and puzzle-solving. You have to press the action button to make Lara pick up objects. We do not see Tomb Raider as occupying the same market niche as Doom, they are mutually exclusive games, the only similarity is that they are both in 3-D.
Q. Prince of Persia is mentioned in the game design document [What's a game design document? Is it available online?]. Were you inspired by its realistic animation and freesom of movement?
A. Yes. Prince of Persia is one of those great games that was pure gameplay. We wanted to recreate that sort of thing in 3-D but with loads of extra stuff thrown in for good measure.
Q. Have any of you played Fade to Black? How do you think Tomb Raider compares?
A. Yes. We thought it was very nice. Tomb Raider is a much more ambitious project though, it's simply much more advanced. For a start, we're not limited to a flat-floor system: the areas in which the game takes place are multi-leveled, and we have used that as much as possible. Not to mention the Camera System and the Artificial Intelligence.
Q. I understand you're using a new 3-D graphics engine. How does this differ from the previous Core Design engine used in games like Thunderhawk 2 and Shellshock?
A. The 3-D engine in Tomb Raider was designed from scratch by Paul, as none of Core's previous games used a flexible enough engine.
Q. What sort of utility did you use for designing the levels?
A. All the figures are designed and animated in 3-D Studio. These are then imported into our own Animation Editor, which allows the artist to "paint" the texture maps directly onto the figure. The artist can then load different animations for this figure, which are then linked together so the game knows for instance how to go from a run to a walk. The actual levels are designed in another in-house utility called The Room Editor, which allows the 3-D room meshes to be built from scratch, texture mapped, light sourced and linked together. Then objects can be added along with their trigger points and cameras, and the whole lot previewed before outputting for use in the game.
Q. From a development viewpoint, what was the most difficult technical obstacle you've had to contend with?
A. Animation system, AI and camera system - basically all the things that make Tomb Raider third-person rather than a first person Doom clone.
Q. Are you planning an expansion disks or other add-ons?
A. There's nothing planned at the moment, but it's certainly a possibility for the future.
Q. Do you think there are too many first-person perspective games around - hence the choice of a third-person view?
A. We don't think there are too many first person perspective game around, maybe just not enough good ones. There seems to be two directions in which 3-D games are going; first person has been fairly well represented so far, but third person games have just not come in on their own yet. We just hope that Tomb Raider will help move that genre along a bit.
Q. Did the third-person perspective make things more difficult to program?
A. Infinitely! For a start you can see your character all the time, so any imperfections in the animation or movement are obvious. Also, the camera has to be able to react intelligently for any possible circumstances. Programming this was a real challenge.
Q. Did you have trouble creating a simple enough control system for Lara's many actions?
A. The control system has evolved over the whole development of the game, so we are confident that it is simple to use but allows the player to make Lara do loads of moves.
Q. How has the game changed since its original conception? Are you happy with the way it's turned out?
A. The overall skeleton of the game has not changed much from the initial concept, but during it's realization it's evolved quite a bit. Certainly Lara has come a long way; we seemed to be endlessly adding new moves and features.
The key |Tomb Raider team members are...
Paul H. Douglas (3D system, Animation System/Editor, Lara)
[interesting...I wonder what they mean by 'Lara'?]
Jason Gosling (Front End)
Gavin Rummery (Room Editor, Camera System, AI/Baddies)
Neal Boyd (Level designer)
Toby Gard (Animation)
Heather Gibson (Level designer)"
-- Tomb Raider: Game Secrets by Nick Roberts
There you have it. A little too programming-centred for my liking, but still very interesting. If anybody knows of any other interviews from 1996 about Tomb Raider, I'd love to see them.
Lara Croft + Agent 47 = Love
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: The Benelux
Swimming is the best sport to strengthen, forge and develop a Lara Croft.
Join Date: Sep 2005
Poor Core didn't know, what's going to be their future...
Cannibalistic freaks who dance randomly to their own singing? Sure, why not?
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Beverwijk, Holland
with his:Lara's my character, and i do what i want
"Thank God he was born an orphan. Would have killed his parents."
Join Date: Nov 2005
Join Date: Jun 2003
Thanks Natla'd! I think I have that book somewhere..
Cellphone's dead, lost in the desert; one by one, I'll knock you out.