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Old 04-12-19, 00:32   #1
charmedangelin
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Default AOD: The game that never was

Alright guys, I said I was making this thread and that's exactly what I'm doing. I feel many people, including newer fans who are not familiar with AOD and everything that went down, needs a refresher on the events that led to AOD not being the game is was meant to be. Now I don't remember everything off of the top of my head and I was planning on making this later when I researched all the sources and put them all in one thread in the OP, but I have to make this today because people are making ridicules claims about classic Tomb Raider and the formula that just are not true and needs to be addressed once and for all.

So, development of AOD began after TR4. As we already know the team was exhausted from TR because of Eidos pushing them to make yearly releases of such a big game. Now I don't remember what made them reconsider doing TR after killing Lara in TR4, but at some point, a decision was made, and they decided to work on the next Tomb Raider game. Now originally Tomb Raider AOD was not going to be a Tomb Raider game. As much as I love this game, I'm here to be honest and report all the facts. Tomb Raider AOD was originally going to be part of a set of spin off titles based on the Core games. The spin off titles for this set of games was to be called simply Lara Croft. I supposed this was going to be their way of reviving the franchise and evolving it, by soft rebooting it with a new title in order to gain a lot of interest in the franchise.

Yes, you heard me AOD was going to be a soft reboot of the franchise and the games would have been simply called Lara Croft the AOD instead of TR. They had drawn up early concepts at some point and wanted to start work and development on the next gen title. At this point I don't know exactly what went down, but if someone has more info on this then provide it and I quote it or update the OP. At some point Eidos told them not to make the next games as spin offs and to keep the title Tomb Raider. Honestly, I don't know who made this call whether it Eidos or Core, but somebody made the call and the games were re-purposed as sequels to Tomb Raider rather than a soft rebooted spin off.

Now at this point the team began working on AOD, Core grew due to the demand that this project would entail. Looking at concepts from the concept thread the team was going to be very ambitious with AOD. They were not going to just do the same exact thing as the other games, they wanted to make something meaningful and with purpose. However early in development Eidos came knocking on their door and asked them to make another TR game for the PS1. Core was thrown by this request and tried to explain the significance of this project. They weren't just making the next Tomb Raider game; they were also making the next gen engine that was going to utilize a lot of brand-new technology never seen in video games before. In fact, we know that several companies had come to Core requesting to use the engine when it was finished based on the technology that would have come with this engine.

However, Eidos did not listen to their pleas and ordered them to make a new Tomb Raider game for the PS1 before transitioning to the PS2. The team had no choice since they wanted it to be released similar to the other classic games, so Core split their team in half and had one team working on Tomb Raider Chronicles and the other team working on AOD. I don't know if they made their more experienced developers work on Chronicles or AOD during this time, but things got out of control fast. While development was being made on Chronicles there was zero development being made on AOD. The AOD team were completely mismanaged and had no idea what they were doing. Many of them were working on their own thing and trying to make their own version of AOD and were not working together to make a solid project. When the Chronicles team finished and released Chronicles, they were shocked at the dysfunction of the AOD team and quickly tried to salvage what they could. Unfortunately, what they had to work with was just a complete mess, so they decided to scrap everything and start over again. They went to Eidos and was successfully given an extended deadline and so they started work on AOD again.

During this cycle of development, the team had worked hard to put together something usable and had finally agreed on a certain control scheme. Now mind you this game was going to be very ambitious and they wanted to push the next generation to the limit. Unfortunately, they had no idea what they were working with in terms of power since Sony had not yet released the PS2 dev kits to them. Still that didn't stop them, and they charged full steam ahead.

At some point though Sony released the dev kits, late in development of AOD and to their dismay the PS2 was not capable of handling the game they had created. This forced Core to completely scrap AOD for a second time. Again, they tried to re-purposed a lot things they could salvage and finally after some time of reworking on the game again, they had a working demo to show off at E3.



The controls worked on the D-pad at this time and everything moved fluently. She could run in all directions and wasn't based on a grid. I don't know exactly how the original control scheme worked but it seemed like she could move freely. The game was about less than a year away from release and the game was getting close to wrapping up development.

However, Sony issued a brand-new policy for all PS2 games. Now let's rewind a bit, back on the PS1 the controllers only had the D pad. It wasn't until later in the PS1 life cycle that they included analog controls on their controllers. However, Sony made it completely optional since it was brand new tech and most games were not purposed for that. Some old games worked ok with them, but they only really worked well for new games that came out after Sony created the analog controller.

Now fast forward to the PS2, very late in development after Core had scrapped and rebuilt AOD from the ground up TWICE already, Sony came along with a brand new policy that forced them with no exceptions to remake the entire game for a THIRD time when the game was set to launch several months from then. This new policy required that ALL PS2 games had to utilize the analog sticks of the dual shock controllers. Otherwise Sony would not allow the game to be published on their platform.

This completely threw Core Design into a tailspin having already created controls that worked fluently with their game and level design created around these very controls. Thanks to Sony and this new policy the team was forced to scrap AOD for a third time. However, they did not scrap the game completely because at this point Eidos just wanted the game released and so they denied their appeal for one more extension. This very moment is what screwed the entire game over. Now I'm not placing blame all on Sony, Core should have realized that Sony would want their new games to use the analog sticks since it was next gen, but Sony came into this pretty late during this game’s development and screwed Core over twice. Once because they did not give them the dev kits in time while they were developing the game originally, and then the second time having to force them to scrap the controls for this game and make them work on analog. Eidos also could have given them one more extension since this was their biggest project to date. But anyway, back to the facts.

So, for the third time because of this new policy Core had to scrap part of AOD for a third time and with no extension on the deadline Core was forced to just repurpose everything they had and just make it all work. First cut was the controls, they had to remake them and since they didn't have time to try and recalibrate and recreate them on analog, they decided to just fall back on the classic tank controls from the old games. This didn't turn out very well, but they had to make Lara work somehow and it was the best they could come up with for the time. Second cuts, entire levels, areas, story, characters, items, gameplay elements, mechanics like combining items, all of this got scrapped because they did not have time to remake them work for the tank controls and make them work around whatever was left over.

I will make a key point here about combining items too since this was originally how Lara would get the Dual pistols. She was supposed to combine the two vectors to get the dual guns. However, since that mechanic was cut Lara was unable to obtain them this way. However, there was a second way they were going to have her get the duals. There is a dual vector pickup coded into the game’s files, but they scrapped this too because they did not feel the duals worked well with the control scheme they had. I mean Lara at times would not target people or her arms would move around in circles. While she had them in cutscenes they didn't include them in gameplay because they did not have time to make them work in the way they intended for them to work.

Other things got cut like some cutscenes and a few other things, but by the end of its development the game was stitched together like a bad quilt. They had no time to really work on and remake the game a third time since they didn't have the time to do so and by this point, they were tired and exhausted from having to constantly remake this game.

And all this bad mojo showed in the game’s final release with tons of bugs galore, way more bugs than any tomb raider in history. The controls were wonky since they were a rush job of implementing old controls that did not work at all on analog. This also caused problems with boss fights and general gameplay, especially platforming. The game also felt lack luster given everything that was cut, I mean there was going to be more than one tomb in the game, but reception was very poor for this game.

I specifically remember people flooding into GameStop and best buy to return their copy of AOD, the stores had soooooo many copies that they had to halt shipping anymore copies to stores. People were very upset and not at all happy with the buggy mess and how the game was nothing at all like the game that was promised.

AOD flopped very hard because of this and thus forced them to reboot the franchise with Tomb Raider Legend under CD.



Now

With all that put together it is clear to see that classic Tomb Raider was not the problem, it was the game itself being a mess that was the problem. Second the control was originally very different from what we have, but the controls got scrapped and had to be replaced with something quickly since they only had a several months left to release this game.

All in all, AOD could have been revolutionary like BOTW was to Zelda if given enough time in the oven, but I supposed the lesson in this is how not to make a game. I wish Core was given another chance because they got really screwed over by Sony and Eidos, but they also have themselves to blame for some of it.

All in all, the point of this thread is to just highlight AOD and its problems because so much information is being spread that's not right and too many conclusions about classic and why LAU happened which is just false. It had nothing to do with the formula, if you notice by the end of the game releasing the game was void of the formula it was going to include from the beginning.

Now I'm not saying you can't criticize AOD as it is because what we have is all we have to work with and that is fair, but it is not at all fair to make projections on an entire era or genera of gaming based on one failure that DID NOT fail because of the formula. It didn't even have much of what it was going for anyway.


EDIT

Alright guys I am still working on the OP to make sure it's all spelled and written the way I intend it to, but for now this is the gist of it.

Now I have yet to include some other sources and that's because I am rushing to push this out today, I implore you if you find information that is for or against any of this let me know so I can reflect it.

I want this to be an open and honest thread with all the facts so we can have something to reference if we ever need to in future discussion which I have a feeling we will.

Anyway feel free to post add comment ect.

EDIT 2

Adding some interesting information and sources thanks to other posters finding them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by paulojr_mam View Post
I took a look at an article on AoD right now and, in my opinion, the only decision that could have saved this game is if Chronicles didn't exist. Because when the veterans working on Chronicles merged with AoD's team, they had to "cut 90 percent" of the game. Maybe if the team was whole from the beginning, nothing would have to be cut. I believe that decision assured the game couldn't possibly be very good. And I believe nothing else Eidos did could make up for their terrible decision and save the game.
Quote:
Originally Posted by paulojr_mam View Post
@Charmed This part of this article reminds me so much the current state of TR: "management trying to cram every new game idea into the design – stealth from Metal Gear, character interaction from Shenmue, upgradeable attributes from RPG games, and so on. Instead of letting the team make a really great Tomb Raider game.”
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ellioft View Post
It wasn't one failure for the TR franchise at the time but 3 :

Chronicles
AOD
Cradle of Life

At the time the franchise was concidered as not exciting

I recommand you to read "l'histoire de Tomb Raider" by Alexandre Serel to know much about AOD.
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Old 04-12-19, 01:43   #2
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Nice write up! But I still think it was super shortsighted for them to do d-pad only controls at first. That was just stubborn of them. Even without the policy it would have been majorly weird in 2003. It is hard to blame either Sony or Eidos for that. Tomb Raider 3, 4, and 5 actually did support analog control on the PS1 (it worked horribly, but it was there) so they were for sure aware of the changing standard. Also, the PC version does not use analog controls at all so it is questionable whether they ever had it right.

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Old 04-12-19, 04:43   #3
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It wasn't one failure for the TR franchise at the time but 3 :

Chronicles
AOD
Cradle of Life

At the time the franchise was concidered as not exciting

I recommand you to read "l'histoire de Tomb Raider" by Alexandre Serel to know much about AOD.
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Old 04-12-19, 04:48   #4
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Thanks, here is another E3 video. Notice how the swimming animation is different. Lara also has much tighter control instead of the loose and sloppy controls she had in the final product. The camera is free to manipulate and everything just looks so polished and smooth. I love how the underwater has a blue ting to it too with bubbles. The graphics looked really good and the game over all would have been amazing if it was developed properly.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Ellioft View Post
It wasn't one failure for the TR franchise at the time but 3 :

Chronicles
AOD
Cradle of Life

At the time the franchise was concidered as not exciting

I recommand you to read "l'histoire de Tomb Raider" by Alexandre Serel to know much about AOD.
Nice recommendation, will have to check it out if the book is still available somewhere. TR was having a really bad time back then.

Ah that's right I forgot that another reason why Eidos did not approve of the final extension on the deadline was because they wanted to release along side the movie. What a disaster that turned out to be.
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Old 04-12-19, 06:41   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charmedangelin View Post
Thanks, here is another E3 video. Notice how the swimming animation is different. Lara also has much tighter control instead of the loose and sloppy controls she had in the final product. The camera is free to manipulate and everything just looks so polished and smooth. I love how the underwater has a blue ting to it too with bubbles. The graphics looked really good and the game over all would have been amazing if it was developed properly.





Nice recommendation, will have to check it out if the book is still available somewhere. TR was having a really bad time back then.

Ah that's right I forgot that another reason why Eidos did not approve of the final extension on the deadline was because they wanted to release along side the movie. What a disaster that turned out to be.
Also the lot of promises made by Jeremy Head Smith

"The game will have download content episodic format and so on"
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Old 04-12-19, 09:46   #6
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The failure of AoD was not just the culmination a tumultuous development but also the fact that Core refused to evolve the franchise very much between each game, most probably because Eidos made them release a game year on year.

The game industry quickly recognised that Tomb Raider / Lara had become a cash cow for Eidos and they were milking it for all they had. This was evidenced by the increasingly worse reviews and sales of each new Tomb Raider especially from TR3 to Chronicles and then AoD was obviously the nail in the coffin.

The main criticisms by the majority of game journalists and players was that the controls were sticking to the tank controls that doesn't seem natural for controlling a human, the lack of improvement in graphics, story telling and very little in terms of new and intuitive gameplay. They tried with small additions in TR3 and LR such as new weapons, rope swinging and other small additions but it was little too late for most people.

I personally love the classics but I can see and understand the criticisms, especially today when the games are 20+ years old and they have really aged badly.
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Old 04-12-19, 09:51   #7
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I think Eidos blamed Sony partially for this project's failure which is why they decided to stop making timed exclusive TR games ever again.(Legend was a complete multi platform game unlike previous TR games that were timed exclusive for Sony platforms)
Quote:
Originally Posted by anniversarytr11 View Post
The failure of AoD was not just the culmination a tumultuous development but also the fact that Core refused to evolve the franchise very much between each game, most probably because Eidos made them release a game year on year.

The game industry quickly recognised that Tomb Raider / Lara had become a cash cow for Eidos and they were milking it for all they had. This was evidenced by the increasingly worse reviews and sales of each new Tomb Raider especially from TR3 to Chronicles and then AoD was obviously the nail in the coffin.

The main criticisms by the majority of game journalists and players was that the controls were sticking to the tank controls that doesn't seem natural for controlling a human, the lack of improvement in graphics, story telling and very little in terms of new and intuitive gameplay. They tried with small additions in TR3 and LR such as new weapons, rope swinging and other small additions but it was little too late for most people.
TR 3 and 4 were great sequels similar to the way that RE 3 and Code Veronica are great sequels for RE 2.

At that age, making yearly sequels was a norm and it was enough for making great sequels.

Journalists just gave TR games such as 3 and 4 lower scores due to this that the games were too hard for them.(And they hated booby traps in video games which is why even in this age, games with booby traps get lower scores compared to games without booby traps.)

Also TR 3 and 4 were some of the most successful PS1 games of all time. No, the downhill of TR began from TR chronicles which was a sequel that barely had any new ideas and gameplay improvements.

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Old 04-12-19, 11:05   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dg1995 View Post
I think Eidos blamed Sony partially for this project's failure which is why they decided to stop making timed exclusive TR games ever again.(Legend was a complete multi platform game unlike previous TR games that were timed exclusive for Sony platforms)

TR 3 and 4 were great sequels similar to the way that RE 3 and Code Veronica are great sequels for RE 2.

At that age, making yearly sequels was a norm and it was enough for making great sequels.

Journalists just gave TR games such as 3 and 4 lower scores due to this that the games were too hard for them.(And they hated booby traps in video games which is why even in this age, games with booby traps get lower scores compared to games without booby traps.)

Also TR 3 and 4 were some of the most successful PS1 games of all time. No, the downhill of TR began from TR chronicles which was a sequel that barely had any new ideas and gameplay improvements.
I didn't say TR3 and 4 were bad games, they were great and I loved them but they were not big steps up from the first two in terms of improving controls, new gameplay and better visuals. The critics general consensus was that the improvements were not enough.

This goes into what I'm talking about more:

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Old 04-12-19, 12:14   #9
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Sequels always get lower scores. It doesn't matter if they're better or worse, they will probably get lower scores. It's unfair, if you ask me, but it's the truth.

About the initial decision to stick to tank-controls, Sony should have respected that. It came from the devs understanding of what would work best for their game. It was in no way a mistake. In the video it seems like it worked really well. Sony could ask for analog control on the next game, when that started development and wasn't yet late in development like AoD was.

Now what I think was a mistake from Core was that system where Lara gets stronger doing things. Was that always meant to be in the game?
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Old 04-12-19, 13:01   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by paulojr_mam View Post
Sequels always get lower scores. It doesn't matter if they're better or worse, they will probably get lower scores. It's unfair, if you ask me, but it's the truth.

About the initial decision to stick to tank-controls, Sony should have respected that. It came from the devs understanding of what would work best for their game. It was in no way a mistake. In the video it seems like it worked really well. Sony could ask for analog control on the next game, when that started development and wasn't yet late in development like AoD was.

Now what I think was a mistake from Core was that system where Lara gets stronger doing things. Was that always meant to be in the game?
Many other games at the time had implemented the analog stick without problem, look at MGS2, GTA 3, Gran Turismo. If they really wanted to keep it, they could of given the player the options of classic controls or analog controls like many games do.

And as for sequels getting worse reviews, there are many cases where I believe that proved that is not always true. Uncharted 2 got much better reviews than the first, Portal 2, Half-Life 2, Batman Arkham City, Zelda even TR2.

The "I feel stronger now" mechanic was very weak, they obviously had more RPG elements in mind but didn't have time to do it justice. Really the whole fiasco boils down to:

1. There were too many new ideas being thrown in to the mix.
2. Bad management.
3. The publisher putting the development team under too much pressure.
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