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Old 19-02-21, 14:51   #1
biscuits
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Smile Crystal Dynamics' video interview on why Tomb Raider: Ascension didn't happen

I found this really interesting interview with Tim Longo explaining his experiences as a franchise director for Tomb Raider.

Longo worked with Crystal Dynamics on Tomb Raider for 5 years. He apparently worked on Tomb Raider Anniversary's Wii port, and spent two years on the preproduction phase of the Tomb Raider reboot and was franchise director for a year after that. He then left for 343 industries to work on Halo sometime after the reboot launched in March of 2013.

He goes into interesting detail concerning what Ascension was going to be like and what it's creative vision was.



For those who don't feel like watching the video:

1. The game would take major inspiration from Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. Tim Longo is a huge fan of those two.

2. Like both Ico and Shadow of the colossus, isolation would've been the main theme of Ascension. Longo cited that exploring the empty planes and ancient ruins in those two games felt very Tomb Raider-y at the time. He wanted to incorporate that into the game.

3. Before the horse was a core mechanic, the developers experimented with companion characters like Izumi, who controlled water and an animal companion in the form of a monkey.

4. The horse would provide huge issues with the game. The developers would think it would affect it in various ways. The game's scope would be too big and unfocused. It would have been far too open and less focused on complex level design.

5. The pitch was Shadow of the Colossus meets Silent Hill.

6. Various aspects of Ascension, such as the giant creatures, the empty/solitary features of the game, and the more horror elements had to be removed to make for a more marketable experience.

7. Tim Longo stated that Tomb Raider is too large a franchise for people to be more artsy with.

8. Tim stated that Tomb Raider: Ascension wouldn't be the breakout hit that Square Enix wanted.

9. Tim was overall happy with the final result. But he would have still liked to make Ascension.

Last edited by biscuits; 19-02-21 at 14:53.
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Old 19-02-21, 14:56   #2
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We lost so badly! I would've loved to see this. It's a shame that Square didn't like it.
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Old 19-02-21, 14:58   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by biscuits View Post
2. Like both Ico and Shadow of the colossus, isolation would've been the main theme of Ascension. Longo cited that exploring the empty planes and ancient ruins in those two games felt very Tomb Raider-y at the time. He wanted to incorporate that into the game.
This is really the only point I like. Isolation definitely needs to return as it was such a huge part of the game. As we all know, Paititi empty and ruined would have been amazing to explore.

Whilst I like the idea of Ascension and would totally play it, I wouldn't like it as part of the Tomb Raider franchise. It's too different I think. Make it it's own thing.
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Old 19-02-21, 15:01   #4
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If anything, Ascension would be even farther away from TR than anything in the reboot trilogy could dream of.

I'm glad they decided to go with TR2013. Ascension's concept never boded well with me for TR but rather something separate
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Old 19-02-21, 15:04   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tombraider95 View Post
This is really the only point I like. Isolation definitely needs to return as it was such a huge part of the game. As we all know, Paititi empty and ruined would have been amazing to explore.

Whilst I like the idea of Ascension and would totally play it, I wouldn't like it as part of the Tomb Raider franchise. It's too different I think. Make it it's own thing.
I am in total support of Ascension being it's own IP.
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Old 19-02-21, 15:30   #6
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Thanks for writing summary. Makes it so much easier to discuss.

----

I wasn't into Lara having a horse as I've never been into the idea of an open world TR. Often they're designed as empty, repeating spaces which is dull after a while.

But on rethinking it (post-reboot), at least having a horse they could separate out the more intricate, explorable areas so that you might have to puzzle how to find them in the first place and make that element more interesting. As opposed to them all bunched up together in the game.

So maybe it might have worked better that way.

I would definitely have been up for some creepy Silent Hill vibe antagonists though. Provided it was done with some plausibility.

I still think they could give this a go in the future.


-----

What I do find interesting is when he's talking about the marketing aspects and searching for things that gain maximum audience. (paraphrasing).

I totally agree with him. However, I will say this - that it's virtually impossible to create something new and groundbreaking that way. It's more a way of finding a more polished or incrementally better version of what is already around. Or a new combination of elements based on successful (attractive to audiences) elements seen in other games.

This about sums up how I see Crystal's approach and why it does often feel coats-taily to me.

They aren't alone in this approach obviously and that's why gaming as a whole (talking AAA specifically) feels like games are merging into the same thing. The same open-ish worlds, with rgp-lite elements, crafting and upgrading items, same combat mechanisms.

I suppose it's inevitable to some degree, but I do feel that TR would have benefited from a more determined, singular approach playing on it's own uniqueness in key areas.
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Old 19-02-21, 15:46   #7
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I like the concept behind Ascension, but it doesn't really feel like it belongs with the Tomb Raider setting. I'm definitely glad they ditched the concept of rescuing a little girl. Little kid characters don't normally mix well with Mature rated games lol.

The concept art for the monsters are pretty cool, but they don't really fit with a Tomb Raider game. The supernatural enemies in the Classic games were normally tied to the lore of that level. But I can't really imagine the Ascension monsters fitting in with TR2013's plot. Well, I think a couple of the monster designs could work in areas like Coastal Forest. The Reboot games really needed more of a supernatural element. Even though I like the Stormguard Warriors/Oni a lot.
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Old 19-02-21, 16:20   #8
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the potential this had. I still hope we’ll be able to see this project come to life, whether a new IP or a future tomb raider. I remember an interview where they said it was going to be heavily focused on exploration, so sad.
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Old 19-02-21, 16:48   #9
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I'm glad we got TR2013 in the end. Also through the course of this trilogy Lara (Although veryyy slowly) is getting back to her roots (and now that the timelines will also be unified in some way promising even more classic Tomb Raidery elements) And by the way, we were always destined to play with bow and arrow even if Ascension happened lol.
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Old 19-02-21, 17:01   #10
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I think the horror SH-ish elements were always part of the franchise. I mean, the mutant mummies/atlantean, even the fleshy environment, was kinda similar aesthetically. The Temple of Xian was also very creepy, or the depts of the ocean with the sharks, I found them extremely scary. And that tone was always part of the classics. I think they should find the way of bringing the horror element back to the games.

I'm kinda sad they didn't made Ascension, a post-LAU Lara that had nothing to do with the family drama... I feel like they are scared of doing anything outside of the Croft drama, like everything has to be personal on a trascendent level.

The idea of big open empty plains isn't that exciting but if done properly can be very unsettling. Just look at old Garry's Mod maps, they feel very creepy and interesting. If they spiced it up with good complex levels, it can be great.

I'm not saying this is what I want for TR, I'm just saying it isn't that far fetched from the classics. Horror was always integral to the franchise untill Legend.
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