gamescom 2012: Bows Are Sexy – Interview with Tomb Raider’s Karl Stewart
Rebooting / re-imagining a series isn’t an easy thing to do, people have so many memories and ideas about what that game means to them. Now Imagine that game you’re trying to reinvigorate is one of the most iconic games ever, one that defined a generation. The pressure is on Square Enix to get it right, after all this isn’t the first refresh that’s been attempted of Tomb Raider. I had some time to kill before going hands on to see for myself how it was shaping up so I had a quick chat with Brand Manager Karl Stewart about what the public can now get their hands on, what they’ve learnt from the Tomb Raiders of old and the love of the Bow.
So we’re nearing ever closer to launch and the public are finally able to go hands-on with Tomb Raider. Could you walk us through the section that’s playable on the show floor?
What we’re showing today is basically the code that we had out for E3, where we show you the breaking point of our character. Last year we showed you how she managed to survive this situation where she was left for dead, hung upside down. We taught you some of the pillars of the smart, resourceful Lara as well as the physics of the world.
Now we take you on an emotional journey, to a place where she’s now broken free from that situation. She’s pushed inland, she’s on her own, doesn’t know if anybody else survived and she very quickly starts to come across situations that push our character to her limits. One that is probably the most prevalent in this piece of code is Lara’s first kill. It’s the moment when Lara has to do something completely unthinkable; she never thought she’d be in one of those situations and we bring the player on that emotional roller-coaster to see how that unfolds. We also start to introduce in a little more detail to the base camp stuff, such as salvaging and our skill tree, which adds a little bit of a light RPG feel to the game. Its all about seeing the character arc though; how Lara is going to grow on this island and literally go from being a zero to a hero.
By the time we get to the end of Tomb Raider are we going to be seeing the Lara that we know and love from the games of old, or will she still be on the journey to becoming that woman?
It’s important that we say from the beginning that what we did before with Tomb Raider (and we’re honoured to have worked on the franchise and been a major part in that), where Underworld finished is where that portion of the franchise finished. Now in re-imagining the game we are going from a day one perspective. How we finish this game will be the beginning of her journey for the next game. The key thing that I should say is that we’ve made sure from day one you feel like its Lara Croft; you feel like its Tomb Raider and you don’t just feel like its a character that your not accustomed to.
We still want the player to finish the game and feel like that was Lara Croft, the difference is just that we want it to be culturally relevant to today’s style of game; play-style and storytelling. It won’t be as if you finish the game and say “I don’t know who this girl is, where is the Lara that I used to know?” There will still be traits and iconic moments where we want to make sure the player goes “ahh now I was there when she did that” and feel like its relevant to them – to give the player those experiences that they didn’t have in other Tomb Raiders.
Looking back over the previous games both good and bad – all of them play a key part in making the essence of Tomb Raider. Is there anything that you’ve taken from any of those older games and brought forward into the new game?
Every single game has a little nugget and any die-hard fan will notice them or see a little essence of something from one of the previous games once in a while. Something which we’ve been showing a little since the demo last year is how Lara dies; you know there’s some really vicious deaths and people start looking at you going “how could you do that to Lara… how could you kill her?” and I’m like “did you ever play the first Tomb Raider, have you seen how she dies in that?”
Swan diving off the top of the highest thing you could find all the time?
Exactly! For us there are little things inside the game that you’ll look at and think that looks like something I would have played in the first Tomb Raider, all the way through to Guardian of Light, which had these great challenge tombs. It was something off the beaten track where you’d spend a few minutes doing a puzzle trying to figure out how things are working – we’ve spent a lot of time figuring out how to bring those kind of things and make them work in our game now. We’ve looked at and replayed each game, right from the first one all the way through to Guardian of Light, over and over again and we’ve picked moments that will feel familiar, yet different.
We’ve looked at and replayed each game, right from the first one all the way through to Guardian of Light, over and over again and we’ve picked moments that will feel familiar, yet different.
Something that is also becoming quite familiar in a lot of upcoming games is the bow and arrow, which is also a very symbolic weapon more than anything else. Is that why you wanted to give her a bow?
I think the key thing for us when we started re-imaging and rebuilding the story line was wanting Lara to start with nothing, to progress through the story as well as get across her physical growth and how she becomes this action adventure hero. We didn’t just want to plonk her on an island and say here you go, there’s a gun. She has to go through the foraging, the collecting and figuring out how to use the things around her. The first bow that we give Lara is a real makeshift one; pretty much some sticks and some string, which to us signifies the day-one scenario where she’s got the first thing she can get her hands on to try and protect herself. We started re-imaging Tomb Raider in early 2008 – now when we look at what’s happened since then we’ve had Brave, Katniss and Hawkeye in the Avengers, but that’s because bows are sexy.
All of a sudden we were in the right place at the right time and I’m delighted that we are because we absolutely love it. You really feel a sense of power and accomplishment when you make that first kill out hunting and even as a protective item. Right now… bows are sexy.