Despite being its second outing at E3, Tomb Raider still managed to wow the crowds and get people talking. Here’s what happened when Alex Wozniak sat down with the game’s Senior Producer, Kyle Peschel.
Since Tomb Raider was last shown at E3 2011, anticipation has gone through the roof, are you feeling the pressure of gamer’s increasingly high expectations?
I think no matter what game you work on you always feel the pressure. I’m a fan of other games as well and you always want to think that the team is working very diligently to deliver against the fantasy that you want to play. We have a story about a coming of age, a Lara Croft who’s out surviving, we want to do everything possible as a developer to deliver. That’s why we work evenings, weekends, overtime and make sacrifices in our own lives to ensure we hit that quality with the story we want to tell. We take it very seriously.
In terms of platforming, puzzles and combat, would you say there’s a similar time share to previous Tomb Raider games, or have you decided to focus on one aspect in particular?
It’s pretty hard to rate the previous games split. What I mean by that is the time it took to solve puzzles depended on how much you understood it to start with, and combat again varied for each player. I’d say during this game you’ll experience a fairly solid split, exploration is a very important aspect for us, I also think people will notice combat a lot more because it’s more pronounced. As you’ve seen here at E3, if there’s a bad guy alive you tend to track him a lot a more than if it’s just bats. You become far more timid about the possibility of combat rather than the actual delivery of it.
The game’s been delayed a couple of months, is there any particular reason or is it just to make sure the experience is as polished as possible?
There are really two goals that we have, first of which is that we want to make sure the story we’re trying to tell is told in the way we would like it to be told. The second is as we start to think about things like release windows, we need to make sure the team go into the holiday season with the right mindset, so that we can deliver against the expectations that we all have.
The game obviously has a much more mature feel to it, is that reflected in Lara’s personality as she grows throughout the game?
Oh absolutely, I think with Lara we want to focus a hundred percent on the hero’s journey. She’s going from zero to hero and we need to show what it’s like to be the Lara who doesn’t know how to survive. So far we’ve shown two forging events, the first time she took an animal’s life, it’s a big deal; there’s definitely a moment there, and the first she time she’s in a kill or be killed situation, when she’s approached by a man who’s trying to grope her; you don’t know where that path could lead. You see the mature theme resonate not just in curse words or blood, you see it in the dark tone, the hostile island, the situations she finds herself in. This allows you, as a gamer, to know the developers could have you do anything to get out of a certain type of situation, rather than a restricted amount of things.
I’m sure you’ve heard comparisons between this interpretation of Tomb Raider and the Uncharted series. Would you say these comparisons are fair, what sets Lara apart from Nathan Drake?
Oh I think there’s a lot that sets her apart from Nathan Drake, it’s where she is, she’s a 21 year old adventurer that’s read books about how to be an archaeologist. Now she’s in a hostile environment and adventure has found her, it’s up to her to show she has the determination and the will to live.
We’re not at the office, we’re playing games, we’re consuming media the same as everyone else. We look to movies, books, TV shows, all kinds of things for inspiration, so I don’t think it’s a bad thing that people like to compare us to other games like that.
In the demo we saw Lara come under attack from various wild animals, is that a constant threat throughout the game?
We’re definitely in a Woman Vs. nature mindset, the world can be hostile but not exclusively by what lives in it, but also by how the environment actually is itself, the layout. It’s about learning how to survive in a world that is trying to get you, where you have a bow and arrow but not much else. For me it’s best summarised as a smart, resourceful Lara, she needs to be constantly thinking about how she’s going to make it through alive.
The island looks fantastic. Did you look to anywhere in particular for inspiration when it came to designing the environment?
Well I love working with our art team, they’re amazing. The island is set in the dragon’s triangle off the coast of Japan, it’s important to us that the island itself is very believable. We want it to have the weather that you would expect, the shapes that you would expect; we want players to feel that absolutely anything could be around any corner. What’s important to a lot of Tomb Raider fans is the element of discovery and exploration. It’s not uncommon to see people in play tests go to a particular location and just take it all in for a moment.
Finally, we saw a bit in the demo showing the upgrade system, can we expect this to be a major part of the game?
So the base camp system is definitely a central point for Lara to come back to and have that sensation of safety in the world. When she’s there she can work through her survival skills and also her gear. We can’t say too much about what else you’ll be able to do but we have some cool ideas definitely.