Tomb Raider interview: “We knew we needed to change. Bows are sexy but the horse had to go”

[Update: Here are new Tomb Raider screens.]

We recently had the change to chat to Karl Stewart, Crystal Dynamics brand director about all thing Tomb Raider. From coming up with the perfect reboot, treasures, bows and the horses you’ll never see.

OPM What was the hardest thing about rebooting Lara?

Karl Stewart One of the hardest decisions was that we knew we needed to make a change. We looked at all the games that were out at the time, studied them, did research, read reviews. And we realised that we needed to make something knew. Some of our soul-searching was about [asking] how we bring Lara to life in a way we’ve never done before. She’s had a personality, but not anything like what we show now with that emotion and intensity. We added a little girl at one stage. She was going to be a companion, a way to show Lara in a different light. We had a horse, too. It was great for her to move around on, but we soon realised that a horse implied ‘open world’, like, ‘Why can’t I gallop around the whole island?’ So the horse had to go.

OPM There seem to be treasures hidden around the island?

KS There will be tonnes of treasures, because the island has mystery and we set that up with Spanish Armadas and B-52 bombers all over the place – the island has a history. So yes, we’re putting in mysteries that make sense.

OPM Is there significance to the fact it’s a Japanese island?

KS It’s just the location. It’s off the east coast of Japan and it’s an island that, given its location, has to have that [Eastern] essence, but many different people over many eras have come in, therefore it’s kind of evolved into this hybrid. Straight away you can see it has a Japanese feel, but it’s also got a more modern element like the World War 2 bunkers. I don’t wanna give away too much because that’s part of the plotline, but the island has evolved over time.

OPM Do Lara’s animations change as she levels up through the game?

KS We haven’t gone as deep as the evolution of her movement, but what we have done is give you the opportunity to do things with her like moving in different difficulty levels. So in that first area you see the stones. As you jump around them you’re only using basic stuff. Later on, you’re able to swing from building to building, and use fabric to swing about. As the story progresses, we open up the world around Lara, and you’re able to feel that your abilities are improving.

OPM We’ve recently seen two gaming tropes that Tomb Raider uses: the bow and a paternal relationship between gamer and on-screen avatar. Why is that?

KS The short answer is, bows are sexy [laughs]. It’s the in thing right now, from Hunger Games all the way through to Avengers. The long answer is, we started to look at emotion as a big part of our game, and when we delved into that – we started back in late 2008, so it’s been a long time – we looked at the evolution of things like the James Bond series. Back in the day when Sean Connery and Roger Moore were James Bond, there wasn’t much emotion. That was the way it was, it was culturally relevant to an audience. Then you get Pierce Brosnan and Timothy Dalton trying that same tone 25 years later, and people feel like it’s cheesy. Games, like movies, are more aware of emotion these days.