“We were, for the most part, a bunch of relatively inexperienced young people in their twenties trying to create the best video game possible under the circumstances,” says Paul Douglas, co-creator of Lara. Croft. came together. âThere was no master plan beyond this act of creation. It felt like we were building something unique, as games based on 3D characters were relatively unexplored at this point. We were really in the process of making a game that we would like and hope it would gain a cult following, but we certainly weren’t thinking of a mainstream franchise that would last for decades.
Douglas was one of the few people present when Lara Croft came to life. Credited as the character’s co-creator, he wrote the initial design document for the game and watched it take shape from the start. She’s often described as a cross between James Bond and Indiana Jones, but only one of those classic heroes was on the minds of developers when she was born.
âThe pitch was basically ‘Female Indy’ but there was a whole myriad of influences beyond that,â he tells me. âBooks, games, comics, animations, music, as well as the most obvious inspirations from action-adventure films. Indiana Jones was just a starting point for familiarity. I don’t really remember James Bond being such a big inspiration. It depends who you ask, I guess. We all brought different influences to the table. From the top of my head [there was] the late 1800s adventure fiction novels by H. Rider Haggard and The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle. They evoke the same sense of imperial adventure that we were looking for. However, we were not celebrating Britishness so much as caricature.
âI think Guy Miller, who was the Creative Director of Core when we started, was influenced by Doctor Who because originally the Combined Artifact was some sort of TARDIS device that could act as a multidimensional doorway to alternative worlds. Everything changed afterwards when Vicky [Arnold, Tomb Raiderâs writer] joined the team.
âAs far as the character of Lara goes, there’s the AEon Flux influence from the early ’90s – I think Toby [Gard, Lara Croftâs creator] It has been mentioned a few times and Lara’s first concept art was clearly inspired by it. It’s provocative, transgressive, visceral and morally ambiguous. The first seasons have this wonderful visual storytelling without dialogue that yet manages to convey a rich world with complex characters. The way she dies in each episode is reminiscent of video games where the protagonist dies over and over again and how that affects your relationship with the character. Fantastic animation, check it out. Don’t bother with the movie though.
This morally ambiguous inspiration might be hard to trace in the Lara Croft we know today, particularly in the most recent Shadow of the Tomb Raider, where she takes on the task of protecting a remote village. Initially, however, Lara was meant to be a much darker figure.
âShe was never only partially drawn in Tomb Raider, even with the backstory added to the manual, there was a lot that wasn’t explicitly presented,â says Douglas. âSome of it is shown, rather than told, in the cutscenes – again that AEon Flux influence of the visual storytelling – but there is still an enigmatic core that allows the player to project their interpretation. , there was always this idea that she was morally conflicted, much more of an antihero than a standard action hero. We just didn’t have the budget or the time to explore this as much as we did. would have liked.
Not only was Lara Croft not meant to be a hero, she wasn’t meant to be Lara Croft. It is well known that Lara was originally known as Laura Cruz, but what is less well known is the rather haphazard way her eventual iconic name was chosen. “There were three people in the room [Douglas, Gard, and Miller] when some of this stuff came up and we all have different memories – il buono, il brutto, il cattivo, âsays Douglas. âIt’s almost certain that Guy Miller came up with this name of Laura Cruz, but Laura was changed to Lara soon after. I remember it was from a baby name book where Lara’s derivation is more interesting than Laura. Cruz was later changed in the project by Vicky Arnold as she searched for a more British sounding last name. My recollection is that it is from the local Derby phone book.
As for the game itself, Tomb Raider is known to be one of the most influential games in media history, but in order to create a new genre, it has borrowed from everywhere. âPrince of Persia has certainly influenced the platform, where its tile-based, traversing movement is rhythmic rather than immediate,â said Douglas. âIt’s a way to help resolve inaccurate 3D depth perception by the player. Other video game inspirations were the old 8-bit isometric titles like Ant Attack, Knight Lore, and Spindizzy. They were all built from pretty rough blocks but still managed to create believable immersive worlds.
âThere was a wave of games from France in the early 90s that had a huge influence on us: Flashback, Another World, Alone in the Dark – cinematic action games with wonderful continental charm – we have them. loved it. System Shock was an inspiration for its sense of seclusion and immersion – it also effectively buried the player. I still vividly remember playing it at the end of 1994 just as we were getting started in earnest.
Lara’s name wasn’t the only change to the original pitch, either. An Angkor Wat-based level was originally designed for Tomb Raider, but didn’t appear until Tomb Raider 3. Like a lot of cut content in video games, it was all about timing. “[Angkor Wat] was deleted in favor of the levels in Rome / Greece – some of the fauna made the transition, which led to inconsistencies, âsaid Douglas. “There were so many level ideas for the first game that we had to cut it down to a reasonable amount of work in early 1996. We still ended up working crazy hours to get it all done.”
Flying Lara to faraway destinations wasn’t just for player excitement – it was a specifically thematic choice, Douglas says. âThe globetrotter makes a much needed contrast to the claustrophobia of the graves. This is another facet of the explorer theme.
It also offered a contrast to the working environment of Core Design. Rather than being made in an office building somewhere, Tomb Raider was developed into a slightly run down old Victorian mansion. âI think Core moved to a modern business park in the late ’90s, so the first Tomb Raiders were all made in [the mansion]Douglas says. âIt looks more glamorous than before. The boiler would break down in the winter and it would freeze. It was often a little scary after midnight when Toby and I were there and we heard squeaking somewhere in the building. Made worse by having to walk back at an unholy hour to a park with faint incandescent streetlights spaced too far apart.
In the Survivor Trilogy, Tomb Raider abandoned this globe-trotting philosophy in favor of exploring a single place in depth. While Douglas is no longer involved with the show, he understands the direction in which his creation was taken. “It makes perfect sense to focus on one place when the themes are the origin of the character rather than the seasoned explorer,” he tells me. âI like what they did with the reboot; these are incredibly well organized games – not the somewhat crass effort that we pulled off. Personally, it’s too combat-oriented for me, I prefer the puzzle-like traversal of the originals but it’s hard to get away with in today’s triple-A games. Not too keen on the parenting drama narrative either, but it’s beyond anything we’ve ever done. I can’t wait to see where they take him next.
Above all, he is surprised that Tomb Raider is taken anywhere. Much like Gavin Rummery, another developer of the original game, he was surprised that he even had a sequel, let alone stand 25 years later. “[Itâs] just amazing that he has endured so long, âhe said. âI honestly thought there might be a sequel or two and that would be it. He always felt connected to that period of the mid / late 90s. It is fascinating that he imploded in such a stupendous way under Core’s watch after the 90s. Without the drastic developer change, it wouldn’t. might never have lasted.
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