Tomb Raider: Underworld with Eric Lindstrom
Tomb Raider: Underworld is out next month, and despite a packed release schedule this adventure is one of the most important games Eidos Interactive have ever released, as well as being Crystal Dynamics' first full-blown offering for current-generation systems.
We grabbed creative director Eric Lindstrom and dragged him into the cold store for a few questions at Croft Manor - which is near Luton, would you believe...
Thanks for speaking with us Eric. How long have you been working on Tomb Raider: Underworld for?
Almost three years...
...and is it fair to say that this is Crystal Dynamics' biggest game ever?
Yes it is! I think that is fair. This is the first time we've gone full-on with current generation platforms from the beginning, and we also wanted to make Underworld a particularly big, epic experience. Those added up into our biggest game ever.
How do you think Tomb Raider compares with the other huge games coming out this Christmas? Do you look at those; and do they worry you?
I do look at them - I'm looking forward to playing them! I don't worry about them, because as much as I want to play those games too, Tomb Raider is different, it's a unique experience you can't get anywhere else. There's much to the overall experience; discovering ancient places; exploring them; figuring out how to make these epic, ancient machines work, sometimes getting them up and running again, sometimes hijacking them for other purposes. In the middle of all this, you're fighting ancient, forgotten creatures. On top of all this its an experience you can't get anywhere else.
What do you think is the heart of the Tomb Raider IP; what's your first consideration when planning a Tomb Raider game?
It's like I just said... the core of Tomb Raider is emotional. Its the way people feel in these spaces. Its what they're doing, and it's what we did with Tomb Raider: Legend, the thing that's really special about Tomb Raider, the thing people fell in love with in 1996 when she first came out. It was not the details of the way she moves in the world, or the combat mechanics, it was that emotional feeling of... moving freely through a space no one has been to before, that you can really find out there if you explore hard enough. Finding things in there no one has ever seen before - things that maybe could exist out there, somewhere. It's about taking these and making things crazier and crazier as you progress. And, then the details fall off the map... about how to make a modern gameplay experience.
Does the plot follow on from past Tomb Raider games... or is this a fresh start?
You don't need to have played past games to get into Tomb Raider: Underworld, but long-term fans will see some familiar faces, and there will be questions that were posed in past games that are answered.
Is this the beginning of a new story arc in a grander sense?
It has its own story arc, but it does tie-up certain elements from the past too.
How do you bring Lara's character to life in the game... as a personality?
In this particular outing she does not have a headset. So, in Legend she was in contact with her tech team back home. Now she is so far remote that she is very often completely radio-silent. So, she has a field recorder, that she makes audio and video notes in. So, when she makes a discovery she talks about... we hear her voice, what she thinks, her ideas...
I notice some of the puzzle elements are much much bigger now. What can you tell us about this?
The epic puzzles play a huge role. They're central. You've got Lara and you've got these epic exploration puzzles. I mean, at the heart of every area she goes to are these mechanisms, which ancient people with a lot of time on their hands constructed, and understanding what these are for, how to get them working, how to use them for a different purpose... take the giant Shiva statue and its mechanism... if you were to write down the puzzles you'd need to solve to get that temple to actually open, it's like a dozen. But because of the way they're spaced-out, and structured, it's like a pyramid. It isn't just one challenge. Room after room. It's a whole bunch of things that culminate with this grand reveal at the end.
Are there vehicles in Underworld?
She has an all-terrain motorcycle that she uses in appropriate places.