The team behind Tomb Raider The Last Revelation
(1999) - Part II
Q AND A
What is the team's main goal for the game?
Where to start...! Firstly to make this the most compelling and technically/graphically advanced adventure yet - with a real 'epic' feel to it.
We're really focusing on a storyline that's driven seamlessly through the game, making it a continuous experience. We're linking the locations with FMVs, cut scenes, plus in-game levels - so instead of loading screens the game will dissolve into cuts and FMVs. Also, some locations are linked via gaming levels such as a jeep chase and even a level on a train.
Although the game is the same size as previous TR games, locations are smaller and more atmospheric, plus there'll be far less wandering around vast maps to find cluse. The player will have a very clear idea of what needs to be achieved and puzzles will be solved with information/items from the near vicinity. This wil definitely help to keep the objectives much clearer.
For the person that has played the last three versions, what's the most compelling reason to pick this one up?
As soon as you load the game you'll be presented with a completely new interface. Gone are the inventory rings, passport etc. We're introducing a brand new inventory system where items can be collected and combined. Also featured is Lara's diary - this will keep a log of the information, maps etc she collectes throughout the adventure - it can be referred to at any time, It'll also contain hints and tips as well as a 'scrapbook' that tells us more about Lara herself.
We're re-introducing Lara via level one - so you'll be able to find out a lot more about her history and the reasons why she is the way she is today. This is a training level but it's actually part of the game, rather than being in Lara's home (which is not featured at all this time). You'll have to finish this level in order to play TLR.
We can't say too much about this just now, but the game will also feature a couple of important characters that have influenced Lara's life tremendously. These characters play integral roles through the entire game. Lara herself is also fully skinned so fans will be able to see far more detail in her.
Egypt as a location offers tremendous scope for atmospheric locations, mythological artefacts, tombs and baddies etc. We've really been able to go to town with some weird and wonderful enemies and the AI is now vastly improved due to an almost new game engine. Lots of Lara's enemies will have the same moves as she does so they'll be much harder to dispatch or outwit - it won't be a case of simply standing on a ledge to avoid them... The storyline itself, as I said earlier, is more straightforward and will really hook the player into the adventure.
Interaction with characters is far greater, puzzles are all-new and Lara has an array of new moves from complex rope swings/climbs to simply kicking down doors. Graphically we're looking at the most detailed game yet - as well as new environment mapping, we've been able to introduce far greater levels of detail via new lighting and object systems. 3D Objects will be extensively used to populate environments which would otherwise be sparse - and many of the objects are targettable so Lara will be able to shoot / destroy or interact with them etc.
Gameplay will be a lot simpler than TRIII in terms of the player being fully aware of what needs to be done - the difficulty lies in solving the puzzles, rather than spending a long time finding the puzzle components or information.
In our review of Tomb Raider 2, we said that there were to be more installments in the series, "the designers would be well-advised to send her back into ancient tombs full of twisted traps. She seems more at home there,and so does the game." How would you respond to that comment?
We'd say that you were definitely right! We've done exactly as you suggested and sent Lara back to the most tomb and trap-infested locations we can think of! Egypt is obviously perfect for this - and for sending Lara back to her real Tomb-Raiding roots.
What are the main benefits of using one locale? Drawbacks?
Benefits means that instead of using the storyline to link locations on a worldwide basis - we did this for the past 3 games - we can now make the storyline far more integral to gameplay itself and hence focus the player more toward the plot rather than the next location.
Egypt is so steeped in mythology and ancient architecture that we've been able to reproduce stuning locations, some of which are influenced but many of which are taken from real history or buildings, temples etc. still standing there today.
Drawbacks - well, a lot of sandy and golden colours and stone textures, but the artists have let their imaginations loose and we've been easily able to produce a lot of variety.
Are there any overriding philosophies driving the game's level design?
Really a return the original atmosphere, suspense and puzzle-orientation of the original game - with plenty of new and improved twists to keep Lara on her toes.
What are the new Lara moves?
To name some: we've introduced ropes (no mean feat). Lara can climb up and down ropes, grab them, swing on them, gain momentum etc. So this means that she's now got a set of completely new options to traverse areas. Since we have ropes, we can also have poles for her to go up and down too.
The hand-over-hand shimmy now goes around corners which also opens up new possibilities. In the past it was obvious where this move would be used - but now Lara can shimmy round corners we have new ways to move her around the map.
We also have door open and door close (with hands), shoulder barge doors, kick down doors etc. Plus new moves with crowbars and other objects, searching bodies, grabbing levers concealed within small holes... the list goes on. Some of the existing moves have been improved to make animations more fluid - and more practical for the player's control over Lara.
What is the main goal of the new inventory interface? How complex will the new puzzles be?
Main goal is to make life easier for Lara and more interesting for the player. Objects can be collected and combined eg. torch plus batteries for looking into dark corners, torch plus batteries plus gun for shooting into dark areas. Pieces of maps can be collected and once Lara has them all she'll not only have a full overview of the location, but may be able to access additional secret areas. The binoculars will be used for viewing remote areas and collection information for inscriptions etc that would be too distant to read with the naked eye. Once viewed, this info will appear in the diary - as if Lara has written it herself. The diary's integral to the inventory and will have several uses.
Puzzles won't be so tricky that they become too frustrating - as I said earlier, the player will have all the info required to solve the puzzles within easy reach, it's just a case of working them out! We've looked back at the original game but the majority of puzzles are all-new.
What kinds of vehicles (if any) will Lara get to putter around in?
At the moment we have a jeep and a motorbike with sidecar!
How would you answer criticisms that the game is somehow "less" of a sequel because, despite additional features, it doesn't appear to have radically new technology?
The progression from TRIII to TLR is the most marked yet. Whilst the engine isn't brand new, it's been ripped down to it's foundations and completely re-built - so it's around 90% new. Fundamental elements such as the targeting system have been completely re-adressed, as has AI.
You're not going to play around with the saved game issue, are you? Save anywhere, right?
Right - with multiple slots for PSX.
What is the breakdown, percentage wise, on sales, PSX vs. PC?
It's around 60:40 in favour of PSX currently, however we have seen a steady increase in the market share of TR on the PC for each version released so far.
Beyond "bump mapping," what other PC-only features can we look forward to?
This time around the PC version is dedicated and will hold its own against other titles developed for PC only. Bump mapping makes a tremendous difference to clarity and depth, but we're also looking to use the power of the PC wherever we can. This may result in some features being available on the PC that may not be available on the PSX.
Is the gameplay more shooting-based a la Tomb 2, or is it more puzzle-based, like Tombs 1 and 3?
It's more puzzle-based, ala original Tomb Raider, but we're talking all-new puzzles, combined with Lara's new moves and the new inventory system. Items can be combined to help with puzzle solving and information retrieval as well as combat etc. Lara will have everything she needs to solve the puzzles within the near vicinity - so she won't have to spend ages running around the map to collect items. The difficulty will lie in actually working out the puzzles, rather than obtaining the items required to solve them - so it's certainly more like the original game in that respect.
We've got pressure-pads, timed levers, rotating hubs, wheels, hanging switches, switches in holes, levers and fulcrums, platforms and blocks that can be raised, trip wires, breakable walls, direction puzzles (using compass) to name but a few. The old levers from previous games are now obsolete! We have a whole range of new systems for Lara to operate, using a variety of new animations.
Of course we will have shooting but the targeting system has now been completely re-designed so Lara won't necessarily lock-on automatically but will be able to toggle between targets with her guns. In the previous games, as soon as Lara was near an enemy, she would lock-on - this really gave the game away and prevented her from locking onto any other enemy. We were unable to change this due to the fact that it was such a fundamental part of the engine.
Now that the heart of the engine has been ripped out and reconstructed, we can change the whole combat system and also introduce brand-new AI - enemies themselves will have a far greater range of ability and moves. They are given AI that enables them to follow Lara all over the map, mimicking and/or countering her moves - so it's no longer a case of being able to stand on a 'safe' ledge and shoot from a distance. Lara will really have to 'deal' with the majority of enemies so she won't be able to run away from them all - and if she does they'll soon be back to confront her again.
The new inventory replaces the old rings and gives the interface a whole new look. In fact, as soon as you load the game you'll notice that everything is completely changed.
Items can be collected, stored and combined to solve some of the puzzles, or generally make life easier for Lara. EG. combine a torch (if you have batteries) with your gun and you'll be able to target in the dark. Collect dry sticks from the floor and Lara can then light them from a fire - they will burn for a limited time. Binoculars will also be available to enable Lara to read inscriptions that she can't with the naked eye - she can zoom in and out with these. Once read, info will appear in the diary (in inventory) as if Lara's written it in herself. Maps can also be collected and when pieced together may give access to secret areas... The diary also features hints and tips, save-game, a scrapbook and other useful clues, notes etc.
Are the levels distributed all over Egypt, or is it all set in one large tomb complex?
We have several locations such as Cairo, Alexandria, Karnak, Pyramids at Giza etc so there's plenty of variety in the actual locations. The locations are more integral to the storyline, which is driven seamlessly through - gameplay will dissolve to cut-scenes and FMV amd vice-versa. Loading screens are eliminated so we're looking at a really continuous, single adventure which will really keep the player focused.
To link the more remote Egyptian locations, some levels will be played that actually take Lara to the next location e.g jeep chase and train levels - very new and exciting!
Are the enemies human, animal or fantastic, or a mixture of the three?
As the storyline goes, Set's approach toward earth gradually begins to wreak more and more havoc, creating some rather unusual occurrences... statues coming to life, things emerging from ancient graves... lots of reference to ancient mythology and strange creatures! We have a real mixture of enemies ranging from the mythological to the human, but the majority are non-human so lots of potential there... Human enemies are mostly followers of Lara's main enemy, Von Croy. We have fantasy enemies such as skeletons, sphinxes, wraiths, mummies etc.
What bits of the plot are we allowed to tell our readers? Any secret new stuff you can tell us?
Basically Lara is hired to discover a new tomb. During her exploration of this untouched tomb, she manages to unleash the very evil spirit of Set (Horus's brother. Horus himself bound Set for eternity in this tomb). Lara discovers that the only person who can re-imprison Set is the person who has set him free... i.e. herself. In order to do this, Lara must re-animate Horus at the correct alignment of the Orion constellation at the Millennium (so there's a timed element here) so that he can do battle with Set and hopefully vanquish him. Obviously, all is not straightforward and the plot takes many twists and turns. Lara, however, is not completely alone and will have recourse to an old friend (Jean-Yves) throughout. Jean-Yves will help Lara from time to time and Lara will even save his life when Von Croy kidnaps him in an attempt to lure Lara away...
I understand the big baddie is the Egyptian god Set. Where does Lara's nemesis fit into the picture?
Von Croy. He used to be Lara's mentor (we discover this in level one). We learn that Lara once had to abandon Von Croy due to unforseen circumstances, but that he's now back on the scene and has actually, unbeknown to Lara, hired her. Lara soon discovers this so it's a game of cat and mouse to see who comes out on top.
How does the new inventory system work? Does the fact Lara can combine items and stuff mean we can expect Resident Evil-style puzzles?
Not exactly - the inventory is there to make life easier and more interesting for Lara/the player, and to add a new dimension to gameplay and puzzle-solving as mentioned earlier.
How many levels will there be? Will there be a system where you can choose which way you go through the game, like in Tomb Raider 3?
No - the game will be linear so there will be no choice regarding order of locations. Lara will have to revisit certain points (we're calling them hubs). There will be around 15 'levels' but final number tbc. As stated earlier, this is a continuous adventure so the word 'levels' isn't really applicable. Size-wise it's around the same as the previous TR games, but the locations themselves are smaller and mostly inside.
Does Lara have new guns to play with? Is the combat system any different from the first two?
Yes - we've got some new weapons - including a crossbow. Weapons will be low-tech due to the fact we're in ancient locations. We'll have choice of ammo for weapons such as the shotgun. Combat system is certainly changed - as stated above. The majority of weapons can be targetted by the player and the crossbow will have a laser-sight. This weapon is also used with a first-person perspective.
So, how final is the end of Tomb Raider 4?
Well, the title certainly seems to imply that... but who knows!
Lara is now skinned and has remodelled hands and head! She can now blink and her mouth will move so that she will actually be seen to talk in cut-scenes.
She may look toward certain important objects, features. This will help toward detection of small objects and interactive objects such as door handles and switches etc.
Some of the moves:
Ropes are introduced so there's more scope for negotiation areas. Lara can grab, go up and down, swing and gain momentum with ropes. Ropes will also be linked to some of the puzzles and may be used to activate switches, bells etc. Some ropes will be breakable...
Corner climb: Lara can now reach 90 degrees around corners whilst shimmying - this really opens up potential for traversing areas (in previous games Lara could only shimmy in a straight line and would have to drop when she reached a corner).
Doors may be opened simply with the hand, ot they may be pushed and/or barged open.
Trapdoor open - Lara will be able to lean down and pull up trapdoors. She will also be able to jump up and pull down doors/grates in the ceiling.
Miscellaneous other moves - crowbar levels, running pick-ups, swin dash.
Existing moves are also modified for easier control, fluid animation etc.
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