Tomb Talk (1998)
Mike Schmitt sits down and gives us the scoop on what to expect from Lara's latest adventure.
by IGN Staff - November 3, 1998
We tracked down Mike Schmitt, the Associate Producer on EIDOS' Tomb Raider III, recently and forced him to stand still long enough to answer a few questions about the latest entry in one of gaming's most popular action series. While he seemed pretty ready to break and run at any moment (the entire team is absolutely buried putting the final touches on the demo and the game itself right now), he did fill us in on some of the new features that we can expect from the latest incarnation of the series and discussed the possibility of a future title as well.
IGN-PC: Okay, it's the third time around and you've had two big hits. Where do you go from there? How are you making sure that Tomb Raider 3 will knock everyone's socks off like the first two games?
Mike Schmitt: TR3 is definitely less linear than the 1st 2 games....Users will find multiple paths to take. Some are harder than others, some yield better weapons/pickups, etc....We're trying to encourage people to go back into the levels and explore. The levels themselves are bigger and we feel we've gotten back to the exploration 'feel' of the original game.
In addition, the technical improvements are drastic. The colored lighting, re-written graphics engine, particle effects, new reflection system, improved enemy AI, and the new landscape system are just a few of what sets TR3 apart from the first two games and its competitors.
IGN-PC: Tell us a little bit about the new weapons. Was it difficult trying to maintain a gameplay balance knowing that your player might be walking around with all sorts of gear at any given time?
MS: All of the returning weapons (pistols, shotgun, uzis, harpoon gun, grenade launcher) have been reworked so they look better and the new sound effects are great. Lara can also find a Desert Eagle (she needs both hands to hold & fire) an MP5 assault rifle, and a rocket launcher (over the shoulder bazooka-style). We believe we have the weapons placed just right in the various levels so you'll be picking up the more powerful stuff as the enemies get harder.
IGN-PC: How has the game improved graphically? What changes have been made both technology wise (3D cards and the like) and artistically (feel, mood, etc.)
MS: All of the elements of the engine were re-written. New water reflection effects and surfaces also add to the realism, as do semi-transparencies such as light beams and mist. We've also got weather effects such as snow and rain and a host of other effects such as the following:
Leaves blowing in the wind
Improved texture palette
Footsteps in snow/sand etc.
Different sound effects for Lara's footsteps (depending on the surface).
New particle effect for flames and explosions
Lara's guns will smoke when she fires and you'll even see the shells fall out of weapons such as the shotgun and uzis.
IGN-PC: How would you compare the difficulty level of this title with the ones that have come before it? Is it more action heavy or puzzle heavy than its predecessors?
MS: No matter what we do some people will think it's either too hard or too easy. It's definitely more puzzle heavy than TR2. There are still lots of crazy action bits, but the 'ol TR1 feel is back. Lots of exploration (due to multiple paths) and new puzzles associated with her new moves (crawl/speed dash/monkey swing)
IGN-PC: What new gameplay devices have you used to expand the game' focus?
MS: What can players do that they couldn't do before? The new moves mentioned above (crawl, speed dash, and monkey swing) have allowed the designers to come up w/ some new puzzles that are linked to the new moves (example: throwing a switch on a timed door and having to sprint run to it before it closes). The new vehicles: Quad Bike, Kayak, Rubber Dingy, Underwater Propulsion Unit (think James Bond/Thunderball) make for some interesting areas as well. The new AI system (especially in Area 51) adds some new twists as well.
IGN-PC: What changes were made to the AI system? Do monsters and animals react pretty much as they always have, or were there some changes made?
MS: The AI has been completely rewritten so all enemies (Humans, Animals and other ) will behave in a much more life-like manner, rather than just running at Lara and attacking immediately. The new AI has also been linked to the other characters in the game so that on some missions you will have to decide how to best tackle the level. In some cases it may be better to use some of Lara's new stealth side rather than charge in Guns a blasting. In one of the Nevada levels for example, Lara starts weaponless & must free other prisoners in a security detention center while she looks for her guns (the prisoners will take care of the guards for you).
IGN-PC: While we're on the topic of the bad guys, how many new monsters and animals have been added to the game? Name a couple that you think are really going to wow the audience.
MS: We have some boss stages at the end of various adventures that will surprise some folks. The 6-armed Shiva statues in India will scare a few people too.... And wait till you get a load of the mutant enemies in Antarctica!
IGN-PC: What would you say was the biggest challenge you faced in designing this title?
MS: Thinking of ways to keep the series fresh (w/out just churning out new TR2 levels) & we feel that we've really accomplished that. All the new cosmetic & graphical features, along w/ the new vehicles/moves/outfits/locations really make this game something special.
IGN-PC: What other games have you guys been looking forward to seeing? What games are you playing in your spare time?
MS: Unfortunately, there hasn't been a lot of time lately to play other games around our office....but NFL Blitz seems to be quite the rage at the moment.
IGN-PC: So what's next? Where do you go from here? Will there be another Tomb Raider?
MS: If TOMB III does as well as TR1 & TR2 I'm sure Lara will be back sometime in the future....We don't know when or on what format, but if people are still craving more she'll definitely be back.
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