Talking to Adrian (2000)
- The Croft Times -
When we met Adrian Smith, Core's Operations Director, we just couldn't ignore the fact that he's the man that knows everything there is to know about Tomb Raider's past, present and future. So we asked him a lot of questions!
Find the answers below...
Hi Adrian, thank you for taking some time of your busy schedule to answer these questions.
This seem like exciting times for Core Design, with next generation games in development, new systems... But it has been a long time since Rick Dangerous. How would you summarize Core's history?
We've now been established for 12 years and have seen tremendous change within the industry and the company itself. During these years Core has been taken over twice and has moved premises twice in order to expand. We started with 16 people and now we have almost 90 employees. Our new offices have been designed with the nature of our work in mind so we are all-systems-go to produce brand new and exciting titles.
Obviously the past few years have been dominated by Lara Croft and Tomb Raider. This has enabled Core to attract very high calibre artists and programmers. We have some of the very best people in the industry working for us now.
Aside from Tomb Raider, Core had big hits, particularly in the US with Fighting Force and Fighting Force 2 on PlayStation - selling over a million copies in total. Going further back, our most notable title was the ground-breaking Thunderhawk, released for Sega's Mega-CD in 1993. This was a massive hit and helped further establish our reputation for quality. The sequel, Thunderhawk 2 was our first game for Saturn and PlayStation formats and was once again a big success back in 1995.
What are your plans and expectations for Core's future?
We've been looking to the future for the past 18 months and getting to grips with PS2 hardware, building new engines etc. It's an exciting time for us and we're looking forward to releasing brand new products such as Project Eden and Herdy Gerdy - both have been in development for some years now. Lara Croft is also due to make a come-back on NextGen format later next year, but this won't be the Lara as we currently know her... and this won't be a Tomb Raider-style adventure. Expect something brand new!
In The Last Revelation you took some serious risk by 'killing' Lara. We know it was part of a larger plan, but weren't you afraid of reactions?
We never set out with the intention to 'kill' Lara. The plan was to put Lara into a situation that would cause her to completely re-evaluate her life... so that we could take her away from 'Tomb Raiding' and put her into a brand new set of circumstances. We realise that some fans were going to be upset at Lara's disappearance but we never actually killed her... and the majority of fans believed that Lara, being the character that she is, would eventually find a way out and eventually re-appear. Obviously the franchise is still going strong and with the movie, plus NextGen hardware round the corner, we could not have possibly have really killed her off!
Nevertheless many fans were really concerned about Lara's future. Did you get a lot of feedback from them? What was your answer?
Yes - we got a lot of feedback. Our answer was to tell people to sit tight and wait because we felt sure that Lara would make it back!
Do you feel Chronicles will put some confidence back in the fan's minds?
Yes, we certainly hope so. It's the last Tomb Raider game we will produce and we've put as much thought and effort as we possibly can into it.
You never announced a game so soon as you are doing with 'The Next Generation'. Is that part of a plan to assure fans that Lara will be back with new adventures?
Partly, but I think the majority of people expected to see Lara on NextGen hardware. One of the reasons for the early announcement was the fact that we didn't want people to think that we were simply going to enhance Tomb Raider for the new hardware - we are very keen to point out that this will be a totally new game, bearing no resemblance to Lara's past adventures.
We know that this year's game was first intended to be a movie tie-in, but since you couldn't cope with the movie's plot changing all the time, and also with the fact that the game would be out six months before the movie, you decided to go ahead with Chronicles instead. Aren't you afraid people might say it is a rush job, just intended to make a quick buck?
Well, by the time it is released, Chronicles will have had as long a development time as Tomb Raider III and Last Revelation, so it's hardly a rush job. We see it as a consolidation of all the best parts of the Tomb Raider games with lots of new features added. It's our last chance to push the engine that bit further and include elements that we were unable to put into TLR due to time constraints. We are now at the stage where we really have pushed the engine to the absolute limit and we are very anxious to make this the best TR game so far since it's the last in the series.
As for making a quick buck, I really don't think we can be said to be doing that since all the TR games have been brand new adventures with many new features/formulas etc. We've also finally decided to release the level editor free with the PC version of Chronicles. This is our most prized tool; we've been modifying it over the past few months so that it can be used by the consumers to create and play their own levels. We hope that fans will really enjoy this gift and we'll support it via our website.
Do you think Chronicles will be directed more to regular Tomb Raider fans than to new players?
Possibly we hope that the fans who have all the TR games will want to play Chronicles in order to find out what's happened to Lara, find out more about her past and of course play the 4 new adventures that feature in this title. We are also aware of the fact that as Lara reaches an ever-increasing mainstream, audience she attracts new users who want to find out what tomb raiding is all about.
As far as Lara's adventures go, Chronicles will be a prequel, but how about Lara's own history? Will it set the scenery for a 'new' Lara?
Not really - Chronicles is mostly about Lara's past adventures, flicking to the present day only at the end.
Recently you said about 'The Next Generation' that 'she'll be Lara, but not Lara', can you elaborate on this?
She'll have a totally new outlook on life, she'll be in a brand new situation. Many of the doors that were once open to her may now be closed... she will have re-evaluated her life... but the tables may have turned on her and she may now have to resort to new ways to succeed in life. We're looking at a more mature Lara and the gameplay will be aimed at an older audience.
We've heard that 'The Next Generation' will have a darker feel, will be a more mature game, with something like an 'X Files' and 'Matrix' look... No more tomb raiding then?
Yes, Yes, Yes and you'll have to wait to see!...
Do you feel you're taking a big risk, or do you believe this is just what gamers want?
I think we are all ready for something new and as I said before we did not want to simply enhance TR for new hardware, we want to go in a new direction and we've been planning NextGen Lara for nearly 2 years now - we've given it masses of thought and are convinced we are doing the right thing to progress Lara Croft and develop new scenarios for her.
Why did you drop the initial release date of 'TNG' from its announced spring release, to the end of 2001? Do you need the time to make it just perfect or were you afraid it might come too close to Chronicles?
We wanted to have the extra development time so we could get everything just right.
From what we've seen 'TNG' is looking like a very advanced game, being developed mainly for the PlayStation2. Aren't you afraid that PCs might not cope with it?
No - we're confident that by the end of next year PC technology will have developed enough to cope with it.
Can you tell us a little bit more about 'The Next Generation'?
I think I've already said too much!...
How about the XBox and the GameCube, as well as the Dreamcast? Any plans for them?
Potential plans for all these formats.
And the GameBoy Color or even GameBoy Advanced? Any plans to do more Tomb Raider games for these systems?
Nothing confirmed just yet... wait and see!
Right now you seem very active developing for the PS2. Can you tell us something about Project Eden and Herdy Gerdy?
Where to start! Both brand new games developed with new engines. Herdy Gerdy is a brand new genre of gaming but we're not quite ready to give the details away just yet. Check out the new Eden website next month for the low-down on this title.
Do you feel that any of them might become a huge success like the TR series?
We'd like to think so, but the TR series has really been character driven so we'll have to wait and see how well people like Gerdy as a character. We have high hopes for this title but you never know what can happen!
Regarding Eden, we hope that we can push an already well established generation of 1st person games to a whole new level not experienced as of yet. Eden will, I am sure, perform well in this marketplace - it's a masterpiece of programming, very detailed and the gameplay has plenty of surprise features that have not been implemented into a game of this nature before.
And what's inside the two secret rooms that Susie refused to show us? Not that we're really hoping for an answer!...
The first room was the one where we electrocute people for not completing games on time. The second contained a shark-infested pool where we send journalists for a swim sometimes!...
Ok... Let's move on!!
You all seem pretty excited about the Tomb Raider movie. It seems that Paramount is putting a lot of effort into it, and that it will be their major blockbuster movie for next year. What are your expectations for it?
Huge expectations. Paramount have said that this is their biggest title for next year!
Can you tell us the budget for the movie?
I believe it's around $85 million!
We can only hear good things about Angelina Jolie. Do you believe she'll be a great Lara Croft?
Absolutely - she looks great, she's kind of wild and she's fresh!
Now that you've given up on doing a movie tie-in, are you making sure that the movie's plot is coherent with the game's plot? What level of control do you have over it?
The movie is nothing to do with any of the previous or planned TR/Lara games but we have had constant approval over the scripts and are now very happy that the final script reflects the essence of Tomb Raider.
But with Lara changing in 'The Next Generation' and two more movies planned, aren't you afraid that Lara as a character may spawn in two different characters? In a way that's what happened with the comic books...
It's true that Lara has been represented in a slightly different manner by the comics, but this is an issue local to the US market. So far as we are concerned, the game character and the movie character are one and the same. Whilst we said Lara will change for next-gen titles, it's more a case of her maturing than changing into an entirely different person... and we all have to change as we get older!
Once again, thank you Adrian for answering all these questions.
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