Lara's Lost Father – The Toby Gard Interview – (1996)
by Damian Butt (Paragon Online)
After working onTomb Raider day and night for four months prior to its completition, Toby Gard celebrated its shipping with an exclusive PLAY interview. At the time, Toby was simply Mr Tomb Raider and no-one outside Core had any inkling he would soon leave.
PLAY: Where did you get the idea from?
Toby Gard: The idea for Tomb Raider came from a variety of sources, both games and films, mainly the Ultima Underworld series, Prince of Persia, Virtua Fighter, Indiana Jones (of course) and all John Woo films. The challenge was to take elements from all of them and try to jam them into one game that played well.
PLAY: Is it true it was pretty much you on your own at the start and that you did all the plotting and animation?
TG: While the idea was just that, I had the problem of hooking up with a programmer talented enough to pull off such a mammoth task. Luckily Paul Douglas started just at the right moment and we took it from there as a team. I did all of Lara's animations and most of the enemies. The plot of the game was co-written with our in-house script writer Vicky Arnold.
PLAY: What games have you done before on computers/consoles?
TG: Erm, BC Racers was my first project, but that was not my idea I can tell you.
PLAY: Has Tomb Raider turned out the way you envisaged it, or were there any compromises?
TG: Yes I'd say Tomb Raider is pretty damn close to the original game concept, in practice of course it evolved quite dramatically as it was being made. Lara's exact list of moves were made on the fly. Swimming was added to spice things up, and in the end it's less cinematic than I'd originally hoped, mainly because if you try to be too clever with the camera, it tends to confuse the player, which isn't very good. There are always compromises, deadlines dictate that there must be, but we kept them to a minimum by working every hour that God gave us for the last four months.
PLAY: What makes a good game in your opinion?
TG: I don't think you can pin down the specific elements that make a good game mainly because there are so many different types of successful games. Playability and decent presentation are essential, but basically any idea that the developers really believe in and are willing to put their all into will do pretty well I reckon.
PLAY: Have any games impressed you of late on the PlayStation and why?
TG: I like Tekken 2, Crash Bandicoot looks nice, Wipeout 2097 is lovely. Er, PlayStation needs more good games doesn't it?
PLAY:What do you think of the PlayStation as a development machine?
TG: I like the PlayStation because it's so damn fast, and its colours are vibrant. Certainly the PlayStation version of Tomb Raider looks the best of the lot.
PLAY: Why do so many games simply seem to be variants on a successful formula, is it hardware limitation, lack of imagination, or something else?
TG: It's pretty hard to get a game started that is too different from what already exists. So much money is put into the development of a game, the people who hold the purse strings have to feel confident that firstly, it can actually be done, and that it can be done in a realistic amount of time, and that there's a market for it. I think the most original game designs are probably turned down because they are seen as too much of a risk.
TG: People who write computer games don't get famous because as a group we're perceived as a bunch of geeky kids with no lives, which isn't really the thing for making teen idols. I intend to spend as much money as I can on as many holidays as possible.
PLAY: Is Derby (Core Design's home town) a technological nirvana?
TG: Derby is a technological pus bucket!
PLAY: Now that Tomb Raider is completed, imagine that Core give you unlimited funds to take your team on a well deserved break. Where do you go?
TG: It would have been nice to have gone to Egypt with all you press b*stards, but we were too busy finishing the game. However, Core's unlimited funds would buy us a bus fare into the centre of Derby and a cheese sandwich from M&S. Then we could enjoy the walk back to work.
PLAY: And finally, how do you get past the jump on the Natlas mines level, after the lava section and all those pillars you have to jump across?
TG: Pull the TNT box out somewhere and get onto it and jump into an alcove type bit. Run up there and pull the switch to blow up the TNT and this allows you to progress.
UPDATE: Three months after Tomb Raider's completion Toby Gard abruptly left Core Design and all but vanished into the ether. Shortly beforehand, Shiny Entertainment's Dave Perry had made a highly public effort to woo the Tomb Raider team into joining his Californian operation. However, according to a rare interview in Arena magazine, Gard instead chose to set up his development studio with some of the £50,000 he earnt in two months' of Tomb Raider royalties. These apparently ceased after he left Core Design – Gard certainly doesn't own the copyright to the heroine he helped create.
It was later announced, at the same August ECTS at which Tomb Raider 2 enjoyed its European launch, that Gard's new codeshop would be called the Confounding Factor. Just as with Shiny Entertainment, CF has been heavily backed by Interplay in return for worldwide publishing rights to all CF games. Aside from Gard, CF also enjoys the talents of Paul Douglas – lead programmer on the original Tomb Raider.
Unsurprisingly, CF's first project will be a 3D adventure, currently titled Leviathan. There's no news as yet whether the lead character will be female – and the game certainly won't appear until 1999 – so there's no need for Lara to get her knickers in a twist just yet...
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