Tomb Raider III - Exclusive Developer Interview (1998)
- GameSpot.co.uk -
In an exclusive interview, Tomb Raider III developer Core Design's operations director, Adrian Smith, reveals Tomb Raider III's secrets…
Tomb Raider III is divided into five mini-adventures. Does each one have a different plot and if so, are these linked by an overall story?
I guess you could call them mini-adventures: Lara's looking for four artefacts this time so each location is almost a separate adventure. She starts off in India. She believes she's looking for a single artefact but at the end of this location she discovers that there are another three to find. So after India she can go to the South Pacific, London or Nevada in any order, before playing the final location: Antarctica. The locations are linked by a story that is brought to its conclusion in Antarctica.
What's the plot this time?
I can't say too much, but the four artefacts that Lara is searching for were originally discovered lying round a large meteorite that crashed to earth millions of years ago. The collision separated this point of impact from the mainland, creating a volcanic island towards the north of Antarctica. When the meteorite impacted, the area became impregnated with foreign matter this matter had powerful properties and slowly released a kind of radiation that accelerated growth and evolution in both creatures and plants... but not without side effects. As Antarctica iced over, the basin of the island remained an oasis of life.
The first people to discover the island were Polynesians, and when one tribe discovered the abundance of life there, they decided to stay. Deep within the dormant volcano, they found the core of the meteorite magically suspended it seemed, above the rock. (The material was in fact magnetic and was being repelled by the magma below.) The settlers built an altar round the meteorite and used four smaller pieces of the meteorite to create a device to trap and save the precious radiation.
Years later, as explorers were charting Antarctica, they discovered the remains of the island. Fresh animal tracks in the snow, led them to the crumbling remains of the settlement. When the explorers reached the altar, they looted the four artefacts, and as they left, one of the men was attacked and killed by a mutant beast. The others fled in terror. Only one survived to record the story...
Back in the present day, a scientific research company hits sculpted rock as it blows a wall of ice in the Antarctic and discovers an unknown material and the body of the savaged explorer. On the explorer's tombstone are the details of the boat on which he sailed. Using this information, the research company sets about searching for the artefacts.
Lara, meanwhile, is in India searching for one of these artefacts herself, unaware of its true history. And so the adventure begins.
What are the locations like? We've seen the London screens. Is running round the capital as challenging as raiding a tomb?
The locations are quite diverse. London features a night-time rooftop level from there Lara drops into some of the buildings, including an eerie waxworks museum and the Natural History Museum. Eventually she finds her way to St Paul's, and from there into the sewers (for which Lara has an underwater propulsion unit, à la James Bond), deserted tube stations and Masonic halls. The level of detail in Tomb Raider III enables us to create really atmospheric locations.
Other locations include: Nevada (Area 51 and the desert), The South Pacific (very lush, featuring a coastal level, island interior and a white water level!), India (jungle locations and temples), and Antarctica (where all is not as it seems!).
What sort of enemies will Lara face this time?
Well, they'll all have a far higher level of AI than previously encountered since we have 'Dr Tom', the AI specialist working with us on Tomb Raider III. Nearly all the enemies are new and include snakes, hyenas, monkeys, dragons, huskies, whales, piranhas and jellyfish, plus a whole lot more.
Lara will be able to avoid some of her human enemies by ducking and crawling to avoid their line of sight, but once they see her, they'll raise the alarm and the chase will really be on. Some of the animal enemies may run away from Lara when initially approached, but if she follows them, she may be led to danger. Many of the enemies will also work in groups to cut Lara off, so she'll have to work out ways to distract them in order to proceed. And watch out for the monkeys they love to run away with Lara's precious medipacks!
Lara's an athletic lass. Does she have any new moves this time round?
The main new moves include the duck, crawl, monkey swing and dash. Since Lara is now able to crawl in narrow spaces and tunnels, the exploration element of the game has really been opened up. The duck allows Lara to quickly avoid gunfire she can also shoot while in the duck position so combat now becomes more strategic. The hand-over-hand monkey swing can be used to traverse areas that Lara is unable to cross on foot, and the dash allows Lara to sprint to safety when she needs to make a swift escape. Lara can also add a dive to her new dash move. This is particularly useful for time-based traps where she'll have to dash and dive through closing doors.
Fashion fans want to know what Lara is wearing this season? Is brown still the new black?
Since Lara is so practical, she needs suitable outfits for each location. These include white and grey camouflage trousers and jacket for the Antarctic, a black cat-suit for London, combat trousers for Nevada and a crop top for the hot South Pacific locations.
What about those lovely boy toys vehicles and guns?
Lara does indeed have some new vehicles to help her get around. A couple of the levels will rely solely on the use of vehicles to complete them successfully: Lara will be white-water rafting in a kayak and speeding down mines in a rail cart. Other vehicles include a James Bond-style underwater propulsion unit and a quad bike... but I don't want to give any more than that away right now!
As for the weapons, some of Lara's new items include an automatic rifle, rocket launcher and desert eagle guns.
Are there any changes to the combat? Does Lara have to aim now or does she auto-aim as before?
It's basically the same system, but a couple of the weapons will require Lara to aim herself.
What improvements have been made to the game engine and graphics on Tomb Raider III?
Firstly there's a new structure for the order of gameplay: Tomb Raider III contains five separate locations which link together, but after completing the first location the following three can be played in any order, before the final location closes the game. Whereas Tomb Raider I and II contained 15 levels, Tomb Raider III contains 20, making it a considerably larger game. The levels themselves are far less linear than before and the player will have a choice of at least two routes to complete each one. The routes will vary in difficulty: taking the harder route will reward the player with more pick-ups, whereas the easier routes will be quicker and less complicated. To add further variety to the gameplay, the save-game system offers an easy and a hard option.
The easy option allows the player to save the game anywhere, as in Tomb Raider II. The harder option will use the save-game crystals that featured in Tomb Raider I, but this time Lara can either use the save-game crystals immediately, or store them in her inventory for use later on.
Tomb Raider III's level editing system has undergone an extensive redesign: our programmers use the level editor tool to create the rooms that, when linked together, make up each level. Tomb Raider and Tomb Raider II used a grid system to create the levels this meant that the level architecture that Lara was able to interact with consisted of a series of blocks of different heights and dimensions. Tomb Raider III's system now incorporates triangles. This means that we can now achieve greater detail such as very realistic organic surfaces, and smoother shore-lines.
We're also able to create more complex architectural structures such as domes, arches and vaulted ceilings.
Tomb Raider III's game engine offers more speed than the first two games, and handles a greater amount of detail. The water in the third game is now transparent, reflective and rippling. When Lara swims or wades through the water, she'll leave a wake behind her. If she fires a weapon into the water, you'll see a new underwater explosion effect. Also, if she's standing in the water and firing a weapon, you'll see the empty shells actually drop into the water and sink to the bottom.
Other effects include semi-transparencies such as mist, smoke and shafts of light. And weather effects such as snow, wind and rain are now included all of which give the game a deeper atmosphere and added realism.
We also have more realistic flames and explosions. When Lara fires a weapon, you'll even see smoke from the barrel of her gun. Lara now leaves footprints and you'll also hear sound effects as she runs across different surfaces.
Any plans for a multiplayer version?
The progression from Tomb Raider to Tomb Raider III has been gradual in terms of technological improvements. Will you be doing anything drastic for Tomb Raider IV?
Tomb Raider IV? Give us a chance to finish this one first! If there's a fourth game it will probably be a very drastic change…
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