Copyright 2002

[ May 29th 2002 ]

Adrian Smith is the boss of Tomb Raider developer Core Design. He's in charge of one of the biggest games in the world. He spoke exclusively to on The Angel Of Darkness. Next gen Tomb Raider, now subtitled Angel of Darkness, was in a very early state on the showfloor of E3 last week, but luckily Core Design head honcho Adrian Smith was on hand to explain why. While there was no game-play to speak of, it was obvious from our little chat that a far more complete title is planned for the carrier of the most famous breasts in gaming this time round. About time too.

As you'll know by now, Angel of Darkness sees Lara framed for murder and sent on a mission to clear her name. Expect Metal Gear stealth elements, art theft, lunatic asylums and an even more fantastical bra size. Let's face it. Smith could put the Tomb Raider logo on the side of a cottage cheese tub and still sell millions. Luckily he looks to be making a quality game far in advance of previous incarnations. See what he has to say below.

Smith: If I'm honest, what we've got here is an in-house tools and technology demo as opposed to game-play. Be under no illusions: there is no game-play in here at all. There are like nine different camera systems in there. The main thing for us was to just bring it out and let people have a look at the look and the quality, get an idea for it, have a look at the new Lara. Where we are in the development process, is that we're actually doing the game now. We have all the environments done, we have all the tools and technology, and we're basically building the game.

We are doing lot of clever things. All these floors are environment mapped. Look at the lights up here, proper volumetric lights coming down and casting all this radiosity. We're doing some really nice bits, and I know they're only superficial cosmetics in look and approach, but we're really trying to get across the level of detail. Look at this [moves Lara next to a wall covered with gargoyles]. There are 7,000 polys just on these faces. They're actually full 3D. All the geometry is real. The engine is a massive step forward from where we've been in the past.

Patrick Garratt: Is PS2 doing everything you need it to do at the moment?

Smith: Yeah. Everyone gives it a hard time, but it's like any machine. If you're prepared to sit there and work stuff out, you can work it out. To say that PS2 won't do this and Xbox will... you just find another way of doing it and the result is exactly the same.

Patrick Garratt: So from a technical point of view, you're not ruing not doing an Xbox version?

Smith: Not at all. No. Not in the slightest. It's like any machine; it's got good bits and bad bits. When you think that there are 5,000 polys on Lara alone: we were struggling to do that on Psone in an entire scene. It's a massive jump forward.

Patrick Garratt: From a game-play point of view, are we going to see a similar thing as in previous games, with Lara climbing up on boxes and the like?

Smith: Yeah. People say, "Are you going to get rid of boxes?" We are to an extent, but it's actually quite hard as it's a fairly intrinsic mechanism to Tomb Raider to be honest. As you probably know, the game's in three bits. The first part is wondering around Paris, meeting and talking to people, finding out what's actually happened, interacting with characters. There are choices to be made, so you can take a passive approach or an aggressive approach, and that'll differ the route you take.

For instance, when you meet one of the characters, if you choose to take a straightforward aggressive approach on the options you select, she'll tell you about a notebook but won't give it to you. The only way forward then is to get rid of her and ransack her office to find it. If you take a less aggressive approach she'll give it to you. It changes the outcome and adds to the longevity of the game. You've also got choices that are made on the pad, which is quite cool. There are parts where things pan out differently depending on how fast you react to certain situations. So the first part in Paris is very different and that 's why we're not showing it.

Patrick Garratt: Has it been easy for you to make the switch from solid 3D platforming and shooting to this sort of adventure game?

Smith: I think so. There have always been lots of ideas, and there were limitations of the original engine and what Tomb Raider originally was. I mean let's face it, it's seven years old now, and that's an eternity. It was designed very tightly around what it did. We've always had lots of ideas and things that we wanted to do. We know that people love the progression of Lara, what Lara is and what she's actually about, so we tried to work a lot of that in. How you actually play the game reflects back into Lara. It's like, "I've got 10 points, what do I actually want to do with them? Do I want to add it to her strength, her dexterity?"

Patrick Garratt: Is it nice to come back to Lara? You obviously had a bit of a dalliance with Herdy Gerdy last year... Lara's obviously the mainstay of Core. Do you think Herdy Gerdy actually reinforced that?

Smith: No, not really. Not at all. We still love Herdy Gerdy, and I think the advantage of doing something like Tomb Raider does is to give you the opportunity to do more things. I think that Herdy Gerdy was probably there before its time and we still love the game. It is nice to get back to Lara, and this time it's a whole new game. It's probably singularly the hardest thing we've had to do, because it's like, how do you reinvent something that's worked in the past? How do you change it? Do we change it so much that we piss off people that have enjoyed playing the game? If we'd have brought Paris here, people would be walking around with a casually dressed Lara that's got no weapons talking to people, and everyone would be like, "This isn't Tomb Raider?" It's trying to get that balance.

Patrick Garratt: Are we going to see this by Christmas this year?

Smith: By November 14 apparently.

Patrick Garratt: That's nice.

[Smith laughs]

Patrick Garratt: Is the second movie coming out this year? It's Angelina Jolie again, right?

Smith: The second movie's 2003. They [Paramount] haven't really nailed it down. I think they've got a time-line they'd like. There's no correlation between this game and the movie. We've got the new script and it's really great. It's Angelina again. She's actually in the UK at the moment, she's been over for a month. They start filming in 12 weeks. How scary's that?

Interview courtesty of

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