Copyright 2000

[ August 14th 2000 ]

Richard Morton, official map designer for the new Tower Block levels in the new Tomb Raider game Chronicles describes himself as being "not too happy" after being told his team would be making another instalment of the hit series Tomb Raider having thought that two PSX adventures would suffice. Martin Gibbins, lead programmer to the project, is a little more blatant. "Extremely p****ed off, if just for the fact that it was going to be another Tomb Raider. The Team before us did the first two and said we couldn't possibly do another one. So we've done another two, really stretched ourselves and to be told we've got to do another one was a nightmare."

Martin Gibbins explains during the quite frank interview with UK's Playstation magazine that the only areas of improvement must be a better story, because technically, with the exception of putting some of the programmes code through the wind tunnel, theres little else that can be improved. Richard Morton explains that Chronicles will boast far greater detail, and with the code tuning should make the whole game run smoother and faster. Chronicles script and level designer Andrew Sandham joins the conversation, pointing out that "technically, it should be damn good stuff but there's a lot under the hood that people won't notice - there's so much stuff going on there. A lot of the criticism it gets is unfair."

Andrew refers to the comments made by some of the gaming industries media that Chronicles will be just another Tomb Raider, a different story, but essentially "nothing new". The whole game, according to Andrew, has been rewritten. Richard Morton explains that to change the game completely would require "the Soul Reaver engine where everything is smooth and you can have proper round walls and build organic shapes within the system. But we can't do that with Tomb Raider as it would take a lot more than a year to do."

Joby Wood, another of Chronicles level designers, says that although there might not be any fundamental or structural changes to the engine, hundreds of special effects and tweaks have been applied which should make Chroncles refreshing and stunning. Commenting on the question put to him by PSX Magazine about whether or not Chronicles would a more cinematic game, Andrew Sandham says "Since finishing the last game, we've spent a lot of time trying to create proper characters. We've also got an awful lot of dialogue in there. We've tried to keep it to a minimum and not be boring but what we have done is give the people characters that we all know from playing games.

"We're bringing back a lot of the old characters and they do have personalities. We've built up the characters over four games and now we can start making them real." As designing a fifth Tomb Raider began, the first month, according to Martin, was spent bug hunting, going through the code of the four previous games finding flaws then applying fixes to Chronicles. "We had a lot of feedback from Tomb Raider III that people like the Area 51 level and the stealthiness involved so we though we'd expand on that by having stealthy deathmoves that Lara can perform on certain enemies." "She can get the chloroform and combine it with the cloth and if an enemy's guarding something, she can go up and knock him out" says Richard Morton [This just went downstairs to the walk through dept. Ed.]

Tomb Raider III, according to Andrew Sandham, was the first real accomplishment by a team, with everything bar the kitchen sink crammed into what many now pin as their favourite game. Chronicles will be more selective, with the best of all four Tomb Raider games dissected, re-written, and then portions incorporated in the technical side of Chronicles. "The original idea was gonna be like Tomb Raider III. Lara would have this trophy room with four artifacts that she'd got in the past and basically, you could select which icon you wanted to see how Lara got that artifact." said Chronicles musician Pete Connelly.

The team melds together an intellectual think tank, each throwing in ideas on how Chronicles should play, the story which would need to be the best yet. The flash back idea, according to Richard Morton, came to another programmer Tom Scutt while he was in the pub, although Tom appears a little vague on his exact position at the time of the brainwave. New maps, hundreds of refinemments, new moves, weapons and vehicles plus inclusions from the best of the rest. Chronicles has a lot to live up to.

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