Copyright 2000

[ September 13th 2000 ]

Amid a whirlwind of rumour and speculation about the direction of the Tomb Raider series following on from Chronicles, Core Design's Adrian Smith, fresh from his first interview on Chronicles, is back talking to GameSpot UK about Next Generation, the rebirth of Lara Croft and gameplay as we have never seen it. The Last Revelation, aka Tomb Raider 4, sees Lara entrapped in the Temple Of Horus, twiddling her thumbs while millions of fans around the world become embroiled in the flashback adventures of Chronicles, giving Core Design a clean sheet for the creation of the Next Generation of Tomb Raider. "The last thing we want in Tomb Raider Next Gen is Lara Croft standing up outside a tomb." comments Smith.

The design and structure of Next Generation will move away from the more traditional start and end genre while Core steer their new instalment along a more episodic route. The thought behind this would be to avoid the "throw is away in 12 months" attitude and instead begin authoring chapters of the same game, over many releases Smith says the first game in the new series will include three or four chapters, unique adventures as well as play based on a larger picture. The following release a further three of four chapters, and the story gradually evolving release after release, more like a book than a video game. "Even though there's a self-contained episode there are hooks in every episode to the bigger picture."

In a phenomenally moving technological world, Core hopes that this approach to gameplay will also marry well with the changing hardware market, making the studio able to adapt and render according to the latest model on the market. Core also plan to envelope the release of their Next Generation series with sporadic information, perhaps as Smith suggests, two or three weeks after release, adding to the new feel of chapter gaming, and using the growing success of online interactivity as a dominant medium for the release and moulding of the story.

Speaking on the ever evolving Lara Croft, Adrian brings to the attention the privileged life Lara Croft has led up until now, but drops a hint that the Temple of Horus might not be the final resting place of his heroine by speaking of her return to England after her near-death experience. "She may be having problems adjusting to normal life. She may become an alcoholic, she may be taking drugs, Croft Manor might have burned down." suggesting a more mature audience.

"The possibilities are endless. There are no intentions of having the abrupt endings we had in the past. That shocking new system means that Lara is going to be plunged into a very different lifestyle which will be totally the opposite of what she's used to. Obviously Lara has to see the adventure through from beginning to end. There's no way she can get out of it halfway through. She has to prove something, almost her innocence"

Interaction has always been paramount in the design of any Tomb Raider episode, and Lara Crofts future intends to be filled with many new characters, each with their own unique personalities, evolving with Lara as the story unfolds. According to Smith, some of the external characters might actually be playable, while others maintain their more static environmental interaction with Lara, supporting her or challenging her as she unfolds more and more adventures. New playable characters will have their own adventures to contend with, but Smith says that their paths will most certainly cross with the intrepid Lara on more than one occasion, adding weight to the true scope of directions the game could take.

Lara's own character development will allow her not only to participate and investigate, but also mature more in herself, allowing the user to understand Lara not just as a gun-swinging action hero, but also in a more intellectually developing light. Role playing elements will be introduced, and the user will then choose the kind of game he or she plays. "We've always understood that the consumer forms a very strong link with Lara and they form two camps: they are either a force protecting Lara or they are actually Lara.

"We want to build on this and therefore, dependent on how you play the game, how you look after Lara and how you control Lara will be reflected back in the stats and the type of Lara that you build. An example would be that if I choose to run everywhere myself during the game then you find Lara's skill set for running will increase, just like a traditional RPG model. You won't get an onscreen prompt saying that your running skill has just gone up by one point but you will notice that you can run a bit faster or a little bit longer, just subtle things like that."

The direction within game play will also develop Lara's character, more skill or agility being applied to the character makeup if a certain, perhaps harder or trickier route is taken over a more easier one. "That means I [Lara] can get to the secret ledge or hidden corridor or what ever. It will just mean a different route, a different path."

Arian Smith describes the differences between the original Tomb Raider series and Next Generation as a game specifically for the new generation of gaming consoles. While Tomb Raider, 2, 3 and so on have each undergone extensive architectural makeovers, as much as complete mechanical recoding in the case of Chronicles, Next Generation will see a completely different approach to design and makeup, initially exclusively designed for the PS2, then later developing towards Microsofts XBOX. "We're bringing something darker, more mature. We're definitely aiming this at a more mature audience. We've looked at films like the Omen and The Exorcist, which are very dark and deep kind of films and that gives some kind of indication of what you can expect to see."


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