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Fan Pulse: Embark on a sublimely cinematic tour of Croft Manor June 28, 2009

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TRKO of Tomb Raider Forums has created a jaw-dropping cinematic tour of Croft Manor as it appears in Tomb Raider Legend. It achingly reminds us that Lara’s mansion, as we see it here, is now gone after having been set ablaze by Lara’s doppelganger in Underworld. And it also reminds us — on a more nostalgic note — that Tomb Raider start-up menus once looked like this: the stunning fly-by camera views of old. Sigh.

Feel free to five-star the video on YouTube. You know it deserves it.

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Lara Croft’s most provocative classic poses recreated for 2009 June 27, 2009

Posted by tombraiderfanboy in Fan Pulse, Lara Croft.
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Nicobass, you are awesome (yes, they are fan-made, and yes, there are LOADS more through the link). That is all.

More than a decade later, Lara Croft still “hottest” in hearts of gamers June 20, 2009

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Among other sizzling leading ladies of gaming, that is. Thanks to Obama Girl for surveying E3 ’09.

Combat: Why the next Tomb Raider should have 0% of it May 19, 2009

Posted by tombraiderfanboy in Crystal Dynamics, Fan Pulse, Future Games.
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Combat. It’s what’s been holding back Tomb Raider for the last three games in the series. Almost always, this aspect of the game is panned by professional reviews — and reasons vary: sometimes because it’s repetitive, totally unnecessary, or not well executed at all from a mechanics standpoint. It’s not the focus of the game either, and that’s something both the fans and the top man at Eidos agree on: “Tomb Raider is not focused on combat; it’s about puzzles, exploration, and discovery.”

It shows

And it does show, really, that it’s not the focus of any Tomb Raider game, so much so that what’s supposed to be an evolution of gunplay and combat throughout the ‘Raider series culminates in its abysmal iteration in Underworld. For one, 1UP puts it that “it always feels like a chore that simply distracts from exploration […] They’ve managed to make combat less interesting and less fun than ever.”

Eurogamer seems to give an explanatory note for 1UP’s gripe. It’s the “rubbish” AI, they say. “You begin to notice something’s wrong when you find yourself shooting six tarantulas as they emerge from the exact same spot in the scenery and follow the exact same trajectory across the wall. Later on, sharks, panthers and tigers all pose a bit of a challenge, and are all satisfying to shoot in the face, but then there are the two-legged enemies. They all look the same, follow the same attack patterns and are incredibly stupid. The men with guns on the ship have never heard of taking cover, nor even moving out of the way when being repeatedly shot in the chest.”

Meanwhile, CVG stomps on the overall mechanic of the combat system, saying that “there’s no cover system to speak of, and her melee attacks are spectacularly useless. Nine times out of ten she’ll clumsily fly-kick straight through an enemy, leaving you open to a volley of health-shredding gunfire.” It’s so “awful” that CVG has gone so far as to advise players of Underworld to “ignore the combat.” A step-by-step guide even follows: “Go to the Options menu, then Game Tailoring, and set enemy health to Low. Think of the shooting bits as an inconvenient, but necessary, distraction.”

IGN, pointing out the adrenaline system and the difficulty (or the lack of it), states, quite simply and direct to the point, “While combat still isn’t the primary focus of the game, it occurs frequently enough in a level to stand out as a weakness.”

The fix

It’s either this world or that. No pulling off a Hannah Montanah, no getting the best of both worlds. With every resource devoted to building the combat system, time spent on polishing Lara’s world, her environment, and the peril that comes with it, is wasted.

Instead of hiring a concept artist who specializes in creating Lara’s gears, guns, weapons, a techman who gets into the details of collision detection, the sequencing of gunplay animations, and a lead combat programmer who ensures that all contributions are in place to at least have a playable combat system — why not hire more people who can work in collaboration on the technical aspects of exploration, Lara’s animation, the direction of real-world peril, and the visual fidelity of the world Lara’s in?

The fix is this: Let go. Like a grudge you’ve unconsciously nurtured against that heartbreaker, just let it go. Let it go like you would a nasty habit you’ve developed in the past year on a January 1st. Focus on what really matters: the aspect of you — err, rather — of Tomb Raider that undoubtedly deserves the greater attention. More so than crushing shoe-sized Thai bugs, pumping lead into albino arachnids, exchanging bullets with Lindstrom clones, and, yes, even Lara herself.

Environmental peril

What then would be the sense of danger in Tomb Raider?

While the vertigo-inducing, vertical-scaling ways of Lara Croft are enough to give us that tingling feeling, why don’t we take it a step further, by looking back, far back into the ’90s? Tell me, Team Lara, what happened to real dangers of boulders running into and after Lara, chasing her down a tunnel filled with spike pits and swinging blades? The age-old handles that crumble at Lara’s softest touch? How about the crushing floors that open doors into pitch-black abyss? You had them. But they weren’t enough.

The danger that Tomb Raider offers belittles what cover-based combat does — the combat system that almost every single third-person game is now trying to emulate. The peril of Tomb Raider is in the environments. Ones that Crystal Dynamics barely had, but still had — albeit in a far more superficial level — in their last three games. These environmental dangers should feel real and of consequence. They should challenge the players, but never frustrate them.

It’s always been said that combat serves as punctuations amid strings upon strings of words, of solitary exploration, and of cerebral puzzle-solving in ‘Raider world. Instead, why not punctuate the immersion with sections much like Legend’s Nepal? — That part that required the player to do acrobatic combos to survive the crumbling structures on the face of the snowy mountaintops? How about the timed section in Anniversary’s Atlantis where, unless you pulled off the precise string of acrobatics needed of Lara, you would always end up falling into the lava pit (picture above)? The fire room in Anniversary’s Greece should also bring up some memories of being challenged, as should Underworld’s sinking ship, had the environment been more consequential on Lara’s health bar.

Such are perils of the environment — ones that Crystal Dynamics showed they themselves can deliver. There should be nothing to stop them from giving the fans more of these, and less of the panther-kicking action of late. Give us real danger from the environment — ones that test our ability to control Lara with utmost precision and our capacity to keep our cool during instances of extreme time pressure. Give us that, and then we start completely ditching gunplay.

BUT THEN, with all this inspired fantalk of having 0% combat in the next Tomb Raider game, one important question would have to be asked: What would her twin pistols be for then? Answer “nothing”, and you might just get a ‘Raider innovation right at your fingertips. Answer “something else” with a critical-enough mind, and you might just get the same.

Amelia Croft awarded Best Mom May 7, 2009

Posted by tombraiderfanboy in Fan Pulse, Underworld.
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We all know the story of Amelia Croft and how she ended up in Helheim, mindless and seemingly with an appetite for blood. But before she was a thrall, she was a caring mother, and that’s what Kotaku saw in Amelia above all — “because not even good moms get it right all of the time — and how was she supposed to know that sword would teleport her, her husband would die and her daughter would be left an orphan?”

You can jump through here to read the full Mommy Dearest feature, presenting the best and worst mothers in gaming. Should be a good read considering it’s almost Mothers’ Day.

Lara Croft modeler teaches you how to create your own Lara model May 5, 2009

Posted by tombraiderfanboy in Fan Pulse, Lara Croft, Underworld.
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Jonathan Rush, the man behind the character models for Tomb Raider Anniversary and the Wii version of Underworld, is set to give a workshop on “Modern Game Character Creation,” an eight-week course sponsored by CG Society.

The workshop will give you a hands-on experience creating and modeling your own character. Rush will guide you through the conceptual stage and the modeling stage itself covering various topics from hard surface modeling, detail-adding, creation of in-game mesh, adding textures, to adding the finishing touches to your own Lara Croft creation.

Registration’s until 21st May. Classes start on the 25th. Should be a good way to jump-start your career in the gaming biz. Just make this jump to CG Society for more details.

You can hop on to Jonathan Rush’s official website to view his own character creations, as featured in an earlier Fanboy post together with other unofficially released ‘Raider artworks.

Here’s a spread of the GCHS Yearbook: Spot Lara Croft May 2, 2009

Posted by tombraiderfanboy in Fan Pulse, Lara Croft.
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What if characters from different video game titles went to the same school? What if that school was called Gaming Characters High School? What would Lara have been like to, say, Samus Aran? Mario? Leon Kennedy?

Well, PWNorDIE is showing you two leaves of the yearbook of Lara’s what-if high school batch. This is what it might look like (click on image to embiggen). Can you spot our favorite tomb-raider?

Karima and the kids: Can someone PLEASE explain this picture? May 2, 2009

Posted by tombraiderfanboy in Fan Pulse, Lara Croft.
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Playing ‘Raider on Wii seems hypnotic for Karima and…those kids…what are they?

Fan Feature: The many moods of Lara Croft May 1, 2009

Posted by tombraiderfanboy in Fan Pulse, Lara Croft.
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A shift in dev team. A change in engine. A jump from one publisher to another. Through the years (thirteen years, to be exact), through the many dramas in her tenure as tomb-raider, Lara has become more comfortable showing her emotions, especially after the many twists and turns of her life career of being a Eidos’ flagship vixen. Fortunately, we’ve fuzzycroft of Tomb Raider Forums to capture these different sides of Lara…putting it into comparison with her circa 1996 self.

Created with the infamous XNA Lara program developed by Dusan, this work by fuzzycroft shows that Lara is indeed capable of showing all sorts of expressions. Fuzzy is not alone in making the different facets of Lara’s personality known, however. Folks over at Tomb Raider Forums have managed to create hail-worthy Lara Croft artworks through XNA Lara, ranging from recreations of Lara’s classic ’90s poses, renders of what-if video game crossovers, to high fashion-esque shots of Lara in her raiding outfits. Truly, XNA Lara has become a ‘Raider phenomenon within the Lara Croft fandom.

Every now and then, Tomb Raider Fanboy will endeavor to bring you exceptional fan creations inspired by anything Lara Croft and Tomb Raider, and this is one of them. Hop on to Fan Pulse to see what we’ve featured so far.

Fan Feature: Doppelganger goes all Phoenix-y March 4, 2009

Posted by tombraiderfanboy in 360 DLC, Fan Pulse, Underworld.
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To celebrate the upcoming release of Lara’s Shadow, which has thus far been confirmed to star Lara’s doppelganger who will have shadow-y superhuman abilities, Priscilla of Tomb Raider Forums (DA page here) has created a sublimely wicked render of Lara’s evil twin.

Posed through Dusan’s brilliant XNA Lara program, the doppelganger is set against a backdrop of the burning Croft Manor. She was made to have the same pose as Phoenix of the X-Men series as she appears on the Phoenix Endsong cover. You can see comparison shots here.

Be sure to drop by our Fan Pulse bundle of posts to have a look at the best of the best the Tomb Raider fandom has to offer.