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Next Tomb Raider set for release in 2010? June 25, 2009

Posted by tombraiderfanboy in Crystal Dynamics, Future Games.
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Thanks to the diligent sleuthing of Gtkilla of Tomb Raider Forums, we might have a possible release window for the ninth major ‘Raider installment in the Lara Croft series of games.

Following the hype surrounding Toby Gard’s re-appointment as Lead Designer at Crystal Dynamics, Laraverse has yet again uncovered a possible clue pointing to the inevitable Tomb Raider 9. Chris Conway, Senior Programmer at Crystal D, has listed “a Tomb Raider game scheduled for release in 2010 or later” under his professional experience in his Plaxo profile.

We actually prefer the “later” bit, but at least a 2010 release breaks Lara Croft’s string of yearly outings. Give the girl a break.

Thanks, TRC!

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Toby Gard gets Lead Designer title for unnanounced Crystal Dynamics game June 18, 2009

Posted by tombraiderfanboy in Crystal Dynamics, Future Games.
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Toby Gard, original creator of Lara Croft back in the ’90s, is now Lead Designer at Crystal Dynamics for an “unnanounced project”, his LinkedIn profile details. Let’s do a quick recap, shall we?

Tomb Raider Fanboy’s May sleuthing pointed us to Underworld senior environmental artist Caleb Strauss also listing an unannounced project he’s working on at Crystal D. And just yesterday, Team Lara posted a job opening for the next Senior Art Director for their next triple A outing. Need we scratch our heads?

Thanks to amiro1989 for the heads up over at Tomb Raider Forums.

Wanted at Tomb Raider dev house: Senior Art Director for AAA title June 16, 2009

Posted by tombraiderfanboy in Crystal Dynamics, Future Games.
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Following last week’s layoffs at Crystal Dynamics, the team is now looking for a new Senior Art Director for “one of the most prestigious AAA franchises in the industry” who will “continue the long tradition of visually stunning and award winning titles from Crystal Dynamics.”

It’s no secret Crystal D is officially the new Tomb Raider team as anointed by Eidos. All signs point to another Tomb Raider game in development. Definitely more on this as it develops, which it will…eventually. Meanwhile, you can hop on to Future Games for a round-up of everything you need to know on the next ‘Raider title.

[Gamasutra via TRC]

Final Fantasy XIII engine likely to be used for Eidos IPs June 13, 2009

Posted by tombraiderfanboy in Eidos, Future Games, Square Enix.
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Crystal Tools, the Square Enix engine behind Final Fantasy XIII, may very well be the next engine [insert Eidos title here — Tomb Raider?] will be developed on.

In an extensive interview with Gamasutra, Yoichi Wada and Phil Rogers, the respective CEOs of Square Enix and Eidos, confirmed plans of tech exchange between the two companies for future games.

That means Tomb Raider Underworld’s Crystal Tech engine (yes, it’s also a “Crystal” technology) could be used for a ‘Raideresque Final Fantasy action/adventure title some day in the future, while Final Fantasy XIII’s Crystal Tools could pave the way for an ambitiously innovative — gasp! — Lara Croft RPG.

Yoichi Wada points to the differing areas of strength both companies have in terms of game development, “so in that sense the technology, as well as the technology exchange, is also going to be mutually beneficial.”

The Square Enix boss also seems enthusiastic about the prospect of the exchange. “I believe that we would have to forcibly start that kind of a process.” As are we — if only because it would be interesting to see something… unexpectedly wowsome.

Eidos reveals E3 line-up; New Tomb Raider gets top-secret treatment? May 30, 2009

Posted by tombraiderfanboy in Eidos, Future Games.
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Eidos has issued a press release revealing their E3 line-up, which includes Batman: Arkham Asylum, Just Cause 2, and Mini Ninjas, with no signs of a public Tomb Raider reveal. Oh, but that’s not stopping the blogosphere from speculating about Lara’s return.

Twitter has spawned a new ‘net-culture of insta-news and one-liner blog-rants, and has also become, of all things, an all-around rumor-generator that tickles everyone’s inner fanboy senses…and, sad to say, we’ve fallen victim to it.

Following a tweet-tease from Eidos community manager Keir Edmonds about “a special announcement in the next couple of days,” another twitter who claims to have insider info on the upcoming E3 points to a new ‘Raider being announced at the expo.

While Edmonds’ tweet could very well be about any of Eidos’ other major titles, the anonymous E3 tipster specifically makes mention of a new Tomb Raider title that will “revolutionize” the series, echoing Eidos pres Ian Livingstone’s excitement about “remarkable things” that will “surprise people and reinvigorate the franchise.”

Of course we’re filing this under rumors for now, and while we are hopeful, we’re definitely not counting on it. There’s also been mention of the next Hitman title, and even that‘s not part of Eidos’ official line-up. Oh well, there’s your bull(sh*t)dozer.

Eidos to push for more “character-driven” games May 28, 2009

Posted by tombraiderfanboy in Eidos, Future Games.
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 Eidos CEO Phil Rogers, in an interview at Square Enix Holdings, has reiterated the British firm’s vision for their games: “to create innovative, high-quality, character-driven games and gameplay experiences.” Rogers says this vision has served as “a good driver, a good focus for us” towards “a content-creation business with supreme sales and marketing talent around that.”

Our radar’s picking up signal of a more Lara-driven Tomb Raider game, folks — as should a “high-quality” one but…we’re getting nothing. We’re sticking to Square Enix’s mission towards consumer happiness.

Square Enix wants to give you an “unforgettable” tomb-raiding experience May 28, 2009

Posted by tombraiderfanboy in Eidos, Future Games, Square Enix.
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Square Enix big boss Yoichi Wada has a vision for the future of Tomb Raider (among other Eidos IPs) — a game that will “spread happiness across the globe by providing unforgettable tomb-raiding experiences.” But just how does he plan to achieve that?

In a joint interview with Eidos CEO Phil Rogers, Wada says the company puts prime on “understanding each and every one of our customers.” That means the Wada-man counts you and I in in shaping the future of Tomb Raider, but…really now? If anything, they’ve at least fulfilled the fangasmic dream of seeing Lara Croft with THE Final Fantasy pres.

Loads more through the official firm interview.

Here’s where Lara could be staying during E3 ’09 May 19, 2009

Posted by tombraiderfanboy in Eidos, Future Games.
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It’s the E3 2009 floor plan. Best keep an eye on Eidos booth still. Click to enlarge. The rest? Here.

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.

Colin O’Malley on possible involvement in ‘Raider 9 May 14, 2009

Posted by tombraiderfanboy in Crystal Dynamics, Future Games, Music.
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Colin O’Malley, the man behind the epic (!) orchestral score for Tomb Raider Underworld, isn’t quite sure if he’ll be working on Tomb Raider music for a second time. “I’m not sure if I’ll be involved in the next game or not,” the Emmy-nominated composer has told Fanboy. “I don’t think that decision has been made yet.”

There has been no official word on the development of Tomb Raider IX, but Eidos life president Ian Livingstone have somehow hinted that it’s at least gone past pre-production phase, saying that “there are some remarkable things we’re doing in the next Tomb Raider to make you say, ‘Oh Lara, I love you so much!'” While Lara’s ninth game may very well be underway, crafting the musical score for the game would only come once a playable build is in place.

In an earlier interview with Tomb Raider Forums, Legend composer Troels Folmann shared that before doing the score, “I read all the conceptual documents, story scripts and played the game.” Scoring a game would undoubtedly entail having to see the game in motion, and it would make sense if Crystal Dynamics has yet to make a decision on the music and the composer for the next ‘Raider outing.

In his official website, Colin O’Malley writes that scoring Underworld “was a bit of a departure for me, as the score involves a lot of non-traditional ambience and sound scapes.” A core element of the score, he shares, “is a choir I recorded with a small group of composers in Salt Lake City, Utah.” He adds that “the choir was heavily processed to create an ominous, watery sound that fit well within the ‘underworld’.”

As Team Lara stealthily works on certain “remarkable things,” we are left to just hope for the best of the franchise. Question is, do you think Colin O’Malley will achieve that best that Crystal D can offer? Think back, play back, listen back…to the wonders of the score of Tomb Raider Underworld, then have your say.