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Team Lara lists “Unnanounced Project”; Buzz Monkey readies for “next smash success” May 13, 2009

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Caleb Strauss, senior environmental artist of Tomb Raider Underworld, has listed an “Unnanounced Project” he’s working on under Crystal Dynamics in his May ’09 professional resume. His involvement in the mysterious project, as his description puts it, includes “pre-production development, 3D world environment modeling, documentation, contribution to art pipeline and workflow, and mentoring.” Strauss worked on the “modeling, blending, collaberative polish work for materials and lighting on underground Chapel and hallways” for Beneath the Ashes chapter of Underworld. He also did the “blending, polish modeling, and final lighting for Father’s Secret Study” for the same TRU add-pack.

It’s no secret that whatever unnanounced project Crystal Dynamics is working on is bound to be Tomb Raider; that is, following the mandate given by Eidos to the Redwood-based team to solely focus on the franchise. But, could this “Unnanounced Project” be really? What else could it be?

Meanwhile, Buzz Monkey, known for the Wii and PS2 ports of Underworld and their contribution to the PS3 and 360 versions of the game, has also listed a “Top Secret Game” on their official website, touting it as their “next smash success.” While Buzz Monkey did work on the last three ‘Raider installments, there’s no saying for sure if this top secret game is indeed the inevitable Tomb Raider IX, as the company “offers full game development, co-development, ports, and consulting to both publishers and fellow developers” — not only to Crystal Dynamics.

On another side of the web, TRU technical artist David Suroviec seems happy about what “they” have done so far on “a project.” This new project has allowed Suroviec “to start working from a nearly clean slate,” as his work on Underworld, he’s admitted, wasn’t as flawless as he had wanted it to be, especially since it was his “first job ever.” Suroviec still works at Crystal Dynamics as a technical artist as his profile description puts it. In February, he wrote a rather teasing insight on his current project, which could very well be Tomb Raider IX: “My co-workers and I have accomplished so much so far and I am excited for what we have in mind down the road.”

Even Robert Moreno — former junior material artist at CD — has heard of the excitement in the Tomb Raider dev house. Moreno, according to his site, worked on “materials and textures of Croft Manor’s main hall” and “modeled and textured the clean and destroyed versions of Croft Manor’s exterior for cinematics” for Underworld. The TRU artist has spoken to Tomb Raider Fanboy, and while he was unfortunately one of the 30 CD employees laid off last January, he shares he still hears from his friends from the team and “they say the next Tomb Raider looks very promising.”

Well, will it be SO promising it will make us say “Oh Lara, I love you so much”? THAT, we’ll have to wait and see.

Definitely more on the game as things develop, which they will, eventually.


Laraverse round-up: Tomb Raider dev house is 43rd world’s most successful game studio May 12, 2009

Posted by tombraiderfanboy in Crystal Dynamics, Eidos, Future Games, Lara Croft, Underworld.
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The 2009 edition of book series Develop 100 has ranked the Tomb Raider dev house as the 43rd most bankable game studio of the world, beating the likes of Bandai Namco, Bioware, Bungie, Rare, and, yes, Square Enix. Published by Develop, Develop 100 ranks the world’s most successful game studios based on a variety of criteria, including critical success or review scores, industry standing, and sales data of their respective games.

Tomb Raider Underworld, the most recent title developed by Crystal Dynamics, only sold an estimated 1.5 million units as of January 2009 — a sales count, despite surpassing the million mark, deemed disappointing by Eidos for Lara Croft’s eighth outing. This was followed by 30 Crystal Dynamics employees being laid off “to eliminate redundancy and give the studio tighter focus moving forward” and a directive for a Lara Croft make-over for the next game. Underworld has since reached 2.6 million units sold, ranking the game sixth lowest-selling  of all nine major outings of the franchise.

The game, however, has received generally respectable reviews, garnering 75 out of a possible hundred on Metacritic, which has led Eidos to give Crystal Dynamics directive to solely focus on the Tomb Raider franchise. Ian Livingstone, Eidos life president, has hinted that Crystal Dynamics is already hard at work on the ninth entry to the series, saying that “remarkable things” being added to the game will make you say “Oh Lara, I love you so much!”

In February, a Crystal Dynamics representative said that “it’s too soon to say anything about the next game,” and while Lara’s next game does seem to still be tightly under wraps, Eric Lindstrom, former creative director at the Redwood-based team, hinted in November 2008 that there have been talks of adding a multiplayer feature to the next game.

This was substantiated by Crystal Dynamics’ March ’09 job openings, which included an Online Programmer, whose job is to collaborate with “designers, artists, and other programmers” — as the job description puts it — “to develop and iterate on an online functionality including areas like multiplayer, user content sharing, community features, game metrics, etc.” While there is no solid indicator of what Ian Livingstone exactly means by “remarkable things,” perhaps a safe bet would be the added functionality of multiplayer in the Laraverse.

As E3 2009 closes in, we are still left guessing if Lara will even be making an appearance at the expo. Of Eidos’ portfolio, only Deus Ex 3 has so far been confirmed to be shown at the event. While fans of Tomb Raider are no doubt enthused at the prospect of a ninth Lara game, Crystal Dynamics would do well to focus on the more essential part of making a game — its development, rather than its advertisement.

Stay tuned to Tomb Raider Fanboy for all the latest and newest and Lara Croft and Tomb Raider.

Livingstone: “Remarkable things in next ‘Raider will make you say ‘Oh Lara, I love you so much!'” May 9, 2009

Posted by tombraiderfanboy in Eidos, Future Games.
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Ian Livingstone isn’t Eidos life pres for nothing. He’s a walking, breathing hype machine for the next Tomb Raider title, and we’re happy he’s around.

In an interview with Gaming Indians, Livingstone talked about Underworld‘s supposedly lackluster performance and Tomb Raider‘s appeal as a continuing franchise. “As a franchise, I don’t think Lara Croft is going down at all. In fact, her popularity continues to increase.” He goes on to compare Lara’s commercial and critical performance across games to James Bond. “If you look at movies, James Bond has survived 40 years. Not all those films have been great, but the character remains strong.”

But that’s not even the juicy part.

On the ninth Tomb Raider title, Livingstone says that it “will surprise a lot of people and reinvigorate the franchise. There are some remarkable things we’re doing in the next Tomb Raider to make you say, ‘Oh Lara, I love you so much!'” Well, in our case, maybe it will make us say, “Oh Lara, I love you even more!”

We’ll definitely have more on ‘Raider IX as it develops, which it will.

Should Tomb Raider IX play and look anything like this Beyond Good & Evil 2 footage? May 9, 2009

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A new footage of Ubisoft title Beyond Good & Evil 2 has surfaced online, and it’s no short of amazing. It’s amazing because, first, while it’s obviously pre-rendered, it gives you a taste of what the gameplay will be like for the title, and second, it reminds us of Tomb Raider, if only because of the Lara-esque maneuvers Jade is pulling of.

While comparable to Lara’s acrobatic abilities (just check out the ledge-to-ledge jumping and those leaps of faith), Jade’s movements in the trailer look far more fluid. Of course it can be attributed to the video’s pre-rendered nature, but we would expect it at least to be an indicator of the final gameplay.

What is most striking about Jade’s string of maneuvers is that it has a look of vulnerability to it. She gets tired and she stumbles, and the transitions from one movement to another are seamless, with the pacing neither too slow nor too fast.

It can’t be helped. There’s bound to be some comparison to ‘Raider. As Assassin’s Creed and Prince of Persia have been compared to other games of their genre. This Beyond Good & Evil 2 footage, while pre-rendered, gives us an idea of what the Ubisoft game will be like — so should Tomb Raider IX look and play anything like it?

We’re definitely counting on Jade to make an appearance this coming E3. We’ll see then if the real thing lives up to the trailer.

Eidos is coming to E3; Is Lara, too? May 4, 2009

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Eidos is getting booth #2422 for this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo. So what are we expecting from the UK, Square Enix-owned publisher?

First, we’re counting on Deus Ex 3 from Eidos Montreal to make an appearance. In an interview with Gameblog France, developers Stéphane d’Astous and Andre Vu confirmed that the sequel to Invisible War will indeed be shown at this year’s E3. Of course we did salivate at that bit of news.

We’re also expecting the “second project” of the same team, which is rumored to be Thief 4, to make an E3 showing. The official unveiling of this mysterious project will be on 11th May, and what better way to generate fan buzz about a newly-announced game other than the expo?

Hitman 5, we’re predicting, will also be announced at the event. The last Hitman title from dev team IO Interactive was Blood Money, which was released in 2006. It’s now 2009. Yeah.

Rocksteady‘s delayed Batman title, Arkham Asylum, is also bound to make an appearnce at E3. Eidos has yet to announce a new release date for Batman’s asylum excursion, but they did say that the release window is “the end of summer 2009.” A demo of the game at the Eidos booth would definitely do well for the anticipated title, and we’re expecting no less of the Batman exhibit. It’s been around for quite a while already.

Lara Croft, as much as we want to see her in June, won’t be making it this year. To be clear, nothing’s for sure, but considering the disappointing sales of Underworld and the subsequent plans for a Lara make-over, the Croft team (Crystal D, specifically), we bet, must be taking their time getting everything right for a re-revitalization of the series. And we’re all just going to have to wait patiently.

Stay tuned to Fanboy for more Eidos at E3 news. You never know, she might just make a suprise appearance after all.

Business as usual: Eidos and Square Enix gearing up for new game reveals; Ninth ‘Raider set for E3? May 3, 2009

Posted by tombraiderfanboy in Crystal Dynamics, Eidos, Future Games, Square Enix.
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It’s business as usual for the acquired and the acquirer. Eidos and Square Enix are teasing the gaming community about their respective game reveals.

Eidos Montreal, Eidos’ (and by extension, Square Enix’s) dev team for the upcoming Deus Ex threequel, while presumably hard at work on their follow-up to Deus Ex: Invisible War, has put up a teaser image for their “second project,” which will be officially unveiled on 11th May. Early speculation puts it that it might be the fourth entry to the Thief series, and while we are excited about the prospect of it, we wouldn’t want to put ourselves prey to failed expectations. For all we know, it might be new IP.

Square Enix on the other hand has made a teaser site for its own yet-to-be-announced game. A John F. Kennedy quote is set against a backdrop of a futuristic cityscape (pictured above) that seems to be under attack: “The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life.” Deep.

While Eidos and Square Enix has yet to announce their presence at the June 2-4 E3 2009 event (early list of participants here), we’re counting on both unnamed games to make an appearance at the expo. Would be a good venue to generate buzz.

As for a possible Tomb Raider IX announcement at E3, we really wouldn’t expect anything from Lara for at least another six months. Crystal Dynamics did say in February that “it’s too soon to say anything about the next game.” But now that they’re mandated to solely focus on the Croft series, we’re expecting them to at least be 10% into the development of the the ninth ‘Raider title.

Fanboy will be sure to keep an eye on E3 for any Croft sightings, nevertheless. Stay tuned! Meanwhile, you can hop on to our Twitter page to get all the latest on Lara Croft and Tomb Raider.

Eidos CEO: “I think some consumers think we don’t care…” April 28, 2009

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Oh, but Eidos CEO Phil Rogers argues that’s not the case: “We do care passionately about what consumers say, and it’s great they’re so vocal, and intimate, and trying to drive more into the relationship.”

Asked about what Eidos’ response is to the greater emphasis on cost performance versus game quality, Rogers says that “it’s the same targets and desires that we’ve been setting with our teams in the past year, in terms of asking how we move the quality mark forward, how we improve.” And how does he think Eidos manages to improve on that front? Through the challenge of pleasing their consumers.

“So I think the challenges that we’ve are the right ones, and our creatives and producers and art directors absolutely support them – that’s the goal.”

That’s the goal.

That’s the goal.


GI has the full interview. Here‘s a jump.

Wanted at Tomb Raider dev house: Multiplayer techman March 4, 2009

Posted by tombraiderfanboy in Crystal Dynamics, Future Games.
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It’s no secret that Eidos has given neo-Tomb Raider dev team Crystal Dynamics directive to solely focus on the Tomb Raider series. How this will translate into the eventful Square Enix takeover, we still don’t know. But one thing’s for sure: CD is on the hunt for future tech-buddies for their next [Tomb Raider] project.

The Lara Croft dev house has posted jop openings at their Redwood HQ in California. Among them is the “Online Programmer,” whose job is to collaborate with “designers, artists, and other programmers” — as the job description puts it — “to develop and iterate on an online functionality including areas like multiplayer, user content sharing, community features, game metrics, etc.”

Last year, Eric Lindstrom revealed that the team has talked about the possibility of having a multiplayer feature in the ninth Tomb Raider title. Playing connect the dots tells us that CD has all intentions to further efforts for a multiplayer feature in future Lara Croft outings, considering the “online” bit of the “Online Programmer” opening, and, well, the job description that follows it.

The “System Designer” opening requires knowledge and skill in “designing and building game-play which could include but not be limited to systems such as weapons and combat or character tuning and abilities.” Make of that what you will, but this sounds like Angel of Darkness redux, for better of for worse.

Earlier last month, Crystal Dynamics said that it’s still far too early to reveal anything about the next Tomb Raider game. While we agree, it seems that a little Sherlock Holmes-ing in and around cyberspace can unearth juicy details they’d otherwise prefer to be hidden from us, and we have amiro1989 to thank for that.

Definitely more on this as it develops, which it will.

Square Enix charts Crystal Dynamics as wanted development studio, looks forward to April takeover February 17, 2009

Posted by tombraiderfanboy in Crystal Dynamics, Eidos, Future Games, Square Enix.
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Among other Eidos-owned “talented development studios,” that is. Square Enix has charted Europe and America to show us what places in the world they’re seeking to own full-time with its proposal for Eidos takeover. The Japan-based publisher has been very vocal about its plans of West-ward expansion, and the above company-released image pretty much explains what they’re talking about.

Notable Eidos-owned development studios include Hitman franchise team IO Interactive, Deus Ex 2 developers Eidos Montreal, Batman: Arkham Asylum group Rocksteady Studios, and, of course, Lara’s home base in California, Crystal Dynamics.

Fears (or, in some cases, wishes) that Lara will no longer be under Crystal Dynamics with Square Enix taking charge can be put to rest for now, it seems. Square Enix seems intent on Westernizing their portfolio, and we’re guessing they’re going to do just that by keeping game assignments as they are.

Now, as things get better and better for Square Enix with Eidos shareholders supporting their bid, the Final Fantasy firm is stating that if approved (in March), the official takeover will happen in April. We’re also looking forward, Squenix.

[EDGE Online]

Crystal Dynamics: “It’s too soon to say anything about the next game” February 6, 2009

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It was in November last year when we first heard of the possibility of multiplayer for the ninth Tomb Raider game. Fast-forward to February ’09, asked if Crystal Dynamics has finally decided to go through with the feature, a CD rep only had this to say:

Multiplayer is always considered for each game, difficult as it is, and I imagine it always will be, but it’s too soon to say anything about the next game.

Multiplayer? Next game? We’re trying to be excited here — especially with news of reboots and makeovers and takeovers everywhere — but Lara’s gone through far too much, we don’t know if we’ll ever even have her back, at all.

[Gamezine UK]