Interview With Tomb Raider Creative Director

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Earlier this week I posted an interview with the guys from IO Interactive about Hitman: Absolution. Well, Agent 47 isn’t the only Eidos game star returning to consoles – Lara Croft is also returning (albeit from a shorter absence) in a brand new Tomb Raider that takes the series in a grittier new direction. I recently caught up with Noah Hughes, creative director Crystal Dynamics, to explore this new adventure.

Tomb Raider for PS3

How does it feel to be bringing Lara back in a brand new take on the Tomb Raider series?

Noah Hughes: It’s an honour really, to be able to not only work with Lara Croft and Tomb Raider, but also to be able to reboot the franchise. I’ve been at [developer] Crystal Dynamics for a while now, and we’ve had the pleasure of making a few games starring Lara. We’ve learned a lot. To be able to distil everything we want to do with the franchise into an entirely fresh take is inspiring.

So it’s a totally new direction for the series?

NH: It is. It’s a reboot and not directly related to the timeline of Lara as such, but it will touch on familiar elements of her character. You’ll see her grow into the hero figure that fans know and love.

Is it going to reference the events of past games at all?

NH: It starts a whole different timeline. There’s not necessarily an assumption it will connect directly to past events. We are projecting our own Lara, taking this origins story, recreating and her launching her off into a new adventure. We love catering to some of the fan favourites, but we’re not beholden to all of the story points within the series. We like playing with the signature Tomb Raider themes from this new angle.

I saw the use of an Instinct system in the game, similar to [fellow Square Enix title] Hitman: Absolution. Is that the result of sharing between studios?

NH: We actually share a lot of assets between studios. The guys at [Hitman: Absolution developer] IO Interactive are such a talented bunch. Having said that, the idea of the Lara’s intuition, this detective-like ability, is something we’ve admired in a number of games, but what’s important to us is the way fans play through this tale of survival. We’re really going to be selling this idea of Lara fighting and scraping through the unknown.

Who’s the resident physics genius responsible for the grand puzzle set pieces?

NH: One of the great things about working on a game of this size is that you attract people with all kinds of different backgrounds. These people then step up and become champions of various disciplines. The environmental challenges that we present and the physics of any given situation determine how you interact with the world.

Devising these puzzles is one of the more complex level design problems that we tackle, so it is something that we will not only get our best minds on, but iterate a lot – that means we’ll put something in, play with the system, try to figure out what the players would do and go from there.

Tomb Raider for PS3

Is the climbing axe a tool Lara constantly has access to?

NH: Yes, that’s an example of one of our gear-ups. Lara gets a gear item and you’ll have that available to you for the rest of the game, along with whatever abilities that brings to the table. On the game design side of it, when we give you gear like that, it really is multifunctional. The obvious application of it is as a climbing aid, but there’s a heap of other uses for it besides.

So is Lara now a serious heroine, after the cartoonish adventures of the 90s?

NH: Rather than change her for change’s sake, we just decided to make her as real as we could. Everything then kind of came out of that – the character design, the story we were telling, the whole look of the game. We really tried to ground that in a human experience. That was the starting point.

You can see that once you start down the road of bringing her to life, it can influence so much of the rest of the game. So, yes, she is, but that was the result of the changes we made, not the cause.

Dramatic camera angles heighten the sense of claustrophobia in the game. Have you looked outside of gaming for framing techniques?

NH: Definitely. We have a lot of photographer talent, a lot of cinematographer talent, too, specifically for the gameplay. They share their ideas and techniques from all kinds of sources. It’s important to create this distinctive visual identity, but it also helps the gameplay too.

Tomb Raider for PS3

How far did you push Lara’s pain threshold?

NH: Pain and hardship are what help forge Lara into this hero – I mean, she’s a fledgling archaeologist who becomes the Tomb Raider. There has to be some trial and tribulation! Ultimately the boundary was: what delivers that sense of survival at all costs, without being gratuitous?

Where did inspiration for this environment come from?

NH: What we try to do is trace our initial ideas back to their roots. The idea we keep coming back to is that of survival being a core human instinct. We want the history of a place or a situation to really hook you in and pull you through the story.

We also take inspiration from a number of real world stories. You hear about these people who have gone through extraordinary situations and come out alive. Films like Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours are where we’ve been looking. That’s what we’re trying to capture, that core human spirit.

Tomb Raider for PS3Tomb Raider for PS3

You can read more about the biggest and best games in LA this year in our Games of E3 feature over at

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  • i just picked up a copy of legacy of kain soul reaver for ps1 with holgram cover in near mint condition from gamestation did Noah Hughes make that? is it worth some cash i wonder? anyway hope this isn’t another failed reeboot at tomb raider 1 to 3 were best everyone since was and still is abosolutly terrible yeah im looking at you tomb raider underworld.

  • Announcement trailer was really good but I felt slightly disappointed when I saw the gameplay videos at E3. It still looks good though, hopefully the final version of the game will be better.

  • It looks like they took a long and hard look at Uncharted. Thats a good thing, but what I missed so far is humor. It´s all very doom and gloom right now and that doesn´t raise the fun level a bit. I know it´s just a small bit we saw but just saying.

  • Question: So you made Lara look pretty hot but you gave her an annoying voice. Why?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

  • Tomb Raider has always been in my heart ever since Tomb Raider 1 came out on PS1. I have 1-5 on original disc still in mint condition :) Angel of Darkness was a sham on PS2, Legend and Underworld are ok but you can’t beet the originals. Anniversary i loved as it was a reboot of Tomb Raider 1, i notice you can buy 3 games on one blu-ray, Tomb Raider Legend, Underworld and Anniversary. Simon do you know if Tomb Raider Anniversary will be coming to the PSN Store because ive already got Legend and Underworld on disc so no point in me buying it. But i would really love Anniversary as digital download. Please msg back

  • i see your a fan of mass effect simon….its a good game jus wish xbox didnt own the rights to the 1st installment

  • I’ve loved all the Tomb Raider games, except Angel of Darkness, was disappointed with that one. Can’t get enough of the HD version of Anniversary, such a brilliant game :)….But I can’t wait to get my hands on this one, this is gonna be Tomb Raider at its best! :D

  • I’m very happily interested in this title, the E3 demo was brilliant.

    Can’t wait to find out more. :)

  • @ShadowDoGGG, cause if she had a nice voice she would be at home in somebodies kitchen instead of being out their raiding tombs.

  • @OttoT – lol no offense but after she got almost drowned , fell off a boat , and gets chased by creepy monsters in a dark creepy hole inside a mountain , its more likely she wouldnt make much jokes about it , it would make the game just look unrealistic , just sayin..

  • Game of the Year 2012. No doubt about it.

    @bitbydeath You really made me laugh!! Damn right mate! :D

  • screen shots looks good looks like true Lara then :-) , thumb up from my

  • Sorry lara, Nathan Drake all the way.

  • I’m so looking forward 2 this game……Played every tomb raider since the very 1st PS1 game. And loved everyone so far.

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