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E3 2012: Tomb Raider interview discusses fan feedback, passion and the development team’s mandate

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Tomb Raider was one of the must-see games on the El33t team’s list this year. Not only did we get to see the game in action at an exclusive behind-the-scenes demonstration at E3, but we also got the opportunity to sit down and chat with Crystal Dynamics Executive Producer, Ron Rosenberg, about fan feedback and the development team’s passion to make the best Tomb Raider game ever.

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El33tonline:

With the delay of Tomb Raider, are you using that extra time to polish the content that you already have, or are you continuing to add new features to the game?

Ron Rosenberg:

“We’re polishing the content ‒ there’s definitely a real game there, and it’s awesome, and it’s very similar to what you’ve already seen on the screen. Our organisation is dedicated to making this game something special, and when you’re offered that sort of opportunity to take a little bit more time: this game is our baby and so many people have poured so much into it. Taking the extra time and making sure it’s brilliant is the right thing to do.”

El33tonline:

What fan feedback have you taken to heart and tried to listen to in order to make Tomb Raider the best is can possibly be?

Ron Rosenberg:

“Oh gosh: There are so many different things!”

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El33tonline:

Since the E3 showing last year the entire gaming community rallied around that one demo ‒ so since then, what kind of fan feedback have you looked at?

Ron Rosenberg:

“Well we listen to almost everything, I can say. That’s super important. Meagan Marie, who’s our community manager, is out there and she’s a strong voice for everybody, every Tomb Raider fan for sure. She’s with us on the development floor. We have a meeting every Friday called ‘Awesome Time’ and she talks to us about what’s going on and what the community thinks.

It’s so hard for me to say what some of the things are that we listen to because we listen to almost everything.”

El33tonline:

Within reason, obviously.

Ron Rosenberg.

“Of course.”

El33tonline:

Could you name a small example?

Ron Rosenberg:

“One example that I would really call out is ‒ I know the fans really want exploration, and they’ve been asking about it a lot ‒ so I can assure them that the game will include exploration. In fact, in this game we’ve built the biggest exploration spaces we’ve ever built for any Tomb Raider game.

An example would be, did you see the Microsoft E3 keynote? You know that space [Lara Croft] finishes on at the end? That’s an example of one of our hubs, and that’s a very large exploration space. You can go anywhere in that space. You can go all the way up that temple at the top there. So for the die-hard fans who love Tomb Raider, like myself, I think they’re going to have a lot of fun with that.”

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El33tonline:

When we saw the Tomb Raider demo in September at rAge, and during this E3 demo recently, players are given a lot of gameplay hints as Lara talks to us to help us along. Can we look forward to these kinds of hints during the entire game?

Ron Rosenberg:

“I guess the thing that I would say about that is we don’t even really think about that too much, to be honest with you. We just think about [Lara] as a character and portraying that character. I’m glad to hear that she does clue people in but it’s really not something that we’ve thought about too much.

What we definitely don’t want is to have some of those ‘gamey’ moments where it’s: ‘I should go do this.’”

El33tonline:

It’s very natural. Almost talking to herself, walking along the branches and saying “Don’t fall!”

Ron Rosenberg:

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely. That first content that we showed today [at E3], there are really two teams that worked on that. We’ve studied a lot of real-world survival stories and one of the big things that is repeated over and over from successful survivors is that they have this mantra which is: “Just keep moving.”

So you see that in the [Tomb Raider] demo. In the beginning, we’re building [Lara] up, she’s encountering challenges, and she faces them, and she succeeds, and she’s getting a little bit stronger every time.”

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El33tonline:

And more confident.

Ron Rosenberg:

“Yeah, more confident. She traverses the plane, gets the bow, she gets some food, and then just as we’re building her up [smacks hands]: Boom! Her best friend gets taken, she gets captured, and she almost gets raped.

Then we turn her into our next theme, which is ‘a cornered animal.’ She really has to decide ‘Am I going to live or die, and what am I willing to do, to do that?’”

El33tonline:

From the demo that we saw ahead of E3 2012, there’s almost a new horror element to Tomb Raider that we hadn’t seen before. In the previous demo, Lara woke up in the cocoon and she’s trying to get out ‒ it’s an intense edge-of-your-seat cinematic. Is there any inspiration you took from movies or other games in terms of this horror element, or is it something you naturally progressed towards?

Ron Rosenberg:

“We don’t really focus on horror very much, but those tense moments definitely creep into the game. They are clearly some mysteries on the island and I can’t give all those mysteries away! But I hope that you’re still intrigued and I’m glad to hear you’re thinking about [these mysteries] with questions like ‘What is this?’ I wouldn’t want to spoil the story for you though.

You definitely have those moments, though, where the hairs stand up on the back of your neck!”

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El33tonline:

Lara Croft is an icon of gaming and she needs a new blockbuster game to elevate the series. Has this been a concern for you during the development of Tomb Raider? Have you been worried about where it’s going or have you always known it’s going to be a great game?

Ron Rosenberg:

“No: it’s more a passion. We’ve been given an amazing opportunity, which is number one, to reinvent the character, and number two, to tell her origin story. That’s such a rare opportunity and I guess the thing I always say about that, in terms of re-inventing the character ‒ that doesn’t mean we’re throwing out everything we love about Lara to come up with something new.

We’re keeping all of the same things that we loved about Lara, so she’s still an archaeologist, she’s still a person who looks to solve things in a smart way first. She still has that nose for adventure, but we’ve enhanced that and now I think that she’s more human, she’s more relatable. You really get close to her in this game and I think that’s remarkable ‒ some of those personal moments that occur.”

El33tonline:

Are you rewriting Lara’s entire past, or is she still, for example, from a wealthy background? Is that history still in tact and are we’re just getting a closer look at that in the new Tomb Raider?

Ron Rosenberg:

“There certainly are some things that have changed. I can’t talk about those today, but I think the fans will be happy with what we have. When I talk about reinventing the character ‒ I’m sure you’re familiar with the James Bond movies, which is probably the best example I can give, Sean Connery is still very much ‘James Bond’ but if you ask him “How would you like your martini, shaken or stirred?” he says: “I don’t care about that.”

That’s exactly where we were going.

And then the second thing to talk about is [Lara’s] origin story, which is to me a fantastic opportunity. Personally, I’m a fan of comic books and especially for me as a kid growing up, there was something that always seemed so important about the origin stories ‒ what was the origin story of Batman, what is the origin of Spider-Man? To have an opportunity to create that in [Tomb Raider] has been a remarkable experience.”

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El33tonline:

How long have you been working on Tomb Raider?

Ron Rosenberg:

“At least three years. There was some early exploration, too.”

El33tonline:

And how big is your development team at the moment?

Ron Rosenberg:

“We’re a smaller sized team. Given the amount of time that we’ve worked on the project and our size, we’re competitive with the best teams out there. Our mandate has been ‘To make the best Tomb Raider game ever.’“

El33tonline:

What are the chances of a new Tomb Raider: Guardian of Light game in the future?

Ron Rosenberg:

“That’s my other baby.”

El33tonline:

We absolutely loved the original Guardian of Light.

Ron Rosenberg:

“I’d love to do it! That’s all I can say. I know there are lots of other people at the studio that would love to do another.”

El33tonline:

How about outsourcing development of a new Guardian of Light to another studio? Have you considered that?

Ron Rosenberg:

“Honestly we haven’t, but I’m glad to hear you liked [Guardian of Light].

Really, at the end of Tomb Raider: Underworld, we had a big organisation around quality and you can see when [Guardian of Light] released that was one of the steps on the way to taking our studio to the next level, so it’s something that I’m very proud of.”

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El33tonline:

Thank-you so much for your time, we can’t wait to play Tomb Raider!

Ron Rosenberg:

“I hope you guys like it.”

Tomb Raider is out on March 5th 2013 on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. Read over El33tonline’s previous coverage of the game for videos, screenshots and more information about the game.


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