The Tomb Raider PR team were generous enough to ask us to interview the one and only Ian Livingstone (Twitter: @ian_livingstone) personally, during his trip to India. Now ‘leveled up’ to a Commander of the British Empire, co-founder of tabletop game manufacturer Games Workshop, co-founder of Eidos Interactive, now Life-President, talks to iLL Gaming about what to expect from the highly anticipated Tomb Raider, releasing March 5, 2013.
iLLGaming: First of all, congratulations on being awarded the CBE title!
Ian Livingstone: Thanks! In gaming terms, I’ve leveled up from the OBE (Order of the British Empire), which I was awarded in 2007.
iLLGaming: So now are you officially titled ‘Sir’?
Ian Livingstone: That’s one more level to go, although I doubt its ever going to happen to anyone in the games industry.
iLLGaming: Well lets keep our fingers crossed. So lets start with Tomb Raider (TR). From what we’ve seen from the trailers, the game looks very different from its predecessors. Is this going be a reboot to the series, or this what Lara Croft was before she became Tomb Raider?
Ian Livingstone: We launched TR in 1996, which is quite a long time ago. Now we’re in 2013, we had to find out if she’s still relevant to the audiences today. Crystal dynamics, who have full creative control on the franchise, had seen how well the reboot of James Bond and Batman had done, and thus suggested rather than having a sequel, why not have a prequel, an origin story. At the same time, we received many inquiries from fans fans saying they wanted to know more about Lara Croft’s past. So it seemed a good time for doing a prequel. We made that bold decision. Now we had to decide how and where this would take place. So we zeroed in on Lara going on a voyage of discovery to this hostile island, with many severe challenges. TR will be a survival action adventure game, but will still retain the core three principles of a TR game i.e. Adventure, exploration, coupled with puzzle solving and combat. And so far, we’re very happy with the outcome.
iLLGaming: Lara Croft was always known for being a voluptuous and assertive character, who knows exactly what she wants. Now, from the trailers, we have seen that she’s vulnerable and generally more believable and relatable. Do you think in changing the entire personality of Lara you might be alienating some of the hardcore fans of the series, who might have had certain expectations from the game?
Ian Livingstone: You can’t please all people all the time, you have to make the choice to please as many people as you can Having said that, I think all Tomb Raider fans will actually be delighted when they get their hands on the game. The game was developed by a large team of experts at the Crystal Dynamics studio in California. They’ve taken a long development time, and they’ve applied principles from other genres to ensure a compelling experience. For example, you can use role-playing elements within the game. Lara can earn experience points by performing certain actions, she can upgrade her weapons. Weapons play a big part in the game, both visually and during gameplay. You can upgrade your wooden dagger to a more forceful weapon by salvaging a metal bar. Puzzle solving, use of fire and water, is all implemented in the game’s survival tactics.
Combat, this time, has been upgraded to be at par with adventuring and puzzle solving. We’re never put this much focus on combat mechanics in a Tomb Raider game in the past. And fans always complained about the combat not being up to the mark. Coming back to Lara being more believable, she’s no longer armour plated (!), so she can sustain reasonable damage.
Overall, what we’re trying to achieve with the game is the sense of adventure and survival. We all always think about how we’d survive if we were placed on an island. Playing the role of Lara Croft, you can find out. You’ll be reaching pivotal points within the game, where you have to kill or be killed in order to survive.
iLLGaming: It is claimed by many that Tomb Raider 2013 is looking somewhat similar to Uncharted, with its scripted events. That’s kind of funny, because Uncharted itself has taken so many things from the Tomb Raider series. Will we be seeing a lot of scripted events in the game? Also, will such a game feature platforming?
Ian Livingstone: Sure there are many scripted sequences of traversing through the environment, though you have to have a certain set of skills to be able to do them. But I think all games look at every other game, its not just Uncharted looking at TR or vice-versa. As a creative, you look at everything in all kinds of games, and you take your influences from them, whether you admit to it or not. In the end its all about making the game best possible, and I’d say we’ve achieved that with Tomb Raider. Also, the team that created Uncharted used to work at Crystal Dynamics a couple of years ago, so you might find some similarities.