May 30, 2010

Tomb Raider Book Bonanza Grand Prize Winners

At last the month-long competition has come to a close. Congratulations to Igor C. (angelus0901) from Croatia and Laura P. (TRtbn21) from New Mexico, USA, who posted entries here on the blog. They'll each receive a copy of the fabulous The Art of Tomb Raider two-volume set.

I almost didn't believe my eyes when Igor's screenname came up in the drawing on Random.org, since he also won in the first and third week's drawings. But there's absolutely no way to rig a random public drawing, so all I can think is that he's one lucky guy.

Igor generously gave up one of his other prizes to another participant. So now we have an alternate winner for week 3 as well. Max28, who entered by email, wins the Tomb Raider Tankobon comic collection. Congrats, Max!

The random drawing details for the entire contest can be viewed at Random.org.

The Art fo Tomb Raider

Once again, I'd like to thank everyone who participated. It's been so much fun reading all your brilliant ideas. I don't know whether the Tomb Raider developers pay any attention to our little blog, but I hope they'll take a look and be inspired.

Several of you mentioned that you'd miss these weekly discussion topics. I will too, but I really hope it doesn't end here.

The whole point of the contest—aside from giving away some cool stuff—was to encourage more people to join the discussion. I've been working on this blog for almost a year now and people just haven't seemed that interested. I thought if I lured them in with the promise of goodies, they might want to stick around and continue the discussion afterward. I hope at least a few of you will.

I guess the trick is to include more posts where I specifically ask for people's opinion. I've tried to do that sometimes, but when only one or two people comment, I feel like I'm talking to myself. ;) I'll continue to strategize and hopefully come up with new ideas—and more contests in the future.

Meanwhile, you've all had such great ideas for the games. How about the blog? What would you like to see here? What topics would you like to discuss? Please let me know.

May 28, 2010

Following in Lara's Footsteps: An Egyptian Travelogue

Mary Goodden, who writes Well-Rendered, one of my favorite video gaming blogs, spent three weeks this spring traveling in Egypt. She visited a number of Lara's old haunts and returned with stories and photos to share.

Mary Goodden
Mary Goodden
Does anyone even remember 1999? As in: "I'm gonna party like it's..."?

Well I do. And to me, partying in 1999 consisted of closing the curtains, firing up the PlayStation, preparing a bowl of Cheerios and racing Werner VonCroy across Egypt to prevent the apocalypse. If you're reading this, there's a good chance you were doing the same thing.

Werner Von Croy - Lara Croft's Mentor

Eleven years after the release of Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation, I decided to visit Egypt for the first time. Was The Last Revelation a deciding factor in my choice of holiday destination? Not really. The Egyptian monuments do not need to be viewed through a pop-cultural prism in order to reinforce their majesty. But it is testament to the enduring power of The Last Revelation that I couldn't help but have Lara wandering around in the back of my mind as I explored the Temple of Karnak.

Video game levels are haunting places, apt to stay with you far longer than film sets because unlike film sets, they are not merely the backdrop to the action. Instead, video game environments are the action. This is especially true of the Tomb Raider games because not only is Lara always alone, but her physical interactions with her environment are unmatched by almost any other game.

Consequently, besides the awe I am sure every tourist/explorer/ archaeologist has felt upon first seeing Egypt's monuments, I also felt a quiet appreciation for those level designers who no doubt walked around these same sites with a camera and a notepad, thinking "what if...?"

Lara Croft in Tomb Raider 4
The Temple of Karnak.

Of course the environments in the game are different from the real life monuments. That goes without saying. Amongst other things, the game lacks tourists, ticket touts and souvenir salesmen. But then gamers do not want video games to mimic reality. We play video games in order to become somebody else and immerse ourselves in another world. If we wanted to interact with a world that was just like our own, we could just, you know, go outside.

Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation

Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation gives players (along with one of the best gaming experiences of the 1990s) a vast, deep and unique interpretation of a country, its landscape and its mythology. It's an experience that no book or film could ever hope to replicate, and it deserves our attention. Again.

* * *

Initially, this article was going to be light on pictures and heavy on analysis. But then I discovered that there really aren't many direct comparisons between Tomb Raider environments and the locations that inspired them, so perhaps it would be interesting to put screenshots of the game environments next to photographs of the real-life monuments.

Before I start, I must apologise in advance for the gaps in this travelogue. I did not manage to go to Cambodia, or visit Alexandria. If anyone would like to fill in these gaps, that would make top-notch reading.

I've tried to arrange the screenshots in the same order that they appear in the game, but due to the back-and-forth structure of The Last Revelation, you might have seen these environments in a different order. Anyway, without further ado, here is an Egyptian travelogue, Tomb Raider style....

May 23, 2010

The Art of Tomb Raider Contest Week 4

Welcome to the fourth and final week of the Book Bonanza competition. At the end of May, two lucky winners will each receive a copy of The Art of Tomb Raider. This gorgeous, two-volume set is packed with artwork ranging from Toby Gard's early TR1 concept sketches, though the Core Design years, right up to the elaborate storyboards, character and environment designs from Tomb Raider: Underworld.

CompassThe prize itself is a generous slice of gaming history, but this week's topic looks to the future. What direction do you think the Tomb Raider series should take?

A number of players have asked for more remakes of the classic games. Others would love to play the open-world origin story rumored to be in development last summer. Some, myself included, would prefer a brand new adventure with similar gameplay mechanics but all-new challenges and puzzles.

How about you? Describe the game you'd like to play. What new skills will Lara have, and what will the controls be like? What kinds of levels will there be? What locations should Lara visit (or revisit) next? What should her goals be? Who will she encounter along the way? Will these experiences change her and, if so, how?

Please don't feel you have to limit yourself to these topics. Use your imagination. Describe your ideal game. There are no right or wrong answers. And, who knows, maybe someday we'll see some of these wishes come true.

The Art of Tomb Raider

Just to recap, each participant can enter the contest up to 5 times each week, once using each of the following methods:

  • Post a comment on this week's topic below.
  • Become a fan of Stella's Site on Facebook and reply to the Book Bonanza topic under "Discussions".
  • Subscribe and/or post a comment on my YouTube channel. Since other people comment as well, please mention the contest so I'll know you're interested.
  • Send me a message on Xbox LIVE (gamertag: Stellalune) letting me know you'd like to enter.
  • Send me an with "contest" in the subject line.

Entries for this last phase of the contest will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. EST on Saturday, May 29. All entries from all four weeks of the competition will be included in the grand prize drawing, and the winners will be announced Sunday, May 30.

Entering this contest implies that you have read and agree with the complete contest rules.

Thanks for participating and good luck to everyone!

May 22, 2010

Tomb Raider Book Bonanza Week 3 Winners

This time we have an even more bountiful bonanza than usual. The gods of chance have certainly smiled on Igor C. from Croatia. Not one but two of his entries were chosen by the random number generator at Random.org this week, and, as you may remember, Igor also won one of the prizes the first week of the contest. Way to go, Igor!

But, in all fairness to the other entrants, I decided we needed two more winners for week 3. So congratulations as well to scruff1996 from Worcester, U.K., who posted here on the blog, and 555Helion, from Pennsylvania, U.S.A., who entered on YouTube. All three winners will receive a collection of 5 Tomb Raider Tankobon comic books.

There's also been a slight change in last week's standings. I never heard back from one of the winners. So, we now have an alternate winner for week 2: Katie L., also from Pennsylvania, whose imaginative entry had a character based on a Tomb Raider fan teaming up with Lara. Katie wins a copy of Lara's Book. Congrats!


Thanks again to everyone else who has participated so far. I really enjoyed reading all your ideas for new games. I hope you'll all stick around for this week's grand prize, The Art of Tomb Raider book. I'll be posting a new topic shortly.

To view the contest drawing results, follow this link to Random.org.

May 15, 2010

Tomb Raider in a Parallel Universe – Contest Week 3

This week's topic came from Davie, another online friend. We were talking about how Crystal Dynamics is heading into uncharted territory with Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, the arcade-inspired co-op action-platform-puzzler due out this summer. We started imagining other possibilities for off-year games to tide the fans over between major Tomb Raider adventures.

Davie and his friends came up with a Tekken-style game called Tomb Raider Fight Night. They thought it would be great to match various TR characters and monsters against each other in combat. Or how about a crossover title like Tomb Raider vs. Capcom or Street Fighter?

Lara Croft vs. Nina Williams
Lara Croft vs. Tekken's Nina Williams...why not?

Get Fit with Lara CroftPersonally, I'd like to see a fitness game starring Lara Croft for the Wii, Project Natal and PlayStation Move. Using motion sensor technology, players could kick, punch, shoot, run, grapple and balance their way into good shape following Lara's cues. Improvement would be rewarded with unlockable goodies like new workout gear and mini-games. It would be like the Croft Manor training level, only you'd actually work up a sweat.

So, how about you? What spin-off title or genre would you like to play during the long months between real Tomb Raider games?

For a chance to win this week's prize, the complete Tomb Raider Tankobon comic collection (5 volumes, 220 pages each!), just post a comment below, on my Facebook page or YouTube channel, send me an , or message me on Xbox Live (gamertag: stellalune)—or all of the above. Each participant can enter once per week, per method.

Tomb Raider Tankobon

Entries for this week's drawing will be accepted through 11:59 p.m. EDT, Friday, May 21. Winners will be announced May 22. If you miss this deadline but still want to share an idea, go ahead. Later comments on this post will still be considered for the final prize drawing on May 30.

Entering this contest implies that you have read and agree with the contest rules. For more info, see the Book Bonanza intro, and feel free to contact me with any questions.

Tomb Raider Book Bonanza Week 2 Winners

Congratulations to Kayla (MorningGloryDancer) from Texas, USA, whose winning entry came through my YouTube channel, and can, who posted here on the blog. They're the winners of this week's prize drawing. Each will receive a copy of Lara's Book.

I've already contacted Kayla. So, cup, if you're out there, send me an so we can work out the details. I need to know where to send your prize. :)

This week's winners were chosen in a random drawing through Random.org. Details can be found here.

The contest continues this week with a new topic, which will be announced later today. I encourage everyone who has participated so far to enter again this week. Remember, entries from all four weeks will be included in the Grand Prize drawing for The Art of Tomb Raider book on May 30. Details and rules appear in the original contest announcement.

Congratulations!

Official Trailer for Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

The first video trailer for Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light premiered last night on Spike network's Game Trailers TV. What do you think?

P.S. Yes, that's Keeley Hawes's voice you hear. She'll be reprising the role of Lara Croft in this game. (This post was updated 5/21.)

click to watch video on YouTube

May 12, 2010

Portal Free from Steam Through May 24

To celebrate the launch of the Steam digital download service for Macintosh, Valve Software is giving away the second greatest game in the world. Both Windows and Mac Steam users can download Portal for free until May 24.

I know you're all Tomb Raider fans here, but if you haven't tried Portal yet, I highly recommend it. It's a little bit like TR in that rather than being a pure puzzle game, action game or platformer, it's more a hybrid of all three genres. But that's pretty much where the similarities end.

Chell - Portal's protagonistIn Portal, you play as Chell, the subject in an elaborate laboratory experiment. You're given a special device—a "portal gun"—that can create interconnected openings between flat surfaces. Early on, you learn to use these portals to teleport from one place to another. As the game progresses, portals also become conduits for transporting objects, redirecting weapon fire, etc. You must then make your way through test chambers of increasing complexity, using only the portal device to solve a variety of spatial and physics-based puzzles, avoid hazards, surmount obstacles and generally get from point A to point B…usually via points X, Y and Z. I found it super challenging and lots of fun.


For more info, including system requirements and the free download link, visit steampowered.com/freeportal. For a more detailed overview, check out Wikipedia's Portal page. Be warned, though, the plot summary contains spoilers.

Portal by Valve Software

May 8, 2010

New Playable Character - Contest Week 2

Amanda EvertThis week's contest topic was inspired by a post by GracefulDemon on the Eidos Tomb Raider Forums titled "Who wants to play with Amanda Evert instead of Lara Croft? Me." GD took a lot of heat for suggesting that Amanda star in her own game, but I think she made some very good points. Don't get me wrong. I love playing as Lara, but wouldn't it be cool to wield the Wrath Stone's powers or unleash the Unknown Entity on your foes?

We've had a chance to play as Kurtis Trent in Angel of Darkness and the Doppelgänger in Lara's Shadow. Soon we'll get to play as the Mayan hero Totec in Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. So who would you like to see as a playable character in a Tomb Raider game?

It could be someone—hero, villain or minor character—who's already appeared in the series, a character from another game, book, movie, etc., or someone you've created yourself. Let your imagination run wild!

Lara's BookFor a chance to win a copy of Lara's Book by Douglas Coupland, post a comment below, send me an , post on my Facebook page or YouTube channel, or send me a message on Xbox LIVE (gamertag: Stellalune).

In case you missed it earlier, please see the Book Bonanza contest announcement for details on the various prizes. Entering this contest implies that you have read and agree with the complete contest rules.

So, yes, you can enter more than once but only one entry per method (e.g., blog, Facebook, email, YouTube, Xbox), per week, will be counted. So basically, 5 entries per person per week maximum.

Entries for this week's drawing will be accepted through 11:59 p.m. EDT, Friday, May 14. Winners will be announced May 15. Later comments on this post will still be considered for the final prize drawing on May 30.

Tomb Raider Book Bonanza Week 1 Winners

Congratulations to Igor C. (angelus0901) from Croatia, who posted here on the blog, and Emilie E. from Denmark, who entered the contest through my Facebook page. They're the winners of this week's prize drawing. Each will receive a copy of The Official Tomb Raider Files.

Angelus and Emilie were chosen in a random drawing through Random.org. Details can be found here.

Congratulations!The contest continues this week with a new topic, which will be announced later today. If you've already entered, you can still participate again this week, and everyone who enters throughout the month will be included in the Grand Prize drawing for The Art of Tomb Raider book on May 30.

Please check out the contest announcement if you haven't done so already.

Once again, I want to thank Matthew Nichols, who provided the books for this week's prizes, as well as everyone whose generous donations to the site help sponsor contests like this.

May 5, 2010

Steam Posts Guardian of Light PC Specs

The Steam download service has unveiled its product page for Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. Along with some tasty new screenshots, they also list the PC system requirements for the game, which are virtually identical to the specs for Underworld:
  • OS: Windows Vista / XP / 7*
  • Processor: 3+ GHz Intel or 2.5+ GHZ AMD
  • Memory: 1 GB RAM (XP) / 2 GB RAM (Vista)
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 6 Series (6800GT or better) / ATI 1300XT or better
  • Hard Drive: 7GB
  • Sound: DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card and drivers
No price or pre-order links yet, but it's a start. For details, see
http://store.steampowered.com/app/901454/.

Thanks to Jaden at Guns & Grapple for this alert.

*UPDATE - 5/6: Although it wasn't included in the list quoted from Steam, Square Enix has confirmed that the Windows 7 operating system will be supported. Also, the new screenshots have been added to the post introducing the game.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

May 1, 2010

Tomb Raider Memories – Contest Week 1

A while ago one of my online friends, Arun, suggested that I take a poll asking fans about their most memorable Tomb Raider moments. Such an extensive series, encompassing numerous games, movies, novels, comics, etc., surely includes dozens of great experiences making it hard to choose just one.

Arun wrote, "For me there are lots of glorious moments...Lara's encounter with the cobras of the Indian jungles...the gorillas of Greece...the creepy Ireland church levels in the Chronicles...and so on.

"To keep the spirits of Tomb Raider fans alive and to just rekindle the old memories, can you conduct a poll that decides the single greatest moment while playing Lara Croft games? ....This will definitely bring huge response from die-hard fans and will be a sort of nostalgia trip to our glorious past."


I couldn't agree more. But rather than limit our choices with a traditional poll, I've decided to ask a more open-ended question and give players a little incentive to respond.

Official Tomb Raider FilesSo, for a chance to win a copy of the wonderfully nostalgic Official Tomb Raider Files, published in 2001 by Carlton Books, please share one of your favorite Tomb Raider memories with me.

You can post your comment below or follow this link to find out more about my Tomb Raider Book Bonanza competition, which is happening throughout the month of May.

In case you're curious...my personal favorite single moment occurs in the first Tomb Raider Gold bonus level: Return to Egypt. As you're exploring the desert at night, you climb up the side of a stepped pyramid and suddenly the camera shifts to a wide-angle view of the pyramid and surrounding dunes. There are more dramatic moments, more exciting scenes, for sure, but somehow this encapsulates the special feeling of solitary exploration that the early Tomb Raider games evoked so well.

Return to Egypt
Return to Egypt screenshot courtesy of Katie Fleming.

Very special thanks to Matthew Nichols, who donated The Official Tomb Raider Files books for this week's prizes. Matt, you're the best!

Entering this contest implies that you have read and agree with the complete contest rules.

Entries for this week's drawing will be accepted through 11:59 p.m. EDT, Friday, May 7. Winners will be announced May 8. Later comments on this post will still be considered for the final prize drawing on May 30.

UPDATE - 5/8: Congratulations to this week's winners, angelus0901 and Emilie E.!.

Tomb Raider Book Bonanza

How would you like to win a copy of The Art of Tomb Raider, the massive new compendium of game artwork published by Dreams and Visions Press? I'll be giving away two copies at the end of May, along with six other book prizes throughout the month.

I'll be posting a different topic or question on this blog each week. Just share your opinion for a chance to win that week's prize. Please see the current week's blog post for the most recent topic. Winners will be selected at random, so creativity is encouraged but not required.

There are eight prizes in all. Two winners will be chosen each week from among the entries received that week. Two grand prize winners will be picked at the end of the month from among all the contest entries.

Official Tomb Raider FilesWeek One (May 1-7): Win a copy of The Official Tomb Raider Files. The topic: Tomb Raider Memories.

Lara's BookWeek Two (May 8-14): Win a copy of Lara's Book: Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider Phenomenon by Douglas Coupland. Just let us know who you'd like to see as a playable character in the next game. Post a comment here.

Week Three (May 15-21): Win a collection of Top Cow Tomb Raider graphic novels, specifically Tomb Raider Tankobon volumes 1 – 5 by participating in this week's discussion.

Tomb Raider Tankobon

Week Four (May 22-29) GRAND PRIZE: Win a copy of The Art of Tomb Raider, published by Dreams and Visions Press. This 568-page, two-volume set includes familiar images as well as previously unreleased character sketches, concept art, production storyboards, promotional art and design renderings from all the Tomb Raider games. This special edition is limited to 2000 copies worldwide.

The final topic will be posted Saturday, May 22. Winners will be selected from all four weeks' entries and announced Sunday, May 30.

The Art of Tomb Raider

There are several ways to enter:
  • Subscribe to Stella's Tomb Raider Blog through Google Friend Connect, FeedBurner or one of the other services linked at the bottom of the page and post a comment on this week's topic.
  • Become a fan of Stella's Site on Facebook and reply to the Book Bonanza topic under "Discussions".
  • Subscribe and/or post a comment on my YouTube channel. Since other people comment as well, please mention the contest so I'll know you're interested.
  • Send me a message on Xbox LIVE (gamertag: Stellalune) letting me know you'd like to enter.
  • Send me an with "contest" in the subject line.

IMPORTANT: Please DO NOT post your email address, mailing address or other personal information online. I will contact you for details if you win.

You can enter more than once, but please only once per week, per method. So basically, 5 entries per person per week maximum. If you'd like to post more than one comment, that's fine—great even—but only the first post will count as a contest entry.

Entering this contest implies that you have read and agree with the complete contest rules.

I encourage you to spread the word about this contest, but please don't spam. If you post on a site or forum that isn't your own, be sure to get the owner's permission first. Thanks!

For more info about The Art of Tomb Raider, visit Dreams and Visions Press, or check out this video waltkhrough which shows off the book in high-def.

Tomb Raider Archives - Collecting all the classic Top Cow Comics
Tomb Raider Archives 4-volume set collects 50 issues of the best-selling Top Cow comic. Order from TFAW, Amazon, or Amazon UK.