August 28, 2010

Third Guardian of Light Podcast and Name-That-Sound Competition

This week Community Manager Keir Edmonds interviews three of the developers at Crystal Dynamics who worked on Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light: Creative Director Daniel Neuburger, Lead Designer Jeff Wajcs and Audio Engineer Alex Wilmer. The guys answer players' questions about the game's concept and level design, touching on such diverse topics as:

  • Building a game that inspires players to really communicate and cooperate.
  • The often painful process of playtesting and tweaking.
  • Influences and inspirations, from museums and archeological sites to classic games like the original Tomb Raider and co-op classic ToeJam and Earl.
  • Welcoming both old and new fans by building in multiple difficulty levels—including some fiendishly challenging downloadable content on the way.
  • The actual tool set used to build LCGOL levels.


Daniel Neuburger

Jeff Wajcs

Alex Wilmer

To accompany the audio, Jeff shared a few sketches he made while designing some of the game's puzzles. I've set some spoiler text in white to avoid giving away puzzle solutions to those who haven't played the game yet. If you want to read them, just select the text with your mouse to highlight it.

Jeff: These were for the Fiery Depths. The diagram in the top left players may recognize as the spinning "bbq" platforms. I had to write down all of their orientations to wrap my mind around the design. The rest of the page became the second challenge tomb in that level. The original idea was to include a bit more logic and one way jumps and such, but I quickly decided to strip it down. The end result was much cleaner. You can also see an armadillo on the page. I was famous on the team for tagging armadillos on white boards all over the place. Sheep, too. Rogers' cube is full of them.


Jeff: This is from Toxic Swamp. We had to make a few passes at this level before we shipped. These sketches were for the third gate crypt, [spoilers] where one uses the grenade launcher to destroy the gears and unlock the gate. You can see the gear/gate structure at the top of the bottom four sketches. What I was trying to do was find an interesting way of bouncing the grenade to the gears. The grid at the top represents an array of columns that come out of the ground. The idea was, with the columns up in certain combinations, the player could ricochet a grenade through and hit a gear. That didn't end up working, and it took a bit more thinking before I arrived at the time trial idea that shipped. You can also see more arrow shooter faces here.


Jeff: More Toxic swamp. The eggs at the top are not too terribly rendered! I struggled a lot with the final moment of the level. Neub said this during the podcast that I like to start with the "big idea" and figure out the details later, and the "powder keg island" is a prime example. [spoilers] I knew from the beginning I wanted the player avoiding a lot of eggs exploding at once, but I struggled mightily with the actual execution. Here, again, I started by finding a space that felt good. I liked having a two tiered island with the temple in the middle. That sketch is dead center. At the top of the page, you see a little of my fascination with typography and handwriting. The word of the day was apparently Rico, the name we have for another level designer.


Jeff: This was the early concept work for the second challenge tomb in Temple of Light. The little faces are the arrow shooters. (They used to have faces before they were barrels.) The circles on a mount are the impact switches. You can also pick out pressure plates, pull switches, and rolling balls. The small square tiles are the flipping platform. I said this in the podcast, when designing a puzzle I like to start with the space and go from there.

Download Podcast (62 MB mp3 file)
To download right-click and select 'Save Target/Link as'.

After listening to the podcast and playing the game, be sure to stop by the Eidos Forums and enter Alex and Daniel's Name-That-Sound competition.

Thanks to the guys for sharing their thoughts with us fans, and once again to Keir for making it all happen. And, in closing, the word of the day is Aaaaaeeeeuuuuhhhh! (Heard at 1:00:48 in the podcast.)

August 17, 2010

Tomb Raider Haiku Contest Winners

Choosing just three winners from among all the great entries was a challenge to rival any of Lara's. But after much deliberation, Jaden, Katie, Mary and I are pleased to announce our picks for the Tomb Raider haiku competition. They are:

Here comes the T-Rex
Quick! I must use a MedPack
Well, so much for that.
       –Amanda

Silent, shadowed tomb
Long dead voices calling out
Revealing secrets
       –Mute2Conversations

The flap of a bat,
drip drip of monsoon waters.
Ancient image stares.
       –Wicket2961

From humorous to serious to serene, these three perfectly capture the thrills and frustrations of the Tomb Raider player.

Each winner will receive a Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light download. Congratulations to them, and thanks to everyone else who participated. And very special thanks to Crystal Dynamics for providing the game codes for the prizes.

August 15, 2010

Strike a Pose: An Introduction to XNALara

Did you play with Barbie dolls or action figures as a kid? Do they still reside in a secret drawer and come out late at night to fight evil and model the latest fashions? Guest blogger Crimsomnia has left her doll collection behind, but today she shares her passion for posing virtual action figures with XNALara.

XNALara is a realtime posing program created by a fan, Dusan Pavlicek, which allows you to pose character models from Tomb Raider: Underworld however you want, create scenes and eventually save screenshots of your work.


Screenshot of XNALara workspace (click to enlarge). Jumpkick pose created by toughraid3r37.

Most people use it to create pictures (wallpapers, etc.), while some use it in conjunction with other programs, like Maya, Photoshop and 3ds Max, to create more complex and detailed renders. One can even use it to make their own animation videos through frame-by-frame animating.


Lara render by Scia using XNALara and 3ds Max
(click to enlarge)


Asleep on the Job by Ryu-Gi
"Asleep on the Job" by Ryu-Gi (click to enlarge)

To answer your question, you don't need Tomb Raider: Underworld to run this application! Basically any Windows computer can run XNALara as long as you have two apps (Microsoft .NET Framework and Microsoft XNA Framework). Download links for the XNALara program and supporting files can be found here.

Now, for the fun part! You can have loads of fun posing Lara and the rest of the characters in any way you like and make any kind of pictures, from official-looking wallpapers to your idea of how Lara spends her free time at the manor. The coolest thing about XNALara is that your screenshots look as if they came straight from the game.

Doppelganger wallpaper by poker15
Doppelganger wallpaper by poker15 (click to enlarge)

Into the Light by Crimsomnia
"Into the Light" by Crimsomnia (click image to enlarge)

There's a bit of a learning curve at first, but the program is very easy to use once you get the hang of it. There's also a thorough Manual written by LaraRules81 for beginners to get you started. If you find you need more help, the sites linked below include tutorials and forums where you can ask questions.

The possibilities are endless here. As a devoted XNALara fan said, with this program, the only limit is your imagination. You may get interested in modding, which is basically modifying the models' appearance from head to toes, or even mesh-modding, where people create new models for XNALara. As a result, XNALara has become a pole of attraction for lots of different people and not just Tomb Raider fans. It has brought the Tomb Raider community together into one big creative family, through which a great number of fan artists have emerged.

Have fun!
XNALara animated gifAnimated gif made by Phenyx using XNALara.


Lara vs. S.I.M.O.N. XNALara animation by toughraid3r37 (bestraider56 on YouTube).

Links:
  • Dusan's thread on Tomb Raider Forums where he presented his work. Includes download links for the program and supporting files. (Also look for other XNALara threads with objects, models, poses and more.)
  • XNALaraArt.com – The first community entirely dedicated to XNALara, where you can upload your own creations, discuss XNALara matters or technical issues in the forum and download resources.
  • DeviantArt XNALara Group - Includes hundreds of gorgeous images made with the program.

Crimsomnia is a 20-year-old, Greek journalism & mass media student with great love for music and Tomb Raider. XNALara was her motivation to start making Tomb Raider fanart pics, and she's been addicted ever since. Visit her DeviantArt page to see more.

All images and videos are the property of their respective creators and were used with permission. Please do not copy/borrow them without first obtaining permission from the artists.


Comic: Privacy Raider by Ryu-Gi. Made using XNALara. Inspired by a certain yellow sticky note found in Croft Manor... (click to enlarge)

August 14, 2010

Crystal Dynamics Community Days A Big Hit, Even With Skeptics

Earlier this week, the developers of Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light invited players to visit their studios for a little hands-on with the new game. Guest blogger Brant Longest accepted the offer and attended yesterday's LCGOL Community Day. Here's his report.

Driving up the San Francisco Peninsula yesterday towards Redwood City and the Crystal Dynamics production facility, I tried to think of what I really had to fear about the Tomb Raider franchise taking such a drastic leap away from its tried and true formula of personal isolation, hostile environments, wicked puzzle solving and gorgeously rendered visuals.


The Crystal Dynamics campus (click to enlarge)

As franchises go, Lara Croft and the whole Tomb Raider series has spanned over 14 years of public life, garnered uncounted followers and awards, as well as those who would seek to copy the formula in the form of other games. Indeed, few franchises have had similar force of impact within the industry.

So it was with some trepidation that I learned, along with all Tomb Raider fans, that a new direction in game style was being developed by the team at Crystal Dynamics. An "Isometric, Co-op Shooter". Really?!? What does that even mean in Tomb Raider terms? Isometric projection has roots all the way back to the early 1980's within the industry, and that was the first flag that was raised when I heard of this planned format. Simply put, it's a method of representing 3-D space with 2-D forms. Blocks and forms with angles altered to create the illusion that they exist in real space, à la M.C. Escher.

So, was this to be a step backwards or a step forwards? After spending two hours solid playing through several levels and seeing much of what Guardian of Light has to offer, I can safely confirm it is a step forward. Especially since GoL is being developed concurrently with a more traditional TR title. The "Lara Croft" branch of the tree, as it were, is a new foray into making the universe of Tomb Raider larger; it isn't about taking anything away from the traditional Tomb Raider canon or from its fans and what they love. And perhaps even more importantly, it isn't going to be a situation where we as fans and players have no choice about the direction the franchise will take. Traditional TR fans, me included, can expect a title in the Tomb Raider series proper that will build upon the successes of the Legend/Anniversary/Underworld era. Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is sort of a grand experiment in the interim, and while the fan base for TR may be uncertain of what GoL holds, they should be very pleasantly surprised when it comes out, and here's why:

A large component of the Crystal team that worked on those three titles is involved in not only Guardian of Light but on the new "TR9" as well. I got no closer to any specifics about what I will call "TR9" yesterday; it is all still very much under wraps. But I did learn a great deal about GoL both from the developers and firsthand, by playing a significant portion of the game in a near-finalized form. And let me tell you it is quite polished.

There are approximately 16 levels, which are constructed so that skills are developed and honed as you progress, leading to ever more challenging and complex levels, with puzzles themselves becoming more advanced and less intuitive. This simply has to please traditional TR puzzle lovers.

Although I exclusively played the co-op mode during my demo yesterday, I happened to play along with an informal tester who had spent time in prior builds and knew how to go about overcoming the challenges. That made our team succeed more quickly than if I had been playing solo (which you absolutely can do) or if I had been teamed with another novice player. A pleasant side-effect of this pairing was that I could get a better sense of how much of each level I was going to have to learn 'the hard way' in order to be successful on my own. Each level offered new ways to achieve goals, but unless you had played before you wouldn't have any other way to learn the methods of success other than to go about trial and error as you would in any prior TR game. What needs to be intuitive is, but so much of it isn't that I felt happily mystified at what I would need to learn to solve parts of puzzles. In a word, it's rich, and effort leads to reward on a scale similar to what we expect in the TR universe.

There are Xbox 360 achievements, and there will be significant DLC in the months after the initial release in the form of 'map-packs' and other goodies.


Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light achievements (click to enlarge)

If you pine for the ability to customize your character, you have multiple layers of ways to do this. First and foremost each player discovers 'Artifacts' and 'Relics,' which give extra or boosted abilities, and in different ways. How you choose to employ these is up to the player, and can have a direct impact on the way you deal, or fail to deal, with a level. And it goes without saying that Totec, Lara's companion player in the co-op version of GoL, is an altogether new experience for the TR gamer. He has a shield which can deflect enemy missiles, and a spear which although slower than Lara's guns, does more damage, and can help Lara reach new heights.... she catches amazing air! This creates a decision point for players to strategize how best to handle multiple enemies and the vast number of physical scenarios you will face in simply traversing the environment. You simply cannot play this game on auto-pilot.

And that for me, is one of the most enjoyable things about a good TR game. That the environment requires that you have a plan but allows for breaks where you can sit, unthreatened, and scope the environment for what that plan should be, then execute it—or fail by simply missing a jump. Timing is as critical to success in GoL as it is in any other TR game.


Guardian of Light gameplay (click to enlarge)

But perhaps the biggest and best surprise is that the game is divided into two distinct paths—more like two distinct games in fact! If you elect to play co-op, the levels are designed to stretch to the limit what Totec and Lara can do as a pair. But if you elect to play solo, those levels have been redesigned to accommodate the limitations of only one player. So in effect, 16 levels actually become 32! That's quite a lot of unique levels per game, and I consider this a stamp of approval of the overall value of the title. What's more is that the levels are not uni-directional, nor even completely linear in objective. Possible paths branch off on all three axes—x,y and z beyond the range of vision of the players. So expect lots of loopbacks where previous elements of a level have changed due to Lara's actions in other parts of the level.

This opens up the opportunity for players, if they so desire, to fine tune their performance in the form of 'speed runs'. Guardian of Light will have active Leaderboards that rank players in the order that they can score highly on these speed-based (and other) objectives. That, folks, is instant replay value.


Guardian of Light menu screen (click to enlarge)

Personally, I tend to take my time and explore the worlds that TR games offer, but I can see the fun in working towards playing levels in the most efficient manner and being rewarded for doing so—sometimes solo, sometimes in tandem. It's a way of bringing a community together that we have not seen in TR games before.

So all in all, the day was a great way to experience GoL before it officially launches. I think fans should rest very easy knowing that the franchise as a whole is solid, and staffed by people who are dedicated to doing the franchise justice. This new GoL experiment is not going to detract from the traditional TR series at all, it will serve to strengthen, and grow, the TR community with new offerings. There has been fear amongst the TR base that what we have come to know and expect from TR games would be seriously altered by this new effort, but those fears are unfounded, I can say with absolute certainty.

I strolled around the Crystal campus and could see entire lines of posty-notes lined up in windows, Indicating storyboard work being done on TR9. Others had Lara dolls and other plastic creatures of the trade used for inspiration when the artists conceptualize and render in-game characters.


Lara Croft, herself, holds down the fort (click to enlarge)

And finally, I had a chance to speak with several members of the team, and they were unanimously positive about their efforts to not only keep the franchise alive but make it better than it has ever been before. Keir Edmonds is probably the most solid Community Manager I have seen for any game, MMO or otherwise. He is fully aware of the concerns of the fan base, and he wasn't hired yesterday; he's been involved a long, long time. I heard many of the team mention in our session how they read the forums every day. Your feedback is heard!

I also spent some time with Kam Yu and David Suroviec, who do a large portion of the process of creating and rigging Lara and other characters in the game. We spoke of the ever-present see-saw battle between artists and developers to both keep the poly count of a character high, while also keeping the fps (frames per second) high. They reassured me that as technology continues to improve, both the champions of high poly count and high fps count will benefit, although that battle ultimately will never end. It was a nice bit of insight into the world of the developers, and somehow the idea of a never ending battle with Lara had a nice ring to it.

In the end, I can heartily recommend Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light for anyone who has enjoyed TR in the past, or for anyone who has come up playing the modern games of the last few years. It will satisfy both the purists and those who want more speed and a larger community. All in all, it's a fantastic effort that caters to many tastes while preserving what makes Tomb Raider endure.

Brant Longest
August 13, 2010

Text and photos © 2010 Brant Longest. Please do not reproduce without the author's permission.

August 13, 2010

New Guardian of Light Key Art & Wallpapers

Wowza! Check out this awesome new key art for Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. Illustrator Michael Komarck has done it again. You can practically feel the heat from Lara's flamethrower!


Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light key art, titled "Puzzle"
(click for larger image)

Today Crystal Dynamics also released three new LCGOL wallpapers, one of which is based on the "Puzzle" art above. The others incorporate Komarck's first piece of key art for the game, featured here. Please visit my main Guardian of Light page to download each wallpaper in four different screen sizes.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light Wallpaper #1

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light Wallpaper #2

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light Wallpaper #3
And don't forget about the Tomb Raider haiku competition. Sunday is the deadline to submit a poem for a chance to win a free Guardian of Light download.

August 8, 2010

Tomb Raider Haiku Competition: Win A Guardian of Light Download

With just 10 days left until Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light hits Xbox LIVE, I thought now would be a good time for a quick competition—the operative word being quick. So this week, I invite you to create and share a Tomb Raider themed haiku. The writers of the three best poems will each receive a free LCGOL game download.

In case you're unfamiliar with the form, a haiku is a traditional Japanese poem with three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables. Haiku usually have have nature-related themes, but for this competition, the poems should be about Tomb Raider, Lara Croft or a related topic. They can be serious or humorous, but they must follow the traditional haiku format.

Need a few examples? Several years ago, we had a haiku free-for-all on the alt.games.tombraider Usenet newsgroup. Here are some of the poems that were posted:

Jungle gleams with rain
Shadows hold hidden dangers
Someone's lost MedPack
       –WombRaider

What's behind that wall?
Is it a raptor or snake?
Maybe a cold beer.
       –Stiletto

Dig the chick in green
talking is not her long suit
she says it with guns
       –Gordian Slash

Those threads are still archived on Google Groups in case you want to take a look.

THE JUDGES: I'll be judging the contest along with three special guest writer-gamer-webmasters: Katie Fleming (Katie's Tomb Raider Site), Mary Goodden (Well-Rendered) and Jaden Morretti (Guns and Grapple).

THE RULES: This contest is open to entrants in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom only. I'm really sorry about that, but due to regional restrictions, it's just too complicated for me to send online game codes to other countries.

To submit an entry, either post it in a comment below or email it to me. Be sure to indicate whether you'd like the PC, PS3 or Xbox 360 game should you win. If you post your poem here on the blog, please log in with your Google account first so I'll be able to reach you if you win. If you prefer to enter by email, I will post your poem here, but I promise to keep your contact info private.

Entries should be in English and should follow the 5-7-5 syllable pattern. Each entrant should only submit one haiku. If you submit an entry and later come up with something better, contact me about substituting the new entry.

The deadline for submissions is next Sunday, August 15, at 11:59 p.m. EDT (that's Monday 4 a.m. GMT). Winners will be notified by Tuesday, August 17. The judges' decisions are final. We'll try to be fair, but poetry is naturally a subjective thing. So please don't be offended if your entry is not chosen.

Thanks and good luck!


Haiku often juxtapose mother nature and human nature,
something Tomb Raider fans understand quite well.
Underworld concept art by Ben Shafer.

August 7, 2010

Guardian of Light Release Dates Updated, DLC Planned

Yesterday Crystal Dynamics announced that Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light will debut for PC and PlayStation 3 on September 28, and that the Xbox 360 version, slated for release August 18, will receive a patch enabling online co-op mode the same day the PC and PS3 games launch. Future downloadable content for the game was also revealed.

Crystal's Global Brand Director Karl Stewart told GameSpot that the online portion of the game needed more work before it could live up to the developer's promises but stressed that the single-player and offline cooperative modes would be complete for the August 18th Xbox 360 release.

"Everybody's disappointed, but we're also excited," Stewart said. "We're making a stand to say we're not going to have somebody download the game on August 18, play it, and feel like we came in a little under par on the online portion. It was a tough decision, but I think we made the right decision."

This should quell a little of the complaining from PC and PS3 fans disappointed with the early Xbox launch.

In other LCGOL news, the developers announced five downloadable content packs for all platforms coming this fall. According to General Manager Darrell Gallagher, "DLC for us means Downloadable Lara Croft. It all begins in August with Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light releasing on XBLA and runs through to the end of the year with the additional packs we will be offering. Oh and be prepared for a few surprises."

Future DLC will include expansion packs featuring new areas and new puzzle, exploration and combat experiences, as well as playable character packs, offering gamers the chance to experience the entire adventure without Lara Croft and Totec and instead with some other well-known videogame characters. The studio did not mention who those characters would be but, according to GameSpot, Stewart said they would be well-known characters pulled from a range of Eidos titles.

For more info, please visit my Guardian of Light page and check out previous LCGOL blog posts.

August 5, 2010

Tomb Raider Community Survey: Let Your Voices Be Heard

In case you haven't already heard, there's another great contest happening at tombraiders.net. Katie Fleming is conducting a Tomb Raider players' survey and inviting fans to share their opinions for a chance to win one of several great prizes. For details, click the banner on the right. If you have questions about the contest, there's a link to contact Katie on that page. Thanks for participating and good luck!

Prizes include the Lara Croft "Classic Beauty" Doll, pictured here. This exclusive collectible was created and donated by the Tonner Doll Company. She's 17 inches tall, fully poseable, and is one of a limited edition of only 300.

A free Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light game download, courtesy of Crystal Dynamics.

One of three copies of the Lara Croft: Lethal and Loaded documentary DVD (North American/NTSC format).

The deadline to enter by taking the survey is August 16th. Good luck!

Second Guardian of Light Podcast Spotlights Game Sound Design

Audio Engineers Alex Wilmer and Karl Gallagher talk all things audio in the latest podcast. Answering questions from the community and covering things like how they make a sound and what it's like working with Keeley, this podcast gives an insight into the work that has gone into creating the sonic world of Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. And there's a slight twist, all the community questions that were sent in MP3 format have been run through the Xolotl-Machine™, making Lara fans sound like the evil baddie from LCGoL.... Sort of.

(Originally posted by Keir Edmonds, Group Community Manager at Square Enix Europe, on the official LCGOL Forum. Thanks, Keir!)

  Download Podcast (62 MB mp3 file)
To download right-click and select 'Save Target/Link as'.


Karl treats Alex to a blast of his didgeridoo

If you missed the first podcast, featuring Guardian of Light Producer Forest Large, you can still find it here.

August 3, 2010

Guardian of Light Artist Kam Yu - Part 2

Today we continue with the second part of a two-part fan Q&A with Kam Yu, Senior Artist for Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. Part one can be found here.

TOTEC

NightWish (tombraiderforums.com): Totec's look is very elaborate. What sources of inspiration did you use to create his image? Was it a long process?

Kam: We wanted a character that looked formidable and a bit dangerous. We referenced a lot of ancient Mayan imagery and pulled out what we thought were the most interesting features. In the end, we went through a series of concepts and a couple of model variations. I'm quite satisfied with the end result.


A work in progress image of Totec (click to enlarge)

disapearing-boy (tombraiderforums.com): How much research was required to create an accurate Mayan warrior? And at any point did you stray from historical accuracy to allow for a more stylised design or creative freedom?

Kam: I like to use the theme of a character, in this case a Mayan, as the framework from which to design the overall appearance. Foremost in my mind is whether the character achieves our desired goals. Is he strong? Is he commanding? I don't mind taking certain liberties when it comes to the design if it improves the look.

OTHER CHARACTERS

Treeble (Eidos forums): At first, I thought Totec's visual as a whole as a bit unnerving, but I came to terms with it. I'd like to know through how many revisions his visual identity went through before the one we see, with lots of exposed skin, "empty" eyes and the little awesome horns on his face. Is this how every good-will deity would look like? lol

Kam: We went through a few versions of Totec before settling on the one seen in the game. One of them sported a big, white/gold headpiece. He came to be known as, "The Chef"! LOL. I don't think he'll be making an appearance any time soon. Maybe if we had a cooking game.

CONCEPT AND PROCESS

aussie500 (tombraiderforums.com): Is there some internal joke attached to the now infamous merc clones? Or are we just meant to think all mercs look alike.

Kam: Believe it or not we had three different character artists work on three different mercenaries and that is what they came up with! Just kidding.

aussie500 (tombraiderforums.com): Do character artists do their own concepts for the characters or do you base your design on someone else's idea? Who thought up the way Xolotl would look?

Kam: For this project, I had the distinct pleasure of concepting all the characters as well as modeling and texturing them. Dan Neuberger, our Creative Director, was the one who came up with the idea of Xolotl. I went through several concept iterations before coming up with his final look.

just*raidin*tomb (tombraiderforums.com): How does the character design process begin? [Also,] what is the most exciting thing about being lead character artist?! It must be rewarding to see your designs come to life.

Kam: I definitely feel that seeing my work come to life is the most rewarding thing about being a character artist. I always try to picture what the characters would be like in real life and how they would move about and behave. I feel the most successful characters are ones where the form follows function. Every character must look purposeful.

My ultimate goal for every character is to elicit some emotion in the player, be it fear, trust, loyalty or whatever. It's those emotions that leave a lasting impression.




An early sketch of the "Chompy" boss and a more fully fleshed-out version (click second image to)

Ward Dragon (tombraiderforums.com): When designing an original character (or perhaps even redesigning Lara) do you listen to the voice actor and take the character's voice into consideration for the character's final appearance?

Kam: The best designed characters are the ones that work on every level from animation to voice. Because a character's appearance should be an extension of their personality a lot of effort is put into matching the voice to the visuals.

Danielsun (Eidos forums): How many stages or processes are there when designing or redesigning a character and how many people are involved?

Kam: Typically, the design of any character begins with a series of brainstorming sessions. These are pretty much "blue sky" sessions where any idea, no matter how crazy is taken into consideration. Those ideas are then pared down to a smaller, more reasonable list and taken to concept. The ideas will evolve a great deal at this stage and get further refined. Much of it is done in Photoshop but recently I've been relying more on 3D concepting with ZBrush (or some other sculpting package). Once that is approved, then construction of the high resolution model begins. A game resolution version is then generated with textures and materials coming last.

There are usually a couple of concept artists and character artists involved with each major project. However, for LC:GOL, I was the only one! It was a unique opportunity that put to use my background in illustration and character creation.

OTHER

Ivo (tombraiderforums.com): Which previous Tomb Raider games did you make artwork for?

Kam: I'm responsible for 3 versions of Lara: Legend, Underworld and LC:GOL.

Altair (tombraiderforums.com): This might be a quirky question, but I am curious as to what Mr. Yu's desk looks like? I am always pleasantly surprised how people express themselves via workspace in a seemingly "corporate" world.

I'll be getting a photo of this if you don't mind :) –Keir

Kam: I'm a minimalist!! LOL. Most people are surprised by how bare I keep my desk but I like simplicity. I do have a large Frankenstein toy, though. . . and a lot of food. I'm famous for my lunches.


Kam at his desk!

**LARA LOVER** (tombraiderforums.com): What are your thoughts on XNALara? How do you feel about the fans being able to play around with and pose your characters?

Kam: I love seeing what others have done with Lara's model! People can be so creative (and resourceful)! :P What it really says to me is that there still exists a lot of love for her. Go forth and create!

trXD (tombraiderforums.com): Did you play any of the previous tomb raiders that you didn't work on? If so, which is your favourite?
and
Helion555 (Eidos forums): So which Tomb Raider model is your favorite. You have the classic Lara's (TR 1-5), AoD, Legend, Anniversary or Underworld. Which one was your favorite and why?

Kam: TR1 is still my favorite. There was an amazing sense of discovery in that game that is still hard to rival.

Max 28 (Eidos forums): Not including Lara, who is your favourite character from the Tomb Raider games series?

Kam: It's hard to say but if I had to commit to one I'd have to say Zip. Yeah, he talks a lot and interrupts the game but, hey, I can relate to the tech guy.

Evan C. (tombraiderforums.com): I know that we (the fans) are really annoying when it comes about Lara's look. Did you take any idea from the crowd or you just did it without having in count to what they (we) say?

Kam: Believe it or not I really do read the forums and take everything that is said into consideration. At first, I must admit, it was really disconcerting! I felt like there were a million eyes scrutinizing everything I did! But after a while, I began to feel that everyone on the forum was just doing their part to contribute. Even the ones that flame have an opinion. I try to put it all into perspective. I know it's hard to please everyone. However, I feel very strongly about creating characters that are compelling and hopefully satisfying to not only the fans but to newcomers to the series.

Billy959 (tombraiderforums.com): What software do you use to create lara CGI renders?

Kam: It depends on what the image would be used for. If marketing material is required, more often than not, we'll use Maya and mental ray. Otherwise, many shots you see are done in-game with our proprietary engine. One-off renders are often created in ZBrush as well, especially when we want to show work in progress or high resolution detail.

DETAIL

Ward Dragon (tombraiderforums.com): In general, how do you come up with color schemes for the characters' outfits? For example, do you look at the colors of the level and try to make the character blend in, stand out, or is it decided independently from the level's visual appearance?

Kam: Lara's outfits follow a certain color scheme that was developed by Toby while working on Legend. Of course, what we ultimately use in game has to take into account the surrounding environments. For practical purposes, Lara has to remain visible in every circumstance – even in darkened corners. Thankfully, we have a host of other options that we can use, especially lighting tricks.

And there you have it! Once again a big thanks to Kam for taking time out of his busy working days to answer your questions, and thanks to everyone that took part. There will be more chances to get to know the guys behind the game soon. Watch this space. –Keir, Community Manager, Square Enix

And thanks to Keir for coordinating and sharing these interesting developer Q&A sessions with us, the fans.
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