December 19, 2012

Tomb Raider Scavenger Hunt Promotion: Let Adventure Find You

Tomb Raider fans, at last your encyclopedic knowledge of Lara's world might actually pay off! Crystal Dynamics has just announced the Tomb Raider Scavenger Hunt. Players in the U.S. and Canada who pre-order the game from select retailers gain access to weekly photo and trivia challenges with chances to win downloadable game content, Tomb Raider-themed consoles, life-size Lara statues, a Tomb Raider all-terrain vehicle, and the grand prize: an adventure holiday for two in Fiji!


No worries if you've already pre-ordered. You can still participate. There's also a way to enter without buying the game. For details and complete rules, visit the Official Tomb Raider Blog.

Good luck, friends! And if I win, I promise to send you a postcard from Fiji. ;)

December 9, 2012

Thank You for Your Support!

While I'm in the end-of-year holiday mood, I just wanted to say thanks once again to everyone who helped support Stella's Site throughout the year. Whether you made a donation; bought games and other goodies through my affiliate links; joined our Team for the Extra Life charity marathon; or helped spread the word about the site through shares, tweets, links, etc., I sincerely appreciate your kindness! Happy holidays and raid on in 2013! :D Stella

Lara Croft with Santa Claus hat
Santa Lara - Click to enlarge.

December 8, 2012

Tomb Raider "Survivor" Trailer Premieres at 2012 Video Game Awards

In case you missed the festivities last night, Crystal Dynamics presented a new Tomb Raider trailer at the VGAs. Lara Croft voice and mocap actor Camilla Luddington made the introduction, and composer Jason Graves led a live orchestra accompanying the video, which made a big splash with fans in the audience and watching at home. My Twitter stream seized up, and #TombRaider was trending worldwide for quite a while. Here's the trailer that has everyone talking.


Visit Stella's YouTube Channel for the HD version without cutaways.

Camilla Luddington at the VGAs
Camilla Luddington introduced the latest Tomb Raider trailer at the 2012 Video Game Awards. Photo courtesy of Tomb Raider Univers.

Jason Graves at the VGAs
Tomb Raider composer Jason Graves conducted the orchestral accompaniment.

P.S. Tomb Raider didn't win Most Anticipated Game after all. That honor went to Grand Theft Auto V, but I'm sure we'll be seeing plenty of action at next year's VGAs.

December 7, 2012

IGN Launches Week of Exclusive Tomb Raider Previews

In case you haven't heard, IGN's Tomb Raider Week begins tonight with the premiere of a new Tomb Raider trailer on the 10th annual Video Game Awards. Tomb Raider is also one of the nominees in the viewers' choice category Most Anticipated Game. Tune in live this evening (Friday 12/7, 6 p.m. PST / Saturday 2 a.m. GMT) on Spike TV, Spike.com, GameTrailers.com or Xbox LIVE.

A trailer for a trailer? How "meta." ;) But anyway....


The full presentation, including introductions by Samuel L. Jackson and Camilla Luddington, can be seen in tomorrow's post.

The festivities continue throughout the week with these highlights. I'll be adding videos as they become available.

Monday, 12/10, 5:30PM PST · Tomb Raider Live Stream: IGN and developer Crystal Dynamics show an hour of new Tomb Raider content. Then, for another half hour, the creators will be taking fans' questions live and explaining game mechanics.



Tuesday, 12/11 · IGN Rewind Theater: Tomb Raider Survivor Trailer: IGN staffers do an in-depth analysis of the latest TR video trailer. Warning: Contains some fairly significant spoilers.



Wednesday, 12/12 · The Tombs of Tomb Raider: It's one of the most frequently asked questions about the new game—where are the tombs?! Don't worry; they're in there. This TR week installment examines a few.



Thursday, 12/13 · Upgrading Lara Croft: An exploration of Tomb Raider's RPG elements, including how Lara upgrades her skills and equipment.



Friday, 12/14 · Tools of Survival Trailer: An exclusive new trailer exposing the survival skills Lara is forced to learn on this dangerous island.


Additional details can be found on IGN.com's Tomb Raider Week page.

December 1, 2012

Celebrating Classic Tomb Raider Games on Steam and GOG - Win a Copy of TR1

This week Steam added a roster of classic Tomb Raider titles to its extensive offerings. GOG (Good Old Games) has had all six games for a while. Their prices are a bit better, but keep an eye on Steam as they hold frequent sales and special offers.

If you never played the originals, now's a great time to catch up before the new game comes out in March. And what a thoughtful holiday gift for that budding raider friend or relative. ;)

Today Only (Dec. 1-2) win a free Steam Tomb Raider download. For a chance to win one of two TR1 download codes, just let me know why you love the classic Tomb Raider games. Post a comment below, send me a tweet @Stellalune or comment on our Facebook page. Two winners will be chosen Dec. 2 around noon (EST).*

UPDATE 12/2/12: The contest has finished and our winners are Angeline Currie on Twitter and Maxine Anderson, who entered on Twitter and Facebook respectively. Congratulations, ladies! I hope you enjoy the blast from the past! :D

Tomb Raider now available on Steam

Classic Tomb Raider download details and links:

Steam (steampowered.com)
Tomb Raider · $9.99/€9.99/£6.99
Tomb Raider II · $9.99/€9.99/£6.99
Tomb Raider III · $9.99/€9.99/£6.99
Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation · $9.99/€9.99/£6.99
Tomb Raider: Chronicles · $9.99/€9.99/£6.99
Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness · $9.99/€9.99/£6.99

Good Old Games (GOG.com)
Tomb Raider 1, 2 & 3 bundle · $9.99
Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation & Chronicles bundle · $9.99
Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness · $9.99
(For UK Pounds and Euros, current conversion rates apply.)

*Two winners will be chosen at random from among all the comments and tweets received by December 2, 2012, 12 p.m. EST (5 p.m. GMT). Thanks to Crystal Dynamics for providing the game codes. :)

Tomb Raider Composer Jason Graves Featured in The Final Hours Episode 3

Tomb Raider composer Jason Graves
 Tomb Raider Composer
 Jason Graves
At long last Crystal Dynamics has revealed the identity of the composer for the upcoming Tomb Raider game. Jason Graves has scored dozens of video games, including the Dead Space series, for which he won a British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) award. He has also worked extensively in film and television.

The latest episode of The Final Hours of Tomb Raider includes interviews with Graves and the TR audio team. As you'll see in the video, not only did Graves compose the new soundtrack, he also worked with Matt McConnell of McConnell Studios to build an amazing instrument (photo below) just for the task. Watch and listen here:


The Instrument
"The Instrument," a collaboration between composer Jason Graves and sculptor/designer Matt McConnell, was fabricated from steel, glass and fibreglass, and used to create the unique soundscapes featured in the upcoming Tomb Raider video game. For details visit McConnellStudios.com.

November 14, 2012

Browser-Based Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light Free to Play

If you missed Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light when it came out a few years ago for PC and consoles, you can now play it in your Windows or Macintosh web browser. Core Online is offering both free (ad-supported) and paid versions of several games including Guardian of Light, Hitman: Blood Money, and Mini Ninjas (yay!), with Tomb Raider: Underworld and other titles coming soon.

There's no co-op mode in this version, so I'm not sure why the video below shows so much co-op play. Perhaps they plan to add it later. Also, they're clearly still working out some of the kinks. I ran into a couple of minor technical glitches, but once I got the game running, it played beautifully—just like the original version. And you can't argue with the price! ;)

Visit beta.coreonline.com for details. Their help page includes system requirements and troubleshooting tips. For more about the game itself, including my walkthrough and mini-review, visit Stella's Guardian of Light page.

November 12, 2012

Tomb Raider Collector's Edition Details Announced

With the new Tomb Raider game still 4 months away, I've been reluctant to post information about the various special editions, especially since details have been sketchy so far and special editions have not yet been announced for some countries. People keep asking, though, so when Crystal Dynamics sent out official photos of the European and North American special editions today, I decided to go for it. Here's what we know so far, per Community Manager Meagan Marie:

Tomb Raider North American Collector's Edition

North American Collector's Edition
Click image to enlarge.

Includes the following, according to the Official Tomb Raider Blog:
  • Endurance Survival Kit Packaging: A survival tin salvaged from the ill-fated Endurance. The tin houses a copy of the game and the Lara Croft figure (below).
  • Play Arts Kai Lara Croft Figurine: Fully posable figurine with over 40 points of articulation. Comes with alternate set of three hands, bow and arrow, shotgun, handgun, and climbing axe. Approx 8" tall.
  • 15" x 19" Double Sided Island Map and Poster: Discover key landmarks from the mysterious island of Yamati, where Lara Croft and her fellow castaways were marooned after the Endurance shipwreck. On the reverse is a poster size image of the box art.
  • Lithographic Print: 5" x 7" heavy stock, matted print of a painting by Brenoch Adams.
  • Experience Shields: Three iron-on badges of the game's key icons: Animal Instincts, Climbing Axe, Fire Arrow.
  • CD Soundtrack: Tomb Raider Original Soundtrack 'Survivalist Cut': A collection of 10 tracks totaling over 60 minutes of music from the game.
  • Downloadable Weapons Pack: A selection of weapons to help Lara survive in-game against the island's inhabitants.

This Collector's Edition will be available in North America for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 for $99.99. Tomb Raider will also be available in North America for the PC via digital download, with Collector's Edition details pending.

Several pre-order editions have also been announced by retailers including Amazon.com (their "Final Hours Edition"includes the Hunter skin for Lara, a digital art book, and a Kindle Fire edition of "The Final Hours of Tomb Raider" documentary), GameStop (includes an exclusive challenge tomb) and Best Buy (includes the Aviatrix skin for Lara plus a 48-page Tomb Raider comic written by Rhianna Pratchett).

UPDATE: Steam has also just announced a digital Survival Edition, which includes various downloadable rewards, including a free copy of Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, challenge tomb and Endurance DLC packs, an art book, soundtrack and island map.

Tomb Raider European Survival Edition

Tomb Raider European Survival Edition
Click image to enlarge.

Includes the following, according to the Official Tomb Raider Blog:
  • Art Book: A 32-page mini art book compiled by Tomb Raider Art Director Brian Horton, depicting Lara's epic adventure through original concept art.
  • 15" x 19" Double Sided Island Map and Poster: Discover key landmarks from the mysterious island of Yamati, where Lara Croft and her fellow castaways were marooned after the Endurance shipwreck. On the reverse is a poster size image of the box art.
  • Waterproof Survival Pouch: A 4" x 6" waterproof re-sealable adventure pouch for storing belongings.
  • CD Soundtrack: Tomb Raider Original Soundtrack 'Survivalist Cut': A collection of 10 tracks totaling over 60 minutes of music from the game.
  • Downloadable Weapons Pack: A selection of weapons to help Lara survive in-game against the island's inhabitants.

Tomb Raider European Collector's Edition

Tomb Raider European Collector's Edition
Click image to enlarge.

The deluxe collector's edition includes everything from the Survival Edition (above), plus the following:
  • Endurance Survival Kit Packaging: A survival tin salvaged from the ill-fated Endurance. The tin houses a copy of the game and the Lara Croft figure (below).
  • Play Arts Kai Lara Croft Figurine: Fully posable figurine with over 40 points of articulation. Comes with alternate set of three hands, bow and arrow, shotgun, handgun, and climbing axe. Approx 8" tall.

The Survival and Collector's Editions will be available in Europe for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. I was not able to find pricing information at this time. I'm guessing it varies by country.

For more information and regular updates of pre-order and promotional offers worldwide, visit the official Tomb Raider site.

Again, for those living in tombs or shipwrecked on mysterious islands with limited internet access, the game will be released March 5, 2013.

November 2, 2012

Podcast Features a Conversation with Tomb Raider Writer Rhianna Pratchett

The most recent Crystal Habit Podcast has been out for about a week, but thanks to Hurricane Sandy, Halloween, and a little laziness on my part, I've just recently had a chance to listen. I'm so glad I did.

Rhianna Pratchett
Tomb Raider Lead Writer
Rhianna Pratchett
The podcast, hosted as usual by our Community Manager, Meagan Marie, features a nearly hour-long interview with Tomb Raider's Lead Writer, Rhianna Pratchett, in which she discusses her role in re-imagining one of the most iconic characters in gaming, reveals some interesting details about the new Lara, gives advice to aspiring game writers, and tells what she'd like to bring with her into the afterlife. . . and more, if you can believe it.

Download the audio here: Crystal Habit Podcast #15 (MP3).
Get the written transcript here: Crystal Habit Podcast #15 (text).


Past editions of the Crystal Habit, featuring Meagan and other members of the dev team, can be found on the Official Tomb Raider Blog and iTunes.

Read more about Pratchett on her web site, rhiannapratchett.com.

UPDATE: Eurogamer has also just published this interview: Rewriting Tomb Raider: Rhianna Pratchett on the rape controversy, giving Lara a new voice and why it's time for games to grow up.

October 28, 2012

Tomb Raider Hunting Demo Hands-On at Comic Con

This is the second of 2 posts about my experience at New York Comic Con. See here for Part 1.

On Saturday, October 13, I had the privilege of attending New York Comic Con and trying the demo for the upcoming Tomb Raider game. We played what was billed as the "Pre-Beta Hunting Demo," basically the same demo shown at PAX in the video below. It takes about 15 minutes to complete, depending on how much side exploration you do. I went through it twice, and I'm sure I still haven't seen everything there is to see.

This demo doesn't reveal anything we haven't already been shown, and I won't give a blow-by-blow of the action, since you can watch it yourself. But it was great to finally see the game on an HD screen and get a feel for the controls. Several of you have asked for my impressions, so if you'll indulge me, I'll ramble a bit. Please note: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD....



We played the Xbox 360 version. The controls are similar to the previous Crystal Dynamics Tomb Raider games with a few minor changes: The left stick moves Lara; the right stick controls the camera. A is Jump. B is crouch/roll. X is Interact, and Y is Melee. About halfway through the demo, you get your hands on the bow and arrows. Hold LT to draw the bow, use the right stick to aim, then press and release RT to shoot. If you hold RT for a few seconds as you aim, the camera zooms in on your target. You can then release the trigger for a power shot. The bow does not have unlimited arrows (as I found out the hard way) but fortunately there are plenty of ammo pick-ups scattered around for slow learners like me. There were no guns or human enemies yet, so I can't describe how combat works.

Lara moves awkwardly at this early stage. That's not to say the controls are wonky—far from it; they're quite tight—it's just that her wounds, hunger and inexperience cause her to move gingerly. At times she cradles her injured side. She staggers after falling from a high ledge, as anyone would, and after a long jump-and-grab, she pulls herself up and pauses for a moment to catch her breath. It's all very realistic, and really helps the player feel her predicament. I suspect that later on, after she's found some more gear, tended to her wounds, and so forth, we'll see a much stronger and more acrobatic Lara, and the feel of the controls will evolve to reflect that.

The camera follows Lara more fluidly than in previous games, but you still have full camera control if you want to look around. Occasionally Lara will turn her head toward something you’re meant to notice. It's not as obvious as in the classic games, where the whole camera view shifts toward whatever it is, but if you're paying attention, you'll get the idea. Again, I assume this happens less often once you've passed the training area.

If you need more than a subtle hint, you can press LB to enter "Survival Instinct" mode. This shifts everything into a black-and-white view where your goals and any items you can interact with are highlighted. When you release the button, the view fades back to normal after a few seconds.

Survival Instinct mode in the new Tomb Raider
Survival Instinct screenshot courtesy of GameWise.

Lara grabs automatically when you jump toward a ledge or handhold. I'm not sure if you can deactivate auto-grab as in Anniversary. I suspect not, but this doesn't bother me. There's also a wall scramble maneuver, in which you basically double jump to scale vertical walls a little taller than Lara herself. The safety-grab maneuver from the other Crystal games is still there. If Lara attempts a long jump-and-grab but doesn't quite catch hold, you'll see a hint icon telling you to press X, which you'll need to do quickly to prevent her from falling.

The new Lara can also turn in mid-air. I didn't realize this at first, but Joshua, one of the fans in our group, mentioned it, so I tried it the second time I played. If you change direction mid-jump, using the left stick, she'll flail around a bit and finally settle somewhere between where you were initially aiming and the direction you corrected for. This felt kind of awkward and unrealistic to me, but no more so than veering in mid-air in the Core Design games. Maybe it'll become more instinctive with practice.

Hanging on for Life screenshot from the new Tomb Raider

The aspects of the game that seem most different from other Tomb Raiders are the user interface and the skills system. From what I've seen so far, I like these additions very much. It does break the realism the first few times you see a notification about a new goal or when Lara's XP meter flashes on screen as she gains points for discovering a new path or hunting game. But the interface is stylish and well designed. Even in this tutorial area, the hints aren't too intrusive.

For more info, you can press the Select button to see a map of the area with Lara's current position and objectives marked. This screen has a recap of the mission goal(s). There's also a panel listing possible unlockables for the entire area. For example, in the demo area:

Coastal Forest
X% complete


Basecamps found 2/3
Documents found 1/2
Relics found 0/3
Challenges Completed 0/1
Tombs Raided 0/1
Food Caches Found 0/5
Food Plants Found 1/5

Some areas and items aren't accessible at first. For example, just beyond the spot where you find Sam's backpack (3:44 in the PAX demo video), there's a ledge slightly higher than Lara's head. When you jump toward it, Lara tries to grab on but slips and falls onto the muddy slope below. As far as I can tell, you can't actually grab that ledge, but there's some interesting looking debris up there. So I suspect you can return here later after leveling up a bit and make that jump so you can explore the area further.

There's also a chest on a high rocky ledge in the deer hunting area, which provides "+1 skill point: find a basecamp." Next to it is a wooden crate, but when you try to open it, you get the message, "Missing Gear / You don't have the right equipment to open this." So, again, returning to areas you've covered previously clearly has its rewards.

If you go around the building below where you find the bow, you can climb inside and find an item called 1/8 Wartime Intelligence. This appears to be a Japanese soldier's journal. You can zoom in and out with LT/RT to examine it. I'm not sure where the other 7 journal pieces were located or what you gain by finding them all.

With a little help from the eagle-eyed Joshua, I also discovered some skulls dangling from a nearby tree. Shooting these with the bow, gives a small number of XP and the on-screen messages: "Ghost Hunter / Challenge Unlocked - Complete for XP" and "1/10 Totems destroyed." Sadly, I was only able to find one of these.

The Reach screenshot from the new Tomb Raider

Even at this early stage, you get a fair amount of XP just for moving ahead with the story. When you climb across the airplane, find the campfire, slide down into the forest, spot the dangling corpse with the bow, etc., you're awarded points. Later, after killing the deer, you must make your way back uphill to the camp fire. Standing next to the fire and pressing A brings up a menu where you can spend the XP you've earned on the survival skills listed below. I was only able to unlock the first three, but I assume if you explore more thoroughly, keep hunting and gathering for XP, and return later when you have the necessary equipment to open the crate, etc., you can unlock more upgrades.

Survival Skills

0/13 Combat Skills Mastered:
Toughness
Accomplished Killer
Steady Shot
Harder Hits
Harder Hits
Dodge Stun
Dodge Counter
Dodge Counter Mastery
Quick Kill
Brutal Kill
Jump Escape Mastery
Death From Above


0/12 Ingenuity Skills Mastered
Arrow Retrieval
Survivalist
Hunter
Animal Instincts
Bone Collector
Increased Ammo Capacity
Increased Ammo Capacity
Advanced Salvaging
Advanced Looting
Explorer Intuition
Researcher Intuition
Safe Landing

Base Camp screenshot from the new Tomb Raider
Base Camp screenshot courtesy of Games Movies Music Anime.

The only other thing that struck me as being especially different from previous games, is the sheer number of cut scenes. They're all fairly brief, though, and they don't interrupt the flow as much as they might. Rather than fading to black as you lose control of Lara, the cut scenes are integrated seamlessly into the gameplay and they do help advance the story. The developers have said one of their main goals is to achieve a cinematic experience. This is one of the ways they're trying to do that. As a gamer, I'd sometimes rather discover things myself than be shown, but again, this is a very early part of the game. I can only hope there won't be as much hand-holding in the later stages.

My only other complaints at this stage concern the voiceover and the lack of puzzles and tombs to explore. I understand what the developers are trying to do by making Lara more vulnerable and inexperienced at the start of the game, but I have to be honest; I don't like it. Her constant panting, whining, wincing and talking to herself is distracting. I wouldn't mind the occasional comment or hint, but I'm not a fan of emo Lara. I can only hope that as she gains her footing and begins to turn the tables on her adversaries, we'll start to see more of the witty, in-control heroine we've come to know and love.

As for actual tombs, I was excited to see references to "Relics found, Challenges Completed and Tombs Raided" on the mission goals screen. Based on the devs' reassurances, I'll just have to assume that we'll be seeing some of these before too long. And of course we're all eagerly awaiting a downloadable version of this demo to tide us over until March 5. What do you say, Crystal? Give us fans a break, won't you? ;)

Stella's Adventures at New York Comic Con

This is the second of 2 posts about my experience at New York Comic Con. Part 2 covers the Tomb Raider Hunting Demo.

On October 13 my son, Max, and I made a geek's pilgrimage to New York Comic Con. It was a crisp, shiny Saturday. Traffic was light, and we drove down to Manhattan in under 2 hours. The toughest part was finding a parking garage that wouldn't eat up our entire swag budget. Thirty minutes and $45 later, we speed walked along 34th Street toward the Javits Center, blending into the throngs of costumed natives headed the same way.

New Yorkers heading to Comic ConComic Con Passes

Since we'd bought our passes online, and the doors had already opened by the time we got there, we didn't have to wait long to get in. Finding the Tomb Raider Archery Experience, where we'd planned to rendezvous with Meagan from Crystal Dynamics and the rest of our posse, was another story. The convention organizers had hidden it away in a corridor between two buildings. But I felt like Lara uncovering a secret (aha!) when we finally found it.

Morgan and Stella
Morgan stopped by briefly so we could snap a photo together. She and I share multiple fandoms, including TR and Firefly. It would have been nice to spend more time with her. Maybe next year....
Meeting online friends for the first time is always exciting. Even if you've known them for years, there's always a little cognitive dissonance as you put faces to names and avatars. But it was wonderful to finally meet Meagan, Tom from Lara Croft Online, and Hunter. I was also psyched to make some new friends, including TR fans Ryan, Keith and Joshua. Like my son, Joshua's friend Adam came along for moral support. Both were good sports about indulging our obsession. ;)

After the meet and greet, we had a friendly archery competition. An instructor from the New Jersey School of Archery (sorry, I forgot her name) showed us the ropes. Then we took turns on the range, each firing two rounds of three rubber-tipped arrows. It was a lot harder than it looked. Only one of my first three shots even hit the target, but I managed to hit twice on my second round. Tom was brilliant! He landed a bull's eye and took home a limited-edition Tomb Raider lithograph signed by the dev team! We got to keep our TR-themed targets, and we each received a customized Endurance Crew badge as a digital souvenir.

Max takes a shotMy target
Tomb Raider Archery Experience
Max taking a shot (above left). Yours truly (above right). The group (left to right): Tom from LCO, Max, Stella, Ryan, Meagan, Hunter, our archery instructor, Joshua, Keith, Adam. More Tomb Raider Archery Experience photos and videos on the Official TR Blog.

Next we headed off to lunch at Dallas BBQ, a carnivore's paradise near Times Square. The food was great, but even better was sharing it with a group of people who love the same things I do. We talked about the new game and helped Meagan come up with a list of questions for a Tomb Raider trivia contest she'd be hosting later on. Keith, who was probably the most adventurous among us, told some amazing stories about his experiences with Semester at Sea, including intrigue in a Tibetan monastery and a close encounter in Shinjuku Toyo's red light district. When Joshua asked me to sign one of his Tomb Raider games, I felt like a real celebrity. And Meagan graciously picked up the check. (Thanks, Crystal!)

Dallas BBQDallas BBQ
Dallas BBQ sign and the carved horses above our table.

After lunch, we rushed back to the con so Meagan could start the trivia contest. Only later did I realize she'd plugged my site on the live stream. So sweet. :)


Robert Peeler, Square's North America Community Manager, and Meagan Marie, our own Community Manager from Crystal Dynamics, hosted live coverage from NYCC. Watch more on Square Enix's Ustream page.

While Meg did her thing, we checked out the Square Enix Child's Play Charity auction and the awesome collection of statues from Play Arts Kai.

Square Enix Play Arts Kai Lara Croft Statue
I'm no collector, but that Lara Croft figure looks pretty sweet!

Then came the moment we'd been waiting for: hands-on time with the Tomb Raider demo! Megan, another long-time TR fan, joined us for that. Robert, the Community Manager for Square Enix North America, helped us secure prime spots in the demo lines and gave us black-and-white Square Enix lanyards for our badges. While we waited, I chatted him up about his job helping us fans. I'm sure Square and Crystal know it, but their community reps could not be nicer or more dedicated!

I've done a separate write-up about the Tomb Raider demo.

Tomb Raider demo stations at New York Comic Con
Players line up to try the Tomb Raider.

When everyone had gotten a chance to play, we reconvened at the Square Enix Community booth. Meagan and Robert gave each of us a collection of Tomb Raider goodies to take home, including a T-shirt, water bottle, lapel pin, and some lovely TR prints. We posed for a final group photo with Jill, a devoted Lara Croft fan and cosplayer. Then we said our goodbyes, with big hugs all around.

Tomb Raider fans at the Square Enix Booth
TR fans at the Square Enix booth (l. to r.): Tom, Stella, Megan, Adam, Jill, Hunter, Joshua, Keith, Ryan and Meagan.


Cosplayer Jenn Croft photographed by Adam Jay
Jenn Croft photographed
by Adam Jay
After we separated from the group, Max and I spent some time exploring the rest of the convention. It was super crowded, but we saw a lot of cool stuff and many creative cosplayers. I had a chance to meet Adam Jay of Superhero Photography very briefly. He was busy shooting a group of costumed crusaders, but his charming assistant sold me a few prints of cosplayer Jenn Croft, which I'm sure you'll be seeing here in an upcoming contest.

I gave the Tomb Raider demo another go. There were so many people waiting to play that I felt a little guilty tying up one of the stations. So I didn't play for too long. Then I headed for the LEGO booth and backseat gamed while a couple of guys tried out the LEGO Lord of the Rings demo. I'm sure they were thinking, who is this crazy old lady and why is she yelling "Toss me"!? I tried to get into the Firefly panel, but unfortunately I arrived too late and it was it was full. I guess I'd used up my quota of awesome for the day, so I let it slide.

Comic Con crowds by numbphoto
Comic Con crowds by numbphoto.

By the time we set out for home, we were exhausted, elated, and much poorer than when we set out. Trying the new Tomb Raider was a thrill, but the best part by far was hanging out with fellow fans. Thanks to Tom, Hunter, Joshua, Adam, Ryan, Keith, Megan and Morgan for turning out, and thanks again to Meagan and Robert for showing us such a good time. Maybe we'll see you again next year!

Photo Credits: Convention goers (first pic): nyutusc.com. Morgan and Stella taken by Morgan's friend. Dallas BBQ photos courtesy of the restaurant. Jenn Croft as Lara by Adam Jay/Superhero Photography. Comic Con crowds (last photo) by numbphoto. Other photos: Square Enix. All rights reserved.

October 22, 2012

Team Tomb Raider Community Raised $1,000+ for Extra Life!

This past weekend (October 20-21) some friends and I participated in Extra Life, an epic, 24-hour video game marathon to raise money for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals in North America, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Since most of us did have to sleep eventually, it turned into more of a 48-hour staggered marathon, but it was still huge fun!

As you can see, we exceeded our $1,000 fund-raising goal. We're proud to have been a part of this great event, in which gamers from all over the world came together to raise more than $2 million for children's hospitals!

I'd like to thank everyone on our team—Hunter, Laura, Jake, Stephanie and Taylor—as well as the other gamers who played on our livestream, and who tuned in, helped spread the word, and of course donated generously. I love you all!

If you missed the event itself, it's not too late to show your support. Extra Life's organizers are hoping to top the $2 million mark over the next few days. So if you can spare even a few dollars, your help would be much appreciated.

Read more about the event at Extra-Life.org. To donate, click the banner at right.

Thank you for your support! Tomb Raider fans are the best!

October 3, 2012

Dr. Croft, I Presume?

Guest blogger, Ostercy, creator of Ostercy's Tomb Raider Fables and webmaster of Not Culturally Relevant, attempts to solve the mystery of Lara's post-secondary education.

Dr. Croft, I presume?

I have been living with half a memory of somebody calling Lara Croft "Dr. Croft", but I couldn't recall where from. Did Lara ever go to University? Did she study archaeology? I decided to investigate.

According to an interview with Vicky Arnold, original Tomb Raider writer; "Although Miss Croft never attended a university as a full-time student, she did derive much of her knowledge of archaeology and anthropology from some of the most prestigious universities in Britain through correspondence and posting her work straight in from the field." [1] It seems pretty clear from this (and other sources) that Lara wasn't an undergraduate in archaeology or anything else.

I'm still racking my brains…. Dr. Jonathan Reiss…. Dr. Mark Willard…. Dr. Dre Beats. I must be suffering from a senior moment.

Lots of fanfiction (including my own) refers to "Dr. Lara Croft", as do some websites – "Fearless Dr. Croft takes her high definition adventures to exotic locales. Tomb Raider: Underworld arrives in stores next Tuesday, November 18th." [2]

Moving on to (or sideways to) the Crystal Dynamics bios, there's "university peer" Anaya Imanu. Quite a lot of sites quote this text that originated from Legend; "Anaya is a civil engineer working in impoverished areas of South America. She's an old friend of Lara's dating back to their days at university, and she was with Lara during the tragedy near Segou. She has since led a distinguished career of her own, routinely crossing paths with Lara." So…Lara wasn't a university undergraduate according to Core but she had "days at University"? Postgraduate days, perhaps?

Slightly dottier, from the Legend Wikipedia page; "A teenage Lara was on an archaeological excavation with her university colleagues, where she and Amanda (Evert) witnessed an unknown demonic entity kill the rest of the team." [3] Kind of hard to see how a teenage Lara could have "university colleagues" but Wikipedia says it, so it must be true.

On the other hand there's this blurb quoted by many of the previewers at E3 2012; "Lara Croft is 22 years old, straight out of university and on the trail of adventure with her mentor Roth in tow." (See, for example, Infinite Lives. [4]) Oh what a tangled web! I suppose since most English undergraduates are aged 18-21, it's just possible that Lara was a first year archaeology postgrad at 22 (?).

And we have this from Dr. Colin Dray, a Lecturer in Literature at Campion College of the Liberal Arts, Australia; "The Lara Croft of old was an impossibly fantastical creature.  Statuesque, resourceful, quippy, with a handful of PhDs in pseudo-psycho sci-history and fabulous wealth and beauty." [5] Not very helpful to our investigation.

You could ask Alison Carroll, but she probably still hasn't "done her course" yet. [6] At least it indicates that at some point the game developers (like everybody else) thought of Lara as an archaeologist and not, say, an anthropologist or a business studies major.

Finally there's this frankly bonkers entry from Tomb Raider Forums and "British Consulates," not a reliable source for factual information; "all the while continuing her education at Oxford, then at the University of Chicago." [7, 8] I cannot imagine what on earth Lara would be doing in Chicago. Perfecting her American accent perhaps? Buying semi-automatic weapons?

Oh well. I know when I'm beaten. There's solid evidence that Lara studied archaeology at or near University perhaps, but no PhD. Unless you know different?

References

1. "Lara Croft - Biographical Sketch". Tomb Raider's Travelers Guide.

2. "Video - Tomb Raider's Lara Croft Attacks the Underworld!" Newsarama.

3. Tomb_Raider:_Legend - Wikipedia.

4. Scarborough, David. June 10, 2011. "Empire at E3 2011: Day 3 - Tomb Raider". Infinite Lives.

5. Dray, Colin. July 21, 2012. "Scraping Lara Croft Off The 'Boot' Of Her Gaming Reboot". WhatCulture!

6. "Lara Croft: Køn - men ikke særlig dyb". November 4, 2008. Ekstra Bladet.

7. "Detailed Biography" posted January 14, 2006, by AnthonyShock1515. Tomb Raider Forums.

8. "Lara Croft". British-Consulates.com.

September 30, 2012

Join Extra Life Team Tomb Raider Community: Play Games. Heal Kids.

My dear friends and fellow raiders, on Saturday, October 20th, I'll be participating in Extra Life, an epic, 24-hour video game marathon to raise money for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals in North America, the United Kingdom and Australia. I hope you'll join me!

If you're a gamer, please consider participating in the event as part of Team Tomb Raider Community.We'll be playing a bunch of TR games, along with other favorites. Some of us will be gaming at home, solo and with friends, but we're also planning some online co-op Guardian of Light, plus livestreaming, an up-to-the-minute Twitter feed (#TombRaider #ExtraLife), and a marathon online party—all to raise money to help hospitalized kids. Together we can do more!

If you can't join us, I hope you'll at least make a small donation to support our efforts.

Read more about the event at Extra-Life.org. To join our team or to make a pledge, visit the Team Tomb Raider Community page.

Please help spread the word, and if you have any questions, don't hesitate to get in touch.


Extra Life 2012. Play Games. Heal Kids.

30-Day Tomb Raider Challenge Day 30: WWLCD?

WWLCD: What Would Lara Croft Do? Has the character Lara Croft ever inspired you to do something in real life that you might not ordinarily do? Discuss.

Today is the last day of the challenge. Once again I'd like to thank everyone who participated and submitted topic ideas. I hope you've all had as much fun with this as I have. I'd also like to give a special shout-out to Jeremy, whose original Tomb Raider 30 Day Challenge inspired this whole thing. Raid on!

Bumper Sticker: What Would Lara Croft Do?
Bumper Sticker: What Would Lara Croft Do?

September 29, 2012

30-Day Tomb Raider Challenge Day 29: Which real life person most reminds you of Lara Croft?

Which real life person most reminds you of Lara Croft? It need not be someone famous. Surely we all know or have heard of someone who embodies Lara-like qualities.

Thanks to Ostercy for suggesting today's topic.

Lara Croft - Tomb Raider: Angel of Danrkess

September 28, 2012

30-Day Tomb Raider Challenge Day 28: Special Editions

Crystal Dynamics has confirmed there will be a special edition of the new TOMB RAIDER, though they have not yet said which systems will have special versions or what exactly will be included. If you answered "yes" to yesterday's question, do you plan to splurge for the special edition, and what would you like to see included in order to make it worthwhile? Do you own any previous Tomb Raider special editions?

Thanks to Austin for suggesting today's topic.

TOMB RAIDER

September 27, 2012

30-Day Tomb Raider Challenge Day 27: Thoughts on the upcoming reboot? Will you be buying?

Today we revisit last year's Day 7 challenge. Has anything changed for you since then? Do you plan on buying the new game next year and why or why not?

Lara Croft - TOMB RAIDER

September 26, 2012

30-Day Tomb Raider Challenge Day 26: Objects of Desire

Today we're expanding on last year's challenge topic about Tomb Raider collections. For those who do collect TR merchandise or plan to start, what is your most prized Tomb Raider collectible, and what is the item item you most covet? (If it's not something that's actually being made, what would you like to see?)

Thanks to Lorna for today's question.

Lara vs. Dalek
Lara vs. Dalek. Photo courtesy of Michael Lawrie.

September 25, 2012

30-Day Tomb Raider Challenge Day 25: Favorite Fan Sites and Blogs

No, I'm not fishing for compliments. ;) Today's question comes from Marie and Ryan, who want to expand the list of Tomb Raider fansites and blogs they follow. So, other than this one, which fan-created Tomb Raider sites do you like to visit and why? What do you feel are some of the qualities of a great fan/tribute site?

September 24, 2012

30-Day Tomb Raider Challenge Day 24: The Next Film

We don't know too much about the next Tomb Raider film yet except that, like the upcoming game, it will be an "origin" story featuring an inexperienced Lara Croft.

Today's challenge, suggested by Lorna, is basically how do you envision the third TR movie? Who would you want to play Lara? Which characters (if any) from the series or past films would you include? Or, more generally, if you could suggest one thing to producer Graham King regarding the new film, what would it be?


Tomb Raider Reboot Teaser. ©2011 ryansd. All rights reserved.

September 23, 2012

30-Day Tomb Raider Challenge Day 23: Have You Ever Dreamed About Tomb Raider?

Over the years, several players have told me their weird, fun and fabulous Tomb Raider dreams. Have you ever dreamed about Lara, or dreamed you were living a Tomb Raider game? Do tell!

Sleeping Angie
Sleeping Angie? Would love to give a photo credit, but I'm not sure who took this. I found it in a Google image search.

September 22, 2012

30-Day Tomb Raider Challenge Day 22: Second Favorite Game or Series

It's probably safe to assume that if you're reading this Tomb Raider tops your list of favorite games. But what's your second favorite video game or series?

How dare I ask a non-Tomb Raider related question in the challenge?! Well, people are always writing to me asking if there are other games as good as TR, what they should play until the next TR, what I play other than TR. There's no easy answer to this one, but I'd love to hear your recommendations.

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
I haven't played any of the Uncharted games (don't own a PlayStation) but I hear they're fun.

September 21, 2012

30-Day Tomb Raider Challenge Day 21: Raiding on the Go

Have you played any of the hand-held or mobile Tomb Raider games? If so, which was your favorite and why? Marie and I want to know.

September 20, 2012

30-Day Tomb Raider Challenge Day 20: Are You a Ruthless Killer or a Pacifist?

When you play Tomb Raider do you always try to get all kills? Have you ever completed a level with no kills? Or is your play style somewhere in between? Do you go after the baddies but deliberately avoid harming non-enemy creatures like the Barkhang brothers in TR2 and the monkeys in TR3? What about endangered creatures like tigers?


Lara rides (or perhaps wrestles?) an endangered snow leopard in the
TR2 Golden Mask expansion. Screenshot courtesy of Perusing Pixels.

September 19, 2012

30-Day Tomb Raider Challenge Day 19: Have You Ever Cosplayed a TR Character?

Have you ever dressed up as Lara Croft or another character from the TR universe? Halloween costumes do count, and we'd love to see a photo if you have one. :)

By the way, they're having a Lara Croft "Survivior" cosplay contest over at Lara Croft Cosplay. The first round of voting is open to the public. Check out the great pix and vote for your favorite here.

Lara Croft cosplayers
Cosplayers with Lara Croft voice and mocap actor Camilla Luddington
at San Diego Comic Con in July.

September 18, 2012

30-Day Tomb Raider Challenge Day 18: Favorite Secondary Character

Lara Croft works alone...except when she doesn't. She's had help from friends and colleagues over the years, from Werner Von Croy's mentorship in The Last Revelation to Zip and Alister's support in Legend and Underworld. Now it looks like she'll have a veritable posse of new friends in the upcoming game.

We've talked about enemies and adversaries before, but who's your favorite ally or supporting character from the TR universe and why?

Today's challenge topic is based on suggestions from Jason and Chris.

Lara Croft and Werner Von Croy
Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation screenshot courtesy of Katie Fleming.

September 17, 2012

30-Day Tomb Raider Challenge Day 17: Have You Ever Created Your Own Playable Level?

Have you ever created your own Tomb Raider level using the TR Level Editor or another program? If so, what was it like and did you enjoy the process? Do you play levels created by other players and, if so, what are some of your favorites?

Today's question was suggested by Eldin and expanded upon a bit by me. Just can't leave well enough alone. ;)

Tomb Raider Level Editor
Tomb Raider Level Editor Screenshot.
Click to visit tombraiders.net's TRLE page.

September 16, 2012

30-Day Tomb Raider Challenge Day 16: Travels with Lara

We've discussed our favorite locations from the games before, but what if you were the adventurer? If you could join Lara Croft on a quest, where would you want to go and why?

Today's challenge is a combination of questions submitted by Jason, Jaden, and Scott.

Tomb Raider World Map
World Map of Lara Croft's travels by Vanity.

September 15, 2012

30-Day Tomb Raider Challenge Day 15: Favorite Cutscene

Expanding a bit on yesterday's question, today we're wondering what's your favorite cutscene from the Tomb Raider series and why?

Thanks to Graham, Marie, and Ostercy for suggesting this topic.


This video from Lara's Backpack apparently shows a deleted cutscene from the original Tomb Raider.

September 14, 2012

30-Day Tomb Raider Challenge Day 14: Favorite Quote

Today's question comes from Jason and Marie, who ask you to share your favorite quote from a Tomb Raider game or movie.

I hate tombs!

September 13, 2012

30-Day Tomb Raider Challenge Day 13: Achievements/Trophies

If you play Tomb Raider on the PS3 or Xbox 360 have you unlocked all the trophies/achievements? If not, which ones are you missing? If you play on the PC or Mac (or if you only play the classic games) do you do set other challenges for yourself? All secrets, all kills, *no* kills, speedruns, etc.?

Classic Tomb Raider Achievements
A while back we did a brainstorming session to come up with achievements for the classic games. You're welcome to contribute by commenting on that post as well.

September 12, 2012

30-Day Tomb Raider Challenge Day 12: Favorite System?

From its debut in October 1996 on the Sega Saturn to the upcoming TOMB RAIDER for Windows PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3, Tomb Raider games have been released on many different gaming systems over the years. Which is your preferred system for playing Tomb Raider and why?

September 11, 2012

30-Day Tomb Raider Challenge Day 11: More Multi-Player?

Lately I've been replaying Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light with my buddy Treeble, whom some of you may know from the Eidos Forums and TRF. We've been having a blast, and it got me thinking about future co-op or multi-player options for the series.

For most of us, Tomb Raider is unequivocally about solitary exploration, and although there has been a trend toward more online and multi-player interactions, the developers at Crystal Dynamics have confirmed there will be no multi-player in the upcoming game.

What do you think? Would you like to see another multi-player game added to the franchise? If so, should it be a sequel to Guardian of Light, a co-op mode for the usual Tomb Raider adventure, some sort of MMO set in the Tomb Raider universe, or an entirely new type of game?

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light Co-Op Play
P.S. A few people have asked if it's OK to comment on past days' topics. Absolutely! If you have something to add, you're welcome to comment here or on our Facebook page. You can even respond to the 2011 Challenge topics if you like.
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.