June 26, 2012

Camilla Luddington is the New Voice of Lara Croft

Camilla Luddington, voice of the new Lara CroftCrystal Dynamics has at last revealed the identity of the voice and performance actress portraying the new Lara Croft. Camilla Luddington, 28, was born in Ascot, England; attended The American School In England at Thorpe in Surrey; and has mostly worked in the United States. She has had recurring roles in the American television series True Blood and Californication. She also played Kate Middleton in the Lifetime TV movie William and Kate. She can be heard in the two TOMB RAIDER trailers released so far: "Turning Point" and "Crossroads".

After an international talent search using scouts in Europe and the US, Luddington stood out as delivering both a depth of emotion and the youthful tone needed for Lara Croft in the upcoming reimagining of the Tomb Raider franchise, due for release on March 5, 2013.

According to Darrell Gallagher, head of studio at Crystal, "This has been one of the most important jobs for us to get right. This Tomb Raider game is very different to any other and we are demanding far more from the voice and performance acting than ever before as we take the franchise in a new direction."

In addition to providing the voice, motion capture, and facial animation for the in-game character, Luddington will also participate in press events, including the Nerd HQ and Comic-Con panels in San Diego next month. There she will join the development team as they talk about Tomb Raider and the story behind its creation. She will not, however, be making personal appearances dressed as Lara, as previous live-action models have done.

Read more about Camilla on her Internet Movie Database and Wikipedia pages, and follow her on Twitter @camilluddington.

Video Archive:

Camilla makes her late-night talk show debut promoting her role in William and Kate on Lopez Tonight.

The first two Tomb Raider trailers, "Turning Point" and "Crossroads."

June 11, 2012

E3 Community Ambassador One-on-One Developer Interviews

E3 has now come and gone, with Tomb Raider making quite a splash at the show and picking up numerous awards, including Best of Show from IGN, Game Informer, CVG, GamesRadar, the Official Xbox Magazine, Official PlayStation Magazine, and more. Congratulations to the team! It's great to see them receiving some well-deserved recognition for all their hard work. :)

As you know from earlier posts, Crystal Dynamics hosted a group of 17 community ambassadors representing fan sites from around the world. The ambassadors spent 2 days exploring the show, watching game demos and presentations, talking with Tomb Raider's creators, and generally mixing and mingling. The goal was for the ambassadors to get a closer look at the game, as well as to bring their communities' questions to the developers and then share their experiences with the fans back home.

Along with a group Q&A session, each ambassador had the opportunity for a 15-minute, one-on-one interview with a member of the development team. I've posted links to some of these interviews below and will add more as they become available.

Meagan from Crystal Dynamics (yellow sweater) with the community ambassadors at E3. I don't know about you, but I think every building should have a Tomb Raider elevator. ;) For more photos, visit the ambassadors' sites (links below) and Crystal Dynamics' Flickr album.

Our own ambassador, Katie, from Katie's Tomb Raider Site: E3 photos and notes here, video interview with Senior Art Director Brian Horton here.

Tom from Lara Croft Online: Podcast interview with Brian Horton here. Tom's E3 impressions here.

Chip from the Official Eidos TR Forum: E3 photos here, video interview with Global Brand Director Karl Stewart here.

Ashley representing Tomb Raider Chronicles and Tomb Raider Forums: Photos, video, impressions and exclusive interview with Karl Stewart here.

Conrado from Lara Daily: Exclusive interview with Karl here.

Geoffrey from Tomb Raider Online: E3 impressions and exclusive interview with Karl here.

Elodie from Laraider: Exclusive interview with Karl here.

Steven from Tomb Raider Net: E3 coverage here. One-on-one interview with Karl here.

Minerva from Lara's Generation: News from E3 and exclusive interview with Brian here.

SeRmOnGaR from Croft Generation: E3 info here. Exclusive interview with Brian here.

Daniel from Planet Lara: Interview with Karl Stewart. Video here and transcript here.

Lyubov from LaraCroft.name: E3 coverage here. Exclusive interview with Brian here.

Karen from Guns and Grapple: E3 coverage here. Exclusive interview with Karl here.

Clara from Captain Alban: E3 impressions here. Developer interview coming soon.

Jana from Tomb Raider Girl and WikiRaider: E3 coverage coming soon.

Sergey from Tomb Raider in Russia: E3 coverage coming soon.

DomyRaider from Lara Croft Revolution: E3 coverage coming soon.

Thanks again to Meagan Marie at Crystal for organizing the ambassador initiative, and to Karl, Brian, and the other developers for building time into their busy schedules to speak with us fans. We really appreciate it!

June 7, 2012

E3 Tomb Raider Demos without Commentator Voiceover

Thanks to Gamespot for posting these and Twin Pistols for sharing them on Tumblr. I have to say, as informative as the guided demos are, I much prefer seeing the action purely from a player's point of view with no extraneous chattering.

E3 Community Ambassador Group Q&A with the Tomb Raider Developers

Earlier today our Tomb Raider community ambassadors had a chance to pose some of our questions to Crystal Dynamics' Karl Stewart and Brian Horton, who jumped in near the end of the session. Time was limited so they weren't able to answer every question we sent in, but they did tackle quite a few in some detail. Each ambassador also had an individual 15-minute session with one of the developers. I'll be posting links to those sessions as each fansite webmaster reports. Thanks to Community Manager Meagan Marie for sharing this transcript. (Sorry but I don't know who asked each of the questions.)

Crystal Dynamics Global Brand Director Karl Stewart
Q: What makes this Tomb Raider better than the other ones you've released?

Global Brand Director Karl Stewart: I think one of the things that we want to make sure we preface with... The last 15 years, we've seen some phenomenal Tomb Raiders. I don't think it's a case of saying that this one is better than any of the other ones. I just think our goal is to create something that is very unique and very new. We have an opportunity to take a beloved franchise like Tomb Raider and bring it back to an origin story where we almost sort of bring it to...not just a broader audience, but we allow people to feel like they now know who she is. Give her a very unique personality. And make her, as most of you have read, sort of culturally relevant for today. Because Lara, as you know... She kind of became a caricature. You knew she had her guns, you knew she had the outfit and the personality that she had, but you never knew very much about where she came from.

For us, we set the goal of saying, let's take the opportunity to go back to the very beginning, and when you do that, go back to the very beginning, you then have to look at who the character is today. We've looked at a lot of franchises, I know you've read that I talk a lot about the Batman analogy. It's the easiest way to sort of explain what our challenges are and move forward with it. We looked at Batman, and it falls into sort of three different categories. The first one is, you have that original Batman, the Adam West, right? We all know what Adam West looked like back in the day, real kitsch, kinda cool-looking product of its generation. And then you move into the George Clooney, Val Kilmer idea of what Batman was for the '90s. And then you move into the Christian Bale, you move into that era where Batman is re-imagined and re-invented for today's audience.

We look at Tomb Raider and think, the first Tomb Raider right through to Angel of Darkness, you look at that and think, it's a product of its time. I'm not saying it's an Adam West Batman, but it was a product of its time and it did very well, people loved it. Then you moved into the Legend, Anniversary, and Underworld, and again, it was a product of its time, very successful. But we've moved to a space where we believe that the audience, and I include yourselves there, you want to know where she came from. You want to feel a connection to our character that you've never really felt before. We're not trying to say this one's the best ever, this is going to be the best of all of them. What we're trying to do is create a very unique experience for this audience, and for you, for today. Make you feel like you're now connected to a character that you love in a very unique and different way. And most Batman fans look at Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan's Batman... They still look at Adam West... I'm a big Batman fan, right? I still love all the Batmans. There's still something cool about George Clooney being Batman. Kind of bizarre, but there's something cool about it. So it's not like we're trying to re-invent the wheel too much. It's more about, we just think this is an opportunity to do something very unique and new.

Q: They have been re-imagined, but the scenario that's surrounding the character remains very important in the Batman and James Bond storylines. Did you do that for Tomb Raider?

Karl Stewart: I think the James Bond analogy... James Bond had certain traits that, again, were relevant to his time. A lot of the study that I did with that character was looking at, when James Bond came out, a license to kill, traveling around to these exotic locations, and getting the girl at the end of the movie, that was again a product of its time. It was something about what he did. He drove a particular car, you knew a little bit about his background, he drank his martini shaken but not stirred. All these little things that make him iconic and that you remembered. But for this James Bond, they kept some of those traits, but they also looked at traits that they didn't need to have. He didn't need to get the girl all the time. Instead of getting the girl, they showed that all of a sudden he could fall in love. All of a sudden emotions came up that he never had before. Which made him sort of multi-dimensional as a character, where before he was one-dimensional. He was like, "James Bond, license to kill, I can do whatever I want." Those days are gone for them.

You look at James Bond today, it feels like there's more of a connection. So what we're trying to do with Tomb Raider is ensure that you still feel connected to the character, you still feel like I know the iconic moments... Now, I have to be careful not to spoil anything, because what we've shown so far and what you've seen is really just a snippet. We've broken up this game into bits or phases, where right now, it's about telling the journey of how she becomes stronger. We didn't want to start the journey where she has pistols and a shotgun... You're getting each of these elements along the way and you're starting to understand her a little bit more. We've really just scratched the surface of her even meeting people.

So we'll start to show a side of her personality. It's very key to us that we keep certain traits to make sure that it's the Lara Croft that we all love. We will start to see that come through. I can't speak for you, but the hair stood up on the back of my neck when, for us, the first time, playing this game, in the alpha phase you can really play the game from start to finish, and you get an hour or so in, and all of a sudden she jumps off a ledge into her first tomb. You stand there going, oh my God, she's discovered it for the first time, and she's a little bit in awe herself, because this is what she wants to do.

Those are the moments that we want people to go, "I remember the first time she ever came across a tomb." So we want to make sure we still have those iconic moments, and I don't want to spoil too much, because that really is the joy of playing it for the first time, experiencing those things, and making the hair stand up on the back of your neck when you say, I will remember that. Much like the demo yesterday, when she had to kill that guy for the first time. That's a young girl... She just wants to go on an adventure. She didn't think that in a couple of days after setting sail on the ship, she's going to have a guy on top of her and she's going to have to shoot him. Our goal is to make sure you still have a relationship and a connection with the character, she will have traits that you'll look at and say, I see Lara Croft start to shine through.

Q: When you decided to start over with Tomb Raider, was it clear from the beginning that it would still be Lara Croft as the hero of the game, or did you also think about replacing the main character?

Karl Stewart: No, it was always very clear. It was always going to be Lara Croft, it was always going to be Tomb Raider. Nobody else would have come close. I don't see the point in doing it if it wasn't Lara Croft.

Q: Do you have in mind, when you show the trailers, how to avoid spoilers? For example, in the trailer we can see the helicopter, you can see that approach... How do you deal with that?

Karl Stewart: So what we try to do with spoilers is not very literal. In a sense that, I don't want to tell you the first time she does this, the first time she does that. Because that really spoils... But when putting together a trailer in particular... You watch movie trailers all the time. A great example is, you watch a Batman trailer or you watch a James Bond trailer, you get a full snippet of the movie. Prometheus is a great example. We watched the Prometheus trailer, and I'm going to a midnight showing tonight because I'm such a big fan of Aliens, but you watch that trailer and you go, I want to get that arc, I want to understand, I want to see all these different beats that make me feel like I'm going to put my money down and buy that.

If we were to only make trailers based on the concept of what we're showing right now, you'd only see one dimension. You'd only see that one thing, and that doesn't inspire you to want to know more. So we do put in snippets inside our trailers to show where we're going with it, so the audience overall can feel like, okay, I know that it's not just about a journey, I know she's going to get stronger, I know she's going to have a gun, I know she's going to fight. You see that helicopter, that just brings up questions. I'm not going to tell you what happens with the helicopter.

Putting together a trailer really is an art form, we spend a lot of time trying to manage... We brought on Ignition, Ignition Creative, based in LA, who I've worked with quite a lot in the last few years. They were the guys behind all the Batman trailers, the Prometheus trailers, they're not cheap, but when you sit down with them, and they put together a video game trailer on the same principles and strategies as a movie trailer, they bring to light things that we simply didn't think about. We had a large array of snippets from the game, they played the game from start to finish, they came back and said, you have your vision and here's how we can add to that. Here are the things we think you can tease from this and here's the story you can tell. Between us, we created that trailer. We believe you need to see some of that. You have no idea at what point it happens. We don't put it in chronological order, so halfway through the trailer means halfway through the game. It's more of a tease.

Q: With the movies, sometimes they'll put in the trailer one single scene right at the end, that's more important than it is in the movie...

Karl Stewart: Sometimes it's very hard to compare directly to movies, because... Knowing and working with a lot of movie people, I tend to find that their trailers are created in one of two ways. One is, if they know they have a really good movie, they try and hold back. They tease you just enough and they hold back. And you can generally tell that, they'll be up there getting their audience share points when they go and show it to audiences around the country, and they make a decision on how far they're going to push. And in the same sense, if a movie's not trending too well, and they need to spend some more money, then they pick all the best parts of the movie for the trailer. You watch and think, oh, it's really good, and all of a sudden you watch it and.... Wow. All the best parts were in the trailer.

For us, we brought in the best in the industry to work with us, we spent a lot of time trying to make sure we carried that story to the very end. You do have to be careful, we don't want to spoil anything. It kills me to think that I've sat and I've played the game maybe 25-plus times from start to finish, and after a while you just become desensitized. I hate that, the fact that I've played it so many times, I don't... I still appreciate that the audience hasn't had the chance to experience it. There's a very different way in which you experience watching a movie, versus when you play a game. When you play a game, you're in control. So I'm trying to make sure I don't spoil anything for you. Keep it so you pick it up and play it for the first time and the hair stands up on your neck... We tease a little bit, but I don't want to spoil anything.

Q: I was curious, did you use an actress as a model for the face? How did you go about choosing what she looked like? I see a strong resemblance to a British actress, Rosamund Pike, from Die Another Day...

Karl Stewart: So the process we went through, and Brian was obviously talking in some depth about it... Brian and I started both around the same time, I kind of watched his process a lot. He went through iteration after iteration of what he liked in a character, and what he was able to bring across... To feature what we liked in the Lara Croft of yesteryear, and yet it felt fresh and relevant.

I think at one point he had lists and lists of girls and faces. It almost got to the point where he was like, I like her eyebrows, but I don't like her nose, I like that chin, I like that face.... Brian actually went to work on bringing all of that together. If you watch the making-of, we did a making-of trailer for Game Informer, he literally started from scratch in that respect. It's the same process that Brian went through to create Lara in the first place. Brian is art director, we'll talk together, but there were some key people involved, myself included, who just every now and then locked ourselves in a room, brought it up on the screen and looked at all the different comparisons, and really went into the details of some of the smaller things. Like the M in her lips. One of the things that, over time, could become iconic, but still make it feel like Lara.

More Tomb Raider E3 Updates

The Tomb Raider community team made it to E3 in Los Angeles, and who should they run into just inside the convention center? Yes, that's Lara's papa and Otherworld comic creator Toby Gard. I'd be satisfied right there, but now they get to play the game and tour the rest of the show. Pretty sweet! My sincere thanks to Crystal Dynamics for helping to make these fans' dreams come true.
So far the E3 Tomb Raider coverage has mostly centered on the "Crossroads" trailer and the demo presented at the Microsoft press conference. In the clip below, Game Reactor interviewed Karl Stewart about Lara's trials and tribulations.

This video from IGN Live features ten more minutes of gameplay.

Needless to say, by the end of Day 2, Tomb Raider had been nominated for a big handful of awards at the show. For details, visit the Official Tomb Raider Blog.

June 5, 2012

More TOMB RAIDER Revealed at E3

Tomb Raider has taken center stage at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo. Yesterday at the Microsoft press conference, Crystal Dynamics' Darrell Gallagher and Daniel Bisson, head of studio and game co-director, respectively, presented a stage demo featuring a previously unseen section of the game (video below). Following the demo, Gallagher announced that the first downloadable content will be available first on the Xbox 360.

Later, Crystal's Global Brand Director Karl Stewart showed off more of the game and described how the designers are trying to make it less linear than previous iterations through the use of hubs and "gear gating," which basically means allowing players to open new areas by finding specific objects or gaining new skills. He also dropped the phrase "Challenge Tombs," harkening back to a similar feature in Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. These were optional side areas with special challenges and rewards. Although the main demos we've seen so far appear pretty linear, Stewart also stressed that the new structure will give the player the freedom to "come into a space and do what you do best: be an explorer."

There's a new Crystal Habit E3 Podcast with a short Q&A in which our community rep Meagan Marie questions a a few of the developers about the stage demo. listen here.

We've also heard a little more from Karl Stewart about the mysterious and deadly "Scavengers" inhabiting the island where Lara has landed in GameInformer's article on "The Enemies Of Tomb Raider."

For up-to-the-minute E3 coverage, follow Meagan, Karl, and the Official Tomb Raider accounts on your favorite social media.

June 2, 2012

Tomb Raider "Crossroads" Trailer Transcript and Analysis

On Thursday the latest Tomb Raider video trailer premiered on GT.TV. The action picks up where last year's "Turning Point" trailer left off, adding about two more minutes of previously unseen gameplay footage. After escaping from the creepy caves at the beginning of the game, Lara must figure out how to survive in hostile, new surroundings. This time, however, she has allies as well as enemies.

There are localized versions of the trailer on the official Tomb Raider YouTube channel, but in case your language isn't available, I've included a transcript of the dialogue below the video so you can plug it into your favorite online translator.

At the request of several readers, I have added the following
Trigger Warning: This video contains images that may be disturbing to rape/sexual assault surviors.

Lara (00:23): I gotta get out of this!
Lara (00:36): What is this place?
Lara (00:41): Oh god...Steph.
Lara (00:45): Need to find a way out.
Lara (01:12): Mayday. Mayday. This is Lara Croft of the Endurance. We are stranded on an island in the Dragon's Triangle.
Lara (01:18): We need help and medical supplies, please respond.
Lara (01:33): Sorry....
Roth (01:36): Lara!
Lara (01:37): Roth! Please come and get me!
Roth (01:39): Easy, Easy, we 're regrouping at my location.
Lara (01:44): Get the hell off me!
Man (01:50): The others wanted to go further inland, after that I never saw any of them again.
Sam (01:53): Lara! You're alive!
Lara (01:54): Hey! Let go of her!
Sam (01:54): Get off of me!
Man (01:57): We've waited so long....
Lara (01:59): Sam!
Sam (01:59): Lara!
Lara (02:02): He took her, he took Sam!
Man (02:04): Who took Sam?
Lara (02:05): A man...like the one who...killed Steph.
Man (02:10): Get back!
Lara (02:12): Get off!
Man (02:17): Round them Up!
Lara (02:18): Don't make a sound.
Man (02:18): Ya, I'm on her.
Man (02:21): I cant find her. She's gone.
Man (02:28): No one escapes.
Man (02:32): Out!
Man (02:34): I always find her.
Roth (02:54): You can do it Lara, after all, you're a Croft.
Lara (02:58): I don't think I'm that kind of Croft....
Roth (03:00): Sure you are...you just don't know it yet.
Man (03:13): Kill them all!
Lara (03:27): I hate tombs!

If, like me, you like to pause and scrutinize every minute of these videos, you might enjoy this frame-by-frame analysis courtesy of IGN Rewind Theater's Daemon Hatfield and Casey Lynch.

So what do you think? Some of you have already shared your opinions about the new video on my Facebook Page. If you didn't post there, I hope you'll leave a comment below. Love it? Hate it? Still too soon to tell...?