July 28, 2012

Tomb Raider Writers Past and Present: Toby Gard and Rhianna Pratchett on Storytelling, Vision and More

The Official Tomb Raider Tumblr blog recently turned me on to Critical///Path, a site that features a library of short video interviews with game developers. The TR blog linked to a clip in which Tomb Raider's lead writer, Rhianna Pratchett, discusses some of the challenges of good storytelling in video games. Critical Path also has a few choice comments from Toby Gard, designer and co-writer of the original Tomb Raider.

Rhianna on the challenges of good storytelling in video games:

Rhianna Pratchett

Also, Rhianna on an early gaming experience and Rhianna on the importance of humor in games and how difficult it is to do effectively.

Toby on playing a female character:

Toby Gard

Toby on the need for a visionary at the helm and Toby on drawing inspiration from real life.

I highly recommend checking out some of the other interviews as well. They're short, pithy, and cover a range of viewpoints from a diverse group of industry players.

July 21, 2012

Nerd HQ Comic-Con Tomb Raider Panel

In case you missed the Tomb Raider panel discussion last weekend at San Diego Comic-Con, I've uploaded the best video I was able to find. It's split in to five roughly 10-minute segments. The quality is not fabulous, but imagine you're sitting in the back row behind a tall girl with a Bayonetta beehive talking on her cell phone. It's like you're really there. ;) Enjoy!

July 13, 2012

Tomb Raider Comic-Con Demo Covers Some New Ground

Tomb Raider is once again in the spotlight, this time at Comic-Con, which runs through Sunday in sunny San Diego. Last night Gamespot aired a live stream from the show floor, in which convention visitors had a chance to spend some hands-on time with the game, and Crystal Dynamics Global Brand Director Karl Stewart showed off a few previously unseen areas.

Highlights included the introduction of several new NPCs, more combat mechanics, and an extended segment showing exploration, pathfinding, and the mechanics of the "Survival Instinct" help system. I wasn't sure how all this was going to work, but I'm rather digging the RPG elements like experience points and the "salvage" system for item crafting. The scenery is as gorgeous as you'd expect from a Tomb Raider game, and the on-demand help seems subtle and well implemented.

But don't take my word for it. Watch the demo yourself and let me know what you think. Leave a comment below, post on my Facebook page, or send me a tweet @stellalune.

For a complete listing of Tomb Raider events at the con, check the Official Tomb Raider Blog, and bookmark my Tomb Raider SDCC playlist for more videos as they become available.

July 12, 2012

Rhianna Pratchett Announced As Tomb Raider's Lead Writer

Tomb Raider Head Writer
Rhianna Pratchett
This morning Crystal Dynamics officially announced the identity of Tomb Raider's lead writer. Rhianna Pratchett has actually been working on the game for months in secret and finally gets to show her face in time for San Diego Comic-Con.

Pratchett got her start in journalism but soon transitioned into writing for games. Her credits include Heavenly Sword, Overlord, and Mirror's Edge, as well as several other games, screenplays, and a six-part comic book adaptation of Mirror's Edge for DC Comics. Rhianna also grew up with one of the world's best storytellers. Her father is best-selling fantasy novelist Terry Pratchett.

"Rhianna has been working on [Tomb Raider] from its early inception," said head of studio Darrell Gallagher. "She has brought a unique perspective to the project and helped us explore the character origins of Lara Croft. There is no doubt that Rhianna has brought a depth and credibility to Lara, a heroine who will really connect with today's gamers."

"I grew up playing Tomb Raider, uncovering the world's secrets and unearthing its treasures," Pratchett said. (I can personally attest to this claim, having had the honor of corresponding with her dad back in the '90s about a few Tomb Raider-related matters.) "I have lived and died as Lara Croft, but nothing comes close to the challenge of re-writing her," Pratchett added. "Seldom do we get the opportunity to reimagine and reinvent a legend, so getting my narrative hands on Miss Croft was a once-in-a-life-time opportunity. It was going back to the genesis of videogame action heroines and exploring how to make such an iconic character meaningful and relatable for gamers today."

Over the course of her career Pratchett has received numerous awards and nominations for her work, including a BAFTA nomination for Story and Character and a Writers' Guild of Great Britain award for Best Videogame Script. Read more about her at rhiannapratchett.com.

Pratchett will be participating on two panels during Comic-Con San Diego 2012. For details, visit comic-con.org and/or follow the Tomb Raider developers' social media accounts.

July 10, 2012

"Final Hours" Documentary Chronicles the Development of the New Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider's release date is still eight months out, but developer Crystal Dynamics has kicked off the countdown with a web documentary detailing the making of the game. The Final Hours of Tomb Raider, co-produced by Crystal and game journalist Geoff Keighly and hosted by actor/gamer Zachary Levi, gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the development process.

In the first episode, below, we meet the new Lara Croft, Camilla Luddington, and tour Digital Domain, the motion-capture studio where real-life performances are transformed into digital images.

More "Final Hours" episodes will follow, and the complete series will be available for iPad, PC, and Kindle Fire concurrent with the game's release in March.

Previous series focused on The Final Hours of Portal 2 andThe Final Hours of Mass Effect 3.

July 8, 2012

Resurrecting Tomb Raider 3 Group Play

Almost a year ago some friends started a Tomb Raider III play group on the Lara Croft Online forum. I wasn't able to join them then, but I'd love to jump in now if anyone else is interested.

In case you missed our previous playgroups, the way it works is everyone games at their own pace on their system of choice. Then we meet at the message board and share our progress, ask questions, brag about our achievements and moan about our frustrations, post screenshots, videos, whatever. There are no rules except to be courteous to the other players and of course to have fun. :)

Please join us and help spread the word if you know other players who might be interested.

Tomb Raider III Screenshot
After chasing Dr. Willard across several continents, Lara demands
some tomato soup for her efforts.

Macintosh Tomb Raider Underworld Giveaway Winners

Tomb Raider: Underworld for Macintosh
Congratulations to JK from China and m_hardwick from the U.K., the winners in our Tomb Raider: Underworld contest. Each has received a Mac App Store code so they can download a free copy of the game, courtesy of Feral Interactive.

Once again I'd like to thank Feral for creating the Mac port and donating the codes. We fans appreciate your hard work and generosity. Thanks also to everyone who entered the drawing and helped spread the word. If you didn't win, I encourage you to buy the game. It's gorgeous, challenging, lots of fun, and a bargain at $25!

July 1, 2012

Macintosh Tomb Raider Underworld Giveaway: Win A Free App Store Download

Tomb Raider: Underworld for Macintosh
Tomb Raider: Underworld is at last available for Macintosh computers! To celebrate we're giving away two free copies of the game. For a chance to win, just fill out the form below.

This drawing is open until Sunday, July 8, at Midnight GMT. (That's Saturday night/Sunday wee hours for most of us.)* Two winners will be chosen at random and announced here as soon as possible after the contest closes. Game download codes will then be emailed to the winners.

For details about the game, visit Feral Interactive's Underworld page and the Mac App Store. For screenshots, game info, walkthrough, etc., you know where to go. ;)

By submitting your entry, you indicate that you agree to the contest rules. Please check the Underworld system requirements before entering to make sure your computer can run the game.

The contest is now closed. Good luck to everyone who entered! Winners will be notified by email soon.

Many thanks to Feral Interactive for their efforts porting the game and for donating the prizes!

Tomb Raider: Underworld Macintosh Teaser Trailer

For time zone conversion, visit worldtimeserver.com and enter 2012 July 8, 00:00 GMT. Then use the drop-down menu to find your time zone.