Tomb Raider is the upcoming reboot published by Square Enix and developed by Crystal Dynamics. Gaming Illustrated staff writers Ethan Smith and Joe Van Fossen were on hand for a demonstration of the multi-player aspect of Tomb Raider at the International CES 2013 in Las Vegas just last week. They met up with Darrell Gallagher and Joe Khoury to discuss the multi-player elements behind Tomb Raider.
Darrell Gallagher (CD): My name is Darrell Gallagher I’m the studio head for Crystal Dynamics. I oversee the Tomb Raider franchise.
Joe Khoury (EM): My name is Joe Khoury. I am the producer on Tomb Raider multi-player at Eidos-Montreal.
Ethan Smith (GI): All right so we just had a chance to play some of the multi-player. We’ve got a lot of multi-player on the market right now. What do you think about your multi-player is what’s going to make it stand out in the market that’s getting increasingly crowded?
Joe Khoury (EM): Very good question.Darrell Gallagher (CD): For us, we have first person shooters and that’s fine, but we did want to offer something that we felt worked within our universe that worked with our franchise and we thought first and foremost it was a good creative challenge, that we were re-booting the franchise and it’s almost like we had an open slate to say, “Hey, what’s really gonna’ challenge us to do things we’ve not done before.” So with the reboot we really put all the cards on the table and said, “Hey, we’d like to try multi-player.” And actually it was almost an evolution of Guardian of Light where we sort of approached that the same way where we said we don’t try things we’ve not done before and it worked out amazingly even though it was a small project… From that we got a ton of learning in terms of hey people really did like playing Tomb Raider together and we got good feedback from fans and I think they were skeptical at first and they really enjoyed it and actually we ended up doing very well on that project. We had some ideas in terms of what we want to do with this project but at Crystal we wanted to make sure that the single player was really the main focus for us and we didn’t want to compromise that so that lead us naturally into saying, “Hey, it would be cool to continue doing this evolution of how bring people together to play Tomb Raider, socially bring them together to play together. So we talked to Joe at Montreal and two years later here we are. (Laughter)
Joe Khoury (EM): Yeah I think the importance of doing it right was extremely important for us as well. I think Tomb Raider and Lara’s story can stand on itself really well. Just like Darrell was saying with Guardian of Light there was definite interest in seeing how people can cooperate and play well together. And the advantage of being in Montreal was that there’s a bunch of studios there that have done multi-player before. We built the team with these needs in mind so we picked up guys who have have done multi-player for a whole bunch of other games and their experience with both what players have liked and everything came into play. First of we studied what single-player was all about and we felt that there were a lot of elements in single-player that would work so well in multi-player first and foremost. The idea of survival I think is based on Lara surviving on this island but she’s not alone. The Island itself is intimidating so we added some environmental factors that we call game changers that players on both sides can trigger and alter the result of the game. We added two sides that have very different objectives for each move. We also have some very easy to get into modes, you know the death match, et cetra. We did that so that players that have not necessarily played a multi-player game before can finish off single player and just dive into multi-player based on what they’ve learned in single player. All those elements allow you to vary your tactic so all of that stuff comes together and there is definitely potential for players to collaborate and work together for an objective on either side.
Ethan Smith (GI): What do you think was the greatest challenge in trying to balance the game?
Joe Khoury (EM): Balancing the game pretty much. (Laughter) Yeah, the biggest I think that everybody was agreeing to at the beginning was play testing. We’d play test the games in tournaments as well. We wanted to make sure that both sides feel like they an equal chance to win. That they can use the traps to their advantage on both sides and they can use environmental hazards for their advantage and you can just go after the core objective of each mode. That in itself was a great challenge but still pretty fun to try to make sure that one weapon itself was not overpowering and one side is equally ready to win as the other side.
Ethan Smith (GI): Now is there any kind of revenue model for this multi-player? Like with Team Fortress 2 you have buying the keys for the crates or with Mass Effect 3 you have buying the item crates online. Are you getting any extra revenue from this?Darrell Gallagher (CD): In terms of DLC plans we’ve not announced it yet so I can’t really talk explicitly about that. We want to continue supporting the single player and multi-player … the multi-player team obviously has put a ton of effort and love into the multi-player and we want to make sure there’s continued support for it. It’s not something we can speak explicitly about right now.
Ethan Smith (GI): Now as far the single player mode, what do you think is the most exciting part about the single player mode? Like the thing that’s really gonna’ draw people back into Tomb Raider, there are people who are gonna’ say, “This is what Tomb Raider is now.”
Darrell Gallagher (CD): Without doubt it’s her origin story. Right? The single biggest thing is seeing Lara become sort of a different version of what you remember but seeing her become that hero. It’s a hero’s journey. She’s going from zero to hero and I think that when you experience it from start to end that’s what makes this game special without doubt, and how she ends up at the end and how you feel having sort of been with her and played through the journey and the experience… that’s where the magic is.
Ethan Smith (GI): You recommend playing the single player mode first before trying to dive into the multi-player?
Darrell Gallagher (CD): Well I think it’s each to their own but we’ve definitely found that once people get familiar with the controls and the mechanics in the single player game, that certainly translates well into multi-player.
Ethan Smith (GI): When it comes to the multi-player, you said you have a lot of guys on the team who have worked on other projects and joint projects, what are some of the older games that maybe you took inspiration from maybe you know helped you build a better game whether it was something negative from a previous game or something positive?
Joe Khoury (EM): Good question. I’d say, well we’ve got some members on the team that worked on Rainbow 6, for example, so their cover system was a great point to start with but you can’t really take one game or three/four games. We wanted to take an approach that was familiar to Tom Raider… When we got down to some technicalities we did take inspiration from other games but there wasn’t really once specific element that we said this is what we need to do or this is not what we need to do.
Joe Van Fossen (GI): Thanks guys.