8 June 2012

(Thank you to Meagan for the transcript and also to Karen for fitting in several of G&G questions)

Featuring Karl Stewart, and Brian Horton (who joined about halfway through)

Q: What makes this Tomb Raider better than the other ones you've released?

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, the years... 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.

Read Part 2 of the Interview - CLICK HERE
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