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Creative's Inside Track interviews Gavin Rummery (June 1997)

Tomb Raider is arguably labelled as the hottest 3D game today. We took some time recently to talk with Tomb Raider programmer, Gavin Rummery, about Tomb Raider and what's in store with the upcoming sequel, Tomb Raider 2.

[Inside Track] First off, who's the real Lara Croft? Was she designed with a particular person in mind, fictional or otherwise?
[Gavin Rummery (Core Design)] No, Lara is an entirely fictional creation from the mind of Toby Gard (our lead artist on Tomb Raider). He was tired of seeing generic muscle bound males as the heroes of every action game/film, and thought an athletic female character who relied more on agility than strength would be more interesting.

[IT] How did the Tomb Raider story come about? What led to its conception?
[GR] The story was written by our script writer Vicky Arnold and Toby. The basic idea was that the game would start off very normal in fairly realistic environments, but by the end would become very strange with Lara taking on all kinds of weird creatures. Thus Natla starts out seeming like a normal human, but turns out to be an ancient Atlantean ruler with the final levels taking place in the remains of Atlantis. The other aim was to keep the story snappy and the FMVs as action packed as possible as there's nothing worse than playing games with long boring FMV sequences. In the end, it turns out that most people enjoyed the FMVs because of this, but didn't really understand the story!

[IT] Tomb Raider is arguably the most best 3D game ever. Was it as difficult to develop as it looks?
[GR] Yeah, it was very difficult. We set out right from the start to do things that no-one else had attempted before. Tomb Raider is a 3rd person game set in a true 3D environment where the player is free to go anywhere, whereas most 3rd person games are basically 2D maps rather than full 3D. The biggest challenges were getting Lara to interact with such a complex environment (which led to the requirement of hundreds of animations) and coming up with a computer controlled camera that was smart enough to view Lara in any situation, both of which were caused by trying to do a 3rd person game rather than a 1st person perspective like Doom.

[IT] There is a huge difference between non-3D and 3D accelerated versions. Did this difference surprise you?
[GR] Not at all. On the PC, over 80% of the processing time is spent drawing the polygons onto the screen. When you put in a 3D accelerator, the drawing is taken over by the graphics card, which can not only draw polygons much faster than a Pentium, but can do it while the processor is doing the stuff that accounts for the other 20%. This means that everything goes much, much quicker, as each frame takes much less time create. Another advantage of many graphics cards is that they have better polygon drawing and effects (smoothing the pixels of the texture maps to avoid blockiness being the most obvious), which make the game look much better than the software only version.

[IT] Looking back at Tomb Raider, was there any portion which you think could have been improved?
[GR] The 3D system on the PC was a little flaky (sometimes objects can be seen through walls/floors when they shouldn't be), so that needs sorting out for the sequel. Also, the camera system was never quite as good as I wanted - but a computer controlled camera is always going to be a bit dumb.

[IT] Now that work for Tomb Raider 2 is on, what new features will there be in the sequel?
[GR] Well, we've all kinds of ideas, most of which I'm not going to tell you about! However, we are planning to use more dynamic lighting - things like flares and explosions that light up their surroundings. And there'll be more human bad guys to fight too.

[IT] With most games nowadays having Multiplayer features, would having such a feature actually enhance a game like Tomb Raider?
[GR] A LOT of people want a multi-player feature, but I've yet to hear a good suggestion for how it would play. Fundamentally, Tomb Raider is a one player game and most of the enjoyment comes from exploring the maps and sorting out the puzzles - neither of which would really make sense in a multi-player game.

[IT] Finally, when will we be able to play Tomb Raider 2?
[GR] Sometime late November '97

Interview taken from Creative Labs site, June 1997. The Croft Times.