As we’re coming closer and closer to the launch of Rise of the Tomb Raider we were able to get a hold of Michael Bringer, Lead Designer on the game, and ask him a few questions about his experience with creating Lara Croft and reimagining the Tomb Raider franchise.
Rocket Chainsaw: With Tomb Raider you developed a personality for Lara that felt real, with distinct strengths and weaknesses, transforming her into one of the strongest female protagonists in gaming.
What process did you go through to developer her personality, did you receive any pressure to change it throughout development and how is it evolving with Rise of the Tomb Raider?
Mike: Well, at Crystal Dynamics we look at that being our task. Developing a strong character. We believe that you have to have a multi-faceted character and that in gaming today you cannot get away with having a single-dimensioned character. We built her around those universal truths that everyone has.
Tomb Raider ended with Lara surviving to reveal the mystical secrets of Yamatai and in Rise of the Tomb Raider she has become consumed with searching the world to uncover and reveal further myths and legends as truth. Sacrifice is a big theme for Lara in Rise of the Tomb Raider. She will struggle with what she is willing to sacrifice in her journey, and there is a scene during the game where Jonah calls her out and asks her if her journey is worth what is being sacrificed. Everyone has to make sacrifices at different times in their lives, and it’s another one of those universal truths we wanted to bring to Lara’s character.
Rocket Chainsaw: Rhianna Pratchett has notably been involved in multiple games that are based around a strong female character.
How did her involvement help shape Lara and the direction of the franchise?
Mike: Well, you’re definitely right in that she is involved with projects with strong lead characters, but she was only one person who worked on Lara’s character. We are very collaborative at Crystal Dynamics and Lara was shaped by all of us, not just one person. Rhianna was one of those people, and she was very involved with shaping the character and narrative, but it was a team effort.
We have story times, which are brain storms to come up with different ideas and situations, and then collaborate and discuss how we feel Lara would react to them or if they would fit in with the universal truths that are a big focus for us.
Rocket Chainsaw: What do you feel was the most difficult aspect in developing Rise of the Tomb Raider?
Mike: For me personally, and in my role as Lead Designer, it was looking at the franchise and direction we had, as well as the vocal fan-base and bringing them both together. Balancing the preconceived notions for the game and Lara, while still being true to those universal truths.
Balancing the requests from the fans, like bringing in the deeper RPG and crafting systems, as well as the survival systems, while still keeping a focus on the narrative was difficult.
Rocket Chainsaw: Conversely, what was your favourite aspect of development?
Mike: I’m near and dear to the Smart and Resource team at Crystal Dynamics. The Smart and Resource team are the people who are tasked with creating puzzles and tombs, and those are such a big aspect of Tomb Raider.
With Rise of the Tomb Raider we’re really bringing back the Tombs and the awe inspiring sense of discovery that comes with them.
Rocket Chainsaw: How does it feel to have so successfully reinvented a franchise such as big as Tomb Raider?
Mike: Personally, for me, it’s not just a big feather in my cap. I still remember playing the original Tomb Raider on PC in college for the first time. The experience really stuck with me.
I don’t really know how to explain how it felt to be involved in reinventing Tomb Raider and Lara, to have taken something that I love and helped to shape its future. It’s an experience that I will take to the grave.
Rocket Chainsaw would like to thank Michael Bringer for taking the time to speak with us. Rise of the Tomb Raider will be released for Xbox One and Xbox 360 on November 10th.