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Interview with Tomb Raider Brand Director Karl Stewart

English transcript of our Gamescom 2012 interview with Global Brand Director Karl Stewart.

JPGAMES.DE-Melvin: Hello Folks, we’re here with Karl Stewart, the Global Brand Director of the new Tomb Raider. Obviously, Tomb Raider has a long history of games. Why did you decide to make a reboot?

Tomb Raider

Karl Stewart: Tomb Raider has been around now sixteen years and Crystal Dynamics were fortunate and honoured to be albe to inherit the franchise and created Legend, Anniversary and Underworld. During that period of time we always felt like we wanted to put our mark on the franchise and at the same time sort of reimagine it for today’s audience to bring the franchise to a space where people will care for the character in a very different way and care for the franchise and understand the franchise and bring personality that we may not have seen before. We just felt like it was the right time to take chance to tell an origins story. You know, Lara came on the scene sixteen years ago and she had twin guns and she was this adventure girl where you could never see this side of her.

JPAMES.DE-Melvin: The Tomb Raider franchise is unique in that there is a woman killing men. Does being a woman play a role in the new game?

Karl Stewart: Well, you know it’s Lara Croft and she’s a female and she’s our heroine. It’s important that we keep her story as a back story but in terms of the style of game it’s more about a personal journey. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a male or female. What we try to do is to bring certain emotions and certain story lines to the forefront and have the player engage in a way which we’ve never done before and – certainly in the video game space –  very few have. Our intensions aren’t to say: let’s just create a story line because it’s just female. Certainly it could be any male or female but it is Lara Croft so therefore that is about a female character.

JPGAMES.DE-Melvin: For example, in other games you have the hero killing thousand of people and they don’t have any feelings or remorse. Will that be difference in your game?

Karl Stewart: Very different in a sense that we will be setting a motivation of the story and as she’s 21 and it’s her first adventure. It’s a situation that she didn’t think she’ll be in. She’s never killed before, she’s never had to survive before, so we bring the player on this journey where they go through these trials and tribulations and when they come out on the other side after the first kill an hour or so in the game, the story is set up and there’s a motivation to why she’s going to continue: to save her friends and unravel a mystery. So we didn’t want to take our turn to make her a cold blooded killer from day one. We wanted to go through that personal journey of how she becomes the Lara Croft of the future.

JPGAMES.DE-Melvin: The game’s scenery is very unique, it takes place on a very dangerous and primal island. Where did you take inspirations from?

Karl Stewart: In terms of actual location it wasn’t a case where we decided that we wanted it to place on an island. We wanted to take it place on a place where we could to have some history and back story. For us it was a great narrative opportunity to build upon. The inspiration for inside of the game came from many places. So the reimagining inspiration came from things like James Bond and Batman Begins where you take existing franchises and turn them around. Then inside of it: actual sequences. We look at the climb out which we showed at our demo last year, it is very reminiscent of the movie „The Descent“. When you look at Lara’s character and you think of Ripley of „Alien“ starting as a regular group member and ending up as kick ass girl. So inspirations just came from many different places and not just one.

JPGAMES.DE-Melvin: The game has a very cinematic presentation. Was it difficult getting a screen play written and did you want the game to be like a movie?

Tomb Raider

Karl Stewart: We wanted to bring that deep narrative feeling to it where the player will be immersed into that world so therefore you don’t just write the script for that on day one and stick with it. It’s a process. Once you make sure you have that firm foundation and pillars set up you can build upon that and you can make sure that you are carving out the story you want. So the screen writers take time, that’s a process that over a course of the last few years has just managed to evolve to get to where it is now. Much like a movie you go back and rewrite the script many times to make sure you got it.  Just the difference is that once you start principal photography on a movie  you’ve pretty much captured it and it’s very hard to go back in whereas a game you can play a game from start to finish very early on across the development and you can understand quickly whether or not a scene is working and you change that continountely to a point where you feel the game is locked and you’ve got to ship it. It’s a very different process.

JPGAMES.DE-Melvin: Let’s talk about the gameplay. Tomb Raider has always been about shooting and puzzles. Will that be different in your game? Will bring new elements to it like the Open World elements?

Karl Stewart: We make sure from the very beginning that the game is build upon pillars of Tomb Raider  of years gone by. So the puzzle solving, the exploration and the combat, they are firm things that –  even if we reimagined them – are still there, to make sure when you’re playing it, it still feels like a Tomb Raider game. The idea was to bring the pillars into a cinematic quality so that you feel like you’re in that world. As you play the game it feels almost like you’re playing a movie at times and once you know you’re in control of that you can sort of keep that differentiation in between. As we demo the game sometimes we have to show people that we are actually controlling it because it’s literally like watching a movie. So it’s very important that we retain the pillars and just build upon them and make it unique to the point that we reimagining the characters and the gameplay.

JPGAMES.DE-Melvin: So all in all, why do you think the new Tomb Raider will be the best one yet?

Karl Stewart: So our Tomb Raider is the best because we’ve gone back and told an origin story of a character we allove and care for we are giving her a personality that we may not have shown in past games. We are showing you a side of her that you’ll get to see it fasted and dimensioned and will help accentuate the situations she’s just been because you feel closer to who she is. So in terms of graphical quality by far this is the best what we’ve ever created. We worked hard to bring the screen to life. If you look back at the game you’re very proud that you’ve created something very special. We’ll leave the outcome to your hands as to what you think. But we as a studio and a team we’ve worked hard to make this game be the game of our careers as much as possible.

JPGAMES.DE-Melvin: Thank you Mr. Stewart and thank you for taking your time and we are really looking forward to your game.

Karl Stewart: Thank you very much for the interview.