This summer, Crystal Dynamics is plunging into the digital space with Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light for PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade, and Steam. Why did they pick the digital space and what do they plan to do with it? Three members of the Crystal Dynamics team explain.
Lara Croft: Guardian of Light is not billed as the next Tomb Raider. The game could have worked with any character, maybe even Gex since he can jump. So, why did you decide to use Lara?
Daniel Neuburg, Creative Director: [Laughs.] We have our pillar releases for Tomb Raider and there is never anything that lives between that for Tomb Raider fans and action-adventure fans. It’s Tomb Raider pillar and later down the road there is another Tomb Raider pillar release.
The digital platform is a great place for us to inject something in between. What I really wanted to do with this game is tailor a game around what Tomb Raider fans are going to enjoy, what action-adventure fans are going to enjoy, but give them something fresh, something new that lives between those pillar releases.
Even though maybe from the outside this game may not seem to be a Tomb Raider type game, once you see it in motion and once you start playing it you’ll see it’s really a Lara Croft experience.
Karl Stewart, Brand Director: And to that point, our studio Crystal [Dynamics], Tomb Raider and Lara Croft are in our DNA. We have a talented bunch of guys have been working on it for a number of years. When we opened up this type of opportunity, those guys see Tomb Raider and Lara Croft all the way through. From puzzles, to exploration, to combat and they can try to do some fresh new things. Try to get different with the franchise where before it has only gone in that one direction.
[Shout out]: Gex may be unlockable, we’ll see! [Laughs!]
There’s nothing wrong with being different, but Crystal Dynamics has a number of franchises.
KS: When we came off Underworld and finished that chapter, as a studio we took a step back and sort of said who are we? Where do we go from here? We wanted to try to breathe fresh life in new areas. So, we spent a couple of months looking at new ways to push boundaries. In our case, digital downloads gives us that opportunity to be fresh, try new things, test new tech, give you guys a fresh approach to gameplay.
Speaking about who Crystal Dynamics is, did you go through some identifying when you joined Square Enix?
KS: The decision to do this has been done before Square Enix purchased us and purchased Eidos. They looked at and thought this is absolutely phenomenal. They want to support it. They want to get behind it. They see we’re pushing the brand in a new direction.
And really that’s it. Square Enix have been phenomenal. They’ve been a great parent. We share things and we talk openly so that’s good.
So, what about the next Tomb Raider pillar. Do you have any thoughts on that?
KS: Obviously, we are way, way away from talking about where we are going with any popular franchise. We are a two team studio. Reading into that we are doing something. In due course we will talk about other things. Our sole focus right now is that new space that we’ve we entered into we make the most compelling and ambitious title as we possibly can.
Did selling Tomb Raider as episode packs spark the decision to make this?
KS: Part, not a big part of it. Certainly there is an awareness there. More about where the industry is going in general. As a studio and Darrell’s [Head of Studio] vision for pushing the studio in the right direction, we see the digital space ultimately as a platform. Games such as Shadow Complex, Trine, and Braid have really pushed the boundaries. Our goal and mantra is being able to deliver unique experiences to that audience, not porting our titles to that platform.
We saw the arcade space, the digital space, as somewhere we can bring a whole new perspective not just to our franchise, but to gameplay. We’re trying to push the boundary of people’s perception of an arcade game.
You mentioned this is not a Tomb Raider title. So, do you think we’ll see more of these games like Lara Croft and the something of something?
KS: We are a studio of never say never. If this game is huge and successful well then tomorrow is another day. There is plenty of opportunities in this space. Depending on how well this works, never say never.
What can you say about The Legacy of Kain franchise?
Darrell Gallagher, Head of Studio: I’ll answer that one. We see the fan feedback on Legacy of Kain. There’s nothing we can talk about right now, but we can tell fans we definitely hear it.
Now that Square Enix and Eidos are a family… do you think we will ever see a Square Enix and Lara Croft crossover? I couldn’t imagine a game with Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy together when I was young, but there is Itadaki Street now!
KB: Not that we’re aware of. Wow, that would be up there with the rest of them. [Laughs.]