Rise of the Tomb Raider is making its way to PlayStation 4 this month, celebrating Lara Croft’s 20th anniversary. Feel old yet?
We can’t remember how the conversation headed in this direction, but when it’s revealed to Mike Brinker, senior designer at Crystal Dynamics, that we struggle with the puzzles in the Uncharted franchise because of colour blindness, he’s over the moon.
“I’m so glad you brought that up. We have several people in the team who are colour blind and we always run through tests with people to make sure it works,” he replies. “When we do our colour layering, we run it past the game director who is also colour blind. Ironically, quite a few members of our art team are colour blind, so we try to stay away from colour palette shifts and more in tunnel shifts, so you have a big contrast.“
From colour blindness we move to puzzles; the conversation is lurching like a container ship in the midst of a storm. So intrinsic to the Tomb Raider experience, puzzles are back – bigger and better – in Rise of the Tomb Raider; and we’re keen to learn how they come together.
“We have a team called the SRL team, which stands for the Smart Resources Lara team,” Brinker explains. “What that basically means is we spend all of our time working out how we build our puzzles, how we build our mechanics to speak to Lara’s character, and how she tackles situations in a smart, resourceful way.
“When we start to build puzzles, we go back to what our layers of history are and what our narrative is. You start to structure things around that, and then, when you find those myths and those stories that play along with the main story, we start to work on the puzzles and how they would feel in the specified time period.
“What’s cool about how we build puzzles is that it’s not just about, ‘hey, go build one’. It’s about, ‘hey, let’s start with a micro set of concepts and then build up this beautiful ramp where we have all these options’, and that becomes a very diverse and very cool puzzle.”
Crystal Dynamics have been in charge of the Tomb Raider legacy now for almost a decade, replacing franchise progenitors Core Design in 2006. Just what is it about Lara Croft that appeals to so many gamers?
“She is absolutely driven to go and uncover the mysteries of the world,” Brinker offers. “If you look at the evolution of the franchise, look who Lara is, what appeals to people is that sense of adventure and that sense of purpose. She’s always been about uncovering those truths and the risks and sacrifices that she has to make in order to do that. I believe that’s what really appeals to people.”