126 posts tagged Tomb Raider
126 posts tagged Tomb Raider
Today marks a major milestone in my career – something simultaneously exciting and sad, just as closing a chapter of life always is.
After three incredible years, my time at Crystal Dynamics is coming to an end. I’ve accepted a new industry job and will be moving abroad to Dublin, Ireland. I’ll be working as a European Community Programs Specialist at Riot Games, helping to establish exciting engagement opportunities for the League of Legends community. Not coincidentally, launching cosplay initiatives will be one of my areas of focus, affording me the rare opportunity of uniting my career and my hobby in one place.
I’m sure some of you are surprised by this news, as I’m regularly vocal about just how influential Tomb Raider has been in my life. That being said, Lara Croft is one of the many reasons I’ve embraced this new opportunity. Since a young age, Tomb Raider has inspired me to face my fears, to rise and meet challenges, and to always seek out new adventures. Moving abroad alone is equal parts terrifying and thrilling, and I can’t help but imagine it’s what a young Lara would do in my shoes.
To my co-workers: Crystal Dynamics is and will continue to be one of the most passionate and dedicated groups of people that I’ve ever had the honor to work with. I swell with pride when thinking of the amazing work that’s been done at the studio, and I have no doubt that you will continue to establish new industry standards in the future. I’ll still be one of Tomb Raider’s biggest fans – only now I’ll have a shot at avoiding spoilers.
To my fellow Tomb Raider fans: I’m extraordinarily lucky to have met so many of you. Being Crystal Dynamics’ Community Manager has afforded me unparalleled experiences, and made my life richer because of all the friendships forged, memories made, and lessons learned. I will never forget our time examining ancient Egyptian relics together at the Louvre, laughing over impromptu language lessons in Milan, or attempting indoor archery with you in New York. For these memories (and many more) I thank you, sincerely, from the bottom of my heart. I was proud to be part of this community before I started working at Crystal, and I’ll always be one of you no matter where my career takes me in the years to come.
Looking to the future - It’s no secret that Riot Games is an innovator, a fantastic employer, and most importantly in my eyes, a company fully and truly committed to its players. The League of Legends community is wonderfully diverse, talented, and passionate. I can’t wait to contribute to the community in big ways, and look forward to seeing many of you online, at conventions (look for me dressed as Iron Solari Leona soon!), and, of course, on the Fields of Justice. I’m a bit of an ARAM addict - but will be looking to climb the ranks in classic with friends over the coming months.
While I’m extraordinarily eager to start my life on the other side of the pond, I’m not rushing out the door at Crystal. Expect lots of updates over the coming weeks as I organize for my new life overseas – sort through my collectibles, sell my loyal Ford Focus, and get Donut and Sprinkles ready for an uncomfortably long “car ride.”
On a personal note, I would like to thank my family and close friends for their encouragement and support during this process. And to Sebastian – forever a partner and a friend – words can’t express my gratitude for placing any personal reservations aside and encouraging me to take this incredible opportunity, even if it puts an ocean between us. I love you.
Charity Art Auctions: Warrior Wonder Woman and Steampunk Lara Croft Bundles
Hello everyone! I’ve just listed two original art bundles on eBay to support a pair of great causes.
The first is an original Steampunk Lara Croft art bundle on to benefit the Mercy Corps and their work aiding Typhoon Haiyan survivors. The second bundle features original Warrior Wonder Woman art to benefit the American Red Cross and those displaced by the recent tornados across the Midwest.
Both packages feature a polished color illustration and concept sketch from the immensely talented Tess Fowler, as well as a signed cosplay photo of myself in the ensemble she inspired.
Check out the links for more details on the auctions, and let me know if you’ve got any questions about the art!
I’d super appreciate any reblogs you can spare - I’d like to get the word out there and nab a sizable donation for each piece!
Inspired by Lara Croft from Tomb Raider, based on Meagan Marie’s costume
Top: Nelly - Minimum Top, $70 / Skirt: Welikefashion.com - Modstrom Skirt, $40 / Tights: Debenhams - Red Herrings Cream Opaque Tights, $15 / Boots: Dorothy Perkins - Burgundy Lace up Ankle Boots, $70 / Bag: Oasis - Cutwork Clutch, $45 / Necklace: Tarina Tarantino Cameo Pendant, $55 / Bangles: Zalando - Isola bracelet, $135 / Bracelet: Aldo - Okesan, $15
Humbling. And awesome. :S
Reblogged from consoletocloset
I learned and incredible amount about Horizon and our engine (Foundation) while writing this up. If you’re interested in peeking under the hood of Tomb Raider, take a look!
[GDC RECAP] Horizon and Beyond: A Look into Tomb Raider’s Tools
Now that Tomb Raider is on the market, we’re eager to show fans some of the impressive technology under the hood. A handful of Crystal Dynamics’ staffers recently attended the annual Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco, presenting on Tomb Raider’s system design, tools, camera, and more. I’ve culled down their presentation into a slightly more digestible format to give you some insider information on making the game!
Next up to bat is Jason Yao, our Senior Tools Software Engineer/Dessert Chef Hobbyist speaking to Tomb Raider’s toolsets.
Having the right tool for the job is important to all crafts, and game design is no exception. As Jason puts it – “You need AAA tools and tech to make a AAA game.” That’s where Horizon comes in.
What’s Horizon? Horizon is the world builder that functions within Foundation, the Crystal Engine. Horizon’s specialty is building large worlds that support efficient art and design workflow, modular construction, multi-user and real-time editing. Essentially, Horizon allows the team to build the most complex and largest levels achieved yet at Crystal Dynamics.
Development on Horizon began about four years ago, with a team of seven committed to the project. The focus was to create a world and object editor with familiar features to other 3D editors, allowing for increased productivity and quick iteration. The tool upgrade was necessary as the previous level editor proved to be a bit outdated for our ambitious Tomb Raider reboot, and certainly harder to use.
While there are dozens of features and talking points the engine team would gladly dive into, Jason broke down the top five boasting points for Horizon below. You can see the tools in action above for a clearer understanding of how they have been implemented.
1) Placement Tools: Placement tools are exactly what they sound like – a set of tools that allow you to put items into an environment like mountains, hills, ammo, buildings, and wildlife. You can scale, translate, and rotate them in a digital world. The tools in Horizon have a higher level of polish and responsiveness – a really important factor that keep artists and designers happy. Affinity and ease of use yields better work and faster iteration. In the video above you can see Jason using the placement tools in one of the earlier playable section of the game – the Ocean Vista. Jason selects a cherry tree from the placement browser and proceeds to translate, rotate, and scale it until he’s satisfied. He also illustrates how you can snap objects to a predetermined grid, line, or vertex, as well conform placement to a surface. Different visualization modes, such as wireframe or shaded, also aid with seeing where to place objects.
2) Concurrent Editing: Concurrent editing is another big win for Horizon, allowing one or many, many people to work on the same level at the same time. While our previous world-editing tool allowed for some simultaneous authoring, it was not granular enough. Horizon allows users to “slice” up a level so that each slice can then be claimed by a designer or artist. When they are done, they submit their slice changes for everyone to see. Boundaries for slices aren’t determined only by geography – although you can choose to do so if desired. A slice can be part of a cliff, an entire building structure, or even all of the lighting effects in a given area. This is why Horizon is so powerful, because it gives significant flexibility in what a designer or artist can check out and work on. Previously areas had to be checked out by discipline or workflow – meaning one artist, one editor, and one scripter could work at a time.
3) Modular Construction: To understand this perk of Horizon, we’ve got to define modular versus monolithic workflows.
Monolithic Workflow: This workflow approach facilitates constructing environments in layers and was used across the Legend, Anniversary, and Underworld trilogy. A unique environment will be created and populated, and then refined through several polishing passes. This is slower because fewer people can have their hands in a space at a time.
Modular Workflow: A modular workflow is quicker because it builds environments in parts, similar to constructing with Lego blocks. Instead of creating a singular building, the designer will now select from a “Lego block” library of floors, walls, doors, and fixtures to quickly and modularly make a new structure. This also allows for faster iteration and more people to work in a singular area at once.
The team switched from monolithic construction to modular construction for Tomb Raider, as they needed to build more pieces in less time. Taking the modular approach gave the designers a library of pieces and parts to choose and reuse from whenever they needed to populate a new space. This allowed for the largest environments ever achieved at Crystal, and facilitated easy duplicating, swapping and variant creation for objects. This approach does run a risk of looking less organic due to reusing assets, but the art and design teams were very conscious of this challenge and worked to ensure everything felt unique.
4) Visual Scripting: Visual scripting was a popular and totally new addition to the game engine. It is called Action Graph. Prior to implementing Action Graph, designers would type out scripts for triggering actions or controlling enemy behavior. Action Graph allows for a more intuitive and visual system similar to flow charts, although it still can get quite complex. Designers naturally gravitate to it because it’s easier to prototype and orchestrate happenings in the game world, such as controlling waves of enemies to triggering cinematic events. You can see a bit of the visual scripting via action graph around the 2:50 mark of the video above.
5) Live Edit: Last, but certainly not least is Horizon’s ability to live edit. Essentially, live editing gives users the ability to modify something and immediately see the effects in game. This feature existed in our previous world-building tool, but the upgrade in Horizon provides much more versatility. One of the perks of live edit is iterating and seeing your changes in the game right away. You can move mesh, lights, tune physics, and adjust the damage on weapons before fully committing to it. You can see an example of this in the video above as Jason plays around with physics between a pair of helicopters by dropping in boxes between the rotary blades. As boxes are added to the field, Jason can see in real time how they’d react in the game.
A top five list certainly doesn’t do Horizon and Foundation’s successes and scope justice, but it gives a good taste of some of the AAA tools and engine we’ve got at work in the studio.
Did you miss our other GDC recaps? Senior Systems Designer Jonathan Hamel talked about Emotional Synchronization in Tomb Raider, while Senior Rendering Engineer Jason Lacroix debuted a pair of panels talking to TressFX and Light-Based Rendering. Keep an eye out for a discussion on Tomb Raider’s dynamic camera next week!
I know I’ve been posting some massively text-heavy blogs lately, but this is too fascinating not to share. I’ve been writing up some of the team’s GDC presentations in a slightly more digestible format. This one talks to “emotional synchronization” in gaming, and how when narrative design and gameplay systems align, it makes the player experience more meaningful.
I think TR fans and general gamers will find it interesting!
[GDC RECAP] Emotional Synchronization and the Croft of Systems Design
Now that Tomb Raider is out and about, we’re eager to show fans some of the impressive technology under the game’s hood. A handful of Crystal Dynamics’ staffers recently attended the annual Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco, presenting on Tomb Raider’s system design, tools, camera, and more. I’ve culled down their presentations into a slightly more digestible format to give you some insider information on making the game!
If you missed our first two features, check out Jason Lacroix’s talk on TressFX and light-based rendering. Next up to bat is Jonathan Hamel, our Senior Systems Designer and part-time children’s book writer, speaking to systems design and emotional synchronization in Tomb Raider.
So what is emotional synchronization? In Tomb Raider, emotional synchronization was used as a benchmark to measure if narrative design and gameplay systems aligned, making the player experience more meaningful as a result.
It was decided very early on that Tomb Raider would be built upon three gameplay pillars in the “Survival Action” genre. Those three pillars are:
- A smart and resourceful protagonist: Lara Croft
- A fluid, dynamic traversal and exploration system
- Desperate, brutal combat
Each of the above is comprised of a diverse roster of gameplay systems used to support the overall experience. For example, combat encompasses ranged, melee, and stealth systems, as well as a fluid cover and weapon upgrades. All of these systems had to work in tandem to present a believable experience featuring a young woman evolving from a rookie to a seasoned adventurer. To achieve this, the systems had to hold a greater purpose – to be bigger than the sum of their parts. Jonathan’s job was to make these systems meaningful in the greater context of the game.
As development on Tomb Raider progressed, Jonathan and the team discovered something interesting. When the player’s emotional state reflected that of Lara’s perceived emotional state (thus, achieving emotional synchronization), playtesters felt they were taking part in a meaningful journey rather than playing around with a collection of features. Simply put, when Lara and the player’s emotional states overlapped, it made for a better game.
As with most entertainment, emotion emerges as a result of narrative. In linear media such as books or movies, however, we’re passive to unfolding events. Game narratives have the bonus layer of interactivity, presenting an extra challenge when it comes to synchronizing feelings between the character and the player. The gameplay mechanics will either support the narrative and enhance the experience, or jar you out of it. If the player felt out of step with Lara, the bubble would burst and the meaningfulness of her journey would crumble. This truth had a dramatic impact on the systems design in Tomb Raider. How exactly? Jonathan’s presentation provided several potent examples.
COMBAT: FLUID COVER
First up, combat. Early in development Tomb Raider didn’t have a cover system. It didn’t fit with the personality of past Tomb Raider games, and at that point combat was thought to be mostly ranged versus melee, similar to Resident Evil or Dead Space. As the game evolved, however, the team found that the players would simply retreat through the environment to shoot, and subsequently felt detached from the environment rather than a part of it. Combined with the early concepts for enemies, the tone was too far away from survival action. It felt more like survival horror – not what the team wanted.
As the game evolved, enemy design settled on humans in the form of Solarii cultists, and having (relatively) sane humans rushing an armed player for melee attacks didn’t make sense. Human antagonists also necessitated more intelligence from enemies, including fine-tuning squad behavior, self-preservation systems, and so on. Left as is, combat felt like a shooting gallery. Lara wouldn’t just hang back and pop off headshots. She’d be fast and nimble. She’d run and jump and use her traversal training to avoid enemies.
With enemies taking cover, it made sense for Lara to do the same. A sticky cover system like in Gears of War didn’t feel right for Lara. She needed a tactical advantage to make up for her smaller size. Lara’s strength is in her agility. As such, the fluid cover system was born. If Lara is near cover and enemies are present, she’ll use it. The scramble became a defensive move to quickly get from point to point of cover.
In the early stages of combat design, the player felt disconnected from Lara and the world. Eventually both the fiction and gameplay pushed towards a ranged player versus ranged enemy combat styling, resulting in the development of a fluid cover mechanic that aided in overall emotional synchronization of the player.
With all this talk about ranged combat, why introduce melee at all? Jonathan says the team actually resisted melee for a long time. Melee is especially tricky because if it’s overpowered in a ranged game it will break the experience. The team recognized that in a game featuring visceral survival elements, melee was thematically important and a way to recover from running out of ammo. As such, the decision was made to include melee, but the exact implementation was up in the air. The team tested shoving enemies back to shooting range, contextual-only melee moves, and even an underpowered system with purchasable upgrades.
Time and time again, playtesters kept their focus on an important piece of Lara’s equipment. They wanted the ability to use Lara’s axe against foes, and it seemed rational that she’d use it as a defensive tool. The challenge became straddling the line between melee feeling too violent, or too heroic, and as a result breaking synchronization. Stealth kills and dodging to open windows of vulnerability helped maintain a scrappy and resourceful feel to melee combat.
The implementation of ranged combat, melee combat, and the fluid cover system resonated with playtesters. They felt like Lara, desperately using all their skills to escape a situation by the skin of their teeth. Whereas one dominant combat strategy would have broken the bubble of emotional synchronization, the dynamic pacing resulting from alternating between cover-based ranged combat and melee combat actually fortified it.
SMART RESOURCEFUL LARA: GEAR-BASED INTERACTIONS
Next up, the brains of the game – a smart and resourceful Lara Croft. The most interesting synchronization stories center on survival skills, salvage, and gear-based interactions on Yamatai.
During the concept phase of Tomb Raider, Jonathan immersed himself in survival fiction and non-fiction, including Gary Paulson’s children’s novel, Hatchet. The tale stressed a person’s dependence on tools when stranded in the wild. The team was sold on the idea of a climbing axe being used to gate traversal, as it wouldn’t feel right for an inexperienced Lara Croft to jam her fingers and toes into tiny cracks like in past games. Jonathan proposed that an upgrade ramp would help the player feel that Lara was investing in and dependent on similar gear items.
In terms of the application, somatic mimesis was key – creating a digital interaction that feels like a real world counterpart through the game’s controls. Prying and cranking replicated this by mashing buttons to simulate the effort needed to open a container. The same was true for igniting objects. Holding down a button for a set period of time would see an object smolder, then emit smoke, and then eventually ignite. If the player stopped applying heat, the object would naturally cool off.
Some ideas of somatic mimesis didn’t make the cut, though, such as experimentation with using the sticks to emulate Lara feeling a fallen enemy’s clothing for ammo. In Jonathan’s own words “it was a terrible idea.”
SMART RESOURCEFUL LARA: SURVIVAL SKILLS & SALVAGE
Jonathan next explained that survival skills via a light RPG system was a clear way to mirror the narrative of a young woman unlocking her full potential. That being said, fine-tuning the unlocks was important to keeping the action adventure pacing, rather than turning into a full-blown RPG. The skills also had to offer sufficient enough choice to allow the player to express their individual play style. At first 20-30 skills were created and divvied up in three pillars: resourcefulness, traversal, and combat. This approach didn’t work. Traversal upgrades essentially broke the game by making it difficult for the player to quickly evaluate successful jumping distances. The biggest challenge, though, was once again emotional synchronization – there was a disconnect if Lara could stab a guy in the throat one moment, and then revert to being an unsure young woman the next narrative moment.
To combat this a skill gating system was set up to prevent players from buying specific abilities until Lara was ready for them. The system required the player to purchase enough skills at a specific level to unlock the next tier. This option gave the player choice, while keeping Lara from becoming too tough, too soon. Overall the team built around 35 skills, but only 24 made it in the game. Some seemed gratuitous for even a hardened Lara. Others we merged into a single skill so that there wouldn’t be too much difference between the more and less valuable-feeling skills.
TRAVERSAL AND EXPLORATION: AIR STEERING
Not everything was a hard-won lesson in the development of Tomb Raider. Air steering was a decision made early on that turned out to be a gem. It ultimately gave the player a feeling of agency and again aided in synchronizing the player to Lara. This time, however, it was Lara synchronizing to the player’s actions rather than vice versa, as she would adapt to movements and adjustments mid-air.
TRAVERSAL AND EXPLORATION: FAST TRAVEL & COLLECTIBLES
Collectables are great for encouraging fans to explore every inch of a world, as well as giving them a benchmark for success against peers. In Tomb Raider incentivizing those collectibles was easy enough – creating sets of items begged for completion, and displaying the full catalog of collectibles from the start motivated players further. The method of allowing retraversal to find these collectibles, however, proved difficult. Environmental destruction prevented linear backtracking to nab missing collectibles in several key areas.
The team decided to implement a base camp system, which would allow the player to fast travel backwards to anywhere they had previously rested. This created a conundrum, though. Fast traveling away during a key plot point would disconnect the player from Lara’s current plight, but upgrading tools or skills could be crucial to progression in the narrative. Two types of camps were needed as a result. Day camps are slightly less permanent looking, and allow for upgrading weapons and unlocking skills, but not fast traveling. Base camps on the other hand give Lara the chance to take a break, explore, and deviate from the narrative.
The above are only a handful of gameplay considerations that encourage emotional synchronization in Tomb Raider. Achieving this alignment isn’t easy, as systems need to be finely tuned with an engaging story and reward mechanics to ensure they’re not working against each other. As Jonathan illustrated, the team spent an incredible amount of time iterating on design based upon playtest feedback so to ensure the player felt one with Lara, not at odds with her.
My submission to the Gathering Courage campaign. It may not be easy to read, but I hope it illustrates that there is a light at the end of the tunnel for those of you who find yourself in a similar situation.
COURAGE & HEALING
I’ve never been in an accident. I’ve never been traumatically injured. I’ve never even been severely sick. I had Mono once, and it wasn’t fun, but in the full spectrum of human suffering it rates at laughable. I was born to an incredibly loving family and wanted little growing up. I excelled in school and had great friends. My upbringing wasn’t without some turbulence, but overall I had a charmed Midwestern childhood. Still, despite my personal good fortune, I consider myself a survivor.
Grief is uncomfortable to talk about, especially for those who haven’t experienced loss. That being said, we all will someday. Death is the great equalizer. To not know grief is to not live life. To not make connections. To not forge bonds. This simple truth gives me the courage to open up. Most of us understand the fragility of life to one degree or another. Some of us also sadly understand “the sharp knife of a short life,” as The Band Perry puts it.
I grew up in a family of five, sandwiched between an older and younger brother. Five is an odd number, literally and figuratively. Car travel was always a tad uncomfortable, with three budding teens squished in the back seat. A fifth wheel was required to venture alone on amusement park rides. Someone was routinely stuck in a ridged chair at the end of a booth for dinner.
We were a family of five, until I received the phone call no one ever wants to get. We were now a family of four. My little brother Justin – who I had the good fortune of loving without limits – was blinked out of reality by a car while skateboarding. It’s incredible how your world can change without so much as a cursory warning.
In my state of shock the phrase “does not compute” seems fitting. My mom, dad, Justin, and Chris were my everything. For the sixteen years of Justin’s life this had been my reality. The world as I knew it came crashing down. My goals, priorities, views - everything needed to be reevaluated in a period of time where I couldn’t even get my brain to accept what had happened. Instead of crying I offered everyone coffee at the hospital. I called my work and tried to help them fill my shifts. I told family and friends “it will be okay.” Shock was a welcome companion for the rest of the night. Then someone drove me to my family home, I don’t even remember who, and the tears came in a torrent.
I remember asking my dad the next morning “How do people survive this?” He answered with a painfully honest “I don’t know.” Neither did I. I slept. I watched the entire five-season run of Alias before revisiting Buffy. I went to therapy. I went on anti-depressants. I abused my doctor’s note to skip college classes. I ignored phone calls. I lost all sense of passion and enjoyment. The flame inside that once had me striving for greatness burned dimmer and dimmer until it threatened to extinguish.
I have no concept of how long I was in this blackness. Years, easily. Time didn’t matter much. I did the bare minimum that was required of me to stay in school, to emotionally support my family, and to satisfy the concerned and watchful eyes of friends. All the while I started to wonder if you could actually die from a broken heart. I didn’t want to die, though. I just wanted to sleep.
Eventually, with time, the blackness lessened. Years passed. Shades of grey entered my life again. Then muted colors. Eight years later, despite the sadness that is always one memory away, my life feels vivid again.
Sometimes gathering courage doesn’t require a public act of bravery or celebrated feat of human triumph. Sometimes it means little more than recognizing you need help. Continuing to put one foot in front of the other. Taking things one day at a time.
Sometimes it takes courage to push through the guilt and remember that it is okay to smile, to laugh, and to love. For me, courage meant taking that pain and focusing it. It meant not giving up. It meant making the most of the life I’ve been given, and doing so in a manner that would make Justin proud. I now live each day to the fullest and take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way. I will not look back on my life with regret.
It has taken years, but I feel stronger and braver today than I’ve ever felt before. I’ve not just survived, I’ve thrived.
Thank you for this incredible gift, Justin.
I’m really proud of this initiative we’re running. Please share and support!
Introducing Gathering Courage
We’ve gone on record expressing that Tomb Raider was heavily inspired by the courageous actions of very real people who persevered when thrust into extraordinary situations. These people showed us what true courage looks like. To continue the trend of inspiration we’re collecting stories of survival and overcoming obstacles to create a “courage database.”
Just like the human experience, courage comes in many forms. Featured Gathering Courage stories include that of Demetrious Johnson, who survived an abusive childhood and funneled his energy into becoming a UFC champion. Shane B of the popular Tumblr blog “Laughing at my Nightmare” weighs in on living his entire life with Spinal Muscular Atrophy. Other stories dive into finding one’s voice, moving on after a fire, and courage through grief. Ultimately though, these stories are about accomplishment, perseverance, strength, integrity, leadership, resourcefulness, and sacrifice.
Lara’s instincts, emotions, and brave spirit are a direct reflection of stories like these – your stories. We encourage you to submit your own story to our courage database, and to share, reblog, and like those of others. Every action counts towards us reaching our goal of donating $10,000 to Feeding America.
TOMB RAIDER IS GATHERING TALES OF COURAGE
SUBMIT YOUR STORY AND HELP DONATE $10,000 TO FEEDING AMERICA
To celebrate the release of Tomb Raider, we are gathering stories of courage to raise $10,000 for Feeding America®. Submit a story, a photo, or a video and you will move us closer to achieving greatness.
Dear Lara, Thanks for Everything: My Love Letter to Lara Croft
(Click photos for captions)
This is perhaps one of the most challenging blogs I’ve ever penned. Not the most, but close. I started drafting it in my head nearly two years ago, as I methodically packed my possessions in preparation for a journey I could never have anticipated. Even then I knew that this would be an experience of a lifetime.
I find no shame in admitting that I’m hyper-emotional right now, caught in the eye of a storm at one of the most intense and exciting junctures of my career. The full weight of this experience continues to build as March 5 crawls closer and closer.
So if you’re up for a story, let me share exactly what this moment means. Yes, it’s a bit long. But that’s because it’s been fifteen years in the making.
Love at First Sight
I’ve always adored games. As kids my brothers and I would duke it out in Mario Kart, rage-quit TMNT, and cheat through Track & Field on a daily basis. Games were fun. Entertaining. A way to pass the time. When I first set my eyes on Tomb Raider, however, everything changed. I experienced a paradigm shift. At twelve years old I was too young to appreciate how Tomb Raider transformed the industry. That didn’t matter, because for the first time I saw myself represented in a video game.
It may seem odd that someone so young would identify with a gun-toting, aristocrat archeologist, but Lara captivated me. True, we didn’t have much in common other than our gender, but that smallest echo was enough. I realized from a young age that I wanted to work in the world of video games. Standing tall and capable in a sea of men, Lara made me feel like I could do the same. I aspired to be like her, to exemplify her strength, intelligence, athleticism, beauty, and adventurous nature. Lara didn’t take no for an answer, and neither would I. To me she was more than just a character. She embodied an idea, and I’d argue that ideas are the most powerful force in the world. The journey to where I am today wasn’t short nor easy. That being said, Lara continued to inspire me year after year, and I can say with full certainty that she helped shape me into the woman I am today.
Here’s a notable example: I found a love for illustration when attempting to pay tribute to Lara’s adventures on pencil and paper. I’d whip up a sketch, scan it, and submit it to fansites across the net just so I could see my name featured alongside hers. Or I’d find a way to manipulate official assets in Microsoft paint, the end result a horribly cobbled together desktop background. It was my first foray into graphic design, which would then later feed back into my career choice.
Lara also introduced me to the world of comics. I’d often frequent hobby shops with my brothers to pick up booster packs for our favorite card games, but never once gave more than a cursory glance to the shelves of monthlies. Until the day when I saw my hero front and center by the register. Lara had infiltrated the world of comics, and I gladly followed suit. By proxy I fell in love with anything Michael Turner touched, as in my opinion, he illustrated Lara to perfection. Years later I’d go on to meet him, ironically dressed as Lara, at my very first SDCC. I cried. I’m still embarrassed about it, but he was incredibly sweet and humble. Eventually my taste in comics began to diversify. The world Lara introduced me to blossomed into an appreciation and passion for the comic industry as a whole. I can’t imagine not having Sandman or Preacher or Locke & Key in my life now.
Fast forward a handful of years after my induction into comics, and a shrine of Tomb Raider clippings blanketed one corner of my room, greatly supplemented by recent images of Angelina Jolie donning Lara’s double drop leg holsters. I casually revisited past Tomb Raider games while waiting for a new installment. Tomb Raider merchandise littered my room at this point, as my parents allowed me to become a treasure hunter in my own right. I’d use my report card earnings to seek out rare Tomb Raider goodies on eBay. Nothing motivated me to land top marks in school like the promise of a new action figure or variant comic cover. Autographed, if possible.
Then one day I decided I wanted to embody Lara Croft. Not in spirit, but to actually step into her shoes. Raiding my mom’s closet I came up with a workout jumper that could, if squinted at properly, resemble Lara’s TRII Sola wetsuit. I set the self-timer on a disposable camera, posed, and immortalize my fandom in a photo that now has me rolling whenever I look at it. A year or so later I dressed up again, tasking my babysitting charges with snapping shots as I pretended to scale their chandelier. While I had no clue what cosplay was at the time, Lara again planted the seeds of what would blossom into an incredibly fulfilling hobby and a massive part of my adult identity.
Jump ahead to high school. I continued to sketch and doodle Lara in class, but didn’t know many gamers to share my passion with. While my love of Lara took a backseat to studies, she continued to inspire me to work hard and challenge myself in all I did. My sophomore year a community Rugby team was organized. Practice was held offsite, as it was too much of a liability to be officially recognized by the school. My male friends told me in a matter-of-fact tone that I wasn’t tough enough to play. I bunched my fists together and immediately marched over to the signup sheet. I knew if Lara could do it, I could too. And Lara could do almost anything.
I tried out. I made the team. I played strong side flanker for three years and loved every minute of it. I was even asked to join the women’s state team after graduating, but passed because of my restrictive university schedule. To this day I’m immensely proud for taking that risk, and for proving (mostly to myself) what I’m capable of.
A Dream Job
All through college I worked my butt off with the express aim of landing my dream job at Game Informer. I studied Graphic Design and Journalism, wanting to doubly prepare myself for a job at the magazine. Again I found myself swimming upstream in a field dominated by men, and Lara continued to be my silent beacon. I applied to Game Informer my second year in school. They (thankfully) turned me down and ask me to try again after graduating. I graduated. A day later I submitted my application for the second time. After a month or so of emails back and forth, informational interviews, and many voicemails, I got the gig. I landed my dream job at 22. I lived my passion every day from that point forward, as I saw my time at Game Informer as a continued education. I constantly challenged myself as a writer and as a professional.
A few incredible years passed, and in addition to my gig at Game Informer, I became fully entrenched in the world of cosplay. I had several Lara costumes under my belt at that point, although I can’t brag much about the quality of my early efforts. I was also gaining more and more responsibility at work, including my first cover story – Portal 2. It was shortly after that I started to hear rumblings of a new take on Tomb Raider. I was quite vocal about being the best person to write the story, should we all agree to pick up the cover. I didn’t need credentials. The massive shrine on my desk was evidence enough.
The staff came to a consensus on Tomb Raider. It was far too big of a story to pass by, and I was to take the helm. I remember being totally and completely petrified, not only because of the massive responsibility of debuting a new game to the world, but because this Tomb Raider seemed so… different. As a lifelong fan I was concerned about what would be presented to me. Was this my Lara? Was she still the woman who inspired me to be who I am today?
Even back then, in late 2010, I could see that she was. After a trip or two to Crystal Dynamics, several lengthy interviews, and an extended gameplay demonstration, I wrote the ten-page world-exclusive cover story. I agonized over the article for days and days before eventually setting it free, despite my near-paralyzing fear that my work hadn’t done Lara’s new adventure justice.
The issue hit newsstands and the buzz was intense. I was exceptionally proud that I had been a part of such a huge moment in gaming. And then I got the call. Would I be willing to pick up and move my entire life across the country in the name of Tomb Raider? Without question.
At 22 I secured my dream job. At 25 I landed the job I never could have dreamed of. I was given the opportunity to be a part of the Tomb Raider team, and through fans worldwide, help shape the woman who helped shape me. To return the favor. Talk about humbling.
Coming Full Circle
And so now I sit here, 27 years old, on the eve of something massive. I’ve committed the past two years of my life to little other than Lara, and I have the incredible fortune of believing in a vision so wholeheartedly that passion filled my tank whenever it ran on fumes.
That’s not all that filled my tank, though. You did too. Through you, the community, I was able to have a say in Lara’s future. As one fan to another I acted as your ambassador. In doing such I’ve become a globetrotter, much like Lara. That being said, I never once felt like a stranger when walking into a room full of fans, even if we didn’t speak the same language. The kinship was tangible.
It hasn’t all been easy, however. While rewarding, the past two years have also been massively testing. Being a one-woman (until last week!) community & social show for a global brand means constant long nights and weekends, and a near-invisible divide between work and play. I’ve regularly dealt with ire and harassment, and even a credible death threat at one point complete with FBI investigation. There is also the unfortunate reality that when you care so much about something, hostile comments sometimes have the ability to pierce an otherwise thick skin.
That being said, through the exhaustion and occasional hardship, this experience has been worth every second. On a personal & professional level, I am so much richer than when I first started at Crystal Dynamics. I’ve grown an incredible amount the past two years. Without question, the highlight is genuine friendships I’ve made in the Tomb Raider community. I look back at late-night tapas in Madrid, rainy tours through Moscow, Parisian meals outside the Louvre, ice cream runs in London, language lessons in Milan, archery training in New York, and dozens of other memories, and I am filled with an overwhelming rush of joy.
Launch is just around the corner, and I’ve never been this invested in something. To give everything you have to a project because you believe so strongly in it. To care so much about the years and years of work contributed by immensely talented teams of people. To hope with all your heart that others care as much about the end result as you do. It is sobering. And amazing. And terrifying.
And now to bring this full circle. Why did 12-year-old Meagan fall in love with Lara Croft? Because on a basic level I saw my future in her. As a youth she encouraged me to work harder and be stronger. As a professional she motivated me to be visible and vocal. To show young women what an incredible industry this is to work in. She reminded me to always set a good example; just in case I was to become a beacon for someone the way she had been for me.
And this is the part where I swell with pride, and my eyes well up again. Our new vision for Lara Croft inspires me to the same degree that Core Design did back in 1996. She’s every inch the heroine I fell in love with at the age of twelve. She’s smart, articulate, resourceful, ambitious, adventurous, athletic, loyal, and just a tad cheeky. But she’s not flawless, and that’s the very best part.
Lara Croft now has flaws. She shows fear. She doubts herself. This reality inspires me even more today than it did when I was young. Lara Croft imparts a truth in me; that I can rise to the occasion and achieve great things because of my flaws and humanity, rather than despite them. Lara Croft is no longer perfect. Neither am I. Neither is our game. But just like Lara herself, I believe we’ve created something exceptional in Tomb Raider.
A famous explorer once said, the extraordinary is in what we do, not who we are. Thank you to Crystal Dynamics, and thank you to the Tomb Raider community, for letting me be a part of creating something extraordinary.
Whoooo! Tomb Raider Store Debut!
I have been waiting forever to share these with you guys! Our new Tomb Raider store has tons of awesome stuff, and even more exciting goodies to come. Here are a handful of my favorites.
I’m madly in love with the fact that we’ve got so many great options for women. Usually lady gamers end up having to wear ill-fitted men’s shirts if we want in on geek goods. So it’s great to have high-quality garments designed just for us!
Check out the store: http://tombraiderstore.com/