Friday, 19. July 2019    

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My First Visit to Crystal! Part Two - The Questions by Keir

Part Two

As you may have seen last week, I wrote up an account of my recent visit to Crystal. I was out in California on holiday, and seeing as I was visiting San Francisco, I took the opportunity to meet the nice folk at Crystal Dynamics and get the inside line on life at the Tomb Raider studios (armed with some all important questions from community).

The Crystal offices in all their splendour.
While I was there, I crammed in a load of stuff: I hosted our first ever podcast, got a tour of the studio, took lots of photos, met a million charming people, ate strawberries and ultimately achieved the main goal of my mission - to ask some questions about Crystal from the community.

I left last week's instalment on a bit of a cliff hanger; while touring the office I had just encountered Jason Botta, and I asked him the first of the community questions. I asked as many as I could, and not all of them got answered, but I'm sure there'll be an opportunity in the future to ask more. :-)

Jason is the man.
  • Me: Can you ask Jason Botta if he wants to go out with a date with me? Larson 1998

    Jason: "I think my wife might be rather upset!"

And with that Jason rushed off to get back to work and I sat down with Eric Lindstrom, the Creative Director of Tomb Raider: Underworld, and in between discussions about Underworld I put these questions to him:

  • Ask them if Toby Gard is around and is he working on TRU. Daventry

    "Toby is around and he's our cinematics director and continues to be a valued consultant on all things Lara Croft and I'm very glad we have him."

  • I wouldn't mind knowing how many people are working on underworld... Nenya awakens

    "It does vary, but around now it's around 80 people."

  • How far ahead do you [Crystal Dynamics] plan the TR games? Legend came out in 2006, then Anniversary came out in 2007 and a brand spanking new current gen TR game will be out at the end of the year. Do you know what story you wanted to tell and how it would pan out when you made Legend? Angelus

    "They're asking a lot of questions with this one! Like any good franchise, there's always going to be another one. Anniversary was a little different, because that wasn't in the chain, that was done as a side project. And that was why we ended up getting Tomb Raider titles that close together because it was not the same team. We have people who did Anniversary who came on and helped us [on Underworld] but Anniversary was a side venture to reward the fans.

    The second part of the question, about the length of time we work on a game; what we're really doing is making a game that is two and a half years long. We started working on Underworld, the same time we started work on Anniversary, so it's not right to think we finished Anniversary and then started on Underworld. To be precise we started in Christmas 05 on Underworld - hardcore November. I didn't actually take any time off from Legend on which I did story design and directed, edited and co-wrote the script.

    I needed to hit the ground running for Underworld so I had all concept docs working for studio approval before Legend was on the shelves. I was excited because when I came back to Crystal (it was my second time here) I was the story designer on Legend, I really wanted to start work three months earlier on Underworld, but I was too busy making the game I was assigned."

  • Are they planning on another game in the Legacy of Kain series. Knightgames
    Is there any chance of another Legacy of Kain game in the future? John york

    "Well there is always..." *Kathryn coughs loudly and drowns out the answer*

  • Eric faces the barrage of questions!
  • I was actually more curious about what they think of us... There are so many useless posts bashing at Crystal for no reason (don't get me wrong, I'll probably never play Legend again and I think criticism is important)... - although I'll admit it's going better I love it. MrBear
    Ask how thay think of us and are comments on them! Hairhelmet12

    "I don't go to the forums for any reason other than I like doing it and I get something valuable out of it. I don't have any obligation to do it as far as the company is concerned, I don't even think the directors know that I do it, it's just something that I think is very valuable and I think it's important.

    'What do I think of them' is a different question because I am completely unaffected by all of the mudslinging and all of the bashing. I think it's too bad sometimes when they say 'Oh Crystal did this' or 'Core did this' or 'Toby did this', when it's not true. When they say 'Oh I hated they way they made Lara whiney and emotional, that's true! We can't deny that, it's true! The fact that they have different opinions - that's important for us to know. When they say something that's not true, that's unfortunate but I don't take it personally because I know it's not true.

    It's kind of like listening to gossip that you're not supposed to listen to. That's what gossip is, it's people in the house next door to you, whispering about you and you don't get to hear it, looking on the forums is like eves-dropping on conversations that are kind of going on with the assumption you're not listening. Even though they say 'I hope Crystal are listening!' they still act as if we're not.

    I don't take any of it personally, I remember reading early on when the community became aware of my name somebody said 'This Eric sounds OK but he has a way of sounding like he says a lot but really not saying a damn thing' and I had to laugh because it was true, because at the time I couldn't say a damn thing and I was trying to hide it as best I could, the guy saw through it and I thought good for you. So when people are going around saying about how much they hate this and hate that often it's stuff that the community don't even agree on. With 1500 people there's going to be 1500 different opinions.

    I would hate for the community and forums not to be there, and for them not to be saying what they're saying."

  • What are some of Crystal Dynamics' most favourite games right now? What are they currently playing on their Xbox 360's and PS3's? UNDERTAKER

    "I don't have as much time as I'd like to play video games sadly. We currently have a Battle of the Bands tournament on Rock Band. We just finished up a Guitar Hero tournament, before that we had a Wii Bowling tournament. The Underworld team won the bowling, our producer Julie she's a powerhouse, they know how to bowl in Nebraska!

    The most recent team that I played that I loved was Portal, but that's no surprise to anyone. I loved Portal."

  • Game development obviously has its highs. But what are some of the lows of the job? What makes the game development process difficult? UNDERTAKER

    "That wasn't on the email I saw! What are the low sides of game development? Wow. I'm thinking about all the true answers I don't want to say! One of the lowest things is that, it's kinda hard to explain, but imagine making a game over two and a half years that people can play and finish in 12 hours and do the division. So, you can spend a month of hard work where what you see on the screen hasn't changed, because it's just a lot of construction work. There are times when you go too long without seeing the thrill of what's going to end up in the final product, and that can wear you down. But then again, it just makes it that much more exciting when suddenly it all comes together and the screen lights up and everyone sits up in their chair and says 'Wow! This is great!' It's not so much a low moment, but it's one of the more gruelling non-high points of development.

    There's the fact that movies get the benefit of just filming another movie, they don't have to invent a new camera every time. Making games and the tech that goes with it is like inventing a new camera every time, and they break all the time. I love the story of Richard Dreyfus that he tells of him and all the Jaws actors sitting on the beach waiting for the shark to work for days and days. And a lot of our low points are when the tools all break and don't work. Then we're stuck on paper again and there's no sexy answer to this question!"

  • Does Natla or any old characters such as Kurtis return, if so... to make my question different to others... do they die?Dizzydoil

    [Eric looks at Kathryn] "You don't want me to answer this question do you?! Natla is immortal, she can't die, but I'm not saying she's in the game or not!"

  • Do you plan to put this costume in TRU? (Image of Lara in trousers) KC Mraz

    "She will have costumes in the game of course. She'll have shorts and long pants in the game but she's going to be wearing a hell of a lot more than that!"

And with that, Eric dashed off into an important Underworld meeting. Along with these questions we discussed lots of exciting ideas for the Underworld community campaign.

Before I conclude this report, no account of a visit to Crystal Dynamics would be complete without (a much requested) photo of Riley Cooper!

Riley Cooper

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