tomb raider

Tomb Raider: Ascension [Cancelled / Beta – PS3, Xbox 360, PC]

Tomb Raider: Ascension [Cancelled / Beta – PS3, Xbox 360, PC]

A reboot of Tomb Raider was developed by Crystal Dynamics and released in 2013 to welcoming applaud and incredible reviews. However, it seems that the development process took a rather sharp turn. This new Tomb Raider project was started in early 2009 and was originally meant to be a much more different game than the final one.  Dubbed Tomb Raider: Ascension (not to be confused with the 2007 fan-made movie), its conception was a world away from what gamers got in the end. Taking inspiration from such titles as Resident Evil, ICO and Shadows of the Colossus, Lara’s reboot début was to be filled with giant supernatural enemies, a child companion that followed Lara, horse combat and explorations in a lavish open-world environment.

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Concept art was already released immediately after the initial game announcement which holds lots of things not included in Tomb Raider’s final draft, and the concept lead many people to believe Tomb Raider was going to become something of a horror-genre game. Before the final Tomb Raider 2013 was released, EIDOS published  a promotional Digital BookTomb Raider – The Final Hours” containing images and a video with the lost Ascension prototype:

“The Tomb Raider name never appeared on Guardian of Light and there was a reason – Crystal was saving that for the next project, what was internally known as Tomb Raider 9, or Tomb Raider: Ascension. Obvious biblical references aside, the team led by creative director Tim Longo was asked to come up with a radically different approach to a Lara Croft adventure. And that’s exactly what they did.

In early design meetings the team started thinking about other games that could inspire a new approach. The emotionally rich role-playing game Ico, the survival horror of Resident Evil, and the towering mythical creatures of Shadows of the Colossus all served as early inspiration. In Longo’s first pass at the design Lara Croft teamed up with a 6-year-old girl named Izumi […] as they adventured through a mysterious island inhabited by ghosts and monsters. Izumi would crawl into small places to help the player, thus creating asymmetric gameplay.

Eventually the player would dicover Izumi’s magical ability to manipulate water and interact with the island. After a few months of work the concept was deemed too ethereal and difficult to understand for Tomb Raider. Izumi was excised and at first replaced by a monkey that would accompany Croft on her adventures. When that didn’t work out the kids and animals were replaced by a more menacing presence on the island: colossal monsters.

In this second full pass at the concept design Lara would ride on horseback and battle against these monsters as they hurled trees at her in sequences reminiscent of a God of War game. Further refinement of the colossal monster concept shifted the art direction into the real of horror, with large zombie-like creatures that would roam a fog-soaked island.

What was intended as a confidential focus test from the Nielsen Group soon became public when one of the participants leaked images and details onto the internet during the summer of 2009. A “Rumored Leaked Photos of Tomb Raider Reboot” thread of the Tomb Raider forums quickly amassed some 3,687 posts from fans who expressed shock over a game that was more Resident Evil or Silent Hill than Tomb Raider. Others worried that setting a game entirely on an island abandoned the Indiana Jones-like globetrotting that was a hallmark of the series. […] Ultimately the horror direction was a shocking twist and focus tests confirmed that the team was “moving in the direction of making the greatest art house game that no one would ever play” […]

In the final game plot there are still some nods to the Ascension name, as we can read in Wikipedia:

Escaping the ancient monastery where she is taken by the Oni, Lara hears from Sam that Mathias is going to put her through the “Ascension“, a “fire ritual” to find the next Sun Queen that will burn her to death if it is unsuccessful. […] Lara realizes that the Ascension is not a ceremony to crown a new queen, but rather a ritual that transfers the original Sun Queen’s soul into a new body; the Sun Queen had learned to become effectively immortal by transferring her soul into a young girl’s body each time she grew old.

Below is listed the most significant changes to Tomb Raider in list form: 

Tomb Raider 3 Beta [PSX / PC]

Overview: After Tomb Raider 2, Core Design released another Tomb Raider sequel in November 1998 for PC and the PlayStation. Based on the upgraded Tomb Raider 2 Engine, Tomb Raider 3 features new vehicles such as the: Kayak and Quad bike. These new vehicles enable players to experience a new challenge from navigating down the rapids of Madubu Gorge to driving quad bikes in the Nevada Desert. In comparison to the older Tomb Raider games, the game play mechanics became more dynamic and the engine supported more triangular room polygons plus coloured lighting. Tomb Raider 3 appeared at E3 May 1998 and ECTS August 1998. The game features locations such as: India, South Pacific, Nevada, London.

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Interview:

An interview with Andy Sandham, former level designer for Tomb Raider 3, was posted on Tomb of Ash with some interesting info:

I believe the optional routes were taken out due to time pressure – as our first Tomb Raider game as a team, we were really up against it, learning new tech, etc., so I believe we held out on the ‘hub’ system until tomb raider 4 to prevent ourselves from having nervous breakdowns!

I remember that Heather, level designer and artist on Tomb 2 had built most of Angkor Watt – but that team were offered their own project (project Eden?) and so jumped at the chance, leaving us with a ¾ complete level that was handed over to Jamie Morton.

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There is evidence that Core Design had planned a section of levels set in Peru. There is no clear evidence as to whether these levels were actually created or if the area name was originally intended for another location, later renamed for the final release. Some of the level names changed during development for example (Final level names in bold):

  • Jungle Ruins -Jungle
  • Temple Of Shiva -Temple Ruins

This screenshot was taken from an unfinished beta copy of the game, it shows clear evidence of Peru’s previous existence. During a magazine interview, Core Design explained that the first level in Tomb Raider 3 would provide insight into the game’s story. Then players would be able to choose the start of their adventure set in 4 different locations: India, London, South Pacific, Nevada. It’s possible that the first level may have originally been set in Peru where Lara Croft was supposed to retrieve the first artifact? This is purely speculation and is completely unconfirmed.

All Hallows which is a bonus level was originally intended to come directly after Thames Wharf, a beta version of the game confirms that this was changed during the last month of development. It would make more sense for Lara to slide down a building near St. Paul’s Cathedral only to end up there.

Core Design did a major makeover on the PlayStation engine, it supposedly makes use of all the power the PlayStation has. It had been confirmed in several magazine reviews that the game would support 1-3 routes of completion. Looking at several magazine scans, some levels show doors to other areas which were removed from the final version. This was possibly to help avoid the gamer from getting confused but it would have been a more adventurous experience in my opinion. Also, the Kayak from Tomb Raider III was originally a boat, but blue that resembled the one from Tomb Raider II. Earlier builds show how Lara’s movesets changed, became more complex but some new moves didn’t make into the final game. An example of this is the roll whilst crouching ability. A video feature for Tomb Raider III also shows Lara Croft utilising a combat knife which they further explained was intended to remove objects from stone, or climb trees which yet again never saw the light of day.

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On-screen Debug:

Polygons

Tomb Raider 3 features an on-screen debug with several functions. One of which displays the POLYGON count on-screen so that the developers would know which environments are too large specifically for the PlayStation engine.

The syntax is as follows:

CURRENT_POLYS | MAX_LOADED_POLYS | POLY_LIMIT

CURRENT_POLYS = Amount of polygons currently loaded (the engine hides some).
MAX_LOADED_POLYS = The highest current amount of polys reached (increases based on the current amount)
POLY_LIMIT = Polygon limit, the game should freeze once it exceeds this limit as it cannot be handled by the engine.

In huge areas the polygon limit is at breach of 1990, 1990, 2000 which is also common in Thames Wharf causing the framerate to drop on the PlayStation version.


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Alpha Stage – Date, Late May 1998 (E3 Build)

The title screen is different and I quite like it. Such a shame it never made it to the final release. It is also known that this build has unique loading screens for the South Pacific level which use an unknown render. Although this looks complete, the levels are in early development and contain some interesting parts which got cut. The only known playable levels are: Coastal Village, Thames Wharf. The deleted roll animation can be seen at 0:32. The flare lighting effects look much better compared to the final release’s cut-down version. My favorite part is when Lara is monkey swinging at 0:57, the animation is different.

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Alpha Stage – Date, July 1998

Screenshots from an unknown July build shown in some early magazine scans.

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Alpha Stage – Date, Late July 1998






The Jungle screenshots are looking close to final but it is STILL in early development stages. There are some level differences on the second screenshot, the wall is missing which divides the water from the land. In the third screenshot you can also see there is no save crystal so it’s obviously using the standard Tomb Raider 2 Save system.

Also, the All Hallows screenshots show early deleted parts and the first screenshots lack the red lighting effects used in the final build.

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Beta Stage – Date, Late August 1998 (ECTS Build)
Platform: PC

This build was shown at ECTS 1998. Some areas differ from the public September 1998 demo featured on various magazine demo samplers.

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Beta Stage – Date, Mid September 1998
Platform: PSX

Here is a look at some of the left over weapons which can be unlocked within this demo. Some of them are still from Tomb Raider II like the Automatic Pistols and M16. Due to them being unfinished, Lara’s animations seem to glitch whilst using some weapons.


In this version of the game, Peru is on the map. No modifications are needed to unlock it, but the level itself is not there so the game freezes.

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Late Beta Stage – Date, October 1998
Platform: PSX

Full playlist:

About this beta

This is a beta build compiled close to final. Almost everything is done but there are minor/severe bugs which can prevent you from completing the game. The beta still has the deleted sprint and crawl + pickup animation. The sprint makes Lara seem to be more ‘butch’ I believe it’s why they changed it. Whilst picking up items when crawling, Lara will reach out to her bag pack like she’s putting it in there which doesn’t happen in the final.

Glitch 1 – River of Ganges, Quadbike

Another glitch is where the quadbike is too bouncy or can be used underwater. If you drive into a wall whilst falling into the water, Lara will be able to use it underwater without it exploding allowing the level to be completed easily.

Glitch 2 – Rx-Tech Mines, Mine Cart

The most severe bug is with the mine cart, it easily picks up speed causing it to become uncontrollable. Along with this, it bounces up and down like a ball. It is impossible to complete Rx-Tech mines because there is a speed issue which causes the lower mine cart to crash every time if used. The only way around this is to use the DOZY cheat to fly rather than using the mine carts.

Glitch 3 – Lost City of Tinnos, Fire Room

In the fire room, you can walk on the floor which should burn Lara Croft.

Glitch 4 – Rx-Tech Mines, Mine Cart

There is a bug when putting in the scitimar it will not work if you press X (action) you must go through the inventory.

More differences

In the Jungle the first secret located near the tree doesn’t exist and there is no shotgun.

In Lud’s Gate in the room near the end where there’s a switch in the water. It is not there, there’s actually a button to open the next area.

Editors:
1. Gh0stblade

Change log:
Gh0stblade – Reordering and several video/spelling fixes. 16/03/16
Gh0stblade – Fixed some problems, partial re-write in progress. 21/02/15
Gh0stblade – Added info on debug info and fixed errors 09/12/12
Gh0stblade – Fixed mistakes added stuff. 12/05/12
Gh0stblade – Added August 1998 E3 PC, July PC Screenshots. 2/04/12
Gh0stblade – Started write up, added October 98 beta info 14/12/11, Added Late August info, Added September 1998 Info.
Gh0stblade – Added E3 info, ECTS screenshots. 16/12/11
Gh0stblade – Added more general info, E3 video updated 09/01/11 

Tomb Raider: 10th Anniversary Edition (Cancelled) [PSP/PS2/PC]

Overview:

After Tomb Raider: the Angel Of Darkness had been considered a failure. Core Design (Core), in 2004 came up with a new Tomb Raider Project. The project known as “Tomb Raider: 10th Anniversary Edition” aimed to recreate the original Tomb Raider game released in 1996 including various enhancements and extensions to the original game. Core developed their version of Tomb Raider: 10th Anniversary Edition for approximately 9 months until it was cancelled early June 2006 by SCi. A trailer for the unfinished game emerged on the internet, later that week Eidos officially confirmed the game had been cancelled. Following these events, Crystal Dynamics developed their own Tomb Raider: Anniversary game which released in 2007.

Origin:

Interview by: PlanetLara with former Artist Richard Morton. (24th July 2007)

Richard: It was a strange time really, we’d just finished Free Running for PSP/PS2 and had developed a really good control system and camera, we started messing about with a Lara model on the PSP in the Free Running engine and the idea of 10th Anniversary was born. We suggested it to Eidos who allowed us to develop it, but when Core was sold to Rebellion it seemed like they didn’t want the franchise to go ‘out-of-house’ hence the cancellation of our project.

It is confirmed that PC/PS2 versions were also in development. However, the existing leaked footage and in-game screenshots have been confirmed to be taken from the PSP version. The trailer which leaked from an unknown source seems to show various different builds of Tomb Raider: 10th Anniversary Edition. Some sequences in the trailer are from builds later than others. Both Core Design and Crystal Dynamics were working on separate games (Core Design – Tomb Raider: 10th Anniversary Edition, Crystal – Tomb Raider Legend). Eidos (the game’s publisher at the time now Square Enix) requested Core Design to alter their Lara Croft model so it looks similar to the Lara Croft model used in Tomb Raider: Legend. This is why the Lara Croft model seen in early prototype versions of Tomb Raider Legend is very reminiscent of the one seen in Core Design’s Tomb Raider: 10th Anniversary Edition.


Various variants of the Lara Croft model and how it changed during development

The leaked trailer:

Press releases:

By Core Design (www.core-design.com) – 15th June 2006, 11:02:06.

Following speculation on the internet, we would like to offer the following clarification.

The video of Tomb Raider: 10th Anniversary Edition that appeared on certain sites was an unauthorised release of an internal presentation of a game that was being developed by Core Design until very recently. It was running on PSP and used a Core-developed engine. However, following a recent review this project has been officially cancelled by SCi.

Core is alive and well and working on some great new projects, and we are still planning to announce some exciting news very soon!

By Former Core Dsign Arist Carl released a fly through video of a level he worked on:

By Eidos – June 16th, 2006

Eidos Interactive, one of the world’s leading publishers and developers of entertainment software, confirms today that they are developing a special ’10th Anniversary Edition’ of Tomb Raider.
The new game is being developed by Crystal Dynamics, who recently launched Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend on Xbox 360, PS2, Xbox, PC and PSP, with versions on Nintendo DS, GBA and GameCube later in 2006.
“Our ’10th Anniversary Edition’ of Tomb Raider, is a one-off title to celebrate both Lara and Tomb Raider, it will appeal not only to the loyal fans of the Tomb Raider series but will also attract a totally new audience.” Said Larry Sparks, Head of Brands Management at Eidos.
Tomb Raider originally launched in 1996 and is still one of the best selling videogame franchises of all time, with over 30 million copies sold.
The special ’10th Anniversary Edition’ of Tomb Raider will be available on PlayStation 2, PSP and PC.

Core Design’s opinion:

In 2016 an interview with Gavin Rummery was published by arstechnia. It provided some details as to how the game started and speculation as to why it was cancelled:

By: Gavin Rummery (Former Core Design Studio Head) – 31/03/2016 arstechnia

He put the pieces together in his head and pitched Eidos/SCi (SCi having taken over Eidos in 2005). They loved it, so a team of Tomb Raider veterans at Core set about remaking the original game in the new engine. It was going well, Rummery recalls—both looking and playing great. But Crystal Dynamics didn’t want Core back in the picture, and the American studio built a rival demo.

“They convinced whatever the politics in SCi was like that it made more sense to just keep it all in one studio,” says Rummery. “Keep the franchise in one place. And so ours was killed, and you’d have never heard if it hadn’t been leaked by someone.”

Steve Pritchard responded to Gavin’s claims with the following:

Steve Pritchard (Producer) via Facebook

No worries. It was a tricky time in the studio when Crystal were doing Anniversary – a lot of hard work had gone into that idea and to have it taken away and handed to Crystal was a painful thing.

Crystal Dynamics are in no way at fault for this – Eidos had become SCi at this point and that whole Eidos/Core/Tomb raider multi-brand was something that hung a little heavily around a few necks. Someone, somewhere, realised that handing a TR title back to the now-not-Core guys would have seemed like a strange commercial move, and with CD having a lot of cool tech all ready to go, it was a straightforward choice for them.

Yeah, it was a massive, massive kick in the nuts for those of us who had done a lot in a very short space of time to get Anniversary running, but from a business perspective it was understandable.

Gav was right to be angry about the way the whole thing unfolded and he’s also right in saying that SCi were up for it – Ian Livingston grinned a smile a mile wide when I described the concept as a “director’s remastering” of the original, with additional content filling out the whole TR1 game. So yes, it was a winner and yes, at the time it looked like me might claw it back. But someone, somewhere realised the media issues that might arise from the old Core lads doing another Lara game . . . and that was where the split began, not with CD.

I put more hours into the Core version of Anniversary than anyone else on the team – production tend to do that – and as we had such a small team most of what is seen in the leaked video was stuff I pulled together across a couple of evening shifts, the thing cut together by Gaz Tongue later. We were all gutted when the project went away. Projects do, all the time, but this one really felt like the last chance to grab back a bit of TR.

The last presentation to the SCi board had Gav and I demoing the Playstation version AND the PSP version, both of which had co-op gameplay in it. They were rough around the edges, still some way from alpha, but if you knew the original game well you could see where we had added real fan service, extra content and just cool stuff that expanded on the original narrative. It felt good to show off, it was received well, but that last presentation had us re-introduced to Toby Gard and some of the CD team who were there to see it. Two days later we got the news that they were going to do the Anniversary project, using their engine and tech from TR Legend. And that was that.

Horrible end to the story but I find it really difficult to lay the blame at Crystal’s door. SCi made the decision, and they really weren’t very good at decisions. They are not there for good reasons.

Not too long after that the studio was sold to Rebellion, Gav moved on and I ended up running the show for the next 18 months to two years. By then Core were a bit battered and bruised and being asked to shift their skills to “quick and dirty” work that was almost outsourcing saw all the talent start to pour away to other companies. “Corebellion” fought on for a while but the writing was on the all by then.

Images:

Tomb Raider Legend Beta [PS2 / PSP / PS3 / XBOX / XBOX 360 / PC / WII]

Overview: Tomb Raider Legend is the first game developed by Crystal Dynamics. Crystal Dynamics worked along side with Toby Gard (the original Tomb Raider designer). They wanted to reboot the game after the failure of Tomb Raider Angel Of Darkness. Development of this game started in 2004 just after Eidos transferred the Tomb Raider development rights to Crystal Dynamics.

There are trailers from around the E3 2005 time which show various different levels which were not present or drastically changed for the final release. Around this stage of development it is confirmed that most of the areas were just for proof of concept and used for testing for example, Lara’s Beach House. There were weapons which were cut from the final release: Smoke Grenades, Rocket Launcher, Revolver.

Early Alpha Stage – Date, May 2005
Platform: PS2

This is the build which was shown at E3 2005.

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Alpha Stage – Date, August 2005
Platform: PS2

This is the build which was shown at GC 2005.

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Editors:
1. Gh0stblade

Change log:
Gh0stblade – Added PSP info and cleanup with dates 14/01/2013
Gh0stblade – Updated basics of post, removed all old info and updated 20/03/2013 

Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness [PS2 – Beta]

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The overall result suggested that the development of The Angel of Darkness had been rushed, despite numerous delays prior to its release to possibly improve the final product; difficult-to-overlook plot inconsistencies (or leaps) and frequent continuity errors added to the belief that significant ‘cuts’ were made from the original design. While it was not the first (or last) game to suffer such abridgment, the results were especially jarring and confusing. For example, in the final encounter between Lara and the overall perpetrator, they appear to  

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