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Rebooting Lara: Rhianna Pratchett on Writing for Tomb Raider
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Rebooting Lara: Rhianna Pratchett on Writing for Tomb Raider

November 19, 2012 Article Start Page 1 of 3 Next
 

It's been a tough few years for the team rebooting Tomb Raider. More hit with controversy than hype, the upcoming 2013 game has been widely criticized for its portrayal of its lead Lara Croft -- and that was before one of the developers talked about rape and turned the reboot into the Todd Akin of games.

Get beyond that -- as the developers have consistently tried to do from almost the moment the controversy broke -- and you'll see a team that's actually working hard to change the series' image for the better.

The development team brought on Karl Stewart as its global brand director for the franchise, and has worked with him on a complete ground-up reimagining that can set the tone for the games moving forward.

"This is about looking to the future and making sure that this delivers so that there's structure for that future," Stewart told Gamasutra last year.

"For us as a studio, we've looked at where we've been, and we felt, well, now is a chance as a studio to put out a definition of our character and help evolve it, make it culturally relevant for today."

One of the most important ways the developers hope to bring the series up-to-date is to tackle the character of Lara Croft herself. As Stewart recognizes, the heroine has defined the franchise since its inception.

Writer Rhianna Pratchett (Heavenly Sword, Mirror's Edge) is one of the most essential contributors to the effort to redefine Lara. Though she's primarily in charge of the game's cinematic writing, she's been working in close collaboration with the development team for over two years to evolve and refine the story and integrate narrative into the game.

"There have been grumbles in certain quarters that we've broken her down and taken a strong character and made her weak. That's really not the case," Pratchett says, by way of clearing the air.

On the contrary, she says, "She's determined, caring, brave, empathetic, passionate and strong-willed, all of which come through during the gameplay and the narrative."

The problem of perception, she says, stems as much from their deliberate creative choices as it does from untoward remarks to the press. The developers "wanted to take Lara back to a time where she didn't have all the answers, the guns and the quippy one-liners, and show her evolution towards becoming the Tomb Raider."

There's a good reason for that, Pratchett argues: "The rich, untouchable, Teflon-coated, British ice-queen isn't exactly relatable for players, especially in this climate."

The 1990s -- their economic prosperity, their 3D-in-form but 2D-in-soul game protagonists -- are dead. "I was particularly keen to bring some warmth and empathy back to Lara, as I think that's something that's been rather lost over the years -- particularly in the movies," she says.

Pratchett is unapologetic about the direction the team has taken the character -- saying "as creatives, we always have to make choices about the direction we take our story and characters. You've never going to completely please everyone, so it's more important to be true to your own vision."


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