In honour of the upcoming Lara Croft game, Shadow Of The Tomb Raider, we take a look at some of the earliest games in the series and how they were created. Everyone who had a Playstation 1 almost definitely had a Tomb Raider game to go with it, and Lara Croft became a worldwide celebrity in her own right, despite being composed solely of animated pixels.
Since its initial release, the Tomb Raider franchise has spawned films starring Angelina Jolie and Alicia Vikander, countless magazine covers and a seemingly endless supply of new Lara Croft games to play. The latest offering from Square Enix – Shadow of the Tomb Raider – is scheduled for release in September 2018. Today we take a look back at the earliest games in the series and some of the fascinating facts behind their development.
1) Tomb Raider was the creation of just six people
Nowadays it’s perfectly normal for studios to employ hundreds of people during the creation of a video game. Games often feature rolling credits at the end of the main story which list the many developers, designers and voice actors involved in putting together the final product.
Tomb Raider provided gamers with a cutting-edge third person format, but back in 1996 ‘cutting edge’ didn’t necessarily require a staff of hundreds or even thousands. In fact, the game was created over a period of three years by Derby-based game developer Core Design, a company which, at the time, consisted of only six guys.
2) Lara Croft was originally supposed to be a male Indiana Jones rip-off
Tomb Raider broke new ground in the 3D game universe by producing a game where you could actually see your character. You might be thinking ‘Wow, so what?’ but back in the 90s this was a revolutionary concept. Most other games were first-person (Goldfinger anyone?), which were far easier for developers to create, so a third-person game was a massive step towards the standard third-person video game formats we know and love today.
Core decided on a setting made up of pyramids and tombs, as this would allow them to break up the environment into smaller rooms and corridors. Once it came to deciding on a leading character, the obvious choice for a character who could roam around Egyptian tombs was none other than the legendary Indiana Jones. With that in mind, the designers originally came up with a Harrison Ford knock-off, complete with handlebar moustache and buff physique.
Although they obviously decided to go down a very different route, the team at Core Design did keep some Indiana Jones influences in their early games. Fans of the series will remember that Lara often had to dodge poison darts and spiked pits in her travels. There was even a really cool easter egg included in the game that eagle-eyed fans might have spotted, which saw a life-size Ark of the Covenant casually sitting in Lara’s mansion!
3) Lara Croft began life as spicy Latina, Laura Cruz.
As well as nearly being a male protagonist, Lara Croft was originally supposed to be a Latina archaeologist and adventurer.
Lara’s creator Toby Gard once joked that it became obvious Tomb Raider needed a female protagonist when he realised third-person games involve a lot of staring at the main character’s backside. To keep him a bit saner during the game’s lengthy development, he decided that he should probably make that butt a lady’s butt. In reality, Core was probably worried that Lucasfilm would sue over their obvious Indiana Jones rip-off, so what better way to deflect any potential lawsuits than by using a female protagonist instead?
After several ideas that led to nowhere, Core created a familiar female character with dark brown hair, a tight tank top and some hiking boots. The only big difference was that this wasn’t Lara Croft, it was Laura Cruz, a South American lady.
4) Lara’s over-sized breasts were originally a ‘programming error’
We all know that part of Lara’s appeal was her – ahem – well-proportioned figure, especially amongst teenage boys in the late 90s. But how did Core decide on Tomb Raider’s ample assets in the first place?
According to Toby Gard, he was messing around with Lara’s model on the computer and accidentally made her breasts 150% larger than normal. Just as he was about to return them to their normal size (yeah right), one of his colleagues caught a glimpse of the alternations and said to keep the changes because Lara ‘looked better that way’. Big surprise! We’re not sure we believe Toby’s response – what was he doing randomly resizing her breasts in the first place? Legions of horny teenage gamers will forever be grateful for that tiny ‘accident’ anyway.
5) Lara Croft has actually released two albums
Lara became such a huge success that her fame suddenly spread to magazine covers, TV adverts and…the French music industry, apparently. Despite the fact that all the songs were recorded entirely in English, the two albums were considered to be so bad that they were only released in France! Some of the tracks were overtly sexual, with classic song titles including ‘Getting Naked’ from Lara’s debut album, Lara Croft: Come Alive and even ‘Feel Myself’ from her second offering Lara Croft: Female Icon. Bizarre.
6) One of the characters turned out to be a real person
Fans of the series may well remember Lara’s longtime friend Jean Yves, who initially appeared in Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation (1999). However, he was removed from future instalments due to his uncanny resemblance to real-life French archaeologist Jean-Yves Empereur! Empereur excavated the remains of the Pharos lighthouse near Alexandria, and it seems that the real-life Jean-Yves took real exception to his digital doppelganger.
He “objected to the [the use of a] character of the same name and profession” and received an apology from the game’s producers in 2001.
7) The Mona Lisa gets a very strange make-over in one of the games!
Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness (2003) contains levels that take place in the famous Louvre art gallery in Paris. Of course, the Louvre hosts arguably the world’s most famous painting, the Mona Lisa, and developers recreated the portrait in the digital world. However, if you look closely, Mona Lisa’s face has been replaced with a photo of the game’s soundtrack composer Peter Connelly! He came in to work one day after a ‘heavy night out’ so the designers decided to punish him by immortalising his hungover expression in the game.
8) Lara was originally composed of just 540 polygons
On Lara’s original design, Gard stated in an interview with The Guardian that he “was very keen to get Lara to animate properly, which no one else at the time was doing.” Lara’s resulting 540+ character-shaping polygons “made her move slowly but look realistic, which helped [players] empathise with her.” This was another
By the time 2008’s Tomb Raider: Underworld was rolled out, Lara had acquired a full 32,816 rendered polygons, making her the most detailed game character to date.
9) Lara currently holds six Guinness World Records
The Tomb Raider franchise has sold over 42 million game units to date, making Lara the most successful video game heroine of all time. Other records include Lara as the most recognisable female in a video game, the most detailed game character, as well as highest grossing game spin-off. Guinness World Records’ gaming editor Gaz Deaves told the Telegraph in 2010, ”Lara Croft epitomizes all that’s great about video gaming and we’re delighted to acknowledge her success by awarding her with six new official record entries including making her the most-famous and most-successful female videogame character in the world.”
10) Lara has appeared on more magazines than any other supermodel
Yes that’s right, Lara has featured on more magazine covers than the likes of Kate Moss, Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell! As of June 2016, she had appeared on over 1,100 magazines, and that figure is obviously set to rise with the release of the next instalment in September this year. Gaming magazines, such as Game Informer, are obviously the most frequent home for Lara. However, she’s also been featured in prestigious publications such as The Financial Times.