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Developer Interview: Mike Brinker Lead Designer for Rise of the Tomb Raider

By Damian Seeto, Mon 28 Sep 2015
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Netguide had the opportunity to interview Mike Brinker who is the Lead Designer for Rise of the Tomb Raider.  Brinker was kind enough to visit New Zealand to attend a special event held by Xbox NZ. He had a lot of things to say about the new game that will be out this November.   

Can you explain the differences between Tomb Raider 2013 compared to Rise of the Tomb Raider? Absolutely. There are many big things but there are a couple we’re most proud of. If you look at what we’re trying to do in the last game, we’re now going a little bit deeper with our RPG system. Instead of the 16 or 20 skills in the last game, we now have over 50 skills in the new game. There are three different branches and they’re all tiered in four different ways. In this game, there is going to be a lot of depth to her skills. We also lanced in a new crafting system too. Lara Croft is a really smart character and she will be using 16 to 20 different resources in the environment to be able to craft weapons, items, gear and all kind of things. The crafting resources really play into Lara being a prepared character and someone who knows how to use their environment to survive. We’ve also updated a lot with our enemy A.I. and stealth options. Players have a much more healthy plate of things to choose from when they play stealthily. We have a system called Lost Target where a player distracts an enemy, and they won’t know exactly where you are. They have to actually go searching for you. The biggest and happiest new addition that I’m proud of is bringing back the tombs. Wait, you are answering my next question now which is will do there more Tomb Raiding in this game? Haha yeah. Looking back we have a 20 year franchise, and it’s a long history. One of the things our fans wanted was bring back these ancient epic spaces that are large and full of deadly traps. It is not just one little room, it’s multiple chambers to solve one bigger problem which we call our nesting puzzle formula. So ancient layered history, large epic spaces, deadliness and bring back the tombs. There’s a lot of tomb raiding to be had. There’s even more than that as we have crypts and caves too. There’s more stuff to explore for a much broader and bigger experience. Do you improve on the melee attack in the new game? We looked a lot of Lara’s tools and a lot of things that we wanted to focus on. We really looked at more of her weapon upgrades and how she upgraded herself as a character. We not as heavy into the melee stuff as we’d like but we focused more on her weapons and weapon choices. It’s not just having one weapon this time. It’s about having multiple weapons that you can switch between them at different camp sites. Then you can choose like one bow and upgrade to be stealthy. You could also choose a different bow and switch to a more combat bow for full-on attacks. We have a lot of different playstyles that we are catering to. Are there different ways Lara Croft can travel trough the world? We are definitely adding more traversal features so that’s another part of the game that we really looked at and said what it means to be Lara Croft and moving through the world. She has a few new features such as a very cool grapple axe as this is a very cool traversal mechanic. We also have a sprint and she’s got a lot of cool things like swimming and climbing up trees. We added a lot of traversal stuff. I really encourage everyone to look at these options that we give to the player.  

Can you explain the types of locations that we can get to visit? The demo you just played gave you a chance to visit Syria today. Part of her adventure weeds her to a path where she finds the immortal Prophet’s Tomb. That clue trail leads her to Syria, but then it also jumps over to Siberia too. We get to see a big broad stroke of what Siberia is. It’s not just a snowy wasteland as there’s more stuff that you are going to see too. We also upgraded our fast travel system, so you are not just going to go to certain spots. You can go anywhere and go back between them whenever you want. Is the level design slightly different from the previous game? We had to look and try what to do from both a story and narrative standpoint and then of course player choice. We still have our large open hub spaces. We call them hubs as they allow you to have a lot of freedom of choice. They are three times larger than the hub spaces in the last game. Connecting all those with some spaces that allow you to funnel to the story, but you can go in and out between the two whenever you feel like it. We really wanted to try and give you the freedom of choice in the hub world, but also giving you the nice narrative context when you go through it. How much were you able to push out of the Xbox One console? Focusing on the Xbox One system has been fantastic, because it allows us to do a lot more with our technology. We built this game from the ground up using all of our new advances in lighting. We have a new global lighting system called PBR (Physical Based Rendering). What this allows us to do is soft shadowing, so you see the shadows on the cliffs and tombs. You also get to see some of the sub-surface gathering in Lara’s skin. We got a lot of blend shapes in her face and animation. We have done a lot to the look of Lara with her animation fidelity, her expressions and all the tech that surrounds her. In Siberia you also see all of the defamation in snow and it’s all in real-time. We get to do stuff like that because of the Xbox One platform. How involved was Camilla Luddington in Rise of the Tomb Raider? Camilla has done a lot of the voice acting and she’s phenomenal at that. We really appreciate her being Lara. She really brings to life what Lara Croft is and we are totally excited about that. How is the Xbox 360 version of Rise of the Tomb Raider going? We are definitely releasing for both Xbox One and Xbox 360 for the 2015 Holiday season. I’m super excited our fans who have Xbox 360s are going to be able to play Rise of the Tomb Raider.  Xbox 360 owners are going to get the same experience. They are going to experience all the same features, and be able to have that same story. Obviously it will look a lot better on the Xbox One, because we pushed the graphical content. Will we see any returning characters? Part of what we looked at was what we have shown to the press so far is that we have seen Jonah. Jonah is one of Lara’s faithful companions from the last game. They have a lot of back and forth at the beginning on where to go and what to do with these ancient secrets and mysteries that they are starting to uncover. Look for Jonah to be another character in the game. Beyond that, that’s all we’ve released right now in terms of details. Do players have a choice between stealth and full out action? One of the best things about Rise of the Tomb Raider is that we are able to give players that choice now. It’s not just going in on a full-on assault, but you can go in stealth and stealth around guys and you can distract them and continue on your journey without any killing. That’s one of the features I’m most happy about our stealth system. Why should people play and get excited about Rise of the Tomb Raider? People should play this game because we have built it from the ground up. We have the quintessential tomb raiding experience. It’s not just about being able to raid tombs, but it’s about Lara Croft being able to become the tomb raider. If you remember in the last game, she was being more of a survivor. She was being put in a position that she didn’t want to be in. Now things have turned on their head. She knows those secrets exist and she wants to uncover those ancient myths. In this game, Lara is now prepared knowing that she is going to face a lot of challenges, but also knows she wants to uncover those secrets. She’s smart and resourceful and that plays out in the entire game. People should really play this game because this is really when she becomes the tomb raider.  

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