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Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend

Producer Morgan W Gray tells of a legend reborn, new Lara, new gameplay and hottest of all, Ms Croft's untold origins

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Lara's movement style and animation system has obviously also had an extreme makeover too, can you tell us a little more about that process?

Morgan W Gray: That's one of the cornerstones of our technology base, it's called the fluid movement system, it's sort of a marriage of animation technology, art and design. We've already said that she's got her own movement AI and that's not hyperbole, we're actually calculating on the fly aspects of her movement and her animations, so that she can blend seamlessly between different animations and allow her to link with objects in the world in a natural way.

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It's been a long process of trial and error as we focus in on really how good a player character can look and move in a game and have that be a goal. Normally it's an afterthought to other things.

You also appear to have refined the gameplay in terms of movement and by getting rid of some of the frustrating aspects of controlling Lara, for example the pointless falling off ledges and other collision detection issues?

Morgan W Gray: Our philosophy with Tomb Raider is that we want to encourage exploration, we want to encourage fun. I think oftentimes by making things overly complex or overly difficult, the expectation is that you're creating gameplay. We think it's actually holding gameplay back when the player's worried every step of the way, they're not exploring, they're not giving it all it can have.

So we've given the player multiple ways Lara can save herself and be safe from the more stupid ways of dying. We have a very generous load and save checkpoint system to encourage exploration. You know we want the player to risk and have reward, we're very player-friendly. We can create much more action packed complicated sequences because we put in safety valves to keep the player safe and keep the frustration low.

Lara's new flair moves are certainly one of the more impressive advances...

Morgan W Gray: In this concept of fun, everyone identifies with Lara Croft in different ways and wants to do different things. We wanted to give players the chance to do something which could become repetitive - and then have options to make it fun or to show off. In the full game we'll actually have the concept of rewarding movement through the gameplay mechanic, so the riskier or more daredevil players will have a concrete gameplay benefit which we'll talk about more in the months to come.

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One major advance this time around seems to be in the area of the camera system. How have you approached that aspect of Legend?

Morgan W Gray: The camera system is the platter on which third-person action adventure games are served so we spent a lot of time identifying not just the technology behind finding good algorithms for our run-time default camera but obviously giving the player easy control. Our cameras serve both gameplay and the presentation of the environments. We spent a lot of time finding a camera system that a) showed off Lara Croft in the most engaging way and b) filled in the player path and where you need to go but making both unobtrusive. 'If you notice the camera, we're doing something wrong' is our philosophy.

Talking of environment and locations, we start off in Africa, but tour around the world. What other locations are you talking about for Legends right now?

Morgan W Gray: Well there's Africa and Peru, we're going to go into some ancient ruins there. We're going to go to the Himalayas where you're going to get a little window peek into the birth of Lara Croft. We're also going to bring you across the globe to other locations but we're kind of piecing them out one by one. But you globe trot all over.

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