Gamers were optimistic when Square Enix and Eidos Montreal decided to bring last year’s critical hit Tomb Raider on the PS4 and Xbox One. But much to their surprise, the game turned out to be as good if not better than last year’s version.
In order to know more about the Definitive Edition we caught up with Scot Amos, Executive Producer of the title. We were able to talk about next gen development, the frame rate difference between the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions and the challenges they faced while porting the game to the new consoles.
Pramath Parijat: First of all congratulations on a great launch. The game has received AAA scores from several publications, including a superb 9/10 from us. Were you expecting a positive response for a game that is essentially a makeover?
Scot Amos: Thank you very much! We always aim to deliver the highest quality experience, and we’re absolutely thrilled at the positive reception. With the original release, we felt that we accomplished what we set out to do with respect to Lara’s narrative and the gameplay, and didn’t want to break that flow. The power of the next-gen hardware was an opportunity to push ourselves for the highest fidelity version of Lara, her world, and her origin story. In essence we were enabled to finally put on screen the vision from the team’s heads!
Pramath Parijat: The new facial model of Lara has been met with mixed response from fans. What prompted you to tweak Lara’s face for the next-gen version? Did it actually benefit in creating more believable facial expressions?
Scot Amos: We love the passion of our fans and always want to hear their thoughts, as it’s their franchise as much as it’s ours. From the team’s perspective, it was always about pushing ourselves, our tech, and wanting to create an unprecedented level of detail as our first steps towards a next-gen Lara. With her new sub-surface scattering, light diffuses realistically under her skin adding that soft glow and highlighting the higher resolution materials. Dynamic materials mean the blood, sweat, and mud will appear as a reaction to the world around her. This is the most realistic looking Lara to date, and also the most emotive. We can see and feel the impact of the harsh adventure she is struggling to overcome.
"The combination of the art team’s incredible diligence and passion balanced and tempered with the engineering team’s skill makes for great output. Certainly we had an incredible starting point from the previous game’s look and the experience gained on the 2013 PC version."
Pramath Parijat: How did you go about porting the game to next-gen consoles? What kind of challenges did you face while bringing the game over to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One?
Scot Amos: There are always challenges when working with a new platform, but it’s fun to push ourselves to see how much we can get out of the new tech. Tomb Raider Definitive Edition was a great way to become familiar with the hardware, and it’s our first step of delivering a next-gen Lara. It’s exciting to think about where we go from here. We also got to learn about things not to do… such as putting in too many reactive bushes and plants with a super-strong dynamic wind, as the players during our user-tests thought that there were wolves around every corner! But knowing we could push those limits was a great thing to uncover.
Pramath Parijat: I am very pleased to report that the PS4 and Xbox One versions, both of them actually look better than the PC version, at least aesthetically. That is quite a feat given that last year’s PC version was quite a state of art. How did you tackle the slower core speed of the CPU of next-gen consoles to essentially develop the most optimized version of Tomb Raider?
Scot Amos: Thanks for that! The combination of the art team’s incredible diligence and passion balanced and tempered with the engineering team’s skill makes for great output. Certainly we had an incredible starting point from the previous game’s look and the experience gained on the 2013 PC version. While processor power is all good and well, it’s mostly about how the team gets the engine to run its best within whatever software or hardware architecture is at hand and then balancing the content to match the performance. For example, there are clever ways the rendering and particle teams make use of the GPUs and ways to structure the code so operations are performed in a specific order to optimize any platform’s differences. Raw power is always great, but we need our discipline experts partnering together to get the most out of any box.
"Delivering the core Tomb Raider gameplay at native 1080p and running at 30fps was always our primary goal given the type of experience Tomb Raider is and the exploration we want players to do. Anything beyond 30fps for this version is gravy."
Pramath Parijat: Going into next gen consoles, the PS4 version runs at an unlocked 30fps [average 50-60fps] whereas the Xbox One version runs at a locked 30fps. Would you say that’s essentially two different versions of the game?
Square Enix: Both platforms offer the same outstanding Tomb Raider experience. Delivering the core Tomb Raider gameplay at native 1080p and running at 30fps was always our primary goal given the type of experience Tomb Raider is and the exploration we want players to do. Anything beyond 30fps for this version is gravy.
Pramath Parijat: Given the recent job listings and teasers, I am sure the next entry in Tomb Raider is under development. I am obviously not going to ask you about the details but what can you tell us about the future of Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider franchise?
Scot Amos: Hahaha, but you asked anyway in a broader perspective… good try! Yes, as you guessed we’ve only announced that we are working on the next Tomb Raider but don’t have any more information to share just yet. We’re itching to share more details with you, so stay tuned.
Pramath Parijat: Thank you for your time.
Scot Amos: Our pleasure, thank you.