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Tomb Raider - A Tarnished Legend 72

An anonymous reader writes " has posted a fantastic piece on the Tomb Raider series that examines how the franchise has been tarnished over the past few years -- and questions whether Lara can still win back the hearts of gamers. What's especially amusing is the inclusion of GameRankings scores, demonstrating the series' consistent drop in quality (Tomb Raider 1 averaged an 89%, while the latest installment, Angel of Darkness, came in at 54%.)."
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Tomb Raider - A Tarnished Legend

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  • by RickPartin ( 892479 ) on Friday June 17, 2005 @02:28PM (#12844389) Homepage
    Why are game makers not smarter than this by now? They create a game that people absolutely love and then instead of nurturing the franchise to make lots of money in the long run they exploit it for a few bucks short term and ultimately kill it. Big hits like Tomb Raider are the lifeblood of these companies. What are they treated so trivially? Can someone with industry knowledge please explain this to me?
    • The current trend in most all big business you see these days looks at making quick profits rather than long term. Just look at the soda and candy industries... you see a new flavor of "Sprite Remix" come out every couple of months, or a new weird type of M&M all the time. The manufacurers believe the initial sales of this "interesting" new product will outway the long term sales of a quality one. The video game industry does this too. Most games are designed and marketed to only make money for the firs
      • by FriedTurkey ( 761642 ) * on Friday June 17, 2005 @03:20PM (#12845197)
        The film industry used to go against this and release quality "timeless" movies that would hold up for decades and continue to sell, but they've fallen into this trap as well.

        When was that? Perhaps it seems like Hollywood used to release quality "timeless" movies because all the bad ones have been forgotten. You can name any time period and I could list movies that really sucked. There has always been "B" movies and there always will be. Even the first full length movie The Birth of a Nation [] was exploitative and used racism to sell the product.
        • the life out of good films. Look at Eps I-III. Is there any doubt that crap like Mitocloreans, virgin births and all that Democracy nonsense are there to appease nitwits who can't watch something without meaning? With focus groups, producers can get instant feedback on a film and tone it down to least common denominator with frightening ease, speed and consistancy. Name an American film from the 90's that you'd call 'timeless'. Something you'd stand up against Star Wars or ET or Indian Jones, let alone Citi
          • Gattaca. Shawshank Redemption. Schindler's List. Pulp fiction. Pitch Black.
            • holy shit. (Score:1, Troll)

              by mcmonkey ( 96054 )
              Gattaca. Shawshank Redemption. Schindler's List. Pulp fiction. Pitch Black.

              Please tell us you meant this list as examples of bad movies, not the few exceptions. What ever merits some of those movies may have, they are all completely overwhelmed by the pile of crap that is Pitch Black.

              Pitch Black deserves nothing higher than utter disdain. It is one of the worst movies ever made. The set-up is moronic, the cliches are insulting, the dialog is awful. The muslim family is going to space Mecca.


              • I happen to like that movie. YOU ARE FORBIDDEN FROM SPACE MECCA, 1 YEAR!



                • Yeah, I thoroughly enjoyed that film Sci-fi allows for moral interesting moral dillemas. It's one of my top ten. Soundtrack was also very memorable.

                  I enjoyed the sequel, too, but it wasn't as good a story.

                  • I didn't enjoy the sequal as much either. They skipped too much time between one and two -- and I had no idea what was going on. But I still enjoyed it. The character Riddick is one of my favourites in recent years.

          • Heh, one of my favourite movie quotes of all time is on focus groups:

            "We're sucking the life out of American cinema? Darcy, we find out what regular people think and we pass on their wisdom, that's what we do. Is that crass, is that cold, I don't think so!

            We make peanut butter creamier, we make cereal crunchier, sitcoms funnier, boring movies shorter, we made Smuckers get the seeds out of their jam, we did that, if you ask me, we're heroes!"

            It just goes with the territory that every once in a while

          • Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992) are both classics, in my opinion.
      • In video games, though, there is the added pressure of hardware rapidly changing. It's not even an issue of "Oh, that game doesn't really look great by today's standards" any more - in the case of computer games, Windows computers released in the past 5 years simply can't even *run* games for an earlier platform than Windows 95 (and even most games designed for Windows 95 have trouble running on Windows XP). With the pace that is set by the games hardware industry, game developers almost have no choice but
        • I'm not even talking about that long of a timeline with games....if a game is not hugely successful in it's first 3 months at retail it is considered a failure and almost completely pulled from the shelves...there are alot of less popular games that might have taken off a few months, or maybe just a year later if it had been given the chance...
          • Good point. I also wish games stuck around longer, especially those that are released around the same time as the megahits (GTA, Halo, Half-Life 2, etc.). On the other hand, there are games that I still see taking up premium shelf space at the local Best Buy that I wish would be put aside for newer innovative games. For instance, I still see Starcraft, a game that was originally released in 1998, in the "featured games" section! Meanwhile, only a few copies of Psychonauts are to be seen, and those are stuck
        • With sufficient persistence and work, just about any old game can be made to run on WinXP. I have dozens of old DOS games and only one or two that I haven't been able to get running one way or another.

          There's almost always some combination of Compatibility Mode, patches, VDMSound, DGVoodoo, and DosBox that'll get an old and cranky program to run.
    • Because the men and women who create those early games in a series are usually not the people who create the sequels. Once they hit on something big, they often immediately move onto to a big producer role, take a better paying job at another company, or just choose to keep developing new ideas instead of refining old ones. Add-on the constraints of developing followup games within pre-established guidelines and on a strict schedule designed to work within a marketing scheme designed to take advantage of th
    • by darthwader ( 130012 ) on Friday June 17, 2005 @07:41PM (#12847734) Homepage
      It's really simple to explain: it's hard to do good work.

      I know, once it's finished, it seems easy. So helpful people say "just do another thing like that one, only completely different". But it's not easy.

      What happens is this:
      1. Game company (or movie company, or car company or any other sort of company) makes a lot of things.
      2. Most of the things they make are average, some are way below average. Consumers brand everything that is less than way above average as "sucks".
      3. One or two turn out to be really good (way above average). The consumers like those ones.
      4. The company tries to make more like the ones that turned out good (the sequels).
      5. They make a lot of sequels.
      6. Most of them suck. See (2).

      By the way, the reasons consumers say that anything which isn't well above average "sucks" is simple: once they see the absolute best, they raise the bar, and want everything to be that good. Essentially, people want everything to be well above average, which is illogical, but nobody ever said people are logical.

      As to the question about exploiting for the short term, that's not the idea. The ideas are:
      1) You've got to ship something, or you go out of business. A crappy game (movie, car, etc.) released now is better than a perfect game never released.
      2) You really don't know how popular it's going to be until you release it. People are fickle.

      But I think that the main factor is the simple one: by simple math, most things are average or below. And most consumers are only excited by games that are well above average. So most consumers are going be disappointed a lot of the time.

      • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Saturday June 18, 2005 @02:50AM (#12849672) Journal
        "Essentially, people want everything to be well above average, which is illogical, but nobody ever said people are logical."

        No, it's actually completely logical to expect an evolution. I.e., to expect people to learn from mistake, and from what worked.

        It happened every single market or industry. After cars with, say, windshields have been produced, you wouldn't want one without a windshield any more, would you? After 16, 12 and now 8ms TFTs are available, you wouldn't want an 120ms TFT from the 90's, do you? After color TVs and remotes have been invented, would you willingly buy a black-and-white one without a remote?

        Or in the game industry, once such elements as full mouse-look (pioneered by Bethesda) have been invented, would you actually buy a FPS that doesn't have it? Once unit grouping in a RTS has been invented, would you like an "old school" Dune-2-style "hardcore" RTS where it's missing?

        Is that illogical? Not at all. We expect an evolution, not regression.

        And it does appliy to games and gameplay. It's a young industry and it has yet to discover what works and what doesn't work well. But we do expect it to learn and evolve.

        They did a dud or two, ok, they thought something would work and it didn't, ok. But they already got freakin' told by all reviews what didn't work, and why. I'd expect someone to actually learn from that, not see yet anoter company (or worse: the same company) repeat the same mistakes, or even go downhill.

        But what happens instead is that it's an industry dominated by inflated egos, artistic types who get insulted by the mere mention of a scientiffic approach (e.g., to usability or to class balancing), people who don't even understand what they're doing (see the hundreds of clones where they missed every single element that made it sell well, because they don't even understand what they're cloning or actually play that genre), and basing whole designs or business models on ideas pulled out of the ass instead of any attempt to understand reality.

        E.g., here's a factor every publisher seems to pretend doesn't even exist: if you look back at what sold well within the same genre, quality seems to sell. Games which were well balanced, had a good interface, and shipped with very very few bugs, actually outsold others by a wide margin.

        See Blizzard's whole lineup of titles for an example. Diablo appeared out of nowhere, and didn't need some franchise name or other existing brand awareness to succeed big time. What was really different? Quality, that's what. It was thoroughly tested and debugged, and by "debugged" I also mean the design and balance, which are as important as (or more important than) the implementation in a game.

        Yet PC game publishers insist on a business model which pretends that games and gamers exist in a vaccuum, never talk to each other, and, eh, you can shove any crap out the door and the idiots will buy it just the same. And by "crap" I don't even mean just the implementation bugs, but also that stuff like balance is given less thought than the screenshots to flood sites with.
        • No, it's actually completely logical to expect an evolution. I.e., to expect people to learn from mistake, and from what worked.

          Not always. Implicit in the idea of evolving game styles is the idea that games must belong to specific genres. Games that buck genre but superficially look like they belong thus get beat down for not offering standard "features," when they are actually trying to be something else.

          The best example I can think of at the moment are Roguelikes, which newbies constantly, and loudl
    • Why are game makers not smarter than this by now? They create a game that people absolutely love and then instead of nurturing the franchise to make lots of money in the long run they exploit it for a few bucks short term and ultimately kill it. Big hits like Tomb Raider are the lifeblood of these companies. What are they treated so trivially? Can someone with industry knowledge please explain this to me?

      This is stupid. You know what this is. It doesn't take industry knowledge. This is greed. Instead

  • by Rowan_u ( 859287 ) on Friday June 17, 2005 @02:33PM (#12844466)
    I'll admit that i didn't own a playstation 1 till it was well past its prime and I played Tomb Raider long after finishing other classic shooters like Turrok and Goldeneye. However, let me be the first to say that I couldn't stand Tomb Raider 1. I never picked up on any of the sequels after that. The game carries a stigma with it now, due largely to the enormous assets on its cover shots. This stigma is well earned . . . life is too short to play bad games. Using sex appeal to sell games is fine, but when thats all you have left, something is wrong.
    • Tomb Raider is a PC game that was ported to the PlayStation. The PC graphics were much better. I tried to play TombRaider2 on a PlayStation, and I could just barely see what part of the pixelated mess was Lara. (The textures were VERY VERY low res.)

      When it came out, the freedom of movement, the detail of animation, and the 3d environments were all amazing technical features. Not to mention it had "realistic" and fresh intellectual property.

      It was a very good PC game when it came out.
      • No, it's a console game ported to the PC: []

        It was developed on Sega Saturn (or demoed on those, at least).
        The release was simultaneous on the three platforms.

        The first two games were the good ones. They were good PSX games,
        with amazingly large levels for its simple memory. The PC versions
        did improve it graphically, and the engine looked tons better in
        Tomb Raider 2 if you had 3D hardware.
    • if you liked Flashback, the 2D game that it was a 3D version of (and amazing if you liked Fade to Black). If you came to it from the N64 the (for the time) expansive environments and freedom wouldn't impress you. But if you took it for what it was (a sequence of cleverly timed jumping and key puzzles with a little action in between) it was great. It's like people who play Vagrant Story or Land Stalker and complain about the block puzzles. You either like it or you don't, and if you do those are great games.
    • The original Tomb Raider was a great game on the PC. If you owned a 3D accelerator in those days, this was one of the few games that took advantage of the new technology, and made the game look and run MUCH better.

      The reason you probably didn't like Tomb Raider is that the game was NEVER intended to be a first person shooter. By saying you played it "after finishing other classic shooters", you missed the whole point about why the game was considered great by so many people.

      First, it wasn't an "if it mo
  • by jvmatthe ( 116058 ) on Friday June 17, 2005 @02:52PM (#12844754) Homepage
    The biggest problem I had with Tomb Raider after the first one was the focus on gunning down every human in sight. Yes, there were disinterested monks in TR2. Other than that, it's always kill-or-be-killed with dozens of humans running into your superior firepower. Also, whenever a tomb raiding game makes a big deal about including a grenade launcher in the game, you know it's not good.

    In the first game, you had encounters against a tiny number of humans. The rest were animals who were a hazard, and understandably dangerous most of the time. That made the human battles more important.

    Not only that, it had exploration galore. The levels in the first one are still some of the best, with decent puzzles and great visuals. I'll always remember Palace Midas and The Great Pyramid and St. Francis' Folly and the Colosseum. Good stuff.

    And starting with the second game they tried to cram her into urban environments, a fit that just never worked well. The whole Opera House in TR2 was just too contrived. Keep Lara in the tombs where at least I can suspend some disbelief over how things are arranged in a crazy way.

    Finally, the problem with the last game, Angel of Darkness, was clearly just not enough time to finish it. They planned three full games, apparently had a full script for each one, and were trying to get things done as best they could. They might still have been incompetent programmers and designers, but what they had could have been decent. I enjoyed Angel of Darkness quite a bit more than TR3 and would have liked to have seen the next two games to see where the story was going.
    • TR1 is still my favorite of them all. My favorite level would probably be "Sanctuary of the Scion", simply because it had a huge sphinx and two also huge Horus and Anubis statues in that giant pool of water.

      That's what I liked most about TR1 was its sense of scale. Some of the places were just plain old intimidating. Tack on the musical cues (like the one in "Tomb of Tihocan" where you surface in front of the tomb -- that choir still gets me to this day).

      I sure hope they bring the feeling of TR1 bac

      • Re:I second that. (Score:2, Interesting)

        by dbhankins ( 688931 )

        If you mean better than the VGA graphics of the original DOS and Playstation versions, then... you already can have that.

        TR1 + VDMSound + DGVoodoo = high-res Tomb Raider on WinXP. The sound hiccups a bit, and I haven't figured out how to fix that yet, but otherwise it's great.

  • I believe if they made a good game of hers, it would sell. Look at the Vin Diesel game The Chronicles of Riddick. That product had almost no level of respect, but the game was good (so I've heard) and it sold decently well.

    Certainly having a fanbase that already respects your series helps, but a good game would sell. There are enough review sources out there that word gets around when a game is worth buying.
  • What's been the Tomb Raider formula?

    Step 1: Produce decent quality platformer (which incidently is helped greatly by people wanting a game that looks great on all those new hot-shit 3D accelerated cards they were buying), that features a unique character and finds a market.

    Step 2: Churn out the same damn game every year for the next 5 years.

    Step 3: Where's the profit?

    You know, if you've got a groundbreaking game with insane depth and/or replay value like Civ or the Sims, or are able to cultivate
    • by MagicDude ( 727944 ) on Friday June 17, 2005 @07:48PM (#12847779)
      able to cultivate a massive fanbase like Everquest or Mario

      Mario has been successful because it has evolved and maintained/expanded its fanbase, not because its fans carried "the same damn game" for the past 15 years. Super Mario Bros was revolutionary in the platform style and gameplay. Mario 2 had a different style (I think its a fine game, despite some varying opinions on the subject). Mario 3 was arguably the flagship product of the NES, and was yet another evolution with racoon tails, and non-linear level progression and all the other things that made Mario 3 awesome. Mario World was Mario 3 in Super Sayen mode. Then there was Mario RPG, Mario 64, Paper Mario, Mario Sunshine, and of course all the mario sports games. Every game has not only been a differnt version of mario, but practically every game has been as good as or better than its predecesor. Nintendo has delivered to its fans, and that's why its popular, not because the Fanboys (including me) have been blindly loyal to it.
      • Mario 2 wasn't a Mario game at all. They edited a Japanese game (forget the name) and put Mario in it. The second Mario was Mario 1 style but MUCH harder and evil mushrooms. If you get "Mario all stars" the lost levels are Mario 2.
      • Awww, you missed Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island. Despite (because of?) its almost overwhelming cuteness, I personally think it's second only to Super Mario Bros. 3.

        The pastel-coloured graphics, the music, the sound effects, the great boss battles. It's all there, and it's a damn brilliant game.

        Then again, so are all the 'main' Mario platform games. I don't particularly care for the spin-offs.
    • by Dunbal ( 464142 )
      Step 2: Churn out the same damn game every year for the next 5 years.

      Step 3: Where's the profit?

      Heck, if it works for Electronic Arts, why can't it work for Tomb Raider? Hmmm, perhaps they are paying their employees too much and not working them hard enough...I must have a word with management...
  • by fuzzybunny ( 112938 ) on Friday June 17, 2005 @05:37PM (#12846833) Homepage Journal
    Tomb Raider's one of the few games I could get my girlfriend interested in. She didn't like playing it, but rather would sit and watch and help me figure things out--I am pretty good at the fiddly action bits, while she's more of a thinker type. Your stereotypical guy-girl breakdown, I guess.

    I didn't think Angel of Darkness was so bad, aside from the random dude popping up and the weak ending. However, seeing the teasers for Legend, I'm really looking forward to a new instalment coming out, maybe one with a bit of a new take on the same old same old.
    • So did I. I've played them all and in my opinion AoD was the best of the bunch since the original Tomb Raider.

      It had some minor flaws (though it had a big reputation for bugginess, the PS2 version just wasn't that bad; I suspect the PC version was far worse) and felt incomplete, because it was intended to be followed rather shortly by a sequel that continues the story. Which would have happened had not the game and movie been disappointing (yes, I do think AoD was "rushed" out the door to meet the movie's

    • OMG Dude you actually had a real live girl sitting next to you, and you played COMPUTER GAMES??? You are a geek, lol...
  • Ditch the old? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by demi ( 17616 ) on Friday June 17, 2005 @08:12PM (#12847932) Homepage Journal

    I'm not sure the direction makes much sense. From the article:

    Stilted controls have always been a favorite flogging point for the series' detractors. The original Raider was designed as a world made of boxes, and Lara's movements have always been built around that sort of orthogonal space. Making jumps has traditionally been a matter of lining Lara up against an edge, backing her up just so, then making a running leap. Very mechanical, very precise -- but not always much fun.

    I think this has a lot to do with whether you like Tomb Raider or not. A great deal of the game has to do with precision jumping--being familiar with the standing jump arc and distance, how to catch handholds, etc. Frankly, I think if you don't like that (lining up and executing a difficult, precision jump) you probably don't like Tomb Raider. I'd hate to move from that to something like Devil May Cry where you can never tell where you're going to land and you just kind of jump any old way.

    She sprints, leaps and dives with grace; when she steps slowly off a ledge, she'll immediately twist to catch herself (meaning no more accidental plummets). Moving hand-over-hand while hanging from a narrow platform, she'll automatically move her head to focus on the nearest hand-hold, subtly nudging players to figure out where to go next.

    Well, I hardly think it's much fun to run around on catwalks and so forth if there's no chance of falling; and you've already had the option to automatically catch yourself. And when you step slowly you can't fall of the ledge, so I don't understand how this is a good thing. And Lara's gaze has always been attracted to the next place she has to get to.

    • Mechanical movements are why I don't enjoy Price of Persia:Sands of Time. There is only one sequence of moves that can get you through the levels... much like Tomb Raider (but the level design in TR isn't as rigidly linear). I did enjoy TR1 a lot in its time though.

      The 3D Mario games give the player a lot more freedom... you can choose how you wish to approach a goal. I want to play games in my own way, not the way I am forced to.
  • Ever since the first one came out, I always have the same complaint about the series. The fun is in the precision jumping and exploration. When I'm doing that, I love the series. However, the battles always dragged it down. Not only does it hinder exploration, but also it is extremely difficult to attack with the control that was made for exploring. ICO is Tomb Raider without the enemies, and that's why I love the game so much.
    • Hmm, I'll have to check this Ico out.

      Exactly my thoughts about Prince of Persia Sands of Time. The exploration and avoiding traps were fun. The fighting of wave after wave of bad guys who keep popping up after you dispatch the first three or four were extremely irritating.

      It got so bad that I installed the invincible cheat, so I could mindlessly spend half an hour hacking the bad guys down, so I could get back to the fun part of the game.

      I wrote the company, and told them they really needed to focus

  • Wait wait wait... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Grey Ninja ( 739021 ) on Saturday June 18, 2005 @01:31AM (#12849453) Homepage Journal
    Tomb Raider's name can be tarnished? Tomb Raider won the hearts of gamers? When the fuck did this happen? God, I have to start distancing myself from gamers, if that's true.

    I thought trying to tarnish Tomb Raider's name was like trying to vandalize a garbage dump.
  • May I suggest (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    A new video game with a new character, plot, and setting?

    Just a thought...
  • The article? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mrseigen ( 518390 ) on Saturday June 18, 2005 @01:31PM (#12851721) Homepage Journal
    For some reason, this article is highly negative up until the last page when (surprise) the new Tomb Raider game is unveiled.

    You can't combine a negative timeline article with a positive puff-piece article (written with no hands-on knowledge and probably a video and press release). 1UP seems to do this a lot.
    • "You can't combine a negative timeline article with a positive puff-piece article (written with no hands-on knowledge and probably a video and press release). 1UP seems to do this a lot."

      A lot of times in the journalism industry, you have to agree not to release a negative review of a product until it's actually released. Otherwise you'll be denied any further previews of that company's products.

"This is lemma 1.1. We start a new chapter so the numbers all go back to one." -- Prof. Seager, C&O 351