Plenty of game developers profess their love for Team Ico's beautiful PlayStation 2 games Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. But few of them have made games that bear the traits of those quiet, lovely adventures.
The folks behind the new Tomb Raider tried to do that. And then shifted course. That's revealed in a new making-of app that is out today on the eve of a long-awaited reboot of the adventures of Lara Croft.
The new iPad and Steam app that chronicles this is called The Final Hours of Tomb Raider and was crafted by a team led by friend-of-Kotaku and GTTV host Geoff Keighley. (The app was made with the cooperation of the game's publisher and is being bundled with special editions of the game.) In the main magazine-style article that forms the spine of The Final Hours, Keighley reveals the surprisingly difficult time the development studio Crystal Dynamics had restarting the Tomb Raider series.
As Keighley puts it, this reboot was itself rebooted. Some of the earliest ideas for Lara Croft's return were the wildest and riffed heavily on those quiet, majestic Team Ico PS2 arthouse classics.
"In early design meetings the team started thinking about other games that could inspire a new approach," Keighley writes. "The emotionally rich role-playing game Ico, the survival horror of Resident Evil, and the towering mythical creatures of Shadows [sic] of the Colossus all served as early inspiration."
In the app, Keighley shows off a bounty of sketches and video prototypes of these earlier reboot concepts (We're showing just three glimpses of that material in this article). You can see Lara, on horseback, flee a giant. You can see her leaping a chasm with a child on her back, a child that was going to be an emotionally-sympathetic helper. This two-character design was a callback to the sweet co-operative duo of Yorda and Ico in the game bearing the latter's name. Lara's child helper was later pitched as a monkey but then scrapped.
All this rebooting took several years. Keighley explains how the team at Crystal Dynamics tested a horror concept, something that leaked four years ago. Focus groups thought the horror angle was a stretch.
Tomb Raider's developers eventually settled on the game that officially comes out tomorrow. Not a Shadow of the Colossus riff. Not a horror game. But a game of a young woman surviving on an island full of bad guys, a journey from regular girl to hero.
This new game appears to be very good.
But the one that Keighley shows glimpses of...
...that would have been something else!
I've read through The Final Hours and recommend it. It's stuffed with interviews and more exclusive visuals like this. It's a superb behind-the-scenes look. You can get it on iTunes for $2.99 at this link. It's coming to Steam in the next day or too as well.