Two apparently disgruntled former Crystal Dynamics employees have confirmed the rumoured lay-offs at the studio and dished a little inside information about the development of Tomb Raider Underworld, including how the DLC came to be.
A poster who says he is Eric Lindstrom, the creative director for the game, said that the downloadable content coming exclusively to the Xbox 360 was in fact a level removed from the original game.
"The content of DLC was absolutely not held back from Underworld for the purpose of selling later down the road."
"I needed to find a way to cut enough days from the schedule in a manner that would not rip a hole in the game that would take time to sew up."
"Even if I was told on that day that we would never ever make a downloabable level, I still would have had to cut it."
Lindstrom went on to say that he doesn't know if the deal will ever expire to allow Eidos to bring the content to the PS3 or Wii.
Another, anonymous, former Crystal Dynamics employee posting in the forums claims that the decision to cut the content was made specifically to use it later in DLC.
"Ask anyone who is part of it and if they are honest they will tell you around 40% of the DLC was meant to be in the game itself, originally. But it was decided later on to take out those parts because they were expecting most sales on the 360 and the DLC the way it looked at the time was looking to be a bit 'thin'. So we were asked to cut some parts out to be used in the DLC."
Other tidbits include the fact that Lindstrom says the team probably could have used more time to polish the game, but that he's still proud of it.
Lindstrom also went through a number of questioned asked of him in the growing thread, including talking about why some features were left out, where Croft may be headed and how previous games effected design decisions.
Early on in the thread Lindstrom says that the forum administrator can vouch for him, and while I could never find a comment doing so, the administrator was in there discussing the post with everyone else, so it seems likely this is legitimate.
Lindstrom on cut or missing features:
Replay level: "You all know (I hope) by now that the 360 works in such a way that you get something BETTER than level replay, you have Chapter Replay (via the autosaves) which gives you more options than just level replay. This was supposed to be how the PS3 and PC worked as well, and the reason they don't is just a mistake."
Replay cinematic: "This feature was always supposed to be in, but in the end it just couldn't happen, and here's why. All the cut scenes happen in-game, and the state of levels change." "We jammed everything onto the disc we could for the game itself and there was no room for movies. It was a sad day for me, but what else could we do?"
Cheats: "No cheats in Underworld because even cheats take development time, and it was clear in the final months that we needed to spend all out time on the up front game. We had some pretty cool things we could see, but couldn't afford even a half-day to put them in. I hesitate to say this because people will be jealous, but one of our animatorss put different models on Lara's rig and it was hilarious! He put the Med Sea shark on Lara's rig, so you could play the game in what looked like lara wearing a shark costume. He also made one that was tomatoes, a big one for a body and a small one each for lara's arms and legs. God, we wanted to put that on the disk, but couldn't."
"I've said Multiplayer has always come up and we do diligent work on how to do it properly for Tomb Raider, and this is true. It's just really hard, technically, creatively, and for Lara Croft. Maybe someday."
The last Lara overhaul (from Core):
"To be brutally honest, we didn't know anyone was as bonded to the original backstory as it turned out. That said, we probably would have made the changes anyway, and this is common. The Batman's backstory changes all the time, for instance."
"It was also believed that the braid would not behave properly with the new level of realism and our physics and collision, I recall. Same on Underworld, and we had established the pony tail. I don't know if people will like or hate me for this, but I specifically made sure that the doppelganger had a braid as a nod to this debate among the fans. "
The next Lara overhaul:
"As for the female friendly makeover, huh...I don't know where that came from. I feel that even though Lara has attributes that appeal to males, the games doesn't pander to a male audience. Look at all the other games out there with female heroes, and look at their bustlines and what they are (barely) wearing. My Lead Designer Harley (a woman) agrees that Tomb Raider is not a gender specific game, and research shows that it appeals to female gamers very well."
"If I understand your question correctly, no, we never intended there to be a Croft Manor hub in Underworld. I knew from early on that the game was going to start with a flash forward of Croft Manor exploding, and that made the Croft Manor hub to complicated to deal with. But the reason we started talking about Lara having three manors back in Legend was for this eventuality."
Angel of Darkness:
"As to the AoD storyline, from what I heard, even Core Design only had a few notes as to where they were going to go with it, and we of course saw none of that. Obviously I can not say what storylines will pursued in the future, but in all honesty, when i was in charge of the Tomb Raider storyline, I wasn't interested in the AoD thread, personally. I didn't care for it when I played AoD, didn't really get it, and to pursue it I would have had to make up a bunch of stuff about what it all meant and what the Cheribum's were and all that. And it was all too mystical for me. I don't believe there is true magic in TR, just stuff that Atlantean tech can do that we don't yet understand...and I didn't get enough of what the real truth behind the myths of AoD was to interest me. There, I've said too much..."
Tomb Raider versus Uncharted:
"I think Underworld was a much better tomb raider experience than Uncharted, but Uncharted succeeded very well at what they were trying to do. The games were just very different with only a slight connection in their high concept."
If you want a chance to ask Lindstrom a question it sounds like he'll be present in the forums today as well.
Ask Eric and I'm one of the 30 who got fired by Eidos, ask away [BIG thanks to Phillip for all of the forum surfing and tip-off)