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A Survivor Is Born: The New Lara Croft

Function over Form
Horton: The Big thing for me – and for us – as we were designing Lara was trying to find something that felt both iconic and timeless at the same time. So there was an exhaustive amount of research done in terms of the wardrobe and gear that was decided on, and how we chose to put them on for compositional reasons as well as functional reasons.

We had goals of a realistic proportionality and a realistic wardrobe, and we wanted them to feel more like clothing – not an outfit. There is no such thing as an outfit for us. She is on this expedition and has practical clothing – cargo pants and layered tank tops and boots – because she is in and among a group that share the same values. Lara is beautiful, but she isn’t fashion forward. She does have two little earrings on one side because we wanted to update her in some respects. But she is more about her own internal world. The end result was a look that is both contemporary and timeless. We didn’t want the look to be too trendy or too hip, but she still needed to feel youthful and relevant, with an earthy and vulnerable quality to her on top of having that inner strength.

Tribute
Horton: Lara’s tank top starts off light grey. In certain light it looks blue, but it’s grey. One of the things we wanted to do was to let it feel blue at times. We wanted to get the feeling that it is fairly neutral, but when you look at it there is that sort of nod to the past, even though it is very contemporary when compared to the past. We wanted to evoke a feeling that the essence of Lara Croft is there when you look at her. There is still a lot of respect and love for Lara Croft as a character, even though we are reinventing her.

Evolving Wardrobe
Horton: The most important thing to me is that we not have wardrobe changes, but rather wardrobe evolution. The cumulative damage and wear and tear on the clothing is where evolution comes through in the outfit. I’m very excited to see that manifest throughout the game. Lara is just surviving from beginning to end. Through her situation her outfit is going to show the accumulation of that survival story. That is going to mean discoloration and rips and tears. That will sort of progress throughout the entire adventure. There will be other gear and items that will accumulate and change her look a bit, too.

A Step too Far
Horton: At one point, since survival is such an important element, we thought about having her bones break and she would be crippled in some way. And while we realized that it would be fantastic from a fiction standpoint, it would hurt us in gameplay. We want her to get damaged, and that is a huge part of how we present the character, but we didn’t want to go so far as to say that she had splints on and things like that. It was just a step too far from the gameplay goals.

Beyond the Superficial
Horton: We spent a lot of time talking about surface qualities and millimeters and proportions. But really what you look at in the game is what Lara does in the world, and I think that is so much more important than those final surface qualities. Our lead animator has done an amazing job making her feel connected to the world, and I think that is the extra ingredient. No matter how you design a character, it is how she acts in the world that makes her believable.

Stewart: You will see that in a lot of the character performances. A lot of thought has been put into what Lara would do in a situation because she is fresh to the situation. For example, when she hears the scavenger for the first time, her natural reaction is to step back and ask “what the hell is that?” But as you progress she becomes stronger and her animations change, as does her character performance. So there are these stages that you have to go through. It isn’t just about being this beautiful girl and running from place to place.

Horton: It’s about how she plays out in this world, and her interplay with other characters. Those interactions are going to be very different from what we’ve seen in past Tomb Raider titles. She isn’t always in charge. She will have these ranges of being the low man on the totem pole in the beginning and then finding her own voice.

Lest Not Forget…
Horton: As far as sex appeal, we are always thinking about making a character that people want to play, and part of that is a level of attractiveness and being drawn to Lara. But we don’t want to play up sexuality for sexualities sake. We are constantly talking about context and motivation on this project. If for any reason we wanted to put her in a situation that would be alluring, it isn’t to be alluring. It would be because the situation called for it. 

Lara is a lover of archeology and she has these book smarts. Her brains are another huge part of her sex appeal. She is an attractive girl who doesn’t play up her looks, but she is super smart and she is very ambitious. 

Ultimately, what I think is going to be compelling about this – and what our version of sexy is – is the toughness through adverse conditions. Seeing her survive through these moments. Her skin is still bare on the arms and there are going to be rips and tears on her clothes, but it won’t be about being revealing. It’s a way of saying that through these tough situations, there is a beauty and vulnerability coming through. I think that is sexy in its own way. There is a different tone we are going for across the board, and Lara Croft as a sex object isn’t our goal. No unlockable bikinis.

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