Crystal Dynamics has over 30 games, including interesting character-driven titles like Mad Dash Racing and Whiplash

For a time, Noah Hughes worked outside of Crystal, but it was another well-known video game developer who drew him back into the fold. “There was a little time that I went down to LA, but it was Glen Schofield who dragged me back to Crystal a few years later,” Hughes describes. “He and I worked on Mad Dash together, and I had taken over what became Whiplash when he left. But Glen went on to create Dead Space, and is now heading up Sledgehammer Games.” 

During the coming years after his return to the studio, Hughes worked with any number of talented developers, but he remembers Cory Stockton as one person who moved on into another interesting role. Stockton ended up at Blizzard, where he became one of the chief developers continually working to improve the feel of the world’s biggest MMO. Most recently, Stockton served as lead content designer for World of Warcraft: Cataclysm.

Even as the late '90s and early 2000s saw a constant flow of talented creators coming through the studio, the studio itself experienced major infrastructure changes. By 1998, Crystal Dynamics’ time as an independent developer and publisher of games was drawing to a close. The studio had been dramatically downsized over the two prior years. In 1998, Eidos Interactive purchased Crystal Dynamics, laying the groundwork for the franchise that would eventually define Crystal in the following decade. “Eidos had a focus on character-based games as well. And we had proven ourselves in the context of character heavy games, and the action/adventure genre in general,” Hughes says. “Our relationship with them was really strengthened when they gave us Tomb Raider. For them, it was a chance to breathe new life into the franchise. And for us, it was an opportunity to leverage our more mature technologies and apply them to something historically significant.” Starting in 2006, Crystal began releasing new installments of the Tomb Raider franchise, a project that resulted in a brand new trilogy that would simultaneously do honor to the original games but inject new life for the 21st century. “Tomb Raider Legend was a great opportunity to show something fresh for the franchise in the context of what people had seen before,” Hughes says. “But then Anniversary edition was super exciting as well, because it kind of allowed us to go back to the roots of the franchise and understand even better what made the franchise tick.” 

Tomb Raider: Anniversary took the events of the original game and redesigned the levels and visuals for the modern player

Those more recent years found Doug Church completing extensive design work on Tomb Raider: Legend, laying the groundwork for that new trilogy. Church was already a well known name in the development world by the time he came to Crystal, having been instrumental in the creation of games like Ultima Underworld, System Shock, and Thief. Church would depart soon after his work on Legend to join Electronic Arts.

The recent Tomb Raider trilogy also afforded Crystal the opportunity to work with Toby Gard, the man behind the creation of Lara Croft in the first place. “We’ve worked with Toby Gard on each of the Tomb Raiders we’ve done,” Hughes says. “His perspective on Lara as a character and her world has been great. And beyond that, he’s just super talented and an incredible resource for the property as a whole.”

Despite Crystal Dynamics' work on the recent Tomb Raider games, it was clear as the years passed that a more dramatic reinvention was required. It’s with that idea in mind that the studio is now moving forward with the complete recreation of the series. As the studio rolls into its latest new project, it’s clear that many talented designers and programmers have remained in-house with the studio, as evidenced by the impressive groundwork for this new Tomb Raider title. This effort will fall under a new publishing banner, as Crystal’s parent company, Eidos, was purchased by Square Enix in 2009. “Ultimately, a lot of the people have gone on to do other things, but we have a ton of talented people who are still in the studio,” Hughes says. “Going forward, they will be known for things including this game. We all think this is an opportunity to put Crystal on the map in an all-new way.”

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