DGC Ep 128: Tomb Raider (part three)

Welcome to Dev Game Club, where we have been playing 1996's Tomb Raider. We spend more time on the levels themselves as well as diving into the AI for human enemies, the sense of space and of pace, and having no idea what to do to find a key. Dev Game Club looks at classic video games and plays through them over several episodes, providing commentary.

Sections played:
Through Egypt, in theory

Podcast breakdown:
0:41      Tomb Raider
1:00:17 Break
1:00:47 Feedback

Issues covered: plumbing, level and puzzle size, nonsensical space and St Francis's Folly, suspending disbelief, squinting and seeing the modern version of a puzzle, erosion of geometry, integrating player knowledge to game knowledge, preparing the player for challenges, knowing your mythology, knowing less mythology in Egypt, having preconceived notions due to myths, climbing down and up the tower, complications and confusions, situational awareness of levels, consistent themes across whole levels, motivating animals, scouring the space, level scale, emphasizing the sense of being underground with clip distance and fog, trusting the player to understand the space, hardware fogging lending to mystery, jumping on the hand of Midas, gruesome deaths and a protective instinct, ratcheting up tension psychologically, justifying playing a female character, the patriarchy, more realistic deaths being more problematic, cartoon plumbers, not relating to characters, hinting at what you're supposed to do, missing areas and not being directed well, industry learning how to naturally direct a player, cutscenes to show what happens, composition replacing cutaways and tracking cameras, order of operations puzzles, coming out at a place you've seen before, tantalizing glimpses of where you might get next, non-linearity vs linearity in levels, lower friction in level/dungeon design, Tim reveals a favorite level of all time, mind-blowing ability to change the level of the water, getting stuck on the shimmy, missing a key and being terrified, matching player motivations to puzzle logic, a realistic functioning space, a thrown switch only needs to be thrown once, making it clear why you should raise and lower a switch, spending a long time in a level, imagining leaving the Cistern for a week, avoiding usability problems by making solutions irreversible, disconnected levels, bursting centaurs, avoiding an unnecessary fight, bringing in the supernatural and Atlantis elements, descending deeper and deeper underground through multiple levels, taking an enemy down with two shots, humans vs animals as enemies, the guy who gets away, "white paint" and usability and directing the player, watering down the sense of exploration, difficulty settings in the new TR, putting more on level design to direct the player, maps making a game into "a map game," composition/visual design/environment art, camera and animation to direct the player, telegraphing where you can go, keeping titles current or revisiting them.

Games, people, and influences mentioned or discussed: Indiana Jones, Jenga, God of War, Quake, Crystal Dynamics, Mario (series), Uncharted (series), Skyrim, Fallouts 3 & 4, Oblivion, TR Anniversary, Dark Souls, La Bamba, Tomb of Horrors, fulltilted, Deus Ex, Michael, Fable, Andrew Kirmse, Naughty Dog, LonelyBob K, Daron Stinnett, TIE Fighter, XvT, Dark Forces, Tim Dooley.

TR in the browser:

Next time:
Finishing the game! (Always, always, in theory)

Program note! We will be taking a little time off so Tim can go explore the real world.

@brett_douville, @timlongojr, and @devgameclub