Lara Croft GO Fansite Q&A

Posted: Oct. 7, 2015
Lara Croft GO Fansite Roundtable Q&A
Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015
12:00 PM PST

Antoine Routon: Technical Director, Square-Enix Montreal
Thierry Doizon: Art Director, Square-Enix Montreal
Nicolas Bertrand-Verge: Community Manager, Square-Enix Montreal

Questions and Transcript by:
Alex of, Spain
Brandon of, Canada
Jacky of, Bulgaria
Loic of, France
Sergio of, Spain

Each fansite prepared questions in advance, which were then read and answered by the developers in a conference call. When fansites asked similar questions, most of them were included in case a question had a slightly different angle, which is why there is some overlap in the developer responses. There were some audio issues with the conference call, so we tried our hardest to make the transcript as accurate as we could. Prior to this opportunity, "The Making of Lara Croft GO" featurette video had just been released (on August 26th), so some of the questions that we asked were informed by that video.

(For more Lara Croft GO coverage, check out my Review and Guide as well as my Assets archive.)

Robin: This is Robin from Crystal Dynamics.

Antoine: I'm Antoine, I'm the lead developer on Lara Croft GO here in Square Enix, Montreal.

Thierry: Hi, I'm Thierry, I'm the art director of the studio.

Nicolas: And I'm Nic, community manager here at Square Enix Montreal.

Sergio: It's obvious you did the research about the classic Tomb Raider games, do you consider yourselves Tomb Raider fans?

Thierry: I don't know what you mean by "fan" - I'm not a "fan" - I like the series, especially the beginning. Basically, when I started in video games was in '95, and that's just before Tomb Raider hit the shelves, and it was a very, very big game at the time. I remember it clearly, that it was the beginning of 3D consoles, and it was just amazing - like the freedom, the gameplay was great, and I really liked the adventure. So it was like, it was amazing and after that, there were so many games that I wasn't so much into. I played the recent, the very, very recent one - the Tomb Raider one. But I did miss a lot of Lara Croft games.

Antoine: In the middle.

Thierry: Yeah.

Antoine: So there was the beginning, and the new one.

Thierry: Yeah. So, I'm not a "real" fan.

Antoine: For me, like Thierry, the first game was 19 years ago and I think it was the first 3D game that I really played for more than 5 minutes. So in that way it was very, you know, iconic into my history with video games. I feel I really like the sense of exploration, like it really felt like you were somewhere remote, maybe like some kind of lost temple, and all that stuff. I really like how with - even though it's basic 3D - you could really capture an interesting environment.

Jacky: Does the game aim to lay ground to more classic approach in future Lara Croft games? LCGO is very nostalgic, as we see the classic block pushing sequences, the boulders and darts, the Classic outfits, the general idea of having to collect a couple of puzzle pieces (in this instance the keys) in other to open the main gate, etc.

Antoine: I don't really know where it's going to go from there. I guess Lara Croft GO was made as more like a standalone at first - at least - you know. We like the series more around GO, so we did Hitman GO first and now Lara Croft GO. We never thought about, "What does it mean for the Lara Croft brand?" I guess. I think we were very inspired by the nostalgia of the old Lara Croft, and I guess in a way, The Guardian of Light and Temple of Osiris games are a little bit like this. They're really trying to capture something more and more around the nostalgia, but I think we can't really say what does it mean for the franchise as a whole.

Alex: For you, what is the most special thing, element or feature of the game?

Antoine: For me, I think what I really like about this game is how we - and that's what the GO series tried to do - is really boiling down something to its essence. You know, really trying to go for what is the minimum - not the minimum - the leanest version we can do of a Lara Croft game, and that's very interesting. And also I like the nostalgia, even though there are other Lara Croft games doing this. I like how we tapped into trying to remember how we felt playing the old Tomb Raider and trying to capture that and translate it in a modern context, in a game that feels not dated, but that feels on par with what's being done today on mobile phones. I think that was cool.

Thierry: I think nostalgia is definitely one of the biggest elements, but I would say the pace, because it's a puzzle game, and I think it's very interesting the way that - because of the GO style - that it actually works. Because on paper, it seems like a very weird mix, to have a turn-based puzzle mix with Lara Croft, and it actually works, so I think we are very proud of that.

Sergio: How many people developed the game?

Antoine: Not a lot - we're a studio with 40 people, so we're like a small studio within a big company. There is probably - the game started maybe a little more than 5 people, and at the very end we were like up to 50 people, but I'd say on average, 10 people is the average, over the course of a year. So it's a 1-year production.

Brandon: Lara Croft GO is an undeniably beautiful game with an incredibly moody atmosphere, with every scene brought to life by constant movement and small details in the environment - such as plant and animal life - and enhanced by effects such as serene shafts of light and gorgeous water. What were your inspirations for the 2D animated style of Lara Croft GO?

Thierry: Because I jumped on the project about midway into production, so a lot of things had been done when I arrived. And I was working on another game - which I would say like low polygon style - just before coming here. So I think I brought kind of some experience from that project at the time. So it was about trying to make this HD version of low polygon. We didn't want to have just low polygon like you see today in a lot of images on the net, but something a bit more made in purpose, something which is low polygon with not the purpose of looking just too blocky, but just looking beautiful with the composition. I think we just, I just wanted to add like more depth and texture to just low polygon, and in the end we just made a mix of all these ideas. But there's no - I don't think there's one specific visual reference to this project. It's a lot of things, and a lot of trial and errors to do that.

Antoine: I guess I can say from the outside perspective of all this, because Thierry and Daniel Lutz - who is the game director - they both worked on the visual together, so sometimes it feels like the game is their love child. So Daniel Lutz, who also worked on Hitman GO, he has his - I think something he really likes is very simple graphics--

Thierry: Minimalistic--

Antoine: Minimalistic, exactly.

Thierry: Classic design influence--

Antoine: Exactly, and he started the project before Thierry joined the company, and we had a very, very super minimalistic Lara Croft at first. And like Thierry said, we started on trying to do something that's not only low poly but still having the sense of a high value production - high production value, sorry - and we started to have like this very minimal Lara Croft game, and then when Thierry joined, I think from his background he was able - with concept art and stuff like this - to give a bigger, like a bigger depth, like more environments that felt bigger than the screen almost, so that's how both contributions come together into making something that felt intimate and minimalistic but at the same time you can - it's almost like looking through a keyhole and seeing more. You know there is more than just what you see.

Brandon: Were there iterations in the development of Lara Croft GO's art style? Did it ever have a more realistic direction?

Antoine: Interesting question.

Thierry: Interesting question - basically, yes. There were endless iterations in the development of Lara Croft GO. Like, right up to the end, basically, we just kept trying and adding different things. So yeah, it was constantly evolving.

Antoine: I think we really believe as a studio that if you want to reach for something, especially something if it's not necessarily been done before, it's not your classic photorealistic game, if you want to own your own style, you're going to have to try a lot of things. So there were lots of debates on whether or not we should have shadows, whether or not we should have textures - in the end there is no texture in the game - but like all these things - like the different lighting models and all these things. And only by trying stuff, like really trying, pushing for opinions that they think is the right thing to do, only that way we can manage to get a product that's interesting, I think, in the end. We're not a studio that right from the beginning said, "This is going to be exactly the game, this is the concept - or concept art - you make the concept art happen, and that's the game, that's it." Instead, we tried stuff, we iterate, we modify, we judge, we find new ideas from the ideas that didn't necessarily work, etcetera, etcetera, so that's how it was born.

Nicolas: And I'll just add that you might see the evolution of that art style when the panel - we did at PAX - comes out, because we actually showed some of the early, early concept art there.

Thierry: That's something we could maybe, in the future, to have in the blog as well.

Antoine: I guess it was real interesting because coming from Hitman GO to Lara Croft GO, and I guess I know we're focusing more on the art, but - there was really a process of - at the beginning of Lara Croft GO - because we didn't want to just repaint Hitman GO with Lara Croft. We had a big process of throwing stuff out, and I think the art style especially, there was like this weird crossover for a partial time. But then we started to be like, okay, board game aesthetic, that doesn't really make sense for Lara Croft. She cannot be a plastic pawn, she has to move, because she is athletic, so then the whole board game thing starts to fall out. And then we're like, okay, if Lara Croft moves, then the environment - then it's not a board game - then the environment moves as well, etcetera, etcetera. So it was really a process of deconstructing Hitman GO and then rebuilding things so that you really felt Lara Croft.

Brandon: With its 2D animated style, Lara Croft GO could have been created in 2D, but was built in Unity, a 3D engine. What were the advantages and challenges of that method? Were you ever tempted to break from the 2D isometric style? For example, the camera could have rotated around Lara and the environment in 90 degree movements, to follow her as she went around the sides of a cliff, for example.

Antoine: So, I mean I know it feels 2D because the camera is only moving on a plane, but everything is 3D - it's not really isometric, because there is actually perspective as you move, and so that's why we used Unity - because everything is 3D, she can move up and down and forwards and left and right - you know, she can move in all 3 directions [the 3 axes in 3D]. And Unity, we really liked it because it's not only about 2D or 3D but Unity as a whole tool change, that for a developer, allows us to try a lot of different levels very easily. We can almost play like with blocks, like LEGO blocks, and we just move them super fast, press play, try the level, and then again and again, so that allows us to create a lot of levels, and that allows us to find good levels. And then the reason why the camera doesn't go around Lara is, I think especially on mobile, you don't want to have crazy camera movements. You know, people, they have a small screen, and maybe they're in the bus or whatnot so we didn't want to give too much action there. And also, because exploration is a big part, if you show - if you go let's say free-form camera then you can go look around, then it doesn't feel like Lara is exploring as much. So that's why we did these big silhouettes - the black stuff that comes in front of the camera sometimes, like trees or rocks or whatnot - and they hide part of it, and it really feels like you're observing through the bushes, what Lara's doing, so it gives a very intimate feeling and also very exploratory, you know, it's very like, "What is over there? What's hidden over there?", you know? So, all these reasons is why we decided to have the camera movement like this.

Jacky: What is the process of laying out the maps? As in synchronize the movements of the enemies to Lara, put the certain amount of tiles to move through, even make room for a different approach to solving some of the maps, as I'm also left with the impression on some of the maps there are different ways to how you can, for example, kill the snakes and pass through.

Antoine: So, like I started to answer at the beginning - as I started to say in the previous question - we go through a lot, lot of different levels. We got two designers that - they were already part of the team on Hitman GO - and they made a lot of levels. And basically they do something with these tools that we can super easily play - like with LEGO - build a level and then they make each other try, and then they make us try. And at the beginning - 'cause they're so good at it - the puzzles are insanely challenging, super hard. But so then we, "That part I really like, but this maybe, that's a little too hard," and then they adjust, and then we get people coming in the office to do play tests, and then we see how they play it. And it's just like trying, trying, trying, trying, trying and refining. And every now and then, we throw a level that's more about story maybe, you know, this level's the hub with the giant door. Well, this is not really a puzzle, but it's important for our story, so it's telling our story through our puzzle framework. So that's how we slowly build that game. And on this idea there might be more than one solution, I think we're not - we're trying to have kind of one solution, but sometimes--

Thierry: It's not consistent, but it happens. Like there's a very, very few examples where you can actually have one or two different passages, but it's definitely not part of the gameplay.

Antoine: 'Cause the thing that was important for us, compared to Hitman GO, is that - smaller levels. We still wanted the sense of the challenge is increasing with every level, but we didn't want the complexity, just the clutter to increase with every level. So we always tried to have a few amount of mechanics, we always tried to have the level that sticks in the screen, so usually we try to have things elegant that way.

Loic: Real puzzles and booby traps are back. How did you manage the level of difficulty? Who was your target for this game?

Antoine: Okay, so I guess we kind of started to answer that a little bit. Level of difficulty and the curve is - try, a million times.

Thierry: It's always playing too difficult, even for us. The designer came up with some very, very difficult levels. We try them first, and then we break them down - what we like, what we don't like - depending on what the story, the flow, etcetera, where you are also in the story - if it's at the beginning, or the middle, or the end. So it was just like, making different levels, try them and feel it. And after that we had a few playtests as well, that redefined what we had in mind, because realized that it was even too difficult sometimes.

Antoine: And I guess we do have a loose rule of, like every 3 levels, introduce - 3 or 4 levels - we introduce a new mechanic. And we always try to do it - I think it was introduced by Nintendo - is basically, first you introduce a mechanic in a very simple context, and then you have to learn it by yourself - there is no tutorial, no hand-holding, so basically you have to figure it out, which is part of the game. Then when you understand the rules of the mechanic, we make it a little more complex, either by mixing it with other mechanics or having more of the same mechanic within one puzzle, and then we make it more challenging. And then new mechanics, etcetera, etcetera. So that's how we make sure that it never gets overly complicated, is spacing out new mechanics.

Brandon: By my count, Lara Croft GO has 77 puzzles spread through 41 levels. The puzzles in the game perfectly ramp up the difficulty and each one feels carefully crafted. Did the puzzles go through a lot of iterations? Were there puzzles that didn't make the final game?

Thierry: Yes, in fact, there's a lot of them.

Antoine: There are more puzzles that didn't make it in the game than puzzles in the game.

Thierry: But it's also - they were not final puzzles. It's not like we can take all these puzzles and make something else with it. It's just that most of the puzzles you have in the game right now are just like the best ones, the most refined ones.

Antoine: It's important to understand that when we do the gameplay of the puzzle, it's not dressed up, there's very, very simplistic visuals, no art. So that allows us to hone in on the gameplay, and then we dress it up. So that way, we can save time.

Brandon: By the end of the game, you have over a dozen different gameplay mechanics to combine. During development, did you ever run into unexpected results from combining mechanics that you hadn't anticipated while designing and testing the levels?

Antoine: This is a very interesting question. So, the way it works on Hitman GO and Lara Croft GO is, we wanted the game to be as systemic as possible, and by systemic I mean every gameplay mechanic should work with any gameplay mechanic and it's just super fine and cool. The problem is, with Hitman it was all pawns, so there was not a lot of animation and it was pretty easy to make everything work together at the beginning. But the more mechanics you throw, the more you will run into weird situations that the rule makes sense, but from the outside - especially if you're not familiar with all the rules that are actually happen behind the scenes - it feels kind of weird, like, you're like, "Oh, why did I die there? I'm not sure." And it makes sense from the rules point of view, but it's kind of weird in terms of user experience. So we started to not have - like, to exclude some situation, make sure some situations didn't happen. And then when we move on Lara Croft GO, now that we're adding animations, there was all these animations that we had to do, you know, like Lara being on top of a boulder, or - sorry, a pillar - or things being crushed, etcetera, etcetera. And if we would have had to fill up the whole matrix of all the possible combinations, and do animations for each and every one of them, that would have been too much. So we decided pretty soon that we would do only the animations for combinations that actually happened in the game. So there is a lot of situations that, you know, we had unspoken rules of how to build levels, and what to combine and what not to. And then our QA here, they really helped us to see if any of those forbidden situations are happening.

Brandon: Lara Croft GO has a jungle setting but takes the player through a fantastic variety of environments that feel very different from each other, making the levels a diverse experience, which I feel is always a huge plus for any game. Were there ideas for other environments? I would have loved a snowy environment or a volcanic environment!

Antoine: At the beginning, the idea was - like Hitman GO, which is each box of levels is each notebook, if you will, is in a different location. So we had Peru, South America, Tibet, I think that's what it was. And then pretty fast we thought, okay, the way levels are structured in Hitman GO, which is different locations one after the other, it fits with Agent 47 being a killing machine, one contract after another in different locations around the world. But we thought, that's not what Lara Croft is about. Lara Croft - that's not how we want to lay it, [or else] we won't have any type of story - a beginning, a middle, an end. She needs to find an artifact. That's what Lara Croft is about. She's not just like raiding tombs one after another. So we decided to just give one location, so we could build a story that would make sense. And then Thierry jumps onboard.

Thierry: There's also a scriptwriter that just came on board and just wrote a very, very complex story which is a first for a GO game, and we've tried to apply the elements of the story in the game, but it was just too difficult to tell a story with the elements we had, which means no dialogues, no voiceover and no text. But we've tried to reduce to the minimum the story, which was basically around this giant snake called the Queen of Venom. We simplified it to an extent in which it works for the game. And basically what we've done is just focus on one environment, which is kind of like a jungle, South American area, but we just wanted to have different backgrounds. So it starts outside and gets inside a cave, when she almost died, she goes into this kind of like more fantasy environment - which you don't know really what it is, which was a little bit inspired by the golden cities, like the very traditional way of we see the golden cities, so that's like all like, golden, and like much more warmer than the other environments. And then she comes back to the beginning. So it was a way to give more with what we had, but it's still very - I mean, we tried to make you travel a little bit inside the same story basically.

Antoine: And I guess you can see in the choice of colors, we start like green which works well with nature, like lush, vegetation and stuff like this. And then you go blue - you're getting deeper - so there's - where you are fits the narrative curve, where you are emotionally in the story. At first you were in this welcoming environment of nature, then the cave is getting deeper, you know, things are getting a little tense, then you think you're almost there, you're going to get that artifact, you're crossing that bridge, the snake - the Queen of Venom - shoots you down and then it's all black, because it's the lowest point of the story, this is - you thought you were there but then bam, you're crashed and you're all the way down, so it's like the levels go to its lowest point, that's why everything is black. And then slowly there's bits of red coming in and then you arrive in this mystical place which is almost like the center of the earth slash golden cities - like Thierry was saying - and this is where Lara's coming back, taking the advantage again, coming back, and then there's this fight, you're really in the den of this mystical creature, so that's why the environment is mystical as well. And then there's this moment you climb all the way back up and you cross all - you see a bit of every area of the game you've been through and finally you get your artifact and you're going to have to escape and you're going through kind of the same areas as you've been.

Thierry: Spoiler alert for those who haven't finished the game.

Antoine: Yeah, I hope you guys all finished the game, 'cause I just said everything that's happening in the game.

Jacky: What inspired the collectibles system? - Instead of, for example, adding more relics or making the pieces of a relic more, you added gems for us to collect.

Antoine: Okay, I guess I can answer this question. So, at first we had empty vases and vases with relics. And we thought, "Okay, that's pretty disappointing when you break a vase and there's nothing inside, that kinda sucks." So we were inspired by - I think it was a talk from Blizzard maybe? - where basically what they do is, instead of either giving you or not giving you a reward, they give you a small reward or a big reward. So that's how we thought, the gems is like a big reward, because you really need to collect all of them to get the special outfit, and the artifact is more immediate, that if you collect one artifact or one relic then you're going to have the costume, so that's as simple as that.

Thierry: Yeah, and it was kind of unexpected as well, because I think it was there at the beginning - like the idea of collecting something - but until very late in the game we didn't have time to focus on that. And then we integrated the system, and suddenly everybody was just like hooked on this, so that's when we really had to think about what it looks like, what do we do about it. But it was actually interesting the way that happened, we didn't really know if it would be working that well.

Antoine: I guess it's one of those ideas that you have in the back of your mind, from the beginning we said "Oh, that'd be cool to do it," but there were other needs, and so I guess that we say "It'd be cool to do it," and we didn't do it. But first of all there's the secret, and there's that sound from Tomb Raider 1 when you find something and it's like, [imitates sound effect], and it's such a classic sound, and the secret is such a classic mechanic that we really wanted it, and also it wasn't I guess that much work to do it. And also we spent so much time on the environment and sometimes people get very focused on solving puzzles, so having these things hidden in the environment for us, it was a way to say, "Hey, look around! Slow down!" So it was a way for us to showcase our hard work, I'd say.

Alex: What can you say about the plot of Lara Croft GO? Who is the Queen of Venom?

Antoine: I can quickly answer that and I guess Thierry started to touch on that. We had the narrative writer who came on board and started to write this complex myth of the Queen of Venom and being very precise about the location and the tribe - that actual tribe that exists - but pretty fast we decided that we didn't want to be that explicit about the myth. Rather than being like a specific tomb or a specific culture or specific civilization, we wanted it to be more like a symbol. Symbolically all adventures Lara Croft does ever, it's like symbolically - Nicolas, I saw an interview you did the other day, "It's just another day on the job", and I think that's exactly that. It's your average Lara Croft day, that's what she does, you know. And for us it was great because it was liberating. Because we didn't have to be explicit about the culture, we didn't have to be truthful to that culture, then we could take more freedom and find inspiration even if it's not necessarily true. And I guess now with the Queen of Venom, it's kind of the same. Thierry came up with that actually, or maybe the narrative designer came up with the idea of a giant snake. Very classic, mythical animal fits well with these kind of South American vibes, like Aztec kind of thing.

Thierry: Yeah, we used the myth of the snake. We started with the classic flying serpent but actually just toned it down to it basically being a super-giant snake, with no personality in the sense that she's just a snake chasing you or protecting the tomb. But at the beginning she was supposed to be a real queen, in fact, a real kingdom and it was very complex. It was coming from Ancient Greece to this Marajoara in northern Brazil, which is like a tribe on a small island, but then we thought it was just too much and too specific, and I think it works better with this, it's just a giant monster and works well with the puzzle.

Antoine: And I guess the giant-ness - the thing that's cool - there's this thing in the first Tomb Raider where there's this giant T-rex and Lara's so small, and there's this giant T-rex coming out of the cave, and this David versus Goliath moment, like Lara against hostile environment with mythical creatures, that was very inspiring for us, so that's why this giant snake. And also I like how we got rid of all the details and the specifics on the story. And then we say Queen of Venom, but it's just a giant red snake, but we call her a Queen of Venom and then your mind is going, "The Queen of - what is the Queen of Venom?" And then you can build all those theories in your mind, which I think is even more interesting than probably anything we could've come up with.

Brandon: I love Hitman GO, but what elevated Lara Croft GO for me was that it told a story, and that the progression of the story throughout Lara's journey in the game was as important and integral to the game as the puzzles were - just one example was the boss's appearance multiple times throughout every set of levels. Another example is that Lara Croft GO has a traditional five act structure, including a danger-filled denouement even after Lara acquires her goal and defeats the game's boss. Were there challenges in finding the ways to tell and structure that Tomb Raider adventure story within the framework of a puzzle game, or was it an easy and natural process?

Thierry: We answered that, I guess?

Antoine: Coming from Hitman GO, sequence of levels, we needed a story because that's what Lara Croft is about. We had a narrative designer who jumped on board. That was way more complicated at first, but really at the same time it was critical to see how we were going to structure the whole thing and then we build it down, build it down, build it down until it was this very lean skeleton on which to build the game.

Theirry: So it wasn't easy and it wasn't natural.

Antoine: It was step by step.

Alex: What is the "Atlas of the beyond"? Why Lara is looking for the artefact?

Antoine: I guess your answer is as good as mine or as Lara's. You know, imagination, the answer is on your end. We put the answer on your end.

Thierry: We just wanted to have an artifact that looks like it's something very foreign. It's yours to imagine.

Antoine: So that way the game is as good as your imagination is, so if it sucks, it's not our fault.

Jacky: Why didn't the grapple make it to the final version of the game? In the Making of Lara Croft GO video, an animation of Lara using the grapple can be seen.

Antoine: Ooh, someone's been observant. Well, that's part of trying stuff, I guess, you know. Some stuff sticks, some stuff doesn't. We had this, and then we had other mechanics that we thought were more inspiring and were better combination together I think.

Brandon: We saw a glimpse of some mechanics that didn't end up in Lara Croft GO in the "Making Of" video. Can you tell us about any of those? Did you come to a final set of mechanics early in the development process, or did any stick around throughout development?

Antoine: So, yes, it's really a process of like, you've got a bunch of ideas, you have this brainstorming, very divergent, we write a million post-its, and then you converge, you trim, trim, trim, and then again and again and again, and again, and this is through this situation that we found this final - but I'm sure if we had to do let's say another bunch of puzzles, there's lots of ideas in the back of our mind that we could still experiment with.

Thierry: It's also because it's very systemic, so - some appear to be very good idea, but maybe doesn't mix well with other mechanics, so we had to make some cuts.

Brandon: GO's animal adversaries - snakes, salamanders and spiders - are so fantastic because they're all puzzle mechanics that are part of the game's turn-based ecosystem and they each have unique behavior. Did you have ideas for other animals during development?

Antoine: So I guess it's kind of the same question as before. Interestingly enough, as far as I know, there's 3 adversaries, are the only mechanics that we kept from Hitman GO and we dressed them as Lara Croft.

Thierry: Yeah, it's basically the same mechanics, the same characters as Hitman GO, they just have a different look. And that, in itself, is just enough, but we also have to say that the verticality and adding them on walls make them so much different from Hitman GO.

Antoine: True. And it's funny how in Hitman GO we have the first guy who's like the snake - there was the blue guy that doesn't move - and then the second person you encounter is the one that goes in a straight line like the spider, and then much further - and then you get a guy turning and a bunch of other guys, and then there is this guy with the dog that's following you, like the salamander. So you can see how in Lara Croft GO, it's not introduced in the same order. The salamander comes much earlier because we thought there were more interesting combinations with the mechanics and the spiders come later. Even know they're simpler, they work well with the pressure plates because they're like time triggers kind of thing, so that's why they come later. It's the only mechanism from Hitman GO pretty much.

Thierry: But when it comes to other animals, yes, we talked about different animals, actually just to dress up these characters from Hitman GO, we went to like different iterations and ideas - like, we wanted monkeys. We also talked about like when you go into this mystical world, maybe having like more mystical creatures or an evolution of like the same one, like the snakes, salamanders and spiders, but with a different look because they were in a more fancy universe. But in the end, as always, we just kept what was working.

Antoine: Yeah, and basically we tried to kept what's working and making it real nice. 'Cause when you choose an animal, something that one might not think about is, because the camera is kind of far away, you want it to be super readable - like there is no mistake in which direction they're pointing their face, for instance, so all this means - and how much work it's gonna be on the animation. And all these contraints, because we're a small team and a small production, we have take into [consideration] constraints as well. So the decision is informed by all these factors.

Sergio: The music is incredible, can you reveal who is the composer?

Antoine: The composer is a mix of people, but the main composer is Pixel Audio, which is a small studio here in Montreal and we got two people here - Dan Lutz, the game director and James Wearing, the audio director - that gave kind of a general direction for what they were going for.

Jacky: What inspired the game's music? As we progress through the game, we hear various pieces that set the mood for the respective map, and they are really beautiful. Also, will they be up for download maybe?

Antoine: So, inspiration was I guess - the main thing was not giving your classical jungle beats or not anything expected but tried to create an interesting contrast. As for specific references, I don't really know - you can ask the guys. And whether or not they'll be available for download, that's something we are looking at, if other people seems to like them, maybe.

Thierry: It's possible.

Antoine: It's a possibility.

Alex: How did it come to be that the sound effects of Tomb Raider (1996) were put into the game?

Antoine: Well, because that was our main source of inspiration.

Thierry: It's always about this nostalgia factor as well. We really wanted to give this feeling of playing the old Tomb Raider, in its new form, and I think getting some of the classic sounds was just like normal, it was just expected.

Antoine: I guess it's the nature of something - our argue was not to make Tomb Raider from 1996 because it doesn't work these days, you know, it's aged for sure, it's been done 19 years ago so things have evolved then, a lot of stuff has been invented since then. But we wanted to capture more like how we felt at this, so some sounds they're so iconic, they're so part of our memories when we were a kid playing them. And of course, we didn't want to have the whole soundtrack where every single s-effect would be from the first Tomb Raider, but those that are really iconic, that are really gonna trigger something in people's minds, we have to go with those.

Brandon: I don't want to spoil anything, but I will say that GO's climactic boss fight is surprisingly substantial and exhilarating - not at all what you'd expect in a turn-based puzzle game - and just really, really cool conceptually - although I have to say for me personally, the segment with the pillar was a bit of a disappointment compared to the rest of it. I think you really found the right balance between the more-structured design that was necessary and the player's freedom of puzzle solving. Was the boss fight more of a challenge to get right than the other puzzles in the game? It was an ambitious idea - do you feel that you accomplished what you hoped to accomplish?

Antoine: For the boss actually, it wasn't that hard. We knew we wanted it to be part of the game. We thought it was really cool to have a boss fight in a puzzle form, you know, in turn-based puzzle form. The only thing of course with the boss fight - and that's why we kept it for the end - is we knew this would only be used in the game in the boss levels, so instead of being super systemic like the rest of the mechanics, you know it's only going to be like in 2 levels and that's it. So it's not harder, you just know you're just working for 2 levels instead of working for many levels, that's all. And I guess, you know, that's always something that excited us - the turn-based puzzle boss fight.

Thierry: I was very curious to see how it would be working, because in my mind it was like kind of weird to have like a boss fight as turn-based, but it actually worked and it was very interesting. Congrats to the designers because it wasn't that easy.

Loic: What was your bigger challenge here? Which franchise was harder to adapt, Tomb Raider or Hitman?

Antoine: They both have their specificities. With Hitman, we had to come up with the whole GO concept at the same time, but on the other hand we saved ourselves some time because we didn't have animations because that worked well with the boardgame aesthetic that fit the Hitman universe. Tomb Raider, there was the difficulty of trying to reinvent yourself but keeping what worked, but you're one year older so wiser, you know, you got one year of experience, one game under your belt. So, you know, they are both different in different ways, I'd say. That's pretty much it.

Thierry: They're actually very difficult games to make.

Antoine: Both of them?

Thierry: Yeah. As a general fact, the puzzle game who like try to be as minimal as possible in terms of telling you a story or telling you what to do, and as anything in design when it looks simple, it's actually very, very difficult to do.

Antoine: Yeah, making something simple is hard to do. Because it's always easy to add stuff. You know, someone said, "it's perfect when there is nothing you can remove," and I guess that's what we're trying to - that's how we tried to work but that's really, really, really hard. You need to work super hard.

Thierry: You always want to add more, but it's very difficult to actually do the contrary.

Sergio: I heard a lot of comments from other fans, and they all love this game thanks to the complex puzzles, any plans for a sequel? Could the game be updated in future with more achievements and free outfits?

Antoine: Well, you know, if people like it and we feel like people want more, well, I don't know, maybe, probably, I don't know. We can't really say at this point. There is no confirmed plan for that, but you know, we'll see, we'll see.

Thierry: Everything is possible.

Antoine: Exactly, exactly. How I usually answer this is, look at our track record at the studio and what we've done for other games, and...yes. I guess there is one thing though. If we do something, we will do it well - like we definitely don't want to do a half-assed second product. The demandment of the studio is to do like, you know, excellent game on mobile, so we will only bring it if we feel like we've got a compelling proposition of stuff that doesn't feel like exactly the same. We need to have something that we feel is going to be like, "Woh!"

Loic: What about some goodies? OST, Artbook, a Sketchbook replica... We would love to see some artworks!

Antoine: Well, but interestingly enough, both GO games are not games that have a lot of artwork. It was more like iteration of levels [where they were] existing, and then Thierry was doing concept on top of it, like suggesting stuff, and then they were - some were implemented in the game, some didn't make sense, and then again and again and again. So it's more like refinement of the existing levels rather than pieces of concept. But we've got a few concept art.

Thierry: We do have a few things, but they're just more like paintover instead of full-blown illustrations like I used to do in some triple-A games for example, but on this game I was the Art Director and the Concept Artist. So I really didn't have time to do any beautiful illustrations, frankly. Mainly paintovers or speed paintings, something very fast, very iterative concepts.

Antoine: I guess we spend more time trying to unearth what the art direction is going to be. We tried something, it worked, we spend more time making the game and trying things in the game than doing a concept art or a pitch or a PowerPoint that explained what the game should be. We really believe in, the game is going to reveal to yourself as you try stuff and you see what sticks and what doesn't, so it's kind of different than a lot of production at the end.

Thierry: But there is a few things, so yeah, maybe they'll be online soon.

Sergio: By the way, good idea to bring back classic outfits. How did you choose which ones to use?

Antoine: Actually, Crystal Dynamics helped us a lot on that one, especially Meagan [Marie], the Community Manager - she helped us find which costumes are the one that people really like. And there were a few that we liked, and we're like, "Oh, this one's so cool, I remember it as a kid, I just loved it." And the rest, she really helped us. She really pushed for the scuba diving, the--

Robin: Sola Wetsuit. Yeah, to add to that - from Crystal's side - Meagan and I, we both looked at it. Meagan did a big part of just going back and figuring out what were like the most nostalgic, and which ones really resonated well with the community, and then Square Enix Montreal was really great at taking in that feedback and figuring out which one would look really great in the game as well. So it was a really nice balance that we got to work together with. It was great teamwork though, you guys had some great stuff.

Thierry: It's actually cool to see how like changing outfits in a different environment - especially like the arctic doesn't fit at all in the environment, which is cool, it's fine.

Antoine: Like especially in the cave area, when she's wearing the arctic, it feels like everything gets colder all of a sudden.

Robin: Also, I remember we were looking to figure out like, which outfits would really pop in the backgrounds as we looked through different concepts, so that was a factor that we considered as well.

Antoine: Readability - it's like when we did the monsters and choose which animals to put in, we wanted something with not a lot of noise because Lara is so tiny in this game, and just something that reads super well, like you just said, and that was an important factor for us as well.

Alex: Lara Croft GO is, officially, a success. Will there be expansions, with new tombs, challenges or levels of the classic games?

Antoine: I guess we kind of answered that.

Loic: Do you think you can create a Lara Croft GO Level Editor just as the first games?

Antoine: Well, I don't know, that's the thing with level editors. Because like I said before, we got all this unspoken rules and all these things that, this situation we know don't work. If we were to release a level editor, then we need to make sure all these things work, and I'm pretty sure some things just can't. Like they would be so hard to comprehend for someone who hasn't spent one year or two years making GO games, you know. So I don't think, I don't know. As much as I would like other people to create levels, I don't know if it would make sense. And then I also think a lot of the appeal of the levels is the way you dress them up, and that's like a very, very time-consuming process. So I don't know - I love level editors, but I don't know if it's the best game for it.

Thierry: Definitely not, I think.

Brandon: The GO gameplay concept of creating turn-based puzzle games from triple-A franchises is genius, and the execution of the concept in both Hitman GO and Lara Croft GO is absolutely brilliant. Do you have your eye on any other franchises for the GO series, and is there any possibility of a Lara Croft GO 2? I'm sure many fans feel as I do - that there is a lot of potential in more GO-style tomb raiding.

Antoine: Well like I say, if we feel like if we got a compelling proposition, and something that will really blow people's minds, then maybe, but at this point there is nothing really confirmed.

Loic: Do you have any fun stories regarding the game? Any easter-eggs? We might have recognize the Square Enix Montreal logo on some of the gates...

Antoine: Oh yeah, I see what you mean, that's funny. That wasn't intended, actually. Fun stories? Well, we didn't really hide anything.

Thierry: I think we intended to do it, but like most things just take time. Good ideas - we had many thousands of good ideas I think, [but] you have to go, there's a schedule, you have so many things to try and polish, that I don't know if we have time to do some easter eggs. We definitely wanted to. For example, for the relics, there was a Hitman GO statue, like golden statue, but it's not there, right? There were some ideas, but it's just that we didn't have time to implement all of them.

Antoine: 'Cause like usually, easter eggs - they're like fun and stuff that you do on the side, and we wanted to polish the main experience so much. That didn't leave a lot of time for fun little things that overall, they don't add that much, especially when we already had the vases system, which is kind of like finding stuff in the environments, which is kind of like - not an easter egg, but it's kind of the same mechanic. So, in the end we didn't have time. At one point I remember also we had the secret areas that we thought maybe would cool, but then, you know, again - if we wanted to do it, we would have liked to do it really well, and we didn't have time for that.

Loic: 20 years after her first appearance Lara Croft still finds new adventures; do you think she's really an inexhaustible source? Does it still have rooms to create new experiences for the player without being repetitive?

Antoine: Well, I hope that's what - I mean, at least that's what we tried to prove, right? That a platform that's so different from PC or console where she was born, and we can - you know, Lara Croft can be reinvented to fit this medium, and be a compelling experience. You know, it's a character - there is 20 years of games behind - and it's such a rich universe, there is so much references. We took the first game as a reference, but other people may be inspired by other Lara Croft eras. And, you know, like the more you create, then I hope that it's going to be like - the more you create, the more you can inspire other people or other teams working, etcetera, etcetera. So, I think it's really nice. And even today we have the Tomb Raider brand and the Lara Croft brand, and even within the Lara Croft brand you got the GO game, Guardian of Light and Temple of Osiris - for me, it's so iconic that we can start to make different variations around it, and that's very interesting to see how that's going to go in the future.

Thierry: The adventure scene by itself is just so wide that I don't think there's any [end to it]. You can see it in other type of games, or movies, or entertainment franchises. There's always place for new adventure, characters and stories.

Antoine: Lara Croft - she's probably top three of the most iconic video game characters ever, and that's I guess how we started the project. Everybody wants to make a Lara Croft game. We made a Lara Croft game. This is still kind of crazy to me that if someone would have told me 20 years ago, "You're going to make a Lara Croft game one day, and people will say, you know, that's actually a pretty good game," I would have been like, "No, that's not possible, I don't believe you."

Thierry: When I started it was actually like the competitor, and we're like, "We need to beat Lara Croft."

Antoine: 20 years ago?

Thierry: Yeah, it was like, such a great game, this is the worse competitor for us. And now, we actually did it.

Antoine: We made a Lara Croft game. That's crazy. Kind of humbling.

Thierry: I have to take a plane right now, so I have to leave you. Thanks a lot, thanks for the questions.

Antoine: So Thierry's gone, but I've got 5 minutes in case you guys have one or two extra questions that you want answered.

Brandon: I'll put in a quick closing comment - I think both a lot of reviewers and fans are saying that the game is short and that the puzzles could be harder, and I don't take that as a negative - I take that as a positive. I think that's really good news because that means that people like it and they want more of it.

Antoine: Yeah, I tend to agree. If they're like, "No, that's enough, I had enough," that would be such a good time, wouldn't it.

Nicolas: I love how difficulty is something very different for everyone. For sure, we read the IGN review for example, saying, again, the game is too easy, but then you look at how broad the public is, and who's playing the game actually, and you feel like, yeah, I don't know. It's an opinion, and if people want more, I feel that's a compliment.

Antoine: And for us, because it's a story, compared to Hitman GO which is an endless succession of levels, we really wanted the game to be finishable. We always thought the completion rate should be high. And if the completion rate is high, then that means a lot of people have finished the game, and if they like it then they will want more. That was kind of like expected. We want people to finish the game and be like, "Yeah, I finished it."

Nicolas: And I think people will find it easier because they maybe have played Hitman GO before, so they're kind of used to the concept of the turn-based gameplay, which you could not have been before that.

Antoine: I guess there are more people that say it's short rather than people saying it's easy, which is different, right? Short, I take it as a compliment. Easy, that's really a matter of some people that just like, they see through the Matrix, and I guess most people from what we saw from the feedback, they find it the right amount of difficulty. So anyway, I tend to agree with what you're saying.

As the session closes, the fansites congratulate the developers on the release and thank them for their time to conduct the interview.