ACCESSING THE COMMENTARIES: Completing each chapter of the game (Croft Manor, Peru, Greece, Egypt, the Lost Island) unlocks the designers' commentaries for that chapter. To access the commentaries in-game, load a saved game or replay any level in a chapter you have completed and turn Commentary on in the Options menu (i.e., from the Main menu or Pause menu choose Options, then Display, then set Commentary Markers to "On"). Then as you explore the level, you'll see blue crystals here and there. Activating these crystals by pressing Interact plays the commentary tracks recorded for that area by Creative Director Jason Botta and Story/Consultant Designer Toby Gard. If you're not sure what the guys are saying, you can also turn on subtitles under Options > Language. (Many thanks to the awesome Treeble for providing these transcripts, which were first posted at TombRaiderBOARD and are reproduced here by permission.)

Tomb Raider: Anniversary - Designers' Commentary


Botta: So this is the beginning of the Egypt level, we were trying to sort of theme each of the chapters of Tomb Raider Anniversary around a certain theme. Egypt's theme quickly turned into traps. It became the focus for the level, so this first area is 'trap-less', as sort of a soft lead-in to the level, but quickly we ramp up and have all sorts of 'nasties' in the level to thwart Lara at every turn.

[ * * * ]

Toby: In the original, this was pretty much the whole Egypt area that was supposed to be themed around this one room and the goal was we're going to put a Sphinx in, and there's going to be a huge door at one side that's going to lead into the sanctuary of the Scion where you're going to pick up the Scion. And that's going to be that, but I remember being slightly disappointed by the size of the Sphinx in the original one, and that shaped the later level to come.

Botta: That's right. When we were remaking it we went and looked at the original, and [was sort of,] as Toby was saying, they tried to cram a bunch of stuff in there, [like,] you know, the obelisk, and the sphinx, and this giant door. So when we were remaking it, we sort of wanted to add some symmetry to the room and a little bit of balance to it, so it didn't seem such like an architectural hodgepodge. So we duplicated the sphinx and put another one on the other side and [sort of] aligned the room along a central axis [sort of] anchored by that big pillar in the middle. So I think it gives the room a little more believability while keeping all the thematic, and important elements in there.

[ * * * ]

Toby: This room literally, in the original, I think was just sort of four blocks or something along each wall that you had to really really imagine hard was supposed to be statues. Kneeling statues, because obviously, based on the old Karnak pharaohs, and it's really good to see that, [you know, actually] now we're able to do justice to the concept of having these sitting chaps around a room.

Botta: Yeah, we really liked the idea of the statues moving very early on so that [sort of] became the theme of how we wanted to recreate this room, was put the statues in, but then make them move about.

Toby: That's the theme of this whole Egypt level, isn't it? You guys went move crazy. It's good!

[ * * * ]

Botta: Right, so this area was another one that we did a good deal of repositioning of the elements of the room to give the room more symmetry and make it have a common theme to it. The original [sort of] had the temple of Bastet, the Egyptian cat god, sort of off on the side from where you entered the room. We really wanted to make that the focus this time, so we shifted things around and put it right when you come into the room to give you a more impressive reveal of the space. Other than that, we sort of have kept most of the theme of this area the same.

Toby: Yes, it's pretty good because I think that Egypt for the most part was [sort of] the least fictionally coherent of the levels. And the remake has actually kept the spirit of the original, actually making it a lot more 'real'.

[ * * * ]

Botta: Originally this was a pretty bland area. It was just sort of an empty room, and then you worked your way up and there was another room with a bunch of sand in it. This was one of those 'state changing' rooms where the entire room changed after you pulled some switch, in this case, the sand all fell down into the bottom room and—

Toby: Actually the cunning things was both rooms changed, right?

Botta: That's right actually, yeah, the top one isn't sand anymore.

Toby: Nope.

Botta: That's right. So this was, you would do that, and then hop out once the sand had fallen through, so we liked the idea but we wanted to spice it up a little bit. So we created this scarab puzzle here, to provide a little bit more visual interest to the room and a little bit more challenge.

[ * * * ]

Toby: In the original game the idea of this room was basically to, you come into a room and there's these six blocks and you can pull them out. It's basically either a reward or a punishment and actually they were all punishments apart from one, which was the thing you were here to grab, and I kind of thought that was just, I don't know, it seemed like a fun little thing to do; but at the end of the day once someone's died a couple of times or once someone reads anywhere which one is the right one to pull out then there's no real puzzle to it. So obviously, you guys did something different this time.

Botta: Yeah, we sort of wanted to, we kept the blocks and the side rooms off of it as a key to exiting the room, but we added a combination lock type thing to the door; it was our effort to both update the room and also to give fictionally more meaning to actually getting through the room and getting into the next area which is the big obelisk area. By making it more difficult to get into that area, it sort of gives more significance to the next part.

[Main Anniversary Page | Temple of Khamoon Walkthrough]


Toby: The obelisk is kind of part of what became a sort of theme for Egypt levels which was we have a very small obelisk out in the front and a very large obelisk, this super 'gigantor' obelisk here and the idea of moving the pieces from the giant obelisk and just whacking them into the little obelisk in order to open the Scion room.

[ * * * ]

Botta: When we were [sort of] trying to come up with a theme for Egypt we decided early on that we wanted to make Egypt themed around lots of difficult traps. So, while we wanted to keep the gameplay in a lot of the rooms very similar to how it was in Tomb Raider 1, we felt that we could spice things up long boring hallways with a good amount of traps, which both made them more interesting and also gave us na opportunity to challenge the player in between sort of the main rooms that they remember from TR1. So, I would say that we've done a fairly good job at making just regular traversal down your average hallway pretty difficult.

[ * * * ]

Botta: In Tomb Raider 1 Lara, one of the only difficult things that she could do was to make these really large jumps so this area was an area where Lara had to leap precariously back and forth between platforms sticking out along the walls of this room. Now that our current Lara in Tomb Raider Anniversary is way more nimble and attaches to ledges and hangs on a whole lot easier we had to sort of figure out a way to make a room themed around this large ascent and precarious jumping over a large drop, but still sort of keep it challenging for the player. We made a fairly more complicated room themed around these broken floors of a large chamber that had broken away and pillars were remaining that Lara had to traverse up.

[Main Anniversary Page | Obelisk of Khamoon Walkthrough]


Botta: All right Toby, why don't you tell us why there are two sphinxes? One in the beginning and a big one here.

Toby: So um, originally, when we first spec'd out the Egypt area, [there was actually] once you put the pieces into the obelisk the doors opened and it revealed a room that had the Scion in it. But I was really disappointed with the way the sphinx had looked so on one weekend I came in and built the largest sphinx I could possibly build, right, and it was so cool looking that we added it in and turned it into the actual final part of the Egypt area. And part of what, I think, what I liked about it was the way that you approached it because, it would be very, I guess, the obvious thing would be that you approach it from an angle whereby you can see it from the front, or see it from below and get a really good sense of the scale of it, but I wanted to actually come up onto it so that you didn't understand what you were standing on so that it took your mind a while as you walked around on it, to appreciate that you were actually standing on the back of the sphinx. So you go that moment would happen when essentially it's hidden from you because of it's scale.

Botta: And the fog.

Toby: Yes, the fog.

[ * * * ]

Toby: So after having modeled this gigantic sphinx, I'm trying to turn it into a real level because it hadn't actually been laid out originally, it was just sort of built as it went along. I ended up essentially just taking a bunch of my test rooms that really pushed Lara's movement to the max and basically exploited more interesting combinations of moves and whacked them in as these side rooms around the outside. So it didn't really make an enormous amount of fictional sense but they were some of the more interesting sort of movement puzzles

Botta: Yeah, and when we went to recreate them, I mean the original one, essentially, one side was just pushing a block through a wall and you had to figure out which way to push the block. And then the other room was themed around [sort of] sliding down and jumping at the right time onto this bridge.

Toby: Yeah, it was sliding direction stuff.

Botta: Which worked really well for Tomb Raider 1 but it's very easy to do in Tomb Raider Anniversary so we [sort of] completely changed the rooms and came up with a brand new puzzle involving the obelisks and the light and themed both of the rooms similarly to [sort of] try to give the area a certain theme.

Toby: That's cool.

[ * * * ]

Toby: Originally, what I was trying to do with this room was that, after having built a gigantic sphinx, I had to come in another weekend and build even larger sitting down dudes, basically Horus and Osiris, and I thought it would be really cool if, because, you know, there's supposed to be actually a chamber, or there were rumors that there's a chamber between the actual front paws of the sphinx in Egypt. And I thought it would be cool to go, that's where you'd expect your prize to be, but I wanted to do something a bit different, so I had this really tiny little hole that appears after you've finally opened up, down all the side rooms in the big sphinx room, and then you just [sort of] go 'Ahhh! I wonder what's going to be down there?' But it was such a tiny hole, not a grand entrance at all like you expected, nothing much, and then you dropped down it and you literally dropped into a room with two statues that were even more vast than where you came from. And that sort of reveal, and because it was water filled when you dropped in there, you only really saw them when you dove underwater, you essentially were flying around these massive statues, I thought it was a pretty cool way to introduce them.

[ * * * ]

Botta: So, this was one of the more interesting changes that we made to Egypt was moving the sanctuary of the Scion to the bottom of the level. In the original you came down and got this one key and then you were able to go all the way back up to the top, to the stairs, and then go into a little side room and then the Scion was way up there, but we really wanted to [sort of] recreate this area as a vault at the bottom of the entire Egypt level and part of that was us making access into the very back where you can actually get the third piece of the Scion, gated by the other two pieces of the Scion, almost like they were a key that you needed before you could gain access to it.

Toby: Which makes more sense from a story point of view.

Botta: Absolutely.

[Main Anniversary Page | Sanctuary Walkthrough | Greece Commentary | Lost Island Commentary]