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


NOTE: The commentary for the Caves level was most likely intended to be heard first, since the guys introduce themselves there. I have put the manor level first, since most players complete it before the Peru levels. –Stella

Botta: Croft Manor. This was the tutorial area in Tomb Raider 1 and we wanted to bring back Lara's home as one of the playable levels of the game and really expand upon it. We had recreated her home before for Tomb Raider Legend, and so we wanted to expand on what we'd done for that game and make it even bigger and more immersive a mansion then either Tomb Raider or that game.

Toby: Right, yeah, the original manor was much more of a tutor style place and it was totally themed around getting people used to the basic controls. One area that was kind of fun was the main hall where a bunch of crates were there originally just to sort of get you used to the idea that she can vault over any different height, sizes changes, with the press of a button and then we actually put the Ark of the Covenant in there by the front door, which, eh, luckily no one at Lucas noticed. Actually I don't know if they have the rights to the, uh.

Botta: Did they trademark the Ark of the Covenant?

Toby: I don't know if they can. But anyway, it was a bit cheeky, because obviously, but we had to do a few of those little things.

Botta: So while we've added the crates back in we've left out the Ark of the Covenant.

Toby: Yes, the trademark stuff.

Botta: Just in case it is trademarked.

Toby: Most sensible.

[ * * * ]

Botta: When we were coming up with the idea of what we wanted to do with the mansion, we decided that we wanted to go back and make a really old school adventure game-y feeling level, a little bit unlike the rest of the gameplay in Tomb Raider Anniversary. So it's all really sort of inventory based with item collection and then using those items to sort of open up new areas and whaNot, and then onto that, layering in sort of equipment based exploration, so once you get your grapple you can now explore new areas that you couldn't before, gating the player with their inventory. And really sort of trying to make an interesting side level that worked with the rest of the game but stood out on its own as a little side thing, since it is technically not part of the main game.

[ * * * ]

Botta: In TR1 there wasn't actually an area outside of the manor that you could go and explore, but there was in TR2 and people liked the outdoor stuff so we decided to add a garden to the Tomb Raider Anniversary remake of the mansion. Though in TR2 the outdoor area was an obstacle course, but now since all of that gameplay is now encompassed within our gym area we wanted to do something else outside so we decided to make a hedge maze.

Toby: And wow, I should say, I do hate mazes right. I t was the one rule that I was trying to get across in the first game when we were working with the level artists was don't make mazes, because they just confuse people and people get lost and frustrated.

Botta: Yes, that was one of our concerns when we were making this maze was not just making and endless row of hedges you sort of wandered your way through aimlessly, but to really put lots of little gardens and landmarks in there so that the players would be able to find their way a little bit easier.

[ * * * ]

Botta: The music room was originally right off of Lara's bedroom in the original Tomb Raider, but we made its own room in the remake. It's the last room that you unlock when you're playing through the mansion level in the game. But we kept all of the things in there, the piano's there, the harp is there, we did take out the workout mat though. We were questioning why you had a workout mat in her music room when we were remaking it.

Toby: Well... It was just, you know, why not? Maybe she gets Winston to play little tunes as she's doing her forward rolls or whatever.

Botta: Yeah, now we've moved that into the gym now. Seems like a more appropriate place for it. And Winston can still play some ditties.

[Main Anniversary Page | Croft Manor Walkthrough]


Botta: Welcome to the game commentary for Tomb Raider: Anniversary. I'm Jason Botta, the creative director for Tomb Raider: Anniversary.

Toby: And I'm Toby Gard, the original designer, from the first TR1.

Botta: No, you were the creative director, give yourself some credit.

Toby: I suppose, there were only six of us though, we didn't have such grand titles back in those days, but yeah, so in terms of the opening sequences of the original game, the whole thing was leading up to sort of the whole wolf extravaganza that happens, where it was kinda the 'big reveal' of Lara Croft. And obviously some of that wasn't really appropriate any more, people know who Lara was, so it enable us to actually be able to show Lara in the intro in the foyer in Calcutta and obviously we didn't have to go quite so crazy with the wolf bit with the big tails flying off of her and stuff.

Botta: And I think the essence of that whole cinematic and whaNot is the same sort of an introduction to the main characters of the game and sort of sets up what the entire game is about, so that sort of remains unchanged.

Toby: Yep.

Botta: Yeah, we sort of tried to follow a lot of the shots from the original game, sort of inspiration for us throughout the entire game but for this opening cine as well.

[ * * * ]

Toby: So I remember when we were first putting together the design for Tomb Raider, and I found that it was pretty disturbing how many games, how much there was of killing in games, basically so many people killing each other mindlessly, you know, you walk up to some chap and just because they're from a different country you can gun them down and that seems to be perfectly reasonable. So in TR1 I felt like, apart from the fact that I didn't think we could do very good humans at the time, like, other human enemies, it seemed to me like a much nicer thing to do to have the enemies be animals, sort of, you know, vicious, vicious animals like bats and rats and things.

Botta: Which is ironic because I think now most people would consider killing animals way crueler than killing people.

Toby: It is, yeah, I mean, pretty much, yeah. The worst thing about it of course is that they're all endangered species. None of this occurred to me at the time. To be honest with you, I just thought "Great, we're not killing humans hardly at all, what a great selling point!"

Botta: When we redid it, we went and we looked at the animals in TR1 and they weren't very mean looking, which made killing them even, even worse.

Toby: No, I remember my teddy bear model was very cute.

Botta: That's right, so we consciously tried to sort of go back and make the animals much more vicious this time around, so you didn't feel so bad about killing them. You can maybe only lose about an hour of sleep instead of all night.

[ * * * ]

Toby: So this was one of the rooms, the wolf bridge room, essentially, so early on in the game, in the original Tomb Raider, where it was really just, hey look, there's going to be some big baddies that you're going to fight at some point but you're able to just stand above them and shoot them to death.

Botta: Lara's so mean.

Toby: Yeah, well, or you could sort of just leave them alone I suppose. There was nothing really going on in that room in the original TR1 and I was kind of pushing for us to simply just skip this room on the remake because it wasn't particularly significant, but, um.

Botta: Yeah, I think visually, it was one of the more recognizable areas from TR1 though so we wanted to keep it but sort of changed a little bit so I think it was you, alright, that had the idea of breaking the first bridge so that you fall down into the wolf area.

Toby: Yep, so really, basically, make life difficult for the animal lovers.

Botta: You have to kill the wolves now, or they kill you.

Toby: The people who didn't kill the wolves, didn't snipe the wolves, basically get the worst deal.

Botta: That's right, plus it makes the second bridge a little bit more intense now.

Toby: Yeah, that's the big one, yeah.

[ * * * ]

Toby: So this room, in the original, it was the goal to try and create a sense of reality to the progression. We had to separate Peru into four levels but when we were designing them we made them so that they should essentially, they were supposed to fit together, we'd try to keep the big door on one end and you'd be popping out on the other side into the new level so they were very continuous—essentially four continuous massive levels but they were split into chunks. One of the improvements is that that actually happens now seamlessly so you can carry on through it and it's a little easier that way to be able to tell what some of the areas were supposed to be. This particular area was supposed to be, essentially, a fortified entrance to their city. Whereby you've got arrow areas; these sloped walls and then holes for people to be able to, I don't know what they'd do, chuck rocks at people, or thro stones, or call them names and stuff leading to the actual main entrance.

Botta: Right, it was sort of the last fortitude of the Vilcabambans against the invading Spanish.

Toby: The evil Spanish.

Botta: That's right. And originally you came in sort of up top in one of the side areas and sort of worked your way around. But we felt that we really wanted to make the players play the route of the Spanish invaders, since that's essentially what Lara is. She's sort of coming in and going into the home of the natives here, so we wanted to make her run the gauntlet, down the center.

[Main Anniversary Page | Mountain Caves Walkthrough]


Toby: So when we were first setting up what kind of levels, what kind of areas we wanted to go for, Incan areas obviously, one of the big civilizations that people are very aware of and so forth; at the time the actual Vilcabamba itself hadn't been discovered when we made TR1. It literally was a lost city of legend where the Incans disappeared to and the Spanish supposedly didn't get to it. Actually I think the current theory is that the Spanish did find it and killed everybody in there, but um, anyway. So, by the time we come to a remake, they've actually found Vilcabamba and it doesn't look anything like this for some reason. I don't know why. But um, yeah.

Botta: Yeah, when we came to remake the village area, one of the things that was interesting was, when Toby was like "We're going to remake the village!" and everybody was like "There's a village? Where?" And I think it was sort of one of the things in TR1 because of the way the built it, the fact that there was this sort of village where everyone lived was sort of unclear. So we really wanted to sort of reinterpret the idea of these being a village to clarify that to the user that oh look, it's actually a town and a civilization, there are these little huts. So we sort of kept the individual areas that were in there the same but we completely re-laid it all out and made a big wide open space in the middle where you could sort of see everything all at once and get the real sense that there was a civilization that lived in this area.

[ * * * ]

Botta: So this was sort of the exit from the town proper into the more, depths of the cave that this Incan civilization had built.

Toby: It was one of those spots in the original TR1 where I kind of, I'm a big fan of symmetric level design, because people generally, when they're building architecture tend to be fairly symmetric about their efforts. It gives you an interesting ability to sort of re-use the idea of a space but change it based on the amount of ruin that's going on inside it; so I like that repeat, and the two towered gateway into the lost valley was one of those spots.

Botta: Yeah, and we kept that essentially the same, the only thing we changed is that we actually have physics in the game now which we didn't have in TR1 so we made the opening of the door done by Lara's physical interaction with the lock pieces themselves.

[Main Anniversary Page | Vilcabamba Walkthrough]


Toby: So the waterfall area, basically entranceway, essentially, to the lost valley, was definitely one of the more memorable bits, I think, that people... it's one of the many places in TR1 where the obsession with putting things behind waterfalls was played around with. I like this idea of looking behind waterfalls—I don't know why; that's pretty bizarre isn't it? So we actually hid the main temple, where you're actually trying to get to, physically behind the waterfall, so the progression takes you out into, takes you beyond the point where you actually end up, you see what I mean, into an area of more waterfalls.

Botta: That's right, with secrets behind them too actually.

Toby: That's the way, that's exactly the way, right. Yes.

Botta: Yeah, it was really interesting when we went back and remade this area, we built it really close to the original scale of the room in Tomb Raider 1 the first time and everybody that played it thought that the waterfall was too small, and it sort of gets at the point when we're remaking something that people are remembering playing that their memory of it's different than the actual game. And so we ended up making the waterfall a lot bigger than it was originally, to live up to people's expectations of what it should be.

[ * * * ]

Botta: The Lost Valley is probably the most memorable part of Tomb Raider 1. And it's really funny, because listening to people talk about it, a lot of people remember it being in a cave and that was because you had really bad draw distance, and it just sort of went out to black fog.

Toby: Well, we pretty much only had one fog color which was black.

Botta: Black!

Toby: So we couldn't, actually, even though we wanted to have sort of an open top, we couldn't really do it. I think actually it's black at the top so it was as if it was nighttime or something I suppose, but it was supposed to be an outside area.

Botta: And now it really is!

Toby: And it looks a whole lot better!

[ * * * ]

Toby: So yeah, T-Rex in the original, that was probably the most memorable bit for a lot of people I think.

Botta: Absolutely.

Toby: It was one of the early 3D games and having that guy hove out of the darkness at you, out of the draw distance, was pretty frightening, and it was a lot of fun for me animating because it was pretty much an instant death situation, if you were underneath his mouth, he just bit down and shook you about like a little terrier or something shaking out his little toy. Little legs would fly everywhere and then he'd spit you on the ground. It was all part of the fun that kind of was the basis for always making Lara's deaths as horribly cruel and painful looking as possible in the first game.

Botta: And now he's back, and he's a good deal bigger than he was, and that sort of goes back to what we had talked about a little bit earlier which was that people's memories of things is a bit different than what it was. We made the T-Rex originally about half the size that he is now and ended up having to double him in size to sort of ramp up the feel and the intensity and make him scary and everything still. So now he's ginormous. He's a humongous T-Rex, way bigger than a real T-Rex would have actually been.

Toby: Right, but that's all right. And then obviously adding in that kind of concept that you use the environment against him instead of just shooting him because the problem with the TR1 bosses was that we didn't have time to really do anything special for the fights against the bigger monsters; it was still just essentially putting as much lead into them as physically possible. Adding in the environmental stuff to this seemed the most sensible way to "big up" that combat.

[ * * * ]

Botta: Strangely enough this is actually one of the areas that I remember most from Tomb Raider 1, was jumping back and forth across this river.

Toby: It was wanting to ramp the... because we didn't have nice save systems—pretty much if you died, you're going to be playing at least almost half a level, right, to get back to where you were, so jumping across the waterfall was just a way to be kinder with the reset, so if you fell down the hole basically it just dropped you into the waterfall like a little whitewater rafting ride and sort of spectacular and that was it. I suppose it's different now, because it's actually kind of crueler now to do that with save points being so liberally scattered around, like having to actually ride all the way down the waterfall back into the original area is more of a punishment than just dropping people onto spikes.

Botta: That's right, because we made the traversal up the waterfall so much more intricate now, it is a little bit crueler. It adds to the tension—it does. At the end of the cog puzzle, which we obviously changed, but still left a little homage to the end of the passage up above the waterfall, ends with a wall with cogs on it, which was the site of the original puzzle that we've henceforth moved into the waterfall area itself.

[Main Anniversary Page | Lost Valley Walkthrough]


Toby: In the original, earlier on in the level, we had put in a switch over a trapdoor, and you pull the switch, and the trapdoor literally drops you away into some water so you sort of go "oh, that's so cruel" but then you're in water and it's totally fine so it's just sort of to freak you out and give you a bit of a scare. So what we did this time, with this particular room, once you get to the final temple and you pull the switch, because everybody always runs over and pulls switches and it drops you straight into combat.

Botta: Into the wolf den, as it were.

Toby: Yeah.

Botta: This is one of the rooms that I liked very much and wanted to keep; we had talked for a while about possibly not including this area [when] we were trying to decide what areas to pick from Tomb Raider I, but it was one of my favorite areas because of the cruelty of it all.

Toby: The cruelty of it, yeah.

Botta: So I wanted to keep it and now it's in there. And you too can get "owned by wolves". It's good.

[Main Anniversary Page | Qualopec Walkthrough | Greece Commentary]