Dev Blog: How Lara “Sees” the World

Matthew Gaston, Lead Player Programmer

The environments of Rise of the Tomb Raider are rich in detail, from the distant mountaintop ruins to the tiny snowflakes floating through the air. As you move the camera around, you see vistas to admire, places to explore, resources to collect, animals to hunt, and enemies to avoid or defeat. But what does Lara see?

Video game characters don’t see like we do. They only see what we tell them to see – what we program them to see. The world is invisible to them, except for a few points of information that help them understand and navigate their environment. If we don’t tell Lara that there is ground beneath her feet, she will fall through the world.

In Rise of the Tomb Raider, Lara relies on a few different detection systems to “see” the world around her.

Spatial probes use math to detect the geometry of the world, to tell her where floors and walls and large object are. She uses a handful of spatial probes to make some big assumptions about the shape of the area around her. Probes tell her where to put her feet when the terrain is uneven, and where to put her hand when walking near a wall, and helps her move along a curving climbing wall.

Markup detection finds areas that our designers want Lara to use for her athletic moves like climbing. Level designers place special information to mark climbing ledges, ladders, balance beams, tree branches, etc. Lara can find these marked areas at any distance and decide whether to reach for them or ignore them. The shape of the marks help her understand the curve and tilt of each ledge, so that she can turn corners when necessary, climb onto steps of any height, or hide behind a crate when enemies are nearby.

There are many objects in the world that Lara can pick up, or open, or look at. Lara knows where these objects are, and decides which ones to look at and which ones she can use if she is close enough.

The images above show what you see when you play the game, and what Lara sees in the same location. Below you’ll find videos of Lara’s vision in action. 

I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into the “eyes” of Lara Croft!