Tracy Jasperson and Anthony Garttmeyer
Animators on Rise of the Tomb Raider
The bear showcases one of our pillars in the Tomb Raider franchise – “Woman vs. Wild”. We have a few aggressive animals in the game, but wanted the bear to be the most intimidating and difficult gameplay experience for the player, as it would be in the real world. The bear also depicts Lara’s growth through Rise of the Tomb Raider, acting as a gauge of your skill level. Your first encounters with the bear will be quite difficult, but as you level up Lara and invest in your skills and weapons you can start approaching each bear encounter in your own unique way. Maybe you use poison arrows to quickly take it down, or unload clips and grenades from your upgraded SMG. The choice is yours, but whatever ingredients you decide to use will gradually help turn the tables in Lara’s favor.
The team really wanted to introduce the bear in a unique and engaging way because it’s a persistent threat throughout the entire game. After throwing around a lot of ideas, we landed on a chase sequence because we felt the team could create a compelling mixture of scary and intimate moments. Intimate in the sense of personal and close, not a close friend. We wanted to put you in a visceral situation that most people would hopefully never encounter…
The creation of this particular sequence was a very collaborative process for all the team members so it was fun to work on. We started off with some awesome ideas and creative concepts and we tried to find as much reference for what we wanted each section to feel like. Then we outlined the overall guidelines and goals for the sequence and began the storyboard process on paper. Once the storyboards were complete and approved we, the animators, started to bring the sequence alive one meticulous animation at a time.
We look at each cinematic gameplay moment as a mixture of exotic systemic gameplay and highly interactive scripted moments. We constantly challeng ourselves to create the correct blend of these ingredients. The goal is to keep you on the sticks and engaged while you’re saying, “I can’t believe this is playable!” While it is a very difficult challenge that we struggle with for each of these sequences, we feel the challenge is extremely rewarding for both the development team and you, the player. We want you to feel all the intensity and emotion we felt while crafting it; if you do, we’ve succeeded. It can be difficult sometimes to strictly follow guidelines and goals while trying to build a creative and unique experience. Some of the guidelines we had to consider were the amount of space we had for this sequence, the time we wanted the player to spend in each moment, and the difficulty curve of the overall experience.
The goal of the beat is also considered an important guideline. We had to make sure that the sequence was serving its purpose. The purpose of the bear chase, first and foremost, is to introduce the bear as a very powerful, angry animal, and establish it as a worthy opponent for Lara. It is a high action, cinematic moment that is supposed to feel scary, tense, exciting, and challenging, all at the same time. We also wanted the sequence to feel as immersive as possible without too many unnecessary onscreen button prompts. To successfully hit all these goals and guidelines it was important for all of us to work closely as a team. For this bear chase, it was especially important for the designers and animators to work well together because the implementation of our ideas became quite complicated during a few stages of its development process. It can be challenging for designers and animators to collaborate because designer’s priorities are for the game to FEEL awesome while the animators want it to LOOK awesome. But when we collaborate effectively we can find a good balance of both.
Tracy Jasperson and Anthony Garttmeyer
Animators, Rise of the Tomb Raider