View Full Version : Interesting interview with Jeremy Heath-Smith

2nd Mar 2005, 10:30
Just read an interesting interview with former Core Design boss and CiRCLE Studio director Jeremy Heath-Smith on Game Informer. The full interview can be read HERE (http://www.gameinformer.com/News/Story/200502/N05.0218.1910.33308.htm) but below is some quotes from Mr Heath-Smith, specifically addressing the Tomb Raider franchise, middleware and lessons learnt.

GI: We talked to you a little earlier about Renderware, which you’re using for Without Warning. Do you think middleware is the wave of the future?

JHS: Emotionally it was a huge decision to make that change. We’ve always done our own technology. The last Tomb Raider game on the PS2, we spent three years trying to create an engine and three months trying to create a game. And even on the end of that we were still trying to get the engine right. We got close but not close enough and when you have a company that does nothing but write middleware, it’s pretty hard to argue with that. Look at EA, they couldn’t figure it out so they went out and bought it. That has to say something. As a developer we’d love to have our own technology, of course we would because that’s what engineers want to do. But once you get your hands on Renderware and you take the lid off of it and start adding your own personal things, you can make that thing fly. And we’re already working with the next-generation of Renderware and it’s awesome. So, I’m completely converted and will stand up on stage and sing their praises. But if you would have asked me that same question two years ago I would have said that you were mad.

GI: Backtracking a bit, how difficult was it to leave Core Design?

JHS: Of course, I started Core Design in 1988; she was my baby. I sold it, which I guess changes the dynamic of that a little bit and made a me lot of money out of it as a result, but I spent the best part of my life there. My brother joined us a little after I started Core Design and the team we took with us has been with us for about 8 to 10 years. So to walk out of that building was kind of weird but I have to say that once we moved into the new building it was like a sort of cloud lifted from over us. Everything was new again. It was just all the boys sitting around trying to come up with a game. That’s how it’s really changed; it’s one of these things where the entire company is behind everything that goes on. That had been missing for a long time. It was a massive heart wrench, but looking back at it now, I don’t regret it for a second.

GI: Had it almost gotten to the point where dealing with the pressures of Tomb Raider had made it not fun at all?

JHS: No, it was dreadful; the game, putting it together was dreadful. We all lived through a nightmare. The last 12 months of that game, we all worked 7 days a week for 15 hours a day minimum and it was hell. And one of the conditions that I made when we started Circle Studio was I told everyone that they would not have to go through that ever again, because I won’t. Physically I can’t take it and my marriage, actually my second marriage, can’t take it. I didn’t say that my workers won’t have to go through the odd late night, but I did say that they wouldn’t have to go to the extremes that they did at Core Design.

GI: How do you go about that philosophy? This has sort of been an issue as of late in the industry, most notably with EA and their very high profile labor disputes. Is that a manageable thing and is the industry capable of that kind of management?

JHS: Absolutely. At Core Design we ran from game to game to game. We never had five minutes to sit back and think of why any part of a particular game didn’t work. We just took one mess into another mess and so on. At Circle Studio we sat down for three months and didn’t even write any code. Instead we wrote a book, a complete Bible on how this company was going to work, how it’s managed, how it’s structured, how we handle internal reporting and now we’ve a wonderful system. We schedule daily now. So when the guys come in they schedule what they’re going to do and when they leave, they sign out and write down what they’ve done. If you had asked me two years ago if this would work, I would have called you mad and said that the guys wouldn’t do that. If you try to schedule anything over a month you’re insane.

GI: We think it’s pretty safe to say that the Tomb Raider franchise declined over the years. What lessons did you learn from that in moving to a new company? Would you ever keep a series running that long again?

JHS: Absolutely. But I’d listen to the passion of the gamers over the commerciality of what it should be. The difficulty of Tomb Raider was that when it was successful, you try to appease everyone. You try to appease the press because you don’t like to read negative reviews. You try to appease the marketing, sales, and commercial guys, too. And they all say that it needs to change, that it needs to be more edgy and you need Lara Croft to go into the city and go here and go there. So you do all of that because you think it’s the right thing to do and then you actually stand back and look at it and think what the heck happened. This isn’t Tomb Raider. That game was back with the wolves and the bears and the ancient temples. You talk to a Tomb Raider fan and ask them where we went the wrong direction and they’ll say that it was when we started to change the core gameplay dynamic. To be fair, we sold out to commerciality and we should have stuck to what we knew we were good at doing, which was making games. So the lesson to be learned is do not break the formula. Look at Final Fantasy, they haven’t changed the formula for that recently. They’ve advanced it but it’s basically the same game as the first one.

GI: Was there too much pressure to put out Tomb Raider games?

JHS: It was colossal. But you know what; I made a ton of money from it. Ideally we should have probably only done three on the PSone and we would have been in good shape for the next one.



2nd Mar 2005, 12:52
Another one here from Adrian. More talk of Tomb Raider and Core Design.



2nd Mar 2005, 13:54
I know it's not very interesting to say this but the interviews are... interesting. :)

2nd Mar 2005, 18:20
It's interesting you put it that way Jorge22. :)


2nd Mar 2005, 21:56
thanks for sharing the info, it does clear up some mythconceptions.

3rd Mar 2005, 00:20
Thanks Mick. :D

Sophia Leigh
3rd Mar 2005, 00:27
Thanks for the reads!

6th Mar 2005, 09:29
And again: no government conspiracy, no aliens, no mad scientists and no natural catastrophe. Just the usual mix of human errors and lack of time. Sometimes, even real life gets ahold of Lara's adventuring! :D .
This really is a plausible explanation - I am very glad you postet it, ML2U :) . IMO, it's a bit sad that both Heath-Smith's sound so "far away", as if they really have closed their tomb raiding parenthesis, even on an emotional level.