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View Full Version : Old TR games in retrsopect versus TRA. what works now and what doesn't.



Agent Guile
8th Jun 2007, 10:29
List of TR games that I've played:
1. TR1
2. TR Gold
3. TR2
4. TR2 Gold
5. TR3
6. TR3 Gold
4. TR4
5. TR Chronicles
6. TR Angel of Darkness
7. TR Legend
8. TRA (not yet finished)

It would be a bit disorganized if I just list things at random so I wanna write first a basic principle that I feel Tomb Raider fans should understand.

In solving a TR puzzle, there are two basic principles, in my opinion:
1. Rules

We can subdivide this to
a. understanding what you have
b. understanding what you can do

2. Objectives

I'm a Tomb Raider veteran and with the list of TR games that I've played, there's no question about the legitimacy of my declaration of being that type of TR gamer.

There's only one basic standard that I live with whenever I play Tomb Raider--I try to finish the game without asking for help, even it takes me an eternity to do it. I don't even read minor hints, let alone read a wakthrough. Some other TR geek can do the other things, such as doing a speed trial or something. That's his turf, and that's something that I don't really play TR for.

However, there are only two TR games (TR gold editions aside, which were generally easy), that I successfully finished without asking for help--TR1 and TR2.

Every other game that followed TR2 has lost grip of these basic principles (except maybe when Crystal Dynamics took over). The two principles were off balance since then.

Consider the 1st two TR games:
Basic rule: Find a key
Basic objective: Open a door where the key fits

Anyway, TR1 and TR2 were the only flagship TR games of CORE in my opinion. TR3 messed it up, despite not changing the rules drastically. It's still:
Basic rule: Find a key
Basic objective: Open a door where the key fits

However, CORE wanna make this game more difficult than the other TR predecessors so they created this game in a way that it will be a more elaborate labyrinth.

Naturally, the piss off factor is starting to get into me since I'm traveling more miles with this game and getting less impressed. Lara's catsuit and rocket launcher just don't cut the mustard anymore.

Tomb Raider 4 was when my tolerance level snapped and I have to eat my pride and let go of my no-help principle. I looked for minor hints when playing TR3 but this time, TR4 got me literally lost.

Consider this:
New rule in TR4: You can go back to a previous level to get to the next one.

My first reaction when I found that was, "What the *****? I have to do that?"

Well, any TR game is supposed to have a certain degree of vagueness to it and we have to objectify what we can consider a good vague and that type of vague that will piss you off otherwise this could lead again to TR being butchered by the critics.

Certainly going back to a "finished" level is not something that I was willing to entertain. I don't know which is more infuriating: the fact that I don't know that I have to do that or realization that I actually have to do that.

The rules-and-objectives imbalance went to as far as Angel of Darkness. It's so funny how I got stuck in a pole in one of the levels there for almost an hour just because I don't know that I have to press left and up at the same time so that Lara would shimmy to the left after dismounting from a pole. Not just that but I also remember taking an eternity figuring out how to kill a Spider using Kurtis, only to figure out later online that there's an aim toggle button.

It's these errors in basic principles (like insufficient documentation of move list, and I'm not talking about bonus moves like the swan dive. That's something I can let go, but not crucial moves like this) that I think caused TR to almost swan dive (pun intended) to oblivion.

For now, we can forget whether or not we'll use a manual grab or not in the next game, or whether or not we'll use the grid system back. Those are just superficial trivial things that don't really affect TR in the grand scheme of things.

This is a hard post for me since I'm not sure if Tomb Raider has a CORE (no pun intended) principle to begin with. I don't know if I'm exactly having the same wavelength as Crystal Dynamics (as well as CORE when they initially conceptualized TR) but I do believe that Tomb Raider has to be understood to the CORE, even if it doesn't have a CORE idea in the first place. I know this paragraph is getting confusing, but I hope you get the drift.
Otherwise, if we let the next TR to be just based on a poll (e.g., like whether or not we'll use a manual grab), TR could be heading for a next round of near death.

One thing that impressed me about Crystal Dynamics in making TR is that they specified the objectives in detail, since they know that the rules will expand. The logic of the game will expand and Lara's move set will expand (Lara's set of moves expanded almost exponentially since adapting the WASD movement interface). If the objectives were not specified to a considerable degree, future TR games would suffer another round of TR3 or TR4 frustration.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=Ymf7LNZQIX8

Consider this example (I posted a link so that you can visualize it further): A few hours ago, I was in the St.Francis Folly's Damocles room. When I eventually learned that I have to climb some pillars in the area where there are falling swords. There's an area there that I have to wall climb using the grappling hook. But since there's no ledge on the other side I, I know that Lara will take a fall if I made her jump to the opposite direction. I know I have to get to the pillar which isn't exactly at the opposite side of the part where she'll jump off, but I know I have to get to the other pillar.

Well, I have to watch this video to understand what to do. I just realized from this that Lara can actually jump at a right angle in relation to the direction she's swinging. I don't think CD has properly documented this move, but at least I can forgive them for making the objective clear to me.

Had Core made this game, the objective will not be clear (like making the switch to the door a lot farther than where CD put it), not to mention that they probably won't document this move as well.

The difference is, CD is forgivable, Core isn't.

Basically, this is the era where the objectives will be more defined to offset the rule expansion.

I don't know but this is just a basic principle that look TR at--PUZZLE INTEGRITY. It doesn't matter whether the rules are expansive and the objective is simple or vice versa. What matters is what's fair and likable to me as a puzzle. But then that's just my opinion. Puzzle difficulty is not its sole determinant.

gopher666
8th Jun 2007, 10:58
So...umm...could just clarify what is the point that your making?

digifan
8th Jun 2007, 13:03
I think this is what he's saying in a nutshell:

He want to see the cheat codes enable without completing the game first.

:whistle: Right?

No can do. Completing the game is fairly straight forward now since we know exactly what to expect. I'm going through this game slowly but to be honest I could probably finish it within a day. The enhanced graphics were fantastic. The controll could use a bit more work though especially the camera.

Mangar The Dark
8th Jun 2007, 15:19
I sort of agree with you, Agent Guile, particularly about some of the rule changes. Although I really liked TR4, it almost seemed unfair at times because Lara could suddenly do things that she could not do in the previous games, but we were never TOLD that she could do them. In particular, I'm referring to things like opening trapdoors (and even regular doors) with her bare hands. Over the course of the previous three games, we were basically told that doors in the TR world can ONLY be opened by pulling a lever. Suddenly, in TR4, this logic changed, but no one informed us, so I remember spending a fair bit of time stuck in a room, not knowing how to escape because I was trying to find a lever to open the door, when in fact all I needed to do was open the door with my hands.

AOD fixed this problem somewhat by including the Hand icon. I know people made a huge fuss about the hand, but really, I think it made things more fair. In TR4, there were rooms in the lost library with tons of scrolls on the floor. Most could not be picked up, but one could be. So the player basically had to play a guessing game to know which one could be taken. Not particularly fun or fair. The hand icon helps out in this sort of situation. Same with the trapdoors. Sometimes I would completely miss a trapdoor because I would think it was just the way the floor was textured... it would take a long time before I would realize it was an object I could interact with. In the first three games, such problems didn't exist because there simply weren't as many things you COULD interact with. Almost every switch looked the same, so as soon as you saw one of those familiar looking switches, you KNEW you could use it. While I'm all in favor of games having more variety, it does lead to more problems in this sense. Some people complain, saying the hand icon made the game too easy, but really it didn't make things any easier than they were in TR1 when every switch looked the same, it simply alleviated the unfairness found in TR4.

Regarding the level-backtracking in TR4-- this didn't really bother me as much as it bothered you. I saw the game in terms of "areas" rather than "levels." A lot of the levels were so small, they barely constituted a full level anyway. Remember how large the levels were in TR3? I think TR4 was trying to keep that level of largeness, but due to the extra graphics and animations, they simply had to break the areas into smaller sections. "The Hall Of Demetrius" for example, would never be a full level in any other TR game (it's basically one large room!) But because there were so many objects and animations in The Lost Library, the WAD and texture files had gotten too big, and they needed to break the Hall Of Demetrius off into its own separate level. At least, I suspect that's what happened.

Regarding objectives: CD has done a good job of making objectives more clear with Legend, I agree, but sometimes they're almost TOO clear, to the point where the player doesn't have do enough thinking. Most of Legend worked on the principle of "enter room, solve puzzle, enter next room." I preferred the style of TR1, in which you had access to a few rooms at one time, and you needed to solve some overarching puzzle in those rooms (for example, find 3 keys) before you would get access to the next set of rooms. It made the game less linear, but still focused. You KNEW you had to find three keys, but it was up to figure out where those keys were, and you could get them in any order.

Anyway, good thread topic!

rsdigi
8th Jun 2007, 15:24
I think this is what he's saying in a nutshell:

He want to see the cheat codes enable without completing the game first.

:whistle: Right?

No can do. Completing the game is fairly straight forward now since we know exactly what to expect. I'm going through this game slowly but to be honest I could probably finish it within a day. The enhanced graphics were fantastic. The controll could use a bit more work though especially the camera.
Dang, term paper here.

Agent Guile
8th Jun 2007, 16:08
Thanks for the replies guys.
Anyway, just a reminder: I also posted this thread in the TRC forums using a different username (just so that you won't get confused). Agent_Guile is my old username, basically the same username I was using when tombraiders.net was still active.

Leak
8th Jun 2007, 17:01
Might I make a minor suggestion, Agent Guile?

Get rid of that huge non-working signature - it totally screws up your post's layout (due to the total lack of word wrapping), and the image you're trying to link to is 100% 404-compliant anyway...

np: Mouse On Mars - Wipe That Sound (Radical Connector)