"It was an epic adventure; much like one of Lara's," said Darrell Gallagher Head of Studio at Crystal Dynamics, speaking at the Game Developer Conference in San Francisco about rebooting the Tomb Raider franchise. "It involved changing major parts of how we did things at Crystal [Dynamics]."
Although the developers initially set out to create another Tomb Raider sequel, in order to bring the series back to life with a level of quality the team felt they needed they decided to "wipe the slate clean." Gallagher said he took inspiration from the successful reboots of both the Bond and Batman movie franchises, and decided to make the new Tomb Raider an origin story.
But an origin story needed a strong character, and to reinvent the character of Lara, the team looked to tales of real world survival, like the story of Aron Ralston, the hiker forced to cut off his own arm after being stranded.
"We liked the aspect of resourcefulness that we saw in these stories," said Noah Hughes, Creative Director. "By humanizing Lara, we were making her closer to you or I. We could take her on that journey and take payers on that journey."
"It was roughly a four year period from start to finish, and it wasn't always perfect."
The developers leaned on making Lara a resourceful survivor who would evolve over the course of the game into the Lara Croft we have come to know since the series debut in 1996.
"It came with challenges ... with 17 years of history," said Gallagher. "At a high level it was roughly a four year period from start to finish, and it wasn't always perfect."
With direction and story secure, the team then set off on the long quest of finishing the game and making it good. Key, according to Gallagher and Hughes, was approaching production with an eye for quality at every stage.
"One of the biggest thing we did was build our game with episodic chunks," said Gallagher. "Almost products themselves within a larger production cycle."
Building the game out of semi-complete pieces, which they called vertical slices, not only aided in ensuring quality, but also helped with promotion and marketing, allowing Crystal to spread word about their game and show relatively finished portions of the product at fairly early stages.
"When it came to doing things like demos, we didn't have to do very much, which was a good by-product," said Gallagher.
Each chunk would be polished and refined before being fitted together. This allowed Crystal Dynamics to ensure that throughout the four-year process, each aspect of the game was as good as it could be. From there, they simply stitched the pieces together.
The result: the "biggest" launch of 2013.
"We're happy with the outcome," said Gallagher. Although along the way the game slipped from an initial launch date some time in 2012 to March of 2013.
"Pro tip: Don't put your [shipping] date on the end of your first promo trailer."