Interview: Crystal Dynamics’ community manager talks Xbox exclusivity and the future of Tomb Raider

Meagan Marie talks about how Lara is still relatable 20 years later

This past weekend during New York Comic Con, I was lucky enough to play some Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20-year Celebration, as well as talk to Crystal Dynamics’ community manager Meagan Marie. You can watch our interview in the video above, or read it below. In it, we talk about the new content in the 20-year Celebration edition of the game, how Xbox exclusivity helped the game make the best Tomb Raider yet, the future of the franchise and some new details regarding the upcoming film!

Tom Caswell: Rise of the Tomb Raider launched last year for Xbox One, was on there exclusively for a year, and now you’re releasing it on PS4 with the 20th-anniversary edition. Can talk about what is different between the original release and this one; what can we expect additionally?

Interview: Rise of the Tomb Raider

Meagan Marie: Rise of the Tomb Raider 20 year celebration is really the ultimate edition of the game. We’ve included all of the content from the DLC and the Season Pass, but we wanted to make something really special for our fans because it was the 20th anniversary this year: Tomb Raider originally came out in 1996. So we added a whole bunch of new content! The set piece around it is Croft Manor, which is something that we’ve been hoping to reintroduce to this universe for a while and this seemed like the perfect time to do it. Bloodties is the DLC for Croft Manor, and you play as Lara looking for her father’s will. He uncle thinks she is unfit to be the heir to Croft Manor, and she has to prove that she is the legal owner of it.  And from a narrative standpoint she kind of walked away from the manor in the reboot because it had some bad memories for her, but as she starts to accept her role as the Tomb Raider she is starting to realize that it has some significance and some sentimental value, as well as housing some secrets relevant to her. So that is an hour long piece of story driven DLC. There’s no combat, it’s all adventure and learning about Lara’s past.

Interview: Rise of the Tomb Raider

Then we have a repayable mode in there called Lara’s Nightmare, which is this really fun zombie takeover of Croft Manor. It’s this twisted version in her nightmares, and it’s repayable so every time you respawn the three skulls you have to find respawn in a new location. The weapons also respawn in new locations. It’s about seeing how fast you can beat it, getting the highest score, and working your way to the top of the leaderboard!

The Bloodties storyline is compatible with PlayStation VR. It’s really exciting; as a studio, it’s our first time with VR. We thought that was the perfect sandbox to try it in. We’ve also added co-op to endurance mode. Endurance mode was our first big DLC drop after the initial release last year, and it’s taking survival up a notch. You have to monitor your food intake and your warmth, you have to hunt to survive, find shelter and so on. All the while you want to get your resources up and raid tombs, and now we have co-op which is really exciting. It’s procedurally generated Siberian wilderness, so it goes on forever and is different every time. It’s a really cool playground to join in with your friends.

Interview: Rise of the Tomb Raider

On top of that, we have a new extreme survivor difficulty mode which eliminates all save points unless you build a base camp. So you have to find the resources to build a base camp and then save there, otherwise, none of your progress is saved! It’s very tough. We’ve added 5 new skins, including the low poly Lara. So we’ve put a ton of new content in there!

That’s a lot of content! And the cool thing is Lara started out on the PlayStation. Classically she’s a PlayStation character, so it was a surprise when they announced [Rise of the Tomb Raider] will be exclusive to Xbox. Can you talk about making this game platform exclusive?

I can touch on it. When we set out with our partnership with Xbox, we set out to make the best version of the game we could possibly make. In doing that with that platform exclusively we were able to work really closely with the engineers and optimize everything. We really do feel like we’ve created the best Tomb Raider we’ve ever made. So it was a very fulfilling partnership; we’re very happy with the critical reception. That being said, it is really great to get the game out there for everybody. We wanted to make sure the 20-year Celebration and the PlayStation launch was something special, and working with them so closely with the PSVR has been really wonderful too.  

Has there been a long, overarching plan for this franchise since the reboot, or was it reactionary to fan response. There are a lot of games in this genre now, so how did you deal with that? Can you talk to any of the future plans for this franchise at all?

Interview: Rise of the Tomb Raider

You look back at the late 90’s and Tomb Raider was launching a comic series, they had a few successful games out and they had just announced a movie. In 2016, we are launching a comic series, we’ve had a few successful games out and we just announced a movie. So 20 years later, it’s amazing Lara is doing so well. Right now we are focused on getting through the next week and launching the game. I don’t think Lara is going anywhere, and the team has been really excited to continue the story arc and Lara’s growth as a character. There’s a difference [in Lara] between Tomb Raider and Rise of the Tomb Raider. She’s becoming more confident, more capable. It’s going to be exciting to see that continue. We just want to continue to evolve that gameplay that sets us apart in that action-adventure space, which is really that survival aspect and that openness of our hub system. That’s what sets us apart and gives us a unique flavor in action-adventure, so we’re going to keep developing that.

As the community manager, you’re heavily involved with the fan base and the first line of defense for any feedback. How is that feedback playing into the content you guys are crafting? 

Interview: Rise of the Tomb Raider

The good thing is we have a lot of fans on our team. I’m not talking recent fans: I’m talking fans that have been playing the games for the last 20 years. They tell me stories of how they’d carpool when they worked at other companies to talk about this new game Tomb Raider. So we have a lot of fans that care about the franchise. What I think is great is I take any feedback and give it to our team, and most times it aligns very closely with what we want to improve; where we want to take the character. But we take all forms of feedback into consideration. One of those being zombies! We did testing and talked to people, and zombies tested really well for our post-release content. And so we had to figure out what zombies looked like in a Tomb Raider universe. It’s really great when that feedback aligns with our creative vision and lets us know were on the right track!

Personally for you, what is your favorite aspect of Lara? What to you is enticing about the Tomb Raider?

The whole 20 years, I’ve been a fan. She was really influential in my teenage years when I was growing up and decided I wanted to work in gaming. I really love classic Lara for her strength and her courage, and I also really love reboot Lara because she has flaws and she struggles. That’s something I really identify with. She is afraid sometimes, but she has the courage to push through and do what needs to be done. Sometimes she doubts herself, but she’s still a really exceptional person. That’s something that I really enjoy about her.

Interview: Rise of the Tomb Raider

You talked briefly about the movie. We’ve got this reboot with Alicia Vikander, who seems like a great choice for Lara. How closely is the movie production working with your team?

We haven’t announced a lot about the movie except for the director and Alicia. It is going to be the reboot universe, so it will be young Lara and her origin story. It’s their movie, and they have creative control, but they have definitely been consulting with the team, sending scripts over and so on. They see us as the definitive Tomb Raider experts, and they want to get it right for fans.