Developers' Diary #3  
A closer look at the levels design and the gothic style of The Angel Of Darkness.

Jeremy Smith A gothic world awaits you in The Angel Of DarknessGetting a feel for locations is an integral part of being able to build them. A team of level designers went to Paris for a couple of days to take lots of photos and hang around some galleries and museums. The whole point was to ensure Lara would fit into these environments. One of the many skills our environment builders have is to be able to see Lara doing her stuff whilst they are standing in the location.

To help them with their task, we had a guy that was in charge of all the concept art. He would take one of the designer's ideas and turn it into a sketch. This has been a huge step forward for us in the way we develop games. We did hundreds of sketches of locations and rooms that the level designers would then use to model the maps.

Much of the inspiration for this was driven via the whole story. Because we introduced a slightly darker edge to this Tomb Raider, it enabled us to use a more gothic feel to our graphics. There are hints of Tim Burton for example. This more edgy feel made the task of actually coming up with ideas for areas so much easier. Once you have the location, breaking it down into areas is the fun bit. This is when we really start to pile in the storyline through the areas that make up the key location.

The great thing about writing a video game is that you can map it out on paper before you go near a computer and this was our approach at the start of the project. Breaking down the two central locations into the playable areas is the key to how the game is formed and needs to be locked down early in development, otherwise you can suffer with huge "content creep". The reason we were able to reduce the number of levels with only a small amount of pain was because it had been well planned from the concept and therefore it was flexible enough to be able to withstand such a substantial change.

A strong story can drive the locations and we have always had a strong story. The team have always seen the direction the levels needed to go in and what was for sure with this Tomb Raider was, we did not want to just be in the whole "Tomb" thing, we knew we wanted to bring Lara out into the street for a while. I do think though that after this game has shipped, we will all end up in the Prague Asylum with Kurtis...

Tomorrow: the developers of Tomb Raider: The Angel Of Darkness talk about the gameplay of their new creation.

These bad guys are looking for Lara

- Jeremy Smith (20 Jun, 2003)