Rise of the Tomb Raider, arriving today on PS4, has a lot of thrilling moments, and some of them are much closer to real life than you might expect. Ryan Zingler, the designer of Rise of the Tomb Raider, has been hunting for years, and over the course of our interview, he talked about how his connection to nature, and a terrifying near-miss during a hunting trip, influenced the direction of the game.
Hunting and the great outdoors aren’t common hobbies these days. What led you to them?
What led me to the great outdoors were the stories I heard as a kid. When I was young, my dad told me stories of the times he went hunting for elk with my grandpa. He told me about the weeklong expeditions on foot with not much aside from a tent and some rations to get him through the week. In the mornings he would have campfire coffee, which he claimed was much better when brewed in the wilderness. He told me about the heat of the moment when he had his cross hairs on the elk and feeling the sense of time slowing down to almost a dead stop then, with a simple click and a loud bang, watching this massive animal drop, the reward of being able to provide meat to the family and not relying on going to a market and buying farm raised meat.
We’re told you had a near miss with a boar that influenced the game. Could you walk us through that?
A few years ago I was boar hunting in the northern parts of California near Clear Lake. It was a weekend hunt and I wasn’t expecting to find much except for the peacefulness of the outdoors. I guess you can call it a vacation for the mind, or at least that’s what I thought it was going to be. While kicking up a hillside, I noticed signs of boar and thought to myself, “well, I best get ready.” I unpacked my gear from my backpack and loaded my rifle.
After a few hours, I saw a boar come out of some thick bushes about 150 yards away. I lined up my cross hairs, fired, and the boar dropped instantly. I proceeded to walk up to it and noticed its eyes were open. That very moment I told myself, “well done, Ryan.” I took a few more steps closer with my rifle laid up against a tree. In a blink of an eye I was on my back with a loud ringing noise in my ear. I didn’t know what had just happened.
I proceeded to get up and grab my revolver and noticed it was hot and smoking. “Did I shoot my revolver?” I asked myself. “No, no, I was hit and my gun must have gone off from a reaction.”
I looked forward and noticed the boar was gone, then heard a loud grunting sound. I turned around and realized the boar was behind me, looking at me while kicking up dirt. “He wasn’t dead?” I thought. I noticed the boar bleeding out, but I could see the pure rage in his eyes that was fueling it from collapsing. I lined up my revolver and fired straight at him.
I took this experience of surviving when designing the bear fights. I thought to myself, “if Lara was in a near death experience, how would she survive?”
How do you translate the feeling of being outdoors to the digital world? How do you form a connection to nature in the game?
Every time I go out on a hunting expedition, I take some time just to listen and observe. Long ago, I realized that all things are governed by some natural law or rules. All animals need water and food, so I look for those first.
One of my favorite places is a lake in the high sierras called Convict Lake. It’s very isolated and a mountain range surrounds it from all ends, with only one road cutting into the mountain. When you arrive, all you hear is the gentle breeze blowing by your ear and the sound of a stream bleeding into the lake from the tall surrounding mountain tops. Seeing all sorts of wildlife around the lake makes you truly feel like you’re a visitor going into the creatures’ land.
Is there any place you’d like to see Lara head next?
I would love Lara to traverse Alaska. It’s similar to the Russian Tundra, but there are a vast number of differences. There tend to be more gold mines, which would be cool for her to go through.
Rise of the Tomb Raider is out today on PS4 and available now on Xbox One.