One of the big announcements at this year’s E3 was Rise of the Tomb Raider (ugh, that title) so now seems like a good time to take a look back at the game that kicked off Lara Croft’s crypt robbing career.
Tomb Raider was a groundbreaking 3D action-adventure game, and one of the first titles to star an unabashedly female character, which are totally the two things people remember most about the game. Cough. Here are a few things you might not know about the game that introduced us to the first lady of video games…
1) Tomb Raider was the creation of just six people. Tomb Raider was cutting edge stuff, but back in 1996 cutting edge didn’t necessarily require a staff of hundreds/thousands. The game was created over a period of three years (1993 – 96) by developer Core Design, which, at the time, consisted of only six guys.
Apparently one of the six guys stepped out to the washroom for this shot.
2) The game initially starred a male Indiana Jones rip-off. The initial idea that eventually bloomed into Tomb Raider was Core Design’s desire to do a 3D game where you could actually see your character. That doesn’t sound like a big deal now, but it was revolutionary at the time. Back in the mid-90s, almost all “3D” games were first-person, which allowed you fake things with scaling 2D spites ala Doom. A third-person 3D game on the other hand requires a moveable camera, which means your 3D game actually has to be 3D.
Core eventually settled on the interior of Egyptian and Aztec pyramids as the setting for their 3D game, because it would allow them to break the environment up into a series of small rooms and corridors. Once the setting was in place, it was time to design a lead character, and who better to traipse around Egyptian tombs than Indiana Jones? And thus Tomb Raider, a series that made its name on its iconic female protagonist, initially starred a muscled-up, handlebar moustache-sporting version of Harrison Ford.
Lara should really get her mustache back in the next game.
3) Lara Croft began life as spicy Latina, Laura Cruz. Lara Croft’s creator Toby Gard has joked it became obvious Tomb Raider needed a female protagonist when he realized third-person games involve a lot of staring at the main character’s butt, so to keep him sane through the long hours, he should probably make that butt a lady’s butt. In reality, Core was probably worried Lucasfilm would sue over their obvious Indiana Jones rip-off, and so they needed a new character that definitely wouldn’t be confused with Harrison Ford. A change of gender was the easiest way to do that.
They didn’t land on a winning female character right away though. Early on Lara was supposed to be a bit of a sociopath, who wasn’t shy about killing, had more of a beefy frame and sported short hair and military-themed outfits. Eventually this direction was abandoned because Lara looked too “Nazi-like”. For a while proto-Lara was a flowy fabrics and cargo pants-wearing imitation of 90s Euro-rapper Neneh Cherry.