Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
29 July 2006
Tomb Raider Controversy
The news about Tomb Raider: 10th Anniversary Edition has been puzzling, to say the least. The latest rumor is that Core and Crystal Dynamics were both making such a game and Core's got 86ed. I've tried to collect all the information I could about the situation and summarize it here, with links. Some tiny speculative observations are made at the end. (Update: A refinement of the conclusions of this article is has been posted.)

The failure of Core-developed Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness in 2003 prompted publisher Eidos to hand control of the franchise to Crystal Dynamics, creators of the Legacy of Kain series of games. Core's role as part of Eidos was to be reevaluated, which some took to mean Core would be sold off. (The sale of Core Design would eventually take place, though not immediately.)

Two years later, in April 2005, Eidos officially announced Tomb Raider: Legend was in development by Crystal Dynamics on several platforms. (Aside: Curmudgeon Gamer review here.) Crystal Dynamics had reportedly replayed and studied all previous Tomb Raider games before beginning work. Eidos also revealed that Toby Gard, one of the original Tomb Raider creators, had been hired as a consultant to guide development.

During this same period, the publisher SCi had just made a bid to buy Eidos. That bid would prove successful, and the stock deal was concluded on 19 May 2005. It might be worth noting that Toby Gard's previous game, Galleon, had been published by SCi.

In June 2005, Bill Gardner was made head of publishing for SCi/Eidos in North America, based in San Fancisco. (Contemporaneous interview with Gardner.) Work presumably continues on Tomb Raider: Legend at Crystal Dynamics, also located in San Francisco. For reference, Core Design is in Derby, UK.

Tomb Raider: 10th Anniversary Edition was mentioned for the first time in an SCi financial report at the end of September 2005. Other than the intended platform, the PSP (PlayStation Portable), no details were given. SCi's intentions were reconfirmed in a January 2006 Annual Report (PDF) which again listed Tomb Raider: 10th Anniversary Edition for the PSP. A late January 2006 press release said simply that they, presumably a developer under SCi, were "developing a special edition of Tomb Raider to celebrate the Tenth Anniversary of Lara Croft".

In early April 2006, a year after its initial announcement, Tomb Raider: Legend was released for Xbox, PlayStation 2, Xbox 360, and Windows. (A PSP version was later released on 21 June 2006.) At E3 in May 2006, a port of Tomb Raider: Legend was announced for the Nintendo GameCube, due for release in late 2006. No announcements were made concerning Tomb Raider: 10th Anniversary Edition.

An email from an unnamed source appeared on Kotaku on 31 May 2006, reporting the following:
Turns out Eidos/SCi are planning on celebrating Lara's 10th birthday by releasing a remake of her original adventure. We are talking improved graphics, new moves, the lot. If there is time, the "new" game will feature a remake of both Tomb Raider and Tomb Raider II: The Dagger of Xian, but right now the developers are focusing on Lara Croft's first adventure.
Note that the developer is never mentioned, only Eidos and SCi. We do not know at this point whether Core or Crystal Dynamics is leading the project.

About a week later, an unfinished trailer for Tomb Raider: Anniversary Edition (note the missing "10th") appeared online, clearly branded by Core. The PSP game shown in the trailer is clearly the original Tomb Raider, albeit with "improved graphics" and "new moves" as suggested by the email Kotaku had published. This led to speculation that Core, not Crystal Dynamics, had been given the job of bringing this game to market.

But there was a twist: whoever released the video also indicated that the game shown had been cancelled by SCi and Eidos.

The very next day, 8 June 2006, a news item appeared on Core's official site saying that, contrary to reports, they had not been closed and were in fact on the verge of making a very exciting announcement. Earlier rumors had indicated that Core's assets had in fact been sold by Eidos/SCi to Rebellion Entertainment.

In the meantime, someone was pressuring sites like Google Video and YouTube to remove the leaked trailer. A later report on 12 June 2006 at Kotaku indicated that the trailer had evoked "ire" from Eidos.

The nature of the leaked trailer was in part revealed on 15 June 2006 when Core updated its news page with this information:
The video of Tomb Raider: 10th Anniversary Edition that appeared on certain sites was an unauthorised release of an internal presentation of a game that was being developed by Core Design until very recently. It was running on PSP and used a Core-developed engine. However, following a recent review this project has been officially cancelled by SCi.
Core was saying a couple of things indirectly: that the game was not based on the Tomb Raider: Legend engine developed by Crystal Dynamics ("Core-developed engine") and that their project had been cancelled. In retrospect, it appears that they were most certainly not saying that Tomb Raider: 10th Anniversary Edition had been cancelled, only their project. In fact, the post at Tomb Raider Chronicles on Core's news said that "sources have suggested Crystal Dynamics will continue to press ahead with a Tomb Raider/Tomb Raider II remake with original Lara Croft architect Toby Gard leading the project".

This seemed to be confirmed the very next day, 16 June 2006, with a brief Eidos press release:
Eidos Confirms 10th Anniversary Edition of Tomb Raider

June 16, 2006 - Eidos Interactive, one of the world's leading publishers and developers of entertainment software, confirms today that they are developing a special '10th Anniversary Edition' of Tomb Raider.

The new game is being developed by Crystal Dynamics, who recently launched Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend on Xbox 360, PS2, Xbox, PC and PSP, with versions on Nintendo DS, GBA and GameCube later in 2006.

"Our '10th Anniversary Edition' of Tomb Raider, is a one-off title to celebrate both Lara and Tomb Raider, it will appeal not only to the loyal fans of the Tomb Raider series but will also attract a totally new audience." Said Larry Sparks, Head of Brands Management at Eidos.

Tomb Raider originally launched in 1996 and is still one of the best selling videogame franchises of all time, with over 30 million copies sold.

The special '10th Anniversary Edition' of Tomb Raider will be available on PlayStation 2, PSP and PC.

Unfortunately, the press release could have been more clear about what precisely is being made. Is it indeed a remake of the original? So different that they call it a "new game"?

Clearly, this new title will be developed not by Core but by Crystal Dynamics. Since Core claimed the leaked trailer showed their work, what we've seen cannot represent what Crystal Dynamics is developing.

And the latest twist is another anonymous source, published at Kotaku on 18 June 2006:
The video was done by Core for E3. It was shown at E3 and got people excited. The game was about 50% complete. The video was straight from a PSP engine built by Core - not a PC render or anything. The game could have been completed for Christmas.

Eidos then told Core they didn't want the project, and to cease work on it immediately.


This week it was revealed that Eidos have sold off Core Designs [to Rebellion] and that Crystal Dynamics have been working on a game of the same name for the past 6 months using their own Tomb Raider: Legend engine. It is believed this announcement was forced out due to the large amount of negative press and forum posts about Eidos after fans discovered they had cancelled the Core Designs project. Eidos is still using the Core video to publicize that Crystal Dynamics are working on a similar game. Core did not know about the Crystal Dynamics project until this week, the same as everyone else.

Compare the Core Tomb Raider 10th Anniversary Edition video to the Tomb Raider: Legend PSP videos and decide which one looks better, runs smoother, and stays truer to the original Tomb Raider franchise.

So what really happened?

For what it's worth, here's my speculation (see points below for some details):
For reasons unknown, Core and Crystal Dynamics were working independently on the same 10th anniversary game. Perhaps Core had been given a green light to try and after the SCi/Eidos merger, no one remembered that detail. Meanwhile, Crystal Dynamics successfully launched Tomb Raider: Legend and was considered by the management, especially in North America, to be the obvious team for the new game.

For maximum effect, SCi/Eidos conspicuously didn't announce anything at E3, and then started some well-chosen leaks afterward. Crystal Dynamics were the first anonymous tip to Kotaku.

Core felt spurned. They knew they were being sold to Rebellion and that Crystal Dynamics had to be working on the same game, because the Kotaku leak mentioned Tomb Raider II, which isn't in their version. (Everything I've seen in the Core-produced trailer is material remade from just the original Tomb Raider -- nothing is shown of Tomb Raider II.) So someone at Core decided to stick it to SCi/Eidos and Crystal Dynamics by giving the public its first taste of a remake -- Core's remake -- along with the ominous and misleading "cancelled" project information.

SCi/Eidos tried to control the damage quietly, but were forced to put out their press release and pressed Core to disavow the trailer release. The last anonymous tip to Kotaku is the most interesting. While it still takes the line that Tomb Raider and Tomb Raider II are being put into the remake, the tone at the end seems to indicate to me that the Core trailer looked very good compared to whatever Crystal Dynamics has put together

If Crystal Dynamics has come up with something that isn't as impressive to fans as the leaked trailer from Core, it will be interesting indeed to see how well it is received. My gut feeling right now is that fans will be disappointed at the comparison.
A few smaller points:
  • Core had started preparations for the remake under the previous Eidos management, before the sale to SCi. Perhaps a promise was made to someone at Core that they could have a shot at the remake.

  • The geographic proximity of Gardner, head of publishing, to Crystal Dynamics is suggestive. In his capacity, he probably had a reasonable amount of contact with Crystal Dynamics as they finished up Tomb Raider: Legend. Its subsequent success compared to, say, the utter failure of Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness (by Core Design) would probably give him more confidence in Crystal Dynamics' ability to deliver.

  • One point that truly makes no sense to me is the apparent inexperience with the PSP at Crystal Dynamics. To my knowledge they have not yet developed a PSP game in-house, including Tomb Raider: Legend. The PSP port of Tomb Raider: Legend was done not by Crystal Dynamics but by Buzz Monkey Software, although as with all ports I would expect that there was ample communication between the two teams.

  • It would seem that the PSP game shown in the Core Design trailer was built for the PSP, not a port. One would hope that SCi/Eidos had very good reasons for dismissing the Core Design version, despite this apparent advantage of being PSP-native from the beginning.
If you have information to add, or additional observations to make, please feel free to comment.
--Matt Matthews at 00:05
Comment [ 8 ]

Comments on this post:

Wow, such intrigue. Lara's next mission may very well to find the abandoned beta locked deep within the vaults of Core Design.

Also nice to know how much Eidos sucks.

By Blogger JohnH, at 29 July, 2006 02:12  

Your conclusions are interesting, but far from certain. One thing I'd like to notice: PSP-native is not necessarily an advantage. Crystal Dynamics game is confirmed for PS2 and PC, too, so if Eidos thinks that more money could be made on these platforms, a game native on them that then gets ported to PSP is probably the better choice.

By Anonymous Cochrane, at 31 July, 2006 23:57  

I am a big TR Fan and I am very disappointed that Core's Anniversary Edition has been cancelled!
I have absolutely no faith in Crystal Dynamics. Tomb Raider: Legend is the worst TR Game of the series! It wasn't of Tomb Raider material! It was short, unrealistic and far too easy!
I hate all the time trails and rewards! I am a true TR Fan and I know exactly what Tomb Raider is about!
Tomb Raider: Legend is just awful!
Angel Of Darkness is amazing compared to Legend!
I still have faith in CORE! They are the true TR Developers!
Eidos, give Lara back to Core! Crystal Dynamics are rubbish!

By Anonymous Thomas, at 01 August, 2006 11:51  

Well Thomas,
I am a big TR Fan and I don't care that Core's Anniversary Edition has been cancelled!
I have faith in Crystal Dynamics. Tomb Raider: Legend is one of the best TR Games of the series! It is Tomb Raider material! Sadly it was short and too easy, but luckily unrealistic like all previous TR's.
I love the time trials! I am a true TR Fan and I think i know what Tomb Raider is about!
Tomb Raider: Legend is beautiful!
Angel Of Darkness was a miserable failure compared to Legend and to previous TRs!
I have no faith anymore in CORE! They are the original TR Developers, but they lost grip.
Eidos, keep Lara at Crystal Dynamics! Crystal Dynamics are obviously very capable!

The reason why Core lost grip i don't care. Eidos -as publisher- is responsible to deliver to the gaming world the best TR games, so they choose the team that can do that within reasonable time. The inefficient AOD engine: many location-loadings within one level, awful controls: unreliable, inconsistant, with idiotic responsiveness (the auto-aim, the hardly working 'change target', Lara's walking behavior), the invention of 'oops now i feel stronger' to take that gap or smash that door...
I would love to see a '10AE' with the Legend Lara on the excellent Legend engine!

By Anonymous Rutland, at 01 August, 2006 14:41  

Hello, my name is Laraslegend, I am a member of Tomb Raider Forums and Planet Lara Interactive. I would like to say that entire article is pure genious. Weither or not people realize it, there is massive mixed feelings about this whole idea.

Myself, I am a proud Core fan to the end and I was extreamly disapointed in all the hype put into Tomb Raider Legend. I am frightful for the fact that it took 3 years just to make a game of only 6-9 hours.

We as fans were promised much more to come from Legend, yet we have seen nothing. Outfit change and bonuses were never how Tomb Raider was truely intended, no matter who the developer is, you never change what made that game special, and they did.

It is upsetting even more that other fans look at this Anniversary Edition as a "Test run". What shook me was that many agree with this. If this will be the test run, what was Legend?

I agree with everything that was said; and we all are aware that Eidos is only concerned about the better profit. Cores cancelation and being sold to Rebellion is plain and obveous as you said, someone was doing a better job and Eidos wanted to prevent those people from having a name with Lara ever again. But who could that be I wonder...?

It is clear to see that there was much betraying done and some fans are proud to hear that Core is gone from the Tomb Raider scene, but I'm not. I have been a proud fan ever since the game first came out on that very day and with the knowlage I have and after the events that have taken place, Crystal Dynamics will not beat whatever Core had planed.

Thanks for writing this article, maybe it will finally knock some sense into those hard-heads and wake them up to show them what truely is going on.


By Anonymous Laraslegend, at 01 August, 2006 17:03  

Those are some very good points but you are assuming one thing... that Crystal Dynamics is making their own anniversary edition. With the "selling" of the Core Design employees to Rebellion, SCi is now able to give the work that the Core Design employees did to Crystal to finish. This is my opinion because there is no way Crystal is able to work on an anniversary edition and Legend at the same time. SCi has announced the release date to be 2007 fiscal year so Crystal has to have help somewhere. So I think the real question is.... why was Core Design assets sold to Rebellion and why is Rebellion not completing the remake? That would make an interesting read.... :-D

By Anonymous Trinity34, at 01 August, 2006 18:59  

if buzz monkey helped with teh psp version of legend i bet there helping with the aniversity edition as well

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 05 August, 2006 03:03  

I have to say i agree with Thomas. the old fashoned controles of the origional games were genious. because they were so precise and accurate each jump could be judged as a puzel. in tomb raider legend the controls are prety pathetic. they are like those of the old crash bandicoot games. you die because of the controls not yourself in legend. most people dont notice this because of the fast loading times and constant checkpoints. tomb raider 1-5 were genious. after that they stoped making tomb raider games. now it is a spin off. it is lara croft featuring tomb raiding. look at the titles. it is now "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider". Legend is a simple generic rip off of tomb raider, it is not a true part of the searies. AOD was better than legend but still bad. in my opinion there are only 5 tomb raider games. im still waiting for tomb raider 6... i fear it will never come. i dont even care if lara isnt in it. i prefer good gameplay over digital eye candy

By Anonymous Rorkimaru, at 08 June, 2007 12:56  

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