Genre mashups tend to feature a balance of different kinds of gameplay -- Tomb Raider: Underworld
is a little bit action, a little bit puzzler.
But in designing for players who may have different preferences for one versus the other, why not allow them to strike the balance themselves?
As part of an in-depth interview with Gamasutra
, Crystal Dynamics creative director Eric Lindstrom details Tomb Raider: Underworld
's new 'Player Tailoring' feature, which lets players emphasize or tone down action and puzzle elements according to their personal tastes.
Considering the potential for a combat-less Tomb Raider
, or an experience similar to action-adventure game Ico
, Lindstrom explains that gamers can adjust their experiences in Underworld
with Player Tailoring to fit what they enjoy most.
"It's not about difficulty. It's about people having different ideas about what they want exploration and discovery to be," he says.
Players who prefer action sequences over puzzle portions will have the option to ask Lara how to solve a particular puzzle, allowing them to move onto the next scene without having to spend 20 minutes to an hour figuring out how to move on. This "help-on-demand" feature is in addition to the difficulty level options that players can choose.
Though there's no option to turn off combat completely, players can conversely turn down the amount of time spent fighting enemies so that they can focus instead on puzzles and exploration.
"We don't have the ability to turn it off completely, because we think those punctuation points are important for the overall pacing," Lindstrom says.
Lindstrom admits, however, that implementing these features was risky, as it could have easily lead to "kitchen sink design" without wise use. "People are not in the business of designing games. They're in the business of playing games," he says, noting that while players might enjoy tailoring their experience, they shouldn't have the role of game designer imposed on them.
"I believe that there should be the latitude for people to be able to personalize it and emphasize the type of play that they wanted," Lindstrom says.
"That will appeal to more fans, because there are plenty of fans out there who have very strong feelings about the combat versus the exploration. To give them the ability to tailor that experience is a part of making people happy with the Tomb Raider
game in ways that they couldn't before."
The full interview with Crystal Dynamics' Lindstrom on Tomb Raider: Underworld
and how the developer is moving the Tomb Raider
franchise forward is now available