Core Interview and Tasks
My involvement on Tomb Raider VI Angel of Darkness. 2000-2003.
Sometime in 1999 I was asked by a good friend to do some dialogue for Fighting Force 2 for Core Games in Derby. I’d known him from Psygnosis a few years before. He knew I was trying to get into script writing, so he’d called me on the off chance. Was I interested? Er…very definitely. He arranged for me to submit a selection of dialogue samples and I very quickly got the go ahead to produce a block of generic scripts. It all went fine. I was paid and that was that.
In May of 2000 I was asked to go to Derby to pitch for some writing work on Tomb Raider VI (untitled at that time). This was one of the highest profile games on the market and I was pretty excited to be asked. I drove over two days later and had it explained to me that a small team had been working for six months on a story idea but they were bogged down. A fresh approach was needed to kick start the project. What could I do for T.R.6? Did I have any ideas? Did I! Good grief!
Concealing my surprise I improvised on the spot, not having come prepared for anything more than being asked to provide some dialogue. I got into my stride and outlined a whole stream of possibilities that I thought might prove a new direction for T.R.6. I was pretty expansive with my ideas and it seemed to go down well. Well enough for me to be asked what I would want paying as lead writer on the project. I thought quickly, came up with a figure, doubled it and said what would make me happy. The response was immediate. Ok. Fine. When could I start? The answer was - immediately, and in fact I turned up a couple of weeks later at the beginning of June.
Gears were engaged. The juggernaut was rolling.
It was one of the most thrilling interview experiences I’d ever had, and if fact the first year on Angel of Darkness was one of the most exhilarating periods in my creative life.
My contribution to Tomb Raider VI – Angel of Darkness as Lead writer.
In the crucial early stages of AOD I was responsible for the overall story and for maintaining the coherence of the story elements throughout the game’s three year development. The suggestion was that I would create a storyline capable of carrying two, possibly three games altogether. As it turned out the latter chapters of the over arcing story only ever got as far as brief sketch notes because there was so much pressure to get the first game rolling. I created and developed many of the core concepts and characters as well as the key locations, artefacts crucial for carrying the story and artefacts essential to many of the puzzles. I wrote extensive character backgrounds and early histories of fictional organisations and crucial artefacts central to the story. Extensive research of actual historical roots was done for characters and concepts used in AOD such as authentic Latin translations of ingame texts. I produced in-game dialogue, auditioned and selected character actors for the speaking parts and directed the recording sessions with the performers in London including the great Joss Ackland as the villain Eckhardt. I had been asked to come up with a companion adventurer for Lara capable of creating a new franchise character – result Kurtis Trent. In the later stages of development I wrote, checked and corrected data for a spin off board game & mobile phone games. Somehow, I also found time to outline a variety of possible Tomb Raider offshoot games featuring Kurtis Trent, an Eckhardt game and a game scenario set during the early days of the war between the Lux Veritatis and the Cabal. None of this had chance to go anywhere because of the poor reception that Tomb Raider VI got when released in 2003
2003 release and public response.
The public response was not good, quite rightly, as the game did not play well. Far too much of the programming was rushed and because of this many of the essential story elements had to be cut, making it almost incoherent. This has all been documented in an Edge Magazine article by Mark Walbank back in Dec 2007 so I won’t labour the point here. It’s worth a read though. I even had some of my Shadow Histories artwork printed in that article because Mark was kind enough to include mention of what I was currently working on.
KTEB and enthusiasts.
One of the most surprising aspects of working on AOD was the slow burn fan response. For several years I was unable to face reading anything about the game thinking it had sunk without trace and my labour of love, my multi-layered story elements and hidden clues had gone unappreciated. Not so. There were people out there who were intrigued enough to dig into the richly layered background material. It was only three years after the game’s release that I became aware that there was any interest at all. Significant numbers of highly enthusiastic fans of AOD were exploring and enthusing about the story elements. The game’s tragic crash and burn trajectory had not obliterated it completely. Even today, years later, there are dedicated websites and discussion forums. Prominent amongst these is the Kurtis Trent Estrogen Brigade or KTEB. Check out their website.
My response to the Edge Magazine article in full.
For anyone interested my full (8x page) response to the questions asked me for Mark Walbank’s article will be included on this site. I was glad to have the opportunity to put the record straight, there having been so many rumours floating around for so long.