How to design Tomb Raider, step-by-step…

imageBack in the day, the Tomb Raider: Lost Artifact team - Me, Rebecca Shearin, Gary LaRochelle and Mike Schmitt - were asked this question by a magazine interviewer, and here is our answer… (Seems quite straightforward, really);

- Could you explain how the game is designed?


1. PhilC writes an incredibly complex story that gets distilled by the team into a couple of lines.
2. We decide where we want to go this time…
3. We sit in the café and sketch up a few napkins
4. Rebecca makes rock textures
5. Gary makes a train
6. They lock me in a room until I’ve done the model – I use a vast reference book we make up filled with photos, old maps and squiggly writing.
7. Rebecca makes some more rock textures
8. Gary makes a plane
9. I place all the original textures, Rebecca tells me off and replaces them all, the right way round.
10. Lara’s in there from the start, testing leaps, stepping off edges, falling off cliffs
11. Urgent transatlantic calls to Core Design in Derby when the diver animation doesn’t work
12. Mike tries to find his secret texture (a picture of his face we always hide in there somewhere) under the pretence of testing the levels.
13. Rebecca looks up from the rock she’s making, and says “ You want a WHAT!? – Where am I going to find scrap on the Loch Ness monster’s skin?!!!
14. We spend some hours trying to look up the kilts of Gary’s Scottish Warriors
15. We all gasp in awe as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers make the play-offs
16. Rebecca gets killed testing the level again…
17. Test, Test TEST….we steal some of the testers ideas…
18. We look at the South Pacific levels again to wonder HOW they made such fantastic levels, we look, and learn…
19. We realise we have to squeeze a new dinosaur in there somewhere…
20. ….and so it continues…


Gary with Rebecca Shearin, and me with Lara…


Oh how I miss these days (seriously). We had a great little team churning out great content!

By Mike Schmitt on 2009 09 21

If we knew THEN, what we know NOW, we would have realised how lucky we were!

By Phil on 2009 09 21

Just wanted to throw out there that I only recently acquired TR2 Gold and TR:LA and they are by far some of the best levels I have ever played in a Tomb Raider game! I haven't jumped at a video game in a long time, but my whole household could hear me yelping as I anxiously made my way through TR2 Gold. Fantastic! Neat blog too, just felt the need to comment on this since I am an aspiring level creator myself.

By Benjamin O. on 2009 11 02

I must say that I truly appreciate your contribution to Tomb Raider. The add-on levels are some of my favorites in the series! Also, after reading the synopsis of what TR4 Gold was supposed to be, my heart bleeds... The one Gold level that we got was the most boring add-on level in the entire series and just to think we could have had a nice full Gold edition of 9 more fantastic levels makes me weep in disappointment.
Nonetheless, your team deserves to be acknowledged for your skill at making amazing, captivating levels. It's a shame those days are long over. But this was a nice stroll down memory lane; I think I'll go find my TR2 disk again.

Take care!

By Carol on 2009 11 03

Benjamin, Carol,

Thanks for your kind words! I actually revisited the levels myself recently, when I discovered a Mac TR compilation that had all the Golds on it. Don't remember anything like that on the PC, but it was fun to look at them again. I always felt that someday we'd be able to release the B&W version we made of the Vegas level, with Lara in a leopardskin outfit and Vegas 'Elvises' running rampant!

By Phil on 2009 11 03

So why don't you release that B&W version? Also, how come you weren't able to make TR4 Gold? By the way I really think when Eidos took Tomb Raider away from Core Deign, they should've given it to you guys instead of Crystal Dynamics.

By Anonymous on 2009 12 04

It such nice interview which i have found in this post. Many worthy things i got to know here about designing.

By Car hire Perth on 2009 12 15

Yes great interview, do you have a download of this?? mail me on

By delinka on 2009 12 30

They must feel accomplished after seeing the final product, that game was awesome!

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I always like to read something like this. That is usually a bit hard to find valuable information on the internet.

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