Making Tomb Raider: War of the Worlds (Fan Game)

June 13, 2016 Kate Sykes 2 Comments

When Tomb Raider Chronicles was released, Core Design treated fans to a level editor - allowing them to create their own adventures for Lara. It grew in popularity and saw the launch of, a home for all the Tomb Raider fan levels/games and the level maker community. More recently, fans produced a next gen editor which freed creators from boxy polygons to stunning, realistic environments and more fluidity in Lara’s movements.
It can take years of dedication to take a project like this over the finish line. I recently found out about an upcoming fan game entitled “Tomb Raider: War of the Worlds” which puts Lara in a post-apocalyptic setting - something we don’t usually see.

I spoke to Polish fan and TRWOTW creator, Mateusz, about what it’s been like working on a project of this scale.

TDD: How long have you been making Tomb Raider Level Editor Games?

MATEUSZ: My adventure with the editor began when I was 11, in 2004. Back then, in my family home I didn't have access to the internet or about any other novelties from the TR world, I heard only through older friends or family. Then my sister’s current husband brought me a CD with few TRLE games and the editor. I didn't have any idea about it, but what attracted me the most was the vision of creating my own stories and observing reactions of viewers. With several tutorials from the now non-existent web page, I started my adventure and in 2006 I posted my first little game on the internet.

TDD: How did you learn all the skills you need for computer programming?

MATEUSZ: In the first place I'm an autodidact [self taught], in school years no one paid any attention to that kind of interest such as game design. I explored subject matter through trial and error, powered by a huge need to satisfy the hunger of creativity. The big change brought a period at the university where I studied Applied Informatics. That was the first time when I met professionals working with computer systems. Learning computer programming opened my eyes to some important issues and even if my skills are quite modest, I still know enough to work on scripts for WOTW.

TDD: What made you choose a “post-apocalypse” theme for this project?

MATEUSZ: In 2011 I finished work on a team project called 'Pearl of Kojada' and I had strong need to create something really new. I began to fantasise about several different games, movies and ideas that accompanied me then. At the beginning I was strongly influenced by the game 'Bioshock' so I decided to go in the direction of creating utopia, then I heard about premiere of 'Crysis 2', the game about an invasion of alien intelligence; but it wasn't enough and then one night accidentally I turned on TV and there was 'War of the Worlds'. I watched the movie (again) and I thought that it could be the right direction for my project...And so the main concept was born. It is the result of different ideas and fantasies, fascination with abandoned human places, nature and different scenarios of contact with an alien civilisation.

Concept Art by Maax

TDD: Can you tell us anything about the storyline?

MATEUSZ: At an unspecified time in the future, humanity has been decimated by the pandemic of unknown disease. Governments collapsed, there is no effective evacuation plans or attempt to stop the cataclysm. A life that survived descends underground in order to avoid further exposure to the pathogen. Lara, who is one of the survivors, lives for years in the undergrounds of the city. Together with a group of other survivors she creates a community, which they call 'family'. Everyday life focuses on providing yourself and others safety or food. Lara together with a group plan a trip to the nearby ruins of the city to replenish supplies of medicines. Croft believes in the existence of a 'mythical' vaccine, allegedly developed medicine and she hopes to find some proof in the ruins of the Medical Pavilion. When the group quenches her enthusiasm and indicates the current priorities, Lara agrees with them and asks for time to prepare for the expedition, but their peace is interrupted. The hideout is tracked down by the military and survivors are decimated during the assault. With luck Lara avoids massacres and runs away from the common grave. Without a chance to survive, she accepts the challenge and wants to discover the hidden truth.

EXCLUSIVE: "The Avenue"

MATEUSZ: I didn't make direct references to the movie or book, I didn't resist the scenario on them, however the universe of 'War of the Worlds' has been and is a strong source of inspiration. 

TDD: How long has it taken to create such a big project?

MATEUSZ: For me it was 5 years everyday hard work and learning. Working on such a large project require a lot of self-discipline, passion for what we do and faith in your own dreams. Luckily, I can honestly say that recipients are for me a great source of energy and motivation which translates to some extent on my intransigence in relation to the project and various adversity. I’m not a professional too, last 5 years were a time of huge evolution and expansion in world of game design, I learned a lot, and much more I need to learn, which is great! 

TDD: What are some of the features in the game? Anything that Tomb Raider gamers haven’t seen before?

MATEUSZ: Perhaps nothing new in comparison to things which Tomb Raider fans generally saw in last few games. Some novelties that will appear in WOTW are attempts to recreate cool and interesting mechanisms from the newer, various games. 
Some of the new mechanisms I presented already on the video from 2015 like for example 'Vision Mode'. It's a skill that helps us in the game and enables us to highlight in detailed environment items which Lara can pick up. In a similar way I have designed a system of icons, which makes it easier to interact with the in game world. Croft herself also has some new skills, but in this case WOTW isn't a pioneer of innovation and often those skills are only improvements for the convenience of controlling Lara. A kind of novelty is a healing system, which now covers a much greater number of medicaments [natural medicines] as well as a renewed strategy for the treatment of our heroine, which requires a different approach. 
"Vision Mode" - Screenshot taken from the gamplay video.
MATEUSZ: In the game we find a number of objects with which we can interact and destroy to get needed resources, which we can collect to use in a different place. We can burn obstacles, blow up or simply smash them with weapons. Each of these require different equipment, such as torch, which now works a bit differently. In the game you meet enemies which you can eliminate while in hiding. Thanks to that we can avoid massive attack and save resources of medicines or ammunition. Last time it came to my mind the idea of rewarding players with experience points for various actions and I don't mean only elimination of enemies. Later those points could be spent on some form of Lara's improvement. 
In the whole game there are many changes, both smaller and bigger, definitely too much for the interview. For sure they all together in a strong way will affect the gameplay style. It will be something different, I think.

TDD: Did you base any locations on existing places?

MATEUSZ: I don't base on any specific, actually existing place. The truth is that I'm looking for inspiration everywhere, literally - on the Internet, in games, on a walk, in newspapers, in train or while visit to my sister. During exploration of swamps in the game we will find old industrial buildings and bunkers which were inspired by the ruins from World War II which I saw in Wolin National Park. Another example is 'The Outskirt' level which was inspired by my hometown and surrounding nature - forests, fields of grain, wastelands. 'The Train Station' and 'The Bridge' have a lot of beauty from train travels, many elements of railway infrastructure was for me a contribution to something bigger.

EXCLUSIVE: "The Train Station"

I also had the chance to speak to the voice talent behind Lara. Pai is a singer/song writer and likes to do a bit of voice acting on the side. She has worked on quite a few fan-made Tomb Raider games, lending her voice for the leading role.

TDD: How did you get involved in the project?

PAI: I’ve had my voice acting reel posted in the Voice Actor/Actresses thread in the Tomb Raider forums for a while now. That's where Maati found me! Anyone interested in having me voice a character in their projects can send me a private message and we’d usually correspond through email to discuss things further. 

TDD: Are you a Tomb Raider fan yourself?

PAI: Definitely! I’ve been playing since 1996! I’m showing my age now, haha! I remember my dad coming home with a PC magazine that had a review of the first Tomb Raider game, and it came with a CD of demos, including a demo of TR 1. That’s how I first got introduced to Lara. I remember thinking, “This is AMAZING!” 

I was a wee kid then. Lara became a kick-ass role model for me. I’ve played every single Tomb Raider game that’s been released since then (except Rise of the Tomb Raider. Still waiting for the PS4 version of that one!), so yes, you can definitely call me a fan!

TDD: Have you done any other acting or do you maybe aspire to be an actress?

PAI: I’ve done voice acting for other TRLE projects, only one of which has been released. I don’t really aspire to be an actress. I dabble in a lot of different creative projects. Voice acting is just another creative outlet for me. I write songs, sing and play music, so right now, when I’m not busy with my full-time job, I’m more focused on creating an album that I hope I’ll get to release one day in the near future!

TDD: From watching the gameplay video, you sound a little like Camilla Luddington. Did you use her performance in the reboot games as inspiration for TR: War of the Worlds?

PAI: If a level creator asks for a Camilla-style performance, usually, before I start recording any lines, I do a few breathing exercises. Then, I sit cross-legged on the floor with a super dirty glass of Absolute martini and recite a mantra that goes something like this: “I AM CAMILLA LUDDINGTON. I AM FABULOUS, I AM DROP DEAD GORGEOUS, I AM FLAWLESS. I AM CAMILLA LUDDINGTON.” That goes on for about half an hour until I physically (and painfully) morph into an identical, albeit shorter version of her.  

Kidding! It never gets that intense. I actually sound nothing like Camilla normally. I speak in a mixed, vaguely Mancunian accent (I grew up in Manchester and moved to Malaysia when I turned 12), so I do definitely have to watch a few clips of Tomb Raider 2013 (no Rise clips for me until I’ve played it!) just to get the tone, pitch, and accent as close to Camilla’s as possible.

EXCLUSIVE: "The Swamp"
TDD: Finally, do you hope to play Lara Croft in official game instalments or films one day?

PAI: Honestly, I’m open to anything! If such a grand opportunity should present itself to me, I’d definitely be up for it!

TDD: For those unfamiliar with Tomb Raider Level Editor, how can they download Tomb Raider: War of the Worlds?

MATEUSZ: After the premiere from which is the largest base of fanmade Tomb Raider games.

Excited to play the game now? It’s due to be released soon but in the meantime, take a look at this half-an-hour long gameplay video and for more info, follow the Facebook page.

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  1. Very interesting. The game itself looks good, and is obviously a labour love. It'll probably be awhile before I play it, given that I still haven't got around to 'Rise.' The interview with Pai did make me smile. I also really like the fact that is is an Official Fansite. It's nice to share.

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment! Glad you enjoiyed the read!