Introduction | News/Updates | History | Discussion | Room Editor
Unofficial Level Editors | Levels | Utilities | Lara Croft 3D Models | Other
Room Editor is Core Design's official level editor, and from what Susie Hamilton of Core told me in an email from 8/20/98 (italics mine), to which I never received a response back:
"We can't release the level editor because it's one of the elements that makes the Tomb Raider games unique!"
"Also, the editor requires a vast library of information in order to be effective. This means that it can only really work properly when linked to a server capable of storing all this information.
So you see, it's not really a suitable tool for the general public."
As games become more and more immersive, the players WILL want a way to control this. Creativity is part of the game. Not everyone enjoys following a script. Some people like to actually CREATE the environment in which they are immersed in. It's kind of like a holodeck on Star Trek. There, people can create their OWN holodeck programs. Please consider releasing the level editor so the Tomb Raider series can continue to thrive despite not even having multi-player support. With all the other games in this genre coming out, Tomb Raider is already starting to have SERIOUS competition.
On another note, have you seen Active Worlds? It's a 3D chat/build environment. Imagine having an interactive real-time on-line environment based on Tomb Raider, where people could go on archaelogicalesque expeditions or something. Now I don't recommend Active Worlds for this because it is still very limited compared to 3D games in general (collision detection, environment interactivity, avatar customization, etc), but I see potential for a Tomb Raider-like environment.
For more info about the level editor, see Chris' emails with Susie Hamilton.
|Tomb Raider I|
City of Vilcabama
"The levels in Tomb Raider are quite intricate... Did you have to develop a level editor especially for the project, or was there something in existence you were able to base it on?
The Tomb Raider level editor was written from scratch by Gavin Rummery who is now working on the sequel. The editor formed the crux of the game as it allowed the levels to be played during the design process. This was of critical importance when calculating those long death-defying jumps and falls. Once the basics of the level were sorted out, we could then place Lara in the level and play it through, making adjustments along the way. It also allowed the artists to "fly" through the levels to make sure that everything slotted together fluidly.
What were the most difficult things to tackle in the making of Tomb Raider?
Probably the level editor - it took months to perfect.
'The rooms are all texture-mapped. Once the layout for each level has been decided, the graphic artist chooses the different textures and lays them down. We have spent many months researching and collecting/designing the different textures to make the backgrounds look as authentic and interesting as possible.'
Neil Boyd, graphic artist"
Eidos' "Your questions answered"
"What sort of utility did you use for designing the levels?
All the figures are designed and animated in 3D Studio. These are then imported into our own Animation Editor, which allows the artist to 'paint' the texture maps directly onto the figure. The artist can then load different animations for this figure, which are then linked together so the game knows for instance how to go from a Run to a Walk. The actual Levels are designed in another in-house utility called the Room Editor which allows the 3D room meshes to be built from scratch, texture mapped, light sourced, and linked together. Then objects can be added along with their trigger points and cameras, and the whole lot previewed before outputting for use in the game."
|Tomb Raider II|
"Robert Wheeler: Will it have a Level Designer program with it?
Adrian Smith: What you must consider is that our room editor is a full 3D editor and actualy forms part of the main game engine. This tool allows the artists etc. working on the game to create the 3D room, apply all the textures, set the lights and traps, position all the badies etc., and then to actually preview what they have produced. Its massive to use. It takes an in-house artist who has worked on the original game, etc. approx. 6 to 8 weeks to create all the rooms, traps, etc. needed to create 1 location in the game (i.e. The Lost Worlds)."
"TRTG: Finally, we know you are limited to the TR2 engine in terms of creating environments and new enemies for Lara in TR2 Gold. However, I think you've done a remarkable job creating the Cold War level from scratch and making the enemies original and consistent with the environment. A pleasant surprise was that you were able to combine the sharks from the sunken ship levels, with the snowmobile from the Tibetan Foothills level, with the monks from the Barkhang Monastery level!
Phil: Thanks - we were still restricted, but we were able to do a lot more this time. We don't have any programmers on the team, and must rely on the busy guys at Core to help us sort programming issues out. We have been able to add a lot more textures this time, and Reb has created some great new looks - from Level 2 onward you will see more and more differences. We like to find quirky things about the editor that we can exploit (much like the 'statue' enemies in Atlantis and the cat levels), and this time we found a few things (like the transparencies in the crystal rooms) we could do differently. We couldn't change the AI, but basically, from an overview of the content of TR2 I see what my 'kit of parts' is like, and design accordingly. Look out for a couple of old 'friends' from TR1!"
"TRTG: It's unfortunate that sometimes, the most vocal fans are also the most negative about Core/Eidos efforts, but we'd like you to know there are a lot of fans that appreciate your time and effort, and we can attest that you do listen and respond to the fans."
"Phil: When I have time I try to respond - I really hate hearing the standard "Core don't care about this", or "Eidos, the big faceless publisher..." etc. Granted this is a business - but you guys buy our games, we MUST respect your opinions."
|Tomb Raider III|
Playstation Paradise's "Tomb Raider 3 WORK IN PROGRESS REPORT"
"Tomb Raider III's level editing system has undergone an extensive redesign: our programmers use the level editor tool to create the rooms that, when linked together, make up each level. Tomb Raider and Tomb Raider II used a grid system to create the levels ≠ this meant that the level architecture that Lara was able to interact with consisted of a series of blocks of different heights and dimensions. Tomb Raider III's system now incorporates triangles. This means that we can now achieve greater detail such as very realistic organic surfaces, and smoother shore-lines.
We're also able to create more complex architectural structures such as domes, arches and vaulted ceilings."
"'The new level editor lets us get new shapes, like domes and rounded objects,' explains [Adrian] Smith."
"GameSpot UK: How long does it take for you to design a level?
Tomb Raider III - The Team: Programming wise, levels aren't done one at a time, it's kind of a global thing. The level designers normally take between 3 and 5 months to design and finish building a level.
GameSpot UK: What type of machine do you use to design a level?
Tomb Raider III - The Team: The levels are designed on a PC and downloaded to a PlayStation to see how it will look."
"However some levels have clearly been rushed. The Caves of Kaliya, last of the four India levels that open the game, for example. A simple maze that can be completed in a couple of minutes, features little more than a couple of snakes and the odd rolling boulder, then a showdown with the first of the big bosses. It's the sort of thing a kid would do for a first stab at level design -- it should certainly never have made it into the final release."
"Present (Tomb Raider 3)
Get all technical on us. Did you have an entirely new engine/level editor/whatever?
No, it's not a new engine, but it's had an 80% overhaul which means that it's faster, smoother and capable of handling more detail this time. Level and character editors have also been overhauled.
How did you go about designing the levels? What have you learnt in this field, and just how important is it?
The level design is absolutely critical - it's the most important part of the game. If the levels don't work there is no game!
For the Tomb raider games we've developed our own level-editing system. The maps comprise a series of rooms, stacked side-by side and on top of one another. The editor allows us to place all objects, effects such as water, light etc, triggers, enemies and Lara into the maps and then immediately play them to check that everything works. This system allows to to immediately correct any mistakes - so if there's anything we've overlooked it becomes obvious as soon as we play.
To start with, we decided which locations we'd like to include - these are normally places we'd like to visit, or have a personal interest in ourselves. Thsi makes designing a lot more interesting. When we've decided on the locations, we thoroughly research them and brainstorm for ideas for the traps, puzzles etc. that will be used. We also research textures so that we can get the levels looking as realistsic as possible. then it's down to putting everything toghether and getting it to work... somehow!
4. One of the strongest parts of the previous two Tomb Raiders has been the level design. How do you go about constructing them and how does TRIII compare to the other games?
We've developed our own level-editing system - it's unique to the TR games. The maps comprise a series of rooms, stacked side-by side and on top of one another. The editor allows us to place all objects, effects such as water, light etc, triggers, enemies and Lara into the maps and then immediately play them to check that everything works. This system allows to to immediately correct any mistakes - so if there's anything we've overlooked it becomes obvious as soon as we play.
The level editor has been improved for TRIII - instead of using squares to generate height and sufraces, we can now use triangles. Thsi means that the maps themselves can be more complex and organic - less 'blocky' than the previous 2 games. Also, the textures that we apply to the maps are more detailed in the previous games. Incorporation of multi-coloured lighting and improved dynamic lighting gives the levels a lot more atmosphere."
"Well, the level editor system has been dramatically improved - instead of using a grid system, we can now use triangles on the maps. This means that we can now create more organic shapes as well as domes, arches, etc. The maps themselves no longer need to be as flat--we can have rocky surface and a lot more detail within the environments. Also, we have improved the texture palette--this means that surface will be much more detailed and realistic."
|Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation|
Playstation Magazine #25 (9/99) - "Q&A with Adrian Smith" (no direct link)
Room Editor screenshot and:
"Playstation Magazine: Could you talk a little more about how the general level design has changed?
Adrian Smith: One key point is that, in the past, the levels were very block-based. Everything was always very rectangular. In TR4 is we've introduced more organically-shaped things, lots of column shapes and a lot more work around doors. A lot more statues, a lot more things from the real world are in the environments now. You walk into rooms that are lined with lots of seperately modeled, more organic-looking statues, and they're everywhere, so it makes rooms look far more dramatic."
(19 screenshots of Room Editor and 8 of the animation editor, AnimEdit)
From some of these screenshots it seems Room Editor is a DOS application because it's in a Windows DOS window. The GUI also seems to've changed, with more textures shown and buttons in the middle.
"Luis of The Croft Times: There have been many requests for a level editor for TR, but we know that Core is clear that there are no plans for a TR level editor to be released to the public. From your perspective as a level designer, what are your thoughts on this issue?
Richard Morton: TR-Edit isn't a commercial editor. There are so many quirks within the system that it would be unusable for Joe-public. The only way a TR editor could be made public is if we wrote another one for the public. This would take a lot of time. A TR level usually takes two months to complete. Some levels are quicker to finish than others though."
2 Animation Editor and 2 Room Editor screenshots (nothing new and The Croft Times already has 'em)
|Tomb Raider: Chronicles|
"Due for release [in] November 2000, the PC format of Tomb Raider Chronicles will include a free version of Core Design's level editor that will allow fans to create and play their own Tomb Raider adventures.
Designed by the original Tomb Raider team and modified for each Tomb Raider game, the editor software is unique to Core Design and Tomb Raider. Having received numerous requests from fans for the release of this tool, Core Design is now working on a modified version suitable for consumer use. The resulting system will allow users to create levels using the same tools that the Tomb Raider programmers use themselves.
The software includes a tutorial, allowing users to familiarise themselves with each tool before designing their own levels. Core Design and Eidos plan further support via dedicated webpages offering advice, troubleshooting and download updates such as new textures and enemies.
As good as this all sounds, we wonder if Tomb Raider will ever be the same...
The release of the level editor also spells the end of the Tomb Raider game format as we know it. The 'next generation Tomb Raider', due to release next year for the PlayStation2, will surely be something quite different.
Tomb Raider Chronicles will also be released for Dreamcast and PlayStation formats November 2000, but without the level editor."
"The level editor was created by the original Tomb Raider team. The level editor has been enhanced with each succeeding Tomb Raider generation. Gary LaRochelle and Rebecca Shearin will [be] developing the manual for the level editor."
Eidos' "Tomb Raider: Chronicles Level Editor" (however, note that it will only work for TR4): FAQ & screenshots
"We also had the opportunity to check out the level editor that Eidos has promised to ship with the game. It is essentially the tool that the developer used to design the levels for the previous game, and it appears rather accessible compared to other 3D game editors. The Tomb Raider games have often been criticized for their blocky appearance, but here this just helps simplify the mapmaking process. Six raw levels from Tomb Raider: Last Revelation will be included to make it easy to see how the designers put things together and to give easy access to a library of map textures."
"The game is sold with a level editor. By giving the players the opportunity to create their own stories were you trying to make the series last longer?
No, itís not to make the series last longer. We wanted to give something back to all the fans that have bought the series. We have had so many requests for the level editor to be released, that at Eidos, we finally thought we wanted to give it away. We gave it away free, but it took us about ten months to develop the editor and make sure that it was suitable for people to use at home. So itís our way of saying thank you to the fans. And we think that the tools are a great way for people who want to get into game design, itís a great teaching tool for them."