I made a case last year for game creators telling us more about what they cut during development, both to tackle anxieties about pre-planned DLC head-on and because what developers edit out speaks volumes, artistically, about what they leave in. Crystal Dynamics' global brand manager Karl Stewart has stepped up to the plate, revealing that the studio's forthcoming Tomb Raider reboot was once an ICO-style "offline co-op" experience.
"When we first started looking at where we wanted to take things in late 2008 we had that idea of going back to the very beginning and telling that story," he told IncGamers. "The difficult thing with that was working out how to tell that in a way that brings her personality out.
"In previous Tomb Raider games Lara would travel around the world and not have much interaction with other people, so you never really got to know her as a person. We had to figure out how you create a location which allows you to get to know her a bit better and allows you to interact with other people to really see the depth in her character. That was always a key pillar of what we wanted to do.
"Then we looked at bringing in other people to compliment her. For example, at one stage we had a little girl that was a survivor like Lara and that you would have to protect along the way. We decided to drop that aspect because we realised this game should all be about protecting Lara and seeing her struggle with the situation, rather than watching her protect someone else. The little girl angle just ended up diverting attention away from where we wanted it."
The new Tomb Raider has provoked a fair bit of controversy, thanks to a divisive scene which carries undertones of sexual threat. Described as "attempted rape" by executive producer Ron Rosenberg in a statement Crystal insists has been "misunderstood", the sequence shows a tied-up Lara fending off a man as he reaches towards her crotch. I'm not sure how the presence of a little girl would affect all this. I'm not sure I want to. Amy was a scarring experience.
On a safer note, the reboot used to be more of a supernatural affair. "We had some other crazy stuff that we dropped like mysterious horses that were on this island, but we always came back to the idea of Lara surviving and keeping things 'real' - rather than magical," Stewart explained. "Keeping it real lets us bring in emotional situations like Lara's first kill that feel more involving than they would if you had a bunch of fictional beings wandering around.
"Making Lara feel more human also helps bring those moments to life as this isn't the caricature that we'd known before. It now feels like Lara is the kind of person you could meet on the street and actually know her, which allows us to create moments that are more realistic and make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up."
Tomb Raider is out in early 2013. Apparently, "nobody wants to play ugly Lara" but "sex bombs detract from the experience".