The “Eric Lindström” posts
In January 2009 a number of posters claiming to have worked for Crystal Dynamics, the developer of Tomb Raider Legend, Anniversary and Underworld, began to post on the internet at Tomb Raider forums. One of the posters under the name “Squamula” claimed to be Eric Lindström, a former Creative Director at Crystal Dynamics.
This article has been labelled as “fan opinion” for the following reasons.
(a) At the time of writing Eric Lindström had recently been fired by Crystal Dynamics  and therefore cannot be counted as an official spokesman. The posts were written in a hurry in response to a barrage of questions.
(b) The only “confirmation” of the identity of the poster as the real “Eric Lindström” was from the Administrator of the websites hosting the posts, and independent verification from an official, reliable source (such as, for example, Eidos) is still needed.
The original threads “Ask Eric” and “Storytime” posted by Squamula can be accessed via Google, and consist of over 800 posts and more than 80 pages, and completists can read through the whole thing for themselves at various sites on the Internet and also via the Google “cache” facility. For the purposes of Wiki Raider, however, a précis of some of the answers are given below in the form of quotes, not necessarily in the order in which they were typed.
This section contains personal opinions from a Tomb Raider fan.
(This notice may only be removed by a Lead Editor.)
- ... I wanted to say one more thing first. And it's about all this Toby Gard nonsense. Talk about a scapegoat! Over the years, nothing tempted me to post more than to set the record straight about Toby. I don't remember reading a single accusation about Toby that I didn't know to be falsely attributed to him alone. Some of what I hear was someone else's work, and much of what I have heard is as much my fault as his. So really, stop hating him, or start hating me, I don't see any other logical choice. Toby is very smart, well versed in many disciplines, has great instincts, and always a valuable asset to the Tomb Raider effort.
- Toby was a vitally important part of this process. I didn't have any obligation to consult him in any way...I did so because he was a great resource and collaborator, and I'll do it again next chance I get.
- The question I hear a lot is what the story was before Toby came and changed it, so here's the answer: Toby didn't change the (Legend) story. … the story was pretty much up to me as Story Designer, Toby as story consultant, and needed approval by Riley Cooper, the Lead Designer.
- As far as I know, the only contact between Crystal and Core is that we hired Toby, which, for the record, I believe was a very good thing and I can talk later about how much of what …(the TR fanship) … maligns him for is completely false.
- I believe the idea for the artifact holding the answer to the fate of Lara's mother (Legend) was Toby's idea, but I didn't have to take it.
- And about that bio change. Toby and I did it for the sake of the Legend story. In the grand scheme of things the changes were minor. And those who say it changed her personality, I disagree. Just because she had an archeologist father and inherited his fortune doesn't change that Lara is a very headstrong, independent operator. If you never read her bio, you wouldn't think Lara was a rule-follower, authority-respector, etc...
- Toby was a consultant for all three of the Tomb Raider games Crystal has done, but I don't think he has made any unilateral decisions, and of course not everyone agreed about everything. I don't know if he was okay with all of Lara's clothing or not, and neither does anyone else outside the company. So whether you approve of her attire or not, Toby isn't to blame for what you don't like.
- … changing the braide to a ponytail was a style decision in Legend that I wasn't a part of and also didn't understand, but I didn't feel the same attachment many of you did. It was also believed that the braid would not behave properly with the new level of realism and outr physics and collision, I recall.
- Asking why Toby and I wanted to exclude certain aspects of Lara's character implies that we did, and I don't think we did, really. Just because Lara said to Natla "I only play for sport" doesn't mean it's true.
- … the Legend story did change throughout pre-production, including when Toby came on board, and me, too, since I was the Story Designer.
- How the characters get out of Nepal in the end, well, Lara did it when she was little kid, so how hard can it be?
- Lara's clothing and color choices are just a part of her personality...she doesn't go in for bright colors.
- Toby and I just made sure that even though we didn't have a single one "right" answer to all the questions, that there were plenty of workable possible answers to choose from so that we knew we hadn't made a cliffhanger than could not be resolved.
- I sat down with Toby to decide first and foremost whether we would pick up the (Legend) story directly or not. A lot of spending days in cafes in San Francisco followed before framing out the story for Underworld.
- What I think Toby was not happy with -- but don't take this too literally because he and I haven't talked much about this and I don't want to speak for him -- is how she was put in pinups, set naked on fur rugs lounging in front of the camera. One could argue that this contributed a lot to her success and it could be true, but Toby not liking that doesn't make him a bad person or prove that he misunderstands the character of Lara Croft fictionally.
- I can't really say more about Toby's vision of Lara except to say that with all the hundreds of ideas we tossed around, on the spectrum of "That's too hardcore for Lara to do..." Toby was on the far end of the spectrum. He does think of her as a well-behaved psychopath, and well, so do I.
- As for Lara's attitude, the fans helped me because I believed in her aggression and fans helped supoprt that belief.
- It was an explict understanding that Toby and I had that Lara does have this dual nature, where her good breeding and education keep her pretty level most of the time, but when something pries the lid off, she goes mental. It's human nature, at least for some. As for being an anti-hero, it is a matter of definition and they vary. I think of an anti-hero in the terms you described, but also as someone who acts out of self-interest rather than altruistic ones. And we can all agree that Lara looks out for herself first, and the rest of us benefit from it ocassionally.
- I would pitch Tomb Raider just the same as I always talk about it. A strong, determined English woman who is fearless, stubborn, and ocassionally ruthless who searches the globe to find ancient artifacts and the truth and real powers that underlie mythology as we know it, in remote, exotic, exciting, and undiscovered ruins. Something like that.
Influences on the TR stories
- The ideas for Underworld came from all over for a long time.
- Toby and I read lots of books and did lots of research for the myth part of the story.
- We did read a lot of stuff about ancient civilations, though I didn't watch much TV. But when we sat down to work out the story for Legend, Toby told me about this as being what TR1 was about in the first place, only told in an obscure way...he tends to like to make his stories and cut scenes subtle.
- I couldn't even say what books we used because I went to libraries and literally dragged dozens of books off the shelves, read or skimmed them, and put them back. I wouldn't even deny that the inspiration for one or two things came from information we found on Wikipedia.
- … Underworld would not look like it does today had I never read any forums.
- Fan posts did influence things, in how people were commenting on different aspects of the experience, but I never got any specific ideas from … (Tomb Raider forums) … or I would tell you. For the most part, when people are excited about the game coming up and start throwing out ideas, the game is already in the oven baking … but also realize that there are lots of creative people at Crystal, and it's often more about how to execute ideas rather that creative ideas themselves.
- Fan fiction has had no impact on the Tomb Raider stories at Crystal because, in all honesty, I have never read a single piece of fan fiction. I love that people are inspired to write them, but I have never read any.
- Well, I didn't have any direct influences I knew about. Or everything I see and hear was an influence, take you pick. The only advice I have about writing is to make stuff out of your own head, and don't look to influences. That will happen automatically. And the main difference between writers and non-writers is that writers write. If you talk about writing but don't write (not to be confused with selling your writing) then you want to be a writer but aren't one yet. So get writing and good luck!
- As for Lara's attitude, the fans helped me because I believed in her aggression and fans helped supoprt that belief.
- I can't really be specific about what canon we have, but there is plenty of material about who Lara is, what she does and does not do, what she wears, etc. A lot of it was put together by me and Toby. Eidos gave us a free hand to do what we thought best, and I'm sure they would have intervened whenever we went astray, but I think we did a good job of being true to her so they didn't have to. And I really don't want to speculate about where narrative in games is going, because it's actually going in multiple directions and it's hard to say which will dominate.
- Because I am no longer an employee of Crystal Dynamics … I am now free to post. as long as I don't break any of the usual confidentiality agreements, which I won't. I wasn't going to post, but there is too much being said that I don't feel is right to go unanswered. Although I haven't read anything bad about me personally, some of the misinformation out there can lead to conclusions that I have lied about one thing or another, and I don't want that impression to stand. A number of people … are claiming to be employees or ex-employees of Crystal. I do not know who any of them are or if any of them are legit. I suspect some of them are. But even those who might be authentic are posting incorrect information. I don't think they are doing it maliciously...it's just that in any office you can ask someone what the story is about something and part of what they tell you is wrong, often just because info gets garbled as it gets passed around.
- I haven't said much on my own, just answering legit questions with above board answers, so I should stop here and say that there is a lot of Eidos-bashing going on, and it's too broad of a brush to wield. While no one is perfect, Publisher, Studio, and Me, it is hard to say what caused what in the past. If things had been done differently, different outcomes might have happened, and might not. But let me state for the record that no one I ever spoke to at Eidos ever said anything disrespectful about Lara Croft or Tomb Raider. While opinions about execution always differs, everyone I have ever worked with cares a great deal about the franchise and not just because of the revenue it generates. Just like me, loads of Eidos people want the best and do their best. I really have nothing bad to say about anyone personally because I have never left a room thinking that the people I was with had anything but the best hopes and intentions. Remember, I don't tell lies...if I don't have anything nice to say, I say nothing. But really, much of this vitrol directed at Eidos is misdirected. I'm not happy I was let go on Friday, because I really enjoyed the years I spent at Crystal and I like being able to pay my bills, but I understand the reasons, and I hold no grudges. Life is too messy to oversimplify anything.
- … what I would give that Eidos was paying me to spend my Sunday answering your questions! I'm sure they would prefer that I was not saying what I am saying today, but they can take solace in the fact that I am being fair and balanced.
- … thank you very much for all the kind words about the WGA (Ed.- Writers Guild Awards ) nomination, even from those who didn't like the story or the dialog. And yes, the irony is undeniable, but we all knew (Eidos and Crystal and me) about the nomination last week, before the layoff. Like I said, my departure was about having too many talented captains in the studio, and when the music stopped, I didn't have a chair, if I can mix metaphors. Staffing isn't just about talent, it's about need, and as I have said, the real world is too messy to label simply.
- They let me go because they had too many captains for the number of ships...it's like musical chairs and when the music stopped all the seats were taken. and as for the future of CD and Eidos, not only do I not know, nobody knows.
- Eidos really let us have a free hand with respect to developing Tomb Raider.
- It wasn't all that hard to work with Eidos day to day because there wasn't much of my day that required that contact...it was just the big periodic things and schedules and whatnot. The story stuff I'll come back to later.
- While I did take issue with some decisions made by management and the publisher, I have never worked at a game developer where this isn't the case. Companies are too big to do everything right all the time. The studio made mistakes, and I made mistakes. We're human. Can I blame the problems Underworld shipped with on Eidos? Yes, but I also blame myself.
- I know that there are people on the East side of the building who are frustrated by mistakes they believe were made by me, but they don't know the whole story.
- Will Eidos ever sell The Tomb Raider license? Only the future knows.
On Tomb Raider gameplay
- The segment of the gaming audience that is interested in and patient with the kind of difficult and fatal gameplay you miss is too small for current AAA games to support. There is no model for making a game that cost as much as Underworld cost that could recoup that investment without appealing to a broader audience. This flies directly in conflict with much of what made Tomb Raider great at the start, and trying to find the right balance was a big part of my job. I know that the answer we presented disappoints the hardcore fans, and it was unavoidable. We can strive to make games as exciting as the past, but you likely won't ever see games as demanding as they were in the old days.
The downloadable content (DLC) for Underworld
- The main thing I wanted to clear up is about DLC. Everything I have ever said about this is true. I don't work for Crystal anymore so I have no reason to lie, nor does my severance agreement tell me to do so. I can tell you without doubt that the content of DLC was absolutely not held back from Underworld for the purpose of selling later down the road.
- I'm not saying that none of the DLC came from Underworld. All I'm saying is that anything that was cut from Underworld that appears in the DLC wasn't held back for that purpose. And I don't really know anything about its schedule.
- I can't say much about the DLC except to say that it did not hinder Underworld in any way.
- I didn't make the DLC deal. I cut content from the game, and it later turned out to be possible to use in DLC, for which I was happy.
- I was a consultant for the DLC team, but not the driver. My name (last I saw) is not on the DLC credits but only the Underworld credits.
- At home I'm a 360 gamer mostly, but connecting this to what's going on now with DLC is a coincidence, as I am not a part of those decisions at all.
- … it was a coincidence that we had some candidate content for DLC when the deal was made.
- … it is absolutely true that part of the DLC came from elements cut from Underworld, and it is absolutely false that this was done because the DLC was looking thin. I am the one who proposed and decided the cuts, and it was unrelated to DLC.
- I did not realize that anyone was claiming that none of the DLC was cuts from Underworld, and if they are, then yeah, we have a truth issue here.
Angel of Darkness (AoD)
- I never liked Kurtis. Don't hate him, either, just didn't see the need or value in him. To those who like him, I'm glad you got something you cherish. Will he ever come back in the future? Who knows? I don't.
- As to the AoD storyline, from what I heard, even Core Design only had a few notes as to where they were going to go with it, and we of course saw none of that. Obviously I can not say what storylines will pursued in the future, but in all honesty, when i was in charge of the Tomb Raider storyline, I wasn't interested in the AoD thread, personally. I didn't care for it when I played AoD, didn't really get it, and to pursue it I would have had to make up a bunch of stuff about what it all meant and what the Cheribum's were and all that. And it was all too mystical for me. . I don't believe there is true magic in TR, just stuff that Atlantean tech can do that we don't yet understand...and I didn't get enough of what the real truth behind the myths of AoD was to interest me.
- Needing to open doors to increase Lara's strength was not a successful experiment, I don't think. Nor was choosing the wrong thing for Lara to say in a dialog tree and getting shot dead as a result. And I spent far too long climbing in an empty Paris disco just to get up to a doorway... Risks were taken -- no harm in that -- sometimes they hit and sometimes they don't.
- Another thing to say at this point is about whether we at Crystal think the events of past games, especially AoD which was intended to set up a longer story, did or did not really happen … I not only didn't want to make a statement about whether AoD or other games did or didn't happen, I actually didn't believe one way or the other! I still don't. Sure, changes to Lara's bio would have a ripple effect, but not necessarily to the point of negating everything.
- As for Natla's personality, I don't think it has changed...it's hard to judge with the few things she has ever said, but she, like anyone, has moods.
- Wheels of Kathar, Seventh Age, what are they and are they the same thing? Unless Natla were to clarify what she meant by anything, who knows what she was really ever talking about?
- But now that the family story is over, can I say how Natla killed Richard? Well, I never said the family story was over...who knows what future teams will make the stories about? And I never said Natla killed Richard. Natla said it (in Underworld). Maybe it's true, but you really shouldn't take so many things on face value, especially coming from a snake like Natla.
- Suffice it to say that it's foundational to Tomb Raider, in my view, that power comes from artifacts. Natla isn't immortal or have wings or can fling fireballs for any reason other than that she possesses artifacts of one kind or another that permit it. We don't understand these artifacts, or why carving a certain kind of stone a certain way and inscribing a symbol on it makes it work as it does, and we likely never will, but there is more to it than mixing a few common insects and reptile parts in a caldron to make things happen beyond the realm of current science.
- I don't believe there is true magic in TR, just stuff that Atlantean tech can do that we don't yet understand...
- This idea (in Underworld) that there was a "middle layer", people who possessed Atlantean objects, and knew something about how to use them, inspiring the myths of Thor and Odin, was the foundation. It is fundamental to the way we thought of Tomb Raider that ancient truths spawned myth, and that Lara discovers bits of the underlying truth that myth was based upon, inspired by, or affected by. These people were world travelers, and left many things behind that got paved over by later cultures.
- Why did runes turn from green to red (on the Diases)? Many things about the way Atlantean artifacts behave will never be understood. But no, it was not a mistake or continuity error.
- Lara was told where to find Vilcabamba by Natla. And other locations are told to her by the Scion (no figuring out required) and by Lara following Natla's boat or breaking into her office -- which happened in cut scenes.
- … we didn't see how Amanda found Natla, but there are lots of things we didn't see. In stories there are always things you don't see depicted, but must infer or hear abuot second hand.
- … maybe if Natla had got her hands on an Excaliber things might have turned out differently. Perhaps the reason Amanda was looking for it in Legend was because Natla was goading her into it. Who knows?
- We didn't have the space (in Underworld) to make playable Natla and Amanda and whatnot...we would have if we could have.
- Is Natla dead? That's a future story question.
- We talked about Tihocan, and he didn't make it into Underworld, and he might never appear again, but then again, he might.
- Oh yeah, we had plenty of fun with talk like Natla is Lara's mother. It's a useful catharsis. By making jokes like that, it reduces the likelihood of actually doing anything silly like that.
- "The Ancients" was a phrase I started using during Legend for two reasons: one, because there is some 70s-era stigma attached to Atlantis, and two, because what we call Atlantis and Atlanteans isn't the whole story concerning what preceeded the history we know. Are Atlateans all Ancients? Yes. Are all Ancients Atlanteans? No. In a venn diagram, there would be a bigger circle called Ancients and a smaller circle entirely within it called Atlanteans. Which did what in any particular instance, and who are these Ancients that weren't Atlanteans?
- I thought I answered about Amanda's tattoos but maybe that was a magazine interview I finished recently...well, the short answer is that they were just henna, attempts to harness abilities with her knoweldge of how the ancients did it. They weren't permanent..