The Crystal Habit Podcast: Episode 10

21 Maggio 2012
Meagan Marie – Community Manager
Karl Stewart – Global Brand Director
Darrell Gallagher – Direttore Studio

[ La trascrizione italiana di questo podcast non è attualmente disponibile. Contiamo d’inserirla prossimamente. Scusandoci per l’attesa, postiamo nel frattempo la trascrizione inglese. Qualora vogliate offrire la vostra collaborazione, vi preghiamo di contattarci via mail; il vostro supporto sarà molto apprezzato.]

Meagan Marie: Hey everyone, thanks for listening. This episode 10 of the Crystal Habit podcast, and I’m your host, Meagan Marie. This episode, we’re throwing the usual format and features out the window, and we’re going to sit down with head of studio Darrell Gallagher and brand director Karl Stewart to discuss the recent news that Tomb Raider’s release window has shifted from fall 2012 to Q1 2013. The reason we’re dedicating the entire podcast to this segment is because, obviously, it’s a very important announcement. We want to do it justice and really take the time to answer the questions that we’ve gathered from the community since Sunday’s announcement. So… Enjoy the show!

[Musical interlude]

Segment 1: Release Date

Entrambi: Ready!

Darrell Gallagher: Let’s do it.

Meagan Marie: Thank you for joining me, Darrell and Karl. Before we start with the questions, Darrell, would you mind running us through the recent release date update and explain the studio’s reasoning behind the decision?

Darrell Gallagher: Yep. Okay, so this week we announced that we were moving the release of Tomb Raider from Q4 2012 to Q1 2013. And really, that was to give us the time to take it to the polish level that we really want to achieve with this particular title. As we said in the statement, we think that we’re creating a truly unique piece of content, we think it’s very special, and we want this to be one of the games of our careers. We’re at a stage right now where we feel like we need a little bit more time to achieve that, but it’ll be well worth the wait.

Meagan Marie: Great. So let’s start with an easy question. Can you clarify what months Q1 encompasses?

Darrell Gallagher: So Q1 for us is January 1 through to March 31, 2013.

Karl Stewart: How broad is that? [laughs]

Darrell Gallagher: Take a lottery, put your tickets on which date.

Meagan Marie: You know what, people actually will do that in the forums. Someone’s going to work that out. Alright, another question about the release date specifically is, did you guys have an exact release date nailed down when it was fall 2012? Or was it still evolving? And similarly, do you have a date in mind that you’re looking at for Q1 2013?

Darrell Gallagher: Um… No, we didn’t really have a date picked out. We had a window, as we said, fall 2012, and that was a generic window that we felt we would fall in. It’s not an exact science when you’re making games. When you start making a game, two or three years out or whatever it may be, you pick a window and say, this is where we think we’ll fall. And it may be a year to start with. We say, we hope we can get it done this year. And then as you progress further, well, we think it can fall in this window… And as you get closer and closer to finishing the game it gets more predictable. We’re trying to put something together that’s very complex, that is very quality-driven, that really is this amazing origin story that we’re creating. We really want to take the time to make sure that we hone it in and deliver it in a way that we wanted to achieve.

Karl Stewart: Yeah. I think it’s a big undertaking, it’s a reimagining of our franchise. We take that very seriously.

Meagan Marie: I say this… I find a way to say this all the time, with great power comes great responsibility. Alright, so similarly, from a business standpoint, why is picking the perfect release date so important, and therefore kind of secretive?

Darrell Gallagher: Well, this is a little bit related to what I just answered. It’s not necessarily a secret. It’s just not entirely predictable up until you can really see it in your hands, you can look at the product as a whole, you can play the game from start to finish. And then we can start penciling in, as an organization, when we think the ideal place for a game to land is. And that just doesn’t happen at the beginning of the game, when you start creating it. It happens as you get further in. So it’s not really a secret, we just wouldn’t want to disappoint people by, three years out, saying it’s going to be this day and date, and then missing it for some reason. Because it didn’t come in exactly as we expected. So it tends to be a little bit more organic and loose until it becomes predictable.

Meagan Marie: Great. And so why did we release this news on Sunday night?

Darrell Gallagher: Well, because in Japan they were releasing an update to shareholders on the Monday. We wanted to get out to the community first and make sure that we were communicating from our standpoint why we were moving the date, rather than just hearing the news from a financial report from Tokyo.

Meagan Marie: Yeah, take a little bit more personal approach…

Karl Stewart: Yeah, we’ve seen that happen and we’ve read communities’ feelings and thoughts on that. We thought it was very important to get Darrell out and make sure that we announced it beforehand.

Meagan Marie: Well, I can tell you firsthand that they appreciated it.

Karl Stewart: Good! We’re glad.

Meagan Marie: Earlier this year there were rumors of a delay, and some fans are wondering, why didn’t you break the news to us then?

Darrell Gallagher: Well, I don’t know where those rumors came from, to be honest…

Karl Stewart: They appeared out of nowhere, yeah. It didn’t come from us.

Darrell Gallagher: I did read some of those on the Internet, and to be honest with you, we weren’t delayed at that point. We really didn’t make this decision until much later. There wasn’t a point where we could have made that decision, because we were still mid-production on this particular title.

Karl Stewart: Yeah. We can never report on rumors, so when that came up in the press… There’s nothing to do. Somebody decided, on the world wide web, to type in “delay.” That’s their prerogative…

Meagan Marie: Alright. So fans were also wondering if the decision to push back the release date was made internally at Crystal Dynamics, or if this was one that was suggested by Square Enix?

Darrell Gallagher: Well, it was neither. Ultimately it’s a big decision and it needs to involve everybody. So it doesn’t come from one place necessarily. What I can say is it’s a decision that’s been supported by Square Enix, and as a group, as a whole, we feel like this is the right landing spot for this game. We made the recommendation that we needed some more time, and that was well-supported by the organization as a whole. They came back and said, we want you to make the game you want to make, so we all agreed on it and we feel that Q1 is the best date.

Karl Stewart: I think it’s… What we’ve been saying, it’s a Crystal quality thing. Everybody who’s been working on this, as Darrell said in the statement, people want it to be the game of their careers. There’s a lot of people who spent a lot of hours working on this game. We want to make sure we get it right.

Meagan Marie: You confirmed this in your update, Darrell, but just to kind of reiterate it, we are going to be at E3. And what can fans expect from E3 in terms of Tomb Raider’s presence?

Karl Stewart: Don’t even tell them a thing. [laughter]

Darrell Gallagher: Well, I can tell you that we’re working hard right now on it. That’s for sure.

Karl Stewart: If you let anything out of the bag I’ll strangle you.

Darrell Gallagher: We obviously can’t spoil the surprise. What I can say is we put a lot of effort into making sure that we have the best E3 this year. It’s a huge E3 for us. I’m personally tremendously excited about what we’re going to show. I know the team is too. We’ve got tons of team members coming down to E3 because they just want to see it out there…

Meagan Marie: Be there for it.

Darrell Gallagher: Yeah, be there for it, because they’re so proud of the work they’ve done. Without ruining the surprise, I think it’s going to be a great E3.

Meagan Marie: I think just telling them that we will be there, this is going to be a huge show for us, that you’re going to feel Tomb Raider’s presence, that’s enough for now.

Darrell Gallagher: You will not be able to miss Tomb Raider this E3.

Karl Stewart: Yes. Good answer. [laughs]

Meagan Marie: Great, great. I’m excited. So this is a concern past E3, and this is probably the most popular concern that I’ve heard. Because we did have a long silence between last year’s E3 and this one, some fans are concerned that we’re going to go quiet again after E3, that they’re going to get tons of information and tons of goodies and then we’ll kind of disappear for a while. So is this true? Are we going to do regular updates after E3? Are we going to have a triple-A marketing campaign for Tomb Raider after…?

Karl Stewart: Yeah. I think… What we’ve reported in podcasts in the past is that last year we had a very successful year, we announced our product and we managed to get a great amount of coverage and a lot of great sentiment, and we felt that it was right for us to go quiet and not keep sort of bleeding it over a period of time. We had made the commitment to say we’re coming back at E3, as Darrell said in his statement, and I can confirm that throughout the rest of the year, all the way until we launch the game, that we’ll continue to have presence at all the major shows. We won’t be going quiet. We’ll be back, we’ll be back in a big way. We’re excited. Loads of great plans.

Meagan Marie: It’s still… Yeah, even though the release date has shifted, 2012 is still a huge year for Lara. So it’s very exciting.

Karl Stewart: With that said, for the fans, if we do go quiet for a week, please don’t come to us and say we’ve gone quiet. We will not be putting something out every single day. There is a plan in place.

Meagan Marie: Alright. So now we have some specific questions from the official forums and the Tomb Raider Forums, that we gathered. So… LaraRocks asks… You’ll love all these names by the way… “How do we know that this is really an issue of quality and not a move so that Tomb Raider doesn’t have to compete against all the other triple-A titles this fall?”

Darrell Gallagher: Ah… So ultimately this is about passion, and us actually putting the passion and energy into making the greatest game that we can. It’s less about our competition. Obviously, last E3, we had a great E3 and it showed that we can stand toe to toe right next to the competition. So that’s not something we’re necessarily concerned with. What we’re most concerned with and what we’re most focused on here is making the greatest game possible.

Karl Stewart: And I would just add to that… There’s always triple-A titles that are breathing down your neck or coming up right in front of you. There’s nothing you can do. You pick a window and you can guarantee that within a few weeks before or a few weeks after, there’s some other big title coming out around you. It’s not just, did we move it out because of the fall… Whether we like it or not, there’s always a great title around the corner.

Meagan Marie: Alright, so… This is more of a complex one. Awestruck asks, “When did you know that you were changing the release date? Did something go ‘horribly wrong’ with the development of the game, or were there minor issues that you encountered?” And then Moon Safari similarly asks, “Is the delay because you’re behind schedule, or because you had new features that occurred to you during development?”

Darrell Gallagher: That’s a complex question. Horribly wrong… Definitely that is not what happened. Again, kind of going back to one of the earlier answers… Making games is not a science, right? It’s very complex. In a lot of cases you’re doing things for the first time. You’re trying to break new ground with every game you try and make. So it’s not like you’re repeating the same old formula time and time again. So therefore, when you try and pull it all together, and you have all the pieces and parts, moving parts… It can be difficult to predict and difficult to actually plan out a year or two years in advance and get it spot-on. Especially when you put a premium on making the best game ever. [laughter] That becomes difficult too. So for us it is really more about refining what we have, less about new features, less about “horribly wrong” then just saying, hey, this is the natural evolution of what we once started, what we intended to do. We want to see that through. We have a commitment, and we didn’t want to compromise that original commitment and vision to put the game out a few months earlier.

Karl Stewart: I’d love to know what his definition of “horribly wrong” is. Because to us that could be the coffee machine exploding.

Meagan Marie: Natural disasters… Oh, man, coffee machine breaking is horribly wrong in my morning. So Shaikh asks… “If you guys hit alpha in the January-February window, why is there a delay? Does the game really need that long to polish?” I think this comes from a lot of the community, who are looking at how other companies put their flag down and say, this is how long alpha is, this is how long beta is. So there was some sort of an expectation set within the community itself. So can you kind of speak to that a little more?

Darrell Gallagher: Yeah. The game is at alpha. We have the whole game in place, it’s great to see start to finish, you can play it beginning to end, and it’s in great shape. We have a great structure of a game here. In terms of six months, 12 months for alpha, it’s just not apples to apples. I can’t really compare one development team or one studio or publisher to another. It’s just very difficult to make that comparison. What we can say is that this is the amount of time that we feel we need to take it to the quality level that we believe in, and that works for us.

Karl Stewart: Although I do love people’s timelines, when we said we hit alpha a couple of months ago. People were coming up with… “It takes 18 weeks to get from alpha to beta!” I’m like, wow, what game are you making?

Meagan Marie: There really isn’t a science to it. You can’t take the average of all the other studios and divide it up…

Karl Stewart: Certainly not.

Meagan Marie: It’s very organic, it’s very natural to the studio itself. I mean, we know ourselves best, so…I thank you for clarifying that one. So MyRaider4Life asks… “Since the game has been pushed back, does that mean that crucial media such as a gameplay trailer have also been pushed back?

Karl Stewart: All I can say on that is that it takes to months and months and months to plan a campaign. Even if we moved the release date, we made a commitment, as we said, to be at E3. There will be assets, there will be things released. But you know, we don’t want to spoil things for anybody. We don’t want to start giving away too much. Let’s just say we will be at E3, and you will see a flood of content which we’re very excited to start putting out…

Meagan Marie: And that’s been for the pipeline for a long time…

Karl Stewart: It’s been in the pipeline for a long time. Like I said, planning takes a while. It’s not something we can change right now, this close to E3. We’re sticking to our guns.

Meagan Marie: That would be a nightmare. Alright, so The Kramer asks, “Are you scared to miss out on holiday sales?”

Darrell Gallagher: That’s a great question. Actually, I was a little late for this podcast because I just got back from lunch, picking up Max Payne 3 from Rockstar. Honestly, that’s a great game, a big game, and it’s in May. So I don’t think there’s any particular window when you have a big game, one that people actually want to come to and play. I don’t think it really matters whether it’s in the holidays, May, February, April, June…

Karl Stewart: The game is big enough, it defines its own window and its audience.

Darrell Gallagher: I think we’ve got one of those games that people will come and play no matter when.

Meagan Marie: Great. Alright, so… Tommy asks, “I’d like to know if Crystal D is planning to show Tomb Raider at other events, like Gamescom, PAX Prime, and so on?”

Karl Stewart: Everybody wants us to spoil the campaign, don’t they? Our plan is to participate in a number of the big shows throughout the course of the year. So yes, of course, things like Gamescom, we’re very excited to be at. And shows such as…

Meagan Marie: Can we say that we’ll be at San Diego Comic-Con in some capacity…?

Karl Stewart: Comic-Con, yes, okay, yes, we’ll be at Comic-Con. But of course, you know, there’s many, many places we want to show the game. I don’t want to give away too much right now, but yes.

Meagan Marie: It falls in line with having the big campaign post-E3.

Karl Stewart: Exactly.

Meagan Marie: We’ll be a lot of places, bringing the game to a lot of people. And these are two questions I’m just tacking on, because… I told everybody that we were just talking about the announcement of the release window, but… If you wouldn’t mind, we had a couple of questions about the screenshot.

Karl Stewart: Sneaky Meagan…

Meagan Marie: Which went over extremely well, by the way! People loved the screenshot, they were very excited to see that moment. So two really good questions. Was the screenshot taken recently? Was it from a newer version or build of the game? We weren’t just sitting on it for a long time, right?

Karl Stewart: The screenshot was taken…probably this time last week. Very close.

Meagan Marie: So it is a new screenshot. And the follow-up question is one that’s probably good to address. Can Lara climb trees, or was that just a contextual scene of her reaching for the bow?

Darrell Gallagher: This one is a contextual one, actually the screenshot was a contextual moment in the game, so it is not free climbing in trees for this particular Tomb Raider.

Meagan Marie: Great. Just nip that one in the bud…

Karl Stewart: That’s two. No swimming and no climbing trees. We’re going to get hammered.

Meagan Marie: But wait until you see everything that we have, so…

Karl Stewart: Yes, exactly.

Meagan Marie: Alright. Well, I cannot tell you two how much I appreciate you stopping in, and the community’s definitely going to appreciate this opportunity to expand upon the announcement. Thank you for your time!

Entrambi: Thanks for having us.

Meagan Marie: So that’s all for this episode of the Crystal Habit podcast. I know that it was super short. As I said, I wanted to make sure that we dedicated this solely to expanding upon the new release date window. But don’t fret. E3 is coming up very quickly, and as we’ve said, we’re going to be big. We’re going to go big at the show. So you will have lots of new Tomb Raider information very soon. Thanks for tuning in.

[Musical interlude]