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Last Updated: Friday, 18 June 2004, 16:36 GMT 17:36 UK
Lara Croft creator speaks out
By Alfred Hermida
BBC News Online technology editor

The heroine of the Tomb Raider games, Lara Croft, has become an iconic figure beyond just the world of video games.

Artwork of Lara Croft
Lara Croft has moved beyond just video games
But her creator, Toby Gard, fears that she might have not made it off the drawing board, if he had come up with the idea for her character now, rather than in the mid-90s.

He told BBC News Online that he did not believe that any games publisher would be willing to put millions into an unknown title, given the current trend to play it safe with sequels and movie spin-offs.

"Among Western publishers, people are loathe to do anything that is original," said Mr Gard, "nobody is willing to take the risks."

Video games now cost millions to make and can take several years, with up to 100 people working on the title.

It means that many publishers are unwilling to take a gamble on a project, unless they are sure it will be a blockbuster.

The result is that many games are franchises such as Tomb Raider with an established fan base, or movie spin-offs.

Sex and Lara

Since the Tomb Raider game was first released in 1996, Lara Croft has gone on to become a global phenomenon.

Toby Gard
It was a cutting edge idea at the time in terms of the game and it was a very talented group of people to pull it off
Toby Gard, creator of Lara Croft
Lara Croft has made it onto the silver screen in the shape of Angelina Jolie and has featured as the cover model on countless magazines.

Mr Gard is proud to be known as the man behind Lara Croft. During his time at game developers, Core Design, he played a key role in putting together the original Tomb Raider game.

But he left shortly after the game went on sale, as he disagreed with the "sexing up" of Lara.

The Tomb Raider games have sold in their millions, but Mr Gard says he has not seen a penny of this.

But he says his decision to quit was not about money, but about having the freedom to pursue his ideas, as he had done with Lara Croft.

"It was a very fortuitous situation," recalled Mr Gard. "It was a cutting edge idea at the time in terms of the game and it was a very talented group of people to pull it off.

"I am not sure if we could do it now," he said.

High seas

Seven years after leaving Lara behind, he is back with his own game, a swashbuckling adventure set on the high seas called Galleon.

Screenshot from Galleon
Captain Rhama Sabrier is the hero of Galleon
The Xbox game has been six years in the making and is inspired by Errol Flynn, Sinbad and Kung Fu films.

"I'm pleased that we managed to get it finished as we had a lot of difficulties through its production, funding and staffing difficulties," said Mr Gard.

"It is similar to Tomb Raider in that it comes from my interest in seeing characters on the screen that more are believable, more emotive and have people that move in a more natural way."

Mr Gard has high hopes for Galleon, but he is not sure that its lead character, Captain Rhama Sabrier, will go on to enter the pantheon of gaming heroes like Lara.

"Lara Croft was a special case. It seems unlikely that anyone would do that again.

"It just happened to be the right thing at the right time," he said.

Galleon is out now for the Xbox

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