Tomb of Ash presents an exclusive interview with Murti Schofield – the writer of the Angel of Darkness. Along with talking about his inspiration for the story, Murti reveals some previously unknown details that were left out of the game, including the fate of Kurtis Trent.
Hello Murti! First of all, thank you for taking your time to speak to me today.
Oh you’re welcome, I love talking about myself!
Don’t we all?
Yeah, I’m just more honest about it! [He laughs.]
So, how did you start working at Core?
I did some work for them on a game called Fighting Force through a good friend of mine. Probably about a year after that that same friend told me that they were looking into making a new Tomb Raider game and that they were a little bit stuck. He said that he reminded them that I’d done some dialogue work for them before and asked if I’d be interested. I drove over to Derby. I thought that they simply wanted some more dialogue work doing… Adrian Smith asked me if I might have any ideas for the game. They wanted to revamp Lara. They wanted something ground-breaking and yet spookily the same whilst keeping all the signature marks of Lara Croft. At the time I had my head stuffed with Cappadocia and Turkey and France, because I did a lot of writing about that and was travelling in those places. So I told him a whole series of possibilities for a story. Adrian seemed very interested and he asked when I could start. That was in May 2000 and I turned up again in June and was introduced to the team that was working on the ideas for the Angel of Darkness, which was James Kenny, Peter Duncan and Mark Donald. It was just three of them and they had worked for six months on that game. I started producing ideas and it all went from there.
I know that you did some writing work before the Angel of Darkness. How different is it to write a script for a videogame?
I worked on computer games before; for about 4-5 years as an artist doing environments and animation. I am a trained animator. I worked in Cosgrove Hall animation studio in Manchester and worked on the BFG film all of whicih was hand drawn traditional animation. I also worked on concept designs for central television in London. So, I was familiar with working in the media. But then I had an idea for a computer game with a friend of mine even though at the time I knew nothing about computer games. This was in about 1994. I offered the idea to Sony and they offered me a job at Psygnosis in Chester, where I worked on two games as an artist. I was still writing in my own time. I was working on a novel calledCappadocian Aengelus with some of the similar themes that I transferred to the Angel of Darkness.
When you started approaching the script for the Angel of Darkness did you read scripts by Vicky Arnold and Andy Sandham to get a grasp on Lara’s character?
I didn’t talk to Andy very much as he was very busy on the then current game [Tomb Raider Chronicles]. I looked at the documents that were written for TR1-5 but the idea was not to copy what was done before, it was to make a quite a radical break from that. So although I wanted to know what Lara was doing in Egypt, what was she up to in around the world there was only a certain amount of that that I wanted to take with me into the Angel of Darkness world. Like Von Croy’s walking stick.
So your Cappadocian Aengelus was the main inspiration for the AOD?
Yeah, as well as From The Ashes Of Angels by Andrew Collins. Aengelus came in at something like 175,000 words and took me about two years to write. It was one of the main inspirations. I was always interested in obscure aspects of history. Particularly when some mystery is involved like secret societies and information that is in public domain but nobody notices it because it’s encoded. Having spent time in the underground cities of Cappadocia I was just saturated with this kind of material. Also the Languedoc area in France where the Cathar heresy was crushed and the Templars were wiped out. So Knights Templar and angelic forces were in my head and it was basically the root of the proposal that I made to Adrian [Smith].
What was the main inspiration for Lux Veritatis?
One of my obsessions was the Knights Templar, but I didn’t want to use them as such because they were used in other games. The moment you say “the Knights Templar” people immediately think they understand what you are talking about. I wanted to create something that would make people think “oh, what the Hell is that?” So Lux Veritatis was actually a secret inner order within the Knights Templar but it allowed me to use “Lux Veritatis” all the way through instead of saying “the Knights Templar”.
How Kurtis was created?
Adrian [Smith] said in the initial interview that he wanted the possibility of a playable spin-off character and if I had any ideas. As a big Raiders of the Lost Ark fan I suggested a playable male character that was an adventurer, that was about as far as it went at that point. Adrian said I could come up with more ideas on that. So the concept was to create a young male adventurer and when I started writing background material I wanted him to have some sort of connection into the mystic past. I decided to make him a member of Lux Veritatis but not a full-on member. He had to be a trainee or apprentice and that is when the idea of making him a descendent of one of the last Lux Veritatis’ adepts came in. When I’d get an idea like that I’d propose it to the team and they would do artwork and in the meantime I’d spending every hour that I could spare writing up possible background stories. I wrote a lot of material, more than we could possibly use, but the more I’d write as a foundation for a story the more convincing the story would be. If anyone would ask me “why is that there?” I could give them a good reason rather than just say “oh it seemed like a good idea”. All the ideas are there because they’re built on the established background story. I hate cliché and I hate gratuitously used information, so every name was chosen for a particular reason, every character was built on a certain idea, and all the concepts were definitely interrelated to each other. I tried to create an entire universe that worked. Oh and Ash, I really loved your interpretation of Konstantin!
Ah, thank you!
I thought he was great! I’d never seen any illustration of him before.
Thank you so much! To be honest the Angel of Darkness is a very dear game to me because when it came out I was going through a very difficult period of my life and it made that period a bit more bearable.
Yes, I read your blogpost about it. It does sound like a very dark period.
Was Kurtis the last adept of the Lux Veritatis?
When the game starts, his father [Konstantin] has just been killed which left no other elder Lux Veritatis adepts alive. So Kurtis was the only trained Lux Veritatis initiate still active, except, there is one other; a female character that went to the dark side. That’s all I’ll say at this stage.
What were the plans for Castle Kriegler and Cappadocia?
It all started quite early on in the process. When I first met the three members of the team it was Mark Donald, Pete Duncan and James Kenny. We began discussions about the kind of things they wanted to do and I could deliver. I obviously gave them the run past of all the things I’d proposed to Adrian and then we started to discuss it all. The first thing I wanted to do was to establish the mood of what I was trying to set up.
So I wrote an FMV script, like a film script, of events in Castle Kriegler in 1945, where Eckhardt is held captive in the subterranean chambers. The Count and Countess Kriegler and their son were the Lux Veritatis guardians at the time. They were guarding the world from Eckhardt. Somehow members of the Cabal arranged to misdirect an Allied bombing force and bombarded the castle in order to release Eckhardt.
The FMV script was well received by the team. So, the idea was that at some point in 1945 Eckhardt has been released by the Allied bombing of Castle Kriegler. Gerhard Heissturm, Kurtis’s grandfather who was a young man at the time, was a man servant to the Krieglers and he escapes the destruction. Also it’s worth noting that in the script it talks about the Periapt Discs. There weren’t Shards at that point but three talismanic Discs. And so Gerhard escaped with some of the discs that were used to keep Eckhardt imprisoned. The Discs were changed, I think a couple of months later, into Shards. In the early stages of development the idea was to have four locations: Paris, Prague, and then going on to Castle Kriegler where various things were hidden and had to be dug out. This would lead to the finale for the first game in Cappadocia.
I only outlined the things that might happen in there in broad outline but it fairly soon became clear that it was just too much to achieve in one game.
You have to remember that I had never done this before, not on this scale and not for a triple A project. What I was trying to do was come up with lots of interesting story ideas that held together and around which a mass of gameplay opportunities could be built. So when Rich Morton came on board after a few months I began to talk to him and Andy Sandham about it. That was the point at which everybody began to realize that Castle Kriegler and Cappadocia were just too big. We needed to bring everything back and make it happen in either in Paris or Prague which is what we did and it still seemed to hang together very well. At that stage I was pleased that it was still working okay. I now began to work very closely with Rich. If this story takes Lara in this situation what sort of gameplay opportunities are there for that to happen in Paris in the game? And so on. You know there was the nightclub in Paris and all the other stuff? Now what could take place in there was outside my area of expertise. I don’t do gameplay and puzzles. I would create the story where things would occur and Lara would be going around asking questions and Rich and various other people came up with “All right well she goes to this nightclub. She can do this this, and these are the kind of clues need she be looking for there”…and so on.
My challenge was to keep the story coherent. For example in Castle Kriegler there are all sorts of secret areas which could support game play. Some Lux Veritatis chambers are hidden in there, as was Eckhardt’s old alchemist lab and a ritual chamber where Eckhardt was going to be attempting a critical self transformation.
Once I found out that we had to abandon Kriegler and put everything into Prague I just pushed everything else to the side and concentrated on Paris and Prague. There was no time for anything else with the pace hotting up. Yeah that’s about all I can say at this stage, nothing of the proposed Kriegler or Cappadocian levels was ever properly finalized.
You’ve just reminded me about the nightclub, “Le Serpent Rouge”. Lara has to retrieve a mysterious box from one of the flashlights that don’t work. What’s inside of that box?
Right. You know the Tarantino film where everybody is fighting for this suitcase but no one knows what’s inside it. They only see a blue glow coming out of it when it’s opened. I loved that idea. So basically that was a rip-off from that film. It just remains mysterious, an intriguing possibility because if I never specified what was in that box I could always pick it up in Game 2. I would make sure that it was something really essential to the story but was left hanging for the present. I left a lot of clues in Game 1 that could be picked up later on in games 2 and 3. But, of course because those games never happened you never got to see why they were there and why they were significant. Hm, what was the name of that film…
Yes! Thank you, that’s the one! I just thought it was so cool and so funny! I grew up with comics, I did all my escapism through comics like you did with games. I was reading comics avidly and passionately from the age of about six. I was hugely inspired by comics; British comics, European comics, American comics and film. Whenever I was in meetings with people at Core I used to be referencing all sorts of comics and films. It was only after a while that I realized 90 percent of them didn’t know what the hell I was talking about because they haven’t seen the films or they haven’t read the comics or they didn’t get the cultural references. So I had to start dialling back on that. But I had one guy came to me, “You know all this stuff you keep mentioning Hellboy and Hellblazer. How do I get a hold of all this stuff?” It was because I was using these as a way of expressing the ideas I was proposing. It was a sort of shorthand language to establish moods and style. Hellboy particularly. There was one occasion where I was talking about a monster that Lara and Kurtis could run into in Castle Kriegler and it was based on the Jewish idea of the golem.
Oh yeah, I know that one!
Yeah, well you’re obviously a cultured person because nobody in that particular meeting understood what I was talking about.
The only reason I know of it is because I played Vampire the Masquerade: Redemption and there is a Jewish neighbourhood in there where you have to fight a golem!
Brilliant! So you know what I’m talking about. But when I mentioned this idea of the golem one particular guy said that we couldn’t do that because of copyright. Tolkien will have a fit, because you know, “Gollum”… Good grief.
In the early game concepts Putai, the shaman who saved Lara in Egypt, was supposed to say things like “you feel stronger now Lara”, “you learnt a new skill” and stuff like that. Why was this idea dropped?
I honestly don’t know. Basically when it came to dialogue, I wanted to make the characters as realistic and lively as possible, but within the limits imposed on you by gameplay, I was having to ask Rich and others what kind of dialogue did they need. I don’t know who was making decisions about that, but what was coming back to me was that they needed loads of things that Lara could say at different points in the game. I wasn’t involved in the decision of how the dialogue would be used except when it was carrying story content. If it was stuff during the gameplay, I just threw in loads of things and they cherry picked the bits they wanted. Although we were all supposed to be working closely together, it was only a couple of people like Rich that I was working closely with. Basically the programmers were a very separate entity, the artists were a separate entity and I was separate from both of those. I found it very difficult to talk to programmers; Although, Tom Scutt was great to communicate with because he could talk both artist and programmer language. He was the main conduit through which I/we communicated with the programmers if there was the need. I didn’t make many decisions at all related to how the gameplay worked. Not my area of expertise. I was quite distinct from that process.
What is the purpose of Von Croy’s Stick?
Well, originally there were supposed to be a whole series of clues linking back to previous situations in previous games. In fact, I was going through some notes the other day and came across a whole set of charts showing all the clues that appear in various notebooks and documents. I don’t think it was used cause quite honestly I never went back and played the game afterwards – I couldn’t face it. But, the idea was that the top of the Anubis (Seth) walking stick came off and inside there was a scroll with some clues scrawled on parchment. Unfortunately, I can’t remember what they even were. I wrote the clue in, it was in a discussion I had with Rich. I think we did a few things like that just in case we needed to pick them up later on.
For the first 5 or 6 years after its release I had very little idea that anybody cared about AOD as I myself didn’t at that point. Basically, I was downhearted because I’d put so much into it and I know a lot of other people had as well. The KTEB were the first ones to get in touch with me and that was kind of interesting in a certain way. But, then on the 10th anniversary, The Lost Dominion people got in touch with me and I thought I’d pay some attention and see what was going on. I simply didn’t know how keen people were. I had no idea so I started talking to Jenni and various other people and I thought “Blimey, people have really dug into this”. People were discussing things on the site that I’d hidden in clues, names, and other stuff and it was a complete revelation for me as well as an affirmation of all the effort I’d put in. I just thought it had vanished without a trace. I knew that the KTEB were keen on Kurtis, but that’s a different thing.
I like your renders of Kurtis by the way, they are great!
Thank you so much! I think I was the first one to actually make a Kurtis render in 2006’ish…
How did Lara come clean with the police?
As far as I know, she still hasn’t. At the end of AOD she’s still on the run from the police. She’s never cleared her name properly.
There are a number of references to Sumerian Gods in the game, can you comment on those?
Very often when people are building levels they’ll just include something that would link her to some moments in her past. I don’t think overmuch thought was given to it. Or perhaps a lot. I don’t know. I wasn’t party to that. People would pick up some Syrian or Babylonian architecture and put it in. It was very often left to the artist as long as no one spotted any real glitches with it like Pete Connelly appearing in the Mona Lisa.
In Von Croy’s notebook there is a reference to the Golden Lion that will bring destruction upon earth. Can you give a bit more details on that?
The Golden Lion was a prophecy relating to a Nephilim Saviour, who would return and re-establish the Nephilim race. Eckhardt was very aware of this. He tried to bring together a Sanglyph to reawaken the Sleeper and transmute himself using alchemical processes into the person or being who would become the Golden Lion. He thought he would inherit The Golden Lion of the Nephilim mantle and of course rule over everything.
What’s the history between Lara and Karel? They never met in the game yet Lara acts like she knows him when she first meets him in the final scene.
In 1300s Eckhardt makes his first contact with the Nephilim and tries to kill off the original Cabal so he remains the only one. Incidentally one of the original members of the Cabal at that period was a character called Régis Limoux, which was one of Karel’s identities. Anyway when Lara first arrives in Prague she sees Karel’s photo in Luddick’s folder with dossiers on the Mafia/Cabal members [in the cutscene you can’t see Karel’s photograph]. She recognises him from that.
I read somewhere in your notes that there is a possibility that Lara and Kurtis have their extraordinary physical abilities because they come from Eckhardt’s genetically engineered generation of people
Hm, yes, that’s very true. How strange because I’ve hinted at this in various documents and is something I wanted, and still want, to say a great deal more about. In fact, I was also reading that document the other day. My idea of Lara and Kurtis is that they do come from unusual bloodlines. I began by thinking hard what would motivate someone in Lara’s position to do the things that she does. What would have influenced her life choices at a more profound level than simply the urge to go adventuring and shooting everything that crosses her path. I wanted to look into the inner darkness that could be driving her. I felt like there must be some deep, shadowy part of her past, as yet to be disclosed, which might link her to some ancient historic forces that have been battling in the shadows of a mythic and recorded history. That became the starting point of taking Cappadocia and angelic myths and the idea of ancient beings that might possibly be linked to her own genetic past.
Why is Karel in his Nephilim form is so different to the sleeper in terms of looks?
Basically that’s because he’s gone through so many shape-shifting transformations that he never really returns to his original, true form. Shape shifting has its consequences and costs, like every use of power.
That brings us to our next question – does he survive at the end of the game?
Yes, everybody survives except Eckhardt.
Yes, him and Rouzic [who is not in the game]. They are the only two surviving members of the Cabal. Karel also survived.
Did Kurtis survive?
Oh yes of course, he also survived. There are games of his own waiting to be written!
Cool! that’s the first firm answer on his fate!
When Lara and Kurtis are both knocked out outside Louvre, why was Kurtis’s Periapt Shard left behind?
That is a glitch. There was supposed to be another scene in there that should have explained how that happened.
What relationship if any was planned to develop between Lara and Kurtis in the future games
Well I like the idea of this sort of that teenage “push me pull you” dynamic, the kind of relationship where they are actually strongly attracted to each other; a lot of sexual tension which expresses itself in a sort of buddy relationship, with a lot of mutual respect…and tussling.
During his time in the Foreign Legion Kurtis got a nickname the Demon Hunter. How did that happen?
When Kurtis was in the Legion he tried to leave the shadow wars far behind him. However, when he’s in the Legion various incidents happen where dark and demonic forces come to the fore of his life. There was one event when he was out with a patrol in the desert and a tribe of Arabic nomads gets attacked by djinn. Kurtis got drawn into that and tackles the djinn. Two of his fellow comrades die and two others survive, as well as Kurtis. Later back at the Legionaires’ drinking lair tongues start wagging, people start talking about the djinns and the name sticks. There were also many additional events where Kurtis seemed to be attracting demonic entities.
What happens to Kurtis’ body in the end of the game?
The idea was that he drags himself away and relapses into a toxic coma, which is when the body is protecting itself most dramatically. Basically, he survives that way.
Can you explain who the Agency is?
It’s the enforcement arm of the Cabal. They were the hit squad of the Cabal and Gunderson was in charge of it. There was just no space in the game in which to use them anymore, but I was very keen to bring them back in the second game because Gunderson survives and one of the way they reconstruct the Cabal is to set up all the protective measures as they were before, including the Agency. I liked the Agency, I could have done a lot with them. I think it was the Agency that Kurtis was working for unknowingly at one point as a mercenary.
If you would receive an offer to work in the videogame industry what would be your response?
That’s a good question because I’ve been thinking about that for the last couple of years. I wouldn’t want to be working the way I was before. I don’t want to be dealing with massive deadlines and so on. If I was to be used as an ideas consultant or a concept design consultant, I’d be very happy about that. Depending on the project of course. I’ve got to be passionate about it because I’ve got so many things of my own needing a lot of my attention and energy. But, I’d be very interested to be used as a consultant for a game project or something media oriented. I wouldn’t want to be fully employed though or tied to a daily timetable grind again. I don’t have the stamina and energy that I used to have 10 years ago. I need to concentrate on things which I know are going to get completed.
Oh! Speaking of the videogames, I don’t know if you play them much but you may want to consider the Broken Sword series…
Oh is that the one with the Knights Templar?
Yes! I did a lot of research on that one. I tend not to play games, but I research them. Assassin’s Creed has a brilliant concept.
Well these are all the questions I had for you. Thank you so much for your time Murti!
You’re very welcome.
The Angel of Darkness fans must consider checking out Murti’s The Shadow Histories book series as “Tomb Raider Angel Of Darkness and The Shadow Histories, all share some fundamental similarities of theme”. Volume I and II are available on Kindle