- What is Tomb Raider Xtra?
- TRX is not...
- A brief history of Tomb Raider
- Old games on new systems
- Glidos High Resolution textures
- From one to many
- Flaws and Limitations
What is Tomb Raider Xtra?
Tomb Raider Xtra (hereafter known as TRX) is a project to make the original Tomb Raider game look better by replacing the graphics with high resolution versions. The project collects together the efforts of a number of artists, each with their own style and approach. You can download textures that simply look like improvements to the originals, or download packs that give a whole new look and feel to the game.
- A modern PC running Windows 98 or higher
- A working installation of Tomb Raider and Glidos
TRX is not...
TRX is simply a graphics enhancement for the original tomb raider game. It is NOT:
- a remake
- an improvement to the models, meshes, gameplay, or functionality of the game
- endorsed by Core Design or Eidos Interactive
A brief history of Tomb Raider
Tomb Raider was created by a British development studio, Core Design, who had become well known in the 8-bit days of home computing. Their notable successes, particularly on the Commodore Amiga computer, included Rick Dangerous, Heimdall, Chuck Rock and Thunderhawk.
When Tomb Raider came out in 1996, it was a revolutionary product. Although it was not the first fully 3D game, it was the first to seamlessly blend action and exploration with beautiful locations and the most fully animated lead character seen to date. It spawned many sequels and it's principal character, Lara Croft, became an international phenomenon.
The game itself first appeared on the Sega Saturn before becoming massively popular when it was released on the Sony Playstation and later the PC. Although the game was very playable and looked stunning, it suffered from a common problem at the time: blocky 3D graphics.
Fortunately, for PC users at least, blocky graphics were on the way out. Dedicated 3D Graphics cards were becoming popular as they allowed games to be played with smoother graphics at higher resolutions. As the graphics cards started to filter through to consumers, more people expected to be able to play games using the new technology. In an effort to improve existing games, developers released new versions of the game engine tailored to specific graphics cards. Core Design did this with Tomb Raider, and finally it was possible to play the game with improved graphics.
Old games on new systems
The most readily available graphics cards were made by 3DFx (now bought up by nVidia), and they used a proprietary technology called Glide, to access the capabilities of the 3D cards.
Tomb Raider, a DOS game, had a Glide enabled runtime developed which allowed the game to be played in higher resolutions and with texture filtering. With the release of Tomb Raider 2 and above, proprietary code was dropped and Core Design moved to Direct 3D which is now the standard API (Applications Programming Interface) for 3D games programming on Windows.
It has been increasingly difficult to play the original Tomb Raider on modern systems, especially with the release of Windows XP. To this end, Paul Gardiner developed a utility called Glidos, which allows old Glide based games to run under Windows. Along with VDMSound, a Sound Blaster emulator for DOS games, it's now possible to play the original Tomb Raider on modern systems with the benefits of modern hardware.
Glidos High Resolution textures
The original Tomb Raider (and in fact all the TR games up to TR5: Chronicles) used simple textures based on 64x64 pixel squares. While these are fine for older games, players increasingly expect very high resolution images in their games. Half-Life 2 for example, uses textures that are 1024 pixels square or higher.
A major feature of Glidos is it's ability to display new textures in Tomb Raider, up to four times more detailed than the originals. I loved this, and when I started this project at the end of 2003, all I wanted to do was update the environment textures. I didn't think it would take very long...
From one to many
It turns out (as is usual with me) that I was over ambitious and due to the complexities of managing new textures and some issues in my personal life, I quickly lost enthusiasm for the project.
However, other artists saw what I was up to and decided to make their own packs. Since then, a lot of wonderful creations have been available from these artists but there was no central website where they could all be downloaded.
The original website for the project only had my own initial Caves pack available. After a very long absence from the project and lots of conversations with the artists and the creator of Glidos, we decided to build a new site that would host everyone's textures. And here it is!
You can get the texture packs from the Downloads page
Flaws and Limitations
With the increase in texture resolution, certain flaws and limitations in the original game become more apparent:
- Sloppy texture alignment within the original levels
- Incorrectly 'flipped' textures in certain areas
Having looked at other parts of the levels, and how textures can be manipulated within the Tomb Raider engine, there appears to be no good reason for this kind of sloppy texture alignment. I can only imagine it was poor quality assurance on the part of Core Design.
- Maximum size for a texture under Glidos is 256x256 -- still not as high as modern games but enough to make a significant improvement to the graphics
- No ability to change solid colour graphics -- so for example, Lara's legs and arms which do not use textures have to remain the same solid colour