I’ve written this post six times over since May.
Ever since I interviewed Nathan McCree back in 2013, we’ve kept in touch and I’ve been aware of just the struggles and the work he’s had to do to get to this point, and it’s been incredible to see it come to fruition.
Since that interview, we met in person at the first Tomb Raider Suite in December of 2016, and then in April of this year, where the first buffet reception of the Tomb Raider Suite Album was held at Hatfield House.
It was mainly an invite and backer-only event, alongside a raffle which, if your Kickstarter-backer number was read out, you had a ticket to attend.
Thanks to Nathan and his expert-raffle skills, I was lucky to attend, by a very odd twist of fate that me and Nathan are still laughing about now.
This is what happened at the Reception.
Only yesterday did it feel like I was at the Concert at the Hammersmith, and now we’re on the eve of the album release in a few short weeks.
It’s come a long way since I first asked Nathan over a Facebook message if he wanted to ask some questions for Platform Magazine, and since then we’ve become friends, which lead up to the Buffet Reception, where we greeted one another with a firm handshake and many laughs on the 28th April.
After arriving the day before, having a rest, and spending the following morning of the 28th playing TR 1 on a PSP I re-discovered before I left Manchester, it was a fun time. I was also watching Supermarket Sweep, with other attendees to the Suite, of who will be mentioned later.
14:00 dawned, and so it was time to leave Lara’s Home on the PSP and get ready.
There was an event on Facebook I had spotted while on the train to Hatfield the day before, where people were saying they would be meeting at a pub nearby, so I decided to attend and say hello. All great people. After 5 minutes we all introduced ourselves and suddenly I found myself talking to a few, one fellow-writer for example, and we just talked about Tomb Raider through and through, alongside people who were talking of their travels to get there. I was amazed how some were still feeling some jetlag from leaving Heathrow from earlier in the day, but it just showed what an event like this can mean for people.
Once 17:00 appeared, we all began the walk to Hatfield House, which was only 5 minutes.
We found ourselves at an entrance, but had gotten distracted by a certain view. The view which is the photo at the beginning of this post. Straight away, it felt as though I was in Tomb Raider II. The house, the gates, it all looked as it should. From playing Tomb Raider II on Christmas Day in 1997 of the training level, it felt as if I was there. Similar to how people visit the house from Father Ted in Ireland, I had a moment, and instead of expecting Ted to appear, it was Winston.
But little did I know that was soon to come as well.
The event began at 17:30, where we were lead to an entrance greeted by none other than ‘Winston’ himself. Even the ‘grunts’ were accurate.
People go to Disney-Land to meet Buzz Lightyear for a photo, but I go to Hatfield for a photo with Winston the Butler. We know who has won here.
We were given a complimentary glass of wine, and I was staring at everything in awe. Almost as if i was in the living room of Lara’s Home, and the dining table had been moved, and the door to the swimming pool was locked to us.
Banners of ‘The Tomb Raider Suite’ were everywhere, with different Lara’s through different games on others.
Walking up and down the room to take it all in, I was able to meet people in person at last, that I had previously only met and talked to through Twitter.
Victoria Pheasey & Jason Chester greeted me when I came in, two incredibly talented people, and it was as if we’d known one another for years. (They also recently released a podcast called ‘The Vault’, a gaming-focused series that is sure to have you subscribed after the first episode.)
This was a feeling I’d repeatedly experience throughout the night; from David, to Tracie, to Cathleen,to Ani. All great people, all pleased that they could attend the event.
Around 19:00 we were asked to form around the TV screen, where it showed the previous videos on the YouTube channel.
Part 1 – Coming Home.
Part 2 – Locating the Artefact.
Part 3 – Au Revoir Winston!
There was also a new video, a fourth part which linked all of them together. Right at the end, Nathan and previous Lara Croft model, Alison Carroll appeared arm-in-arm to the audience, to cheers and then a speech.
The orchestra, ‘String Infusion’ are a group of musicians who are incredibly talented, and they nailed the music as it played to us live. Soon after the whole album was played throughout the night, as background music, and it was great to just take it all in.
Not long after this, a speech by Nathan was given, where he thanked his whole team, and his wife especially, which was an emotional moment. It’s been 4-odd years for us fans, but for him, after some false starts over the course of twenty years, it finally has come together, and it was great to see all of this occur.
But what else happened?
There was a raffle, where I won one of the banners, which I’m going to be collecting once I move into my new flat. Something for the roof perhaps.
There was also a moment to chat with Nathan as he was making sure the music was at the right level, while also checking on how people were, alongside the guests like Shelley Blond, the original voice of Lara, and the host to the Suite. Still a professional through and through.
He was proud. Proud that he was finally playing the album he’s been funding and arranging since last year, and that there was so many people wanting to come to the reception, which has only spurred him on to keep it going. Which is why there is another Suite in London on the 17th September, of which you can buy right here.
But what did I think of the whole event?
It was incredible. It was an event to launch the album but to also talk to fans of all of the games, and how they influenced people, whether if it was in their daily profession, or just at life. It was a slight disappointment that the album wasn’t ready to give out, as that would have been a great touch for the evening. But it just wasn’t ready in time. It’s all being done by Nathan and his team, and from what we’ve listened to, we know of the massive work that’s been put in so far, and what’s also being done for the release. We’re happy to wait a bit longer.
I have a story to tell.
As the picture shows above, there was a big screen where it also showed short videos of the three games as the album was played throughout the night alongside the song titles for what was being played at that time. At one point, there was a lone chair, just out of shot of this picture, to the left.
People were just at the tables scattered across the room, and I had excused myself from one to get another glass of red wine. But when I came back, a track from Tomb Raider II was playing, and I spotted this particular chair.
So I sat and just took it all in for the next 15 minutes. I can imagine it now even, and I’m sure that memory will crystallise more-so when the album arrives to me. And there was a moment for me when it just showed that a game series like this makes an impact on people. No matter how big or small, it can influence what you want to do, and how you want to go about it. It can also bring people with the same interests or differing, interesting opinions about certain games in the series. I remember talking to ‘Phease’ and Cathleen about Shadow and my disinterest in it, but was curious as to how people who do like the reboot, will take to this final entry. There was no ill-will, no walking away in disgust, and no Twitter war. Just a nod from them both and we just had a conversation. Which in 2018, is a glaring, missing attribute from our society, and makes me think that social media just needs to be switched off now and again.
I thought about a lot of things in those 15 minutes at that chair. But, there was, without sounding like a Facebook status with a sunset picture, a feeling of closure. That since 2013 and discussing the ‘secret project’ which was this, the album and the suite and so forth, that Nathan has done it. He’s achieved it, and now it seems as though there’s nothing stopping him from scoring the ‘next’ Tomb Raider entry if it came to pass. He understands the fans’ needs, not just from the music. You can tell of his passion about the series too. It’s never fake, it’s never undermining, it’s all genuine, and he’ll always love listening about Tomb Raider, and Winston in that freezer.
If Sega can listen to the fans by bringing back the 2D-style of Sonic, with Sonic Mania, and it being developed by a team of fans who grew up with Sonic, why not the same approach for Tomb Raider?
Not long after this, the event was wrapping up, and we were all given a goodie-box with a multitude of treats, which also lead into the signing opportunities towards the end of the night.
There’s a few words I can take away from it to wrap this up, without sounding as if I have a shrine to Classic Lara behind my wardrobe.
But as I mentioned earlier, it all felt ‘complete‘. It felt as though you were in a moment where someone, after so long, went after what he believed in and enjoyed, and it has concluded into this. A place where we can hear his work from Abbey Road, listened to by fans who first heard it when they were eight years old when they unwrapped the plastic sheet on a Christmas Day. Then, sliding the disk into their PlayStation, Sega Saturn, or PC, ready to be taken to Peru, China, or India for the coming months.
But for me? I felt as though, from the time at Platform Magazine when I wasn’t sure if he was going to just ignore my message for a request for an interview, to Hatfield House this year, that this chapter after five years is all but concluded. We’re now all at the end of Return of Jedi in a way. We’re dancing with the Ewoks, we’re all having a good time, and that’s really all we need these days.
But even still: the story hasn’t ended yet, nor will it in the recent future.
Bring on the next chapter in this story. There’s still so much more to come for Nathan and everyone I’m sure.