Jammin’ with Lorne Lanning
Published: 8 June 2000
Host: PlayStation Pro
Interviewer: Will Johnston
Jammin’ with Lorne Lanning
You’ve made the decision to introduce a new character instead of pushing Abe into the limelight which is quite original. What benefits does a new character give the gamer and what does the new gameworld consist of?
Even though Abe proved to be quite successful, Munch was always the second hero scheduled for the Oddworld Quintology. So now that it’s time for the second instalment, it’s time for Munch. Because he is new we were free to explore new types of basic control play mechanics. We also wanted to create a character that felt completely different from the usual biped‐type characters. We wanted something that made you smile as soon as you started moving him around. As you&rqsuo;ll be controlling Munch and Abe in this game (switching whenever you like), you’ll find that Abe is more agile on land, while Munch is more agile in his wheelchair or in water. Yet they both stick to the world and control the world in a way that is completely dynamic.
How have you found the PlayStation2 as a console, Oddyee and Exoddus used the PSX hardware well but in an original way through their gameplay eg: Gamespeak etc. Is this the same in Munch’ or is there an even balance between graphical technology and gameplay innovation?
There is definitely more of an even balance between creativity and technology in this game. The good news is that we’ve taken them both to a whole new level. Gamespeak and other classic Abe features (sneaking, possession, rescuing ect.) have evolved for Munch’s Oddysee, while the 3‐D technology is something that pushes the limits of this new hardware.
The PS2 is not easy to develop for. We believe it’s going te create a lot of problems for developers who don’t have the budgets that will allow them to dedicate the amount of time necessary to write good stuff for this system. It’s powerful, but at the same time there are a lot of low level obvious problems that do not appear to have been addressed by Sony. So you will spend a lot of time on things that you wouldn’t even have had to bother with if you were on PC or Dreamcast.
What’s your favourite part of the game at the moment and why you think the gamer will enjoy that particular part?
Wow, it’s very hard to narrow it down like that. This game is so different, has so many new things going on, it’s hard to say. Aside from the extremely accurate collision detection, completely dynamic character controls and fluid camera motions… maybe it would be the way you switch between characters. We just got this switching implemented recently, and it blew us all away. To be playing with one completely dynamic character, Abe, and then to hit a button and instantly go to another location and have another completely different type of dynamic character, Munch, is something that we’d just never felt before. It seems so natural to do this, but it’s never happened so quickly and smoothly before in such a rich world.
How does the various plot directions work and how do they link to Oddworld games, past and future?
This game takes place after Abe&rsqou;s Oddysee and Abe’s Exoddus, as all of the five parts to the Quintology will unfold in a linear fashion. The Quintoloy is basically the story of Abe as he follows the consumer food chain from his third world meat factory to the heart of consumerism in the big city. Each Oddysee game in the Quintology will get us closer and closer to the big city, while each one also introduces a new hero along the way.
Soul Storm Brew and all the funny bits of the first games were popular, anything like that in store for Munch’s Oddysee?
Munch is loaded with funny bits. We’ve played up consumer products to a whole new level. Even the way you get a lot of power‐ups comes from vending machines. Most of the weapons in Munch’s fire addictive consumer goods, planes drop vending machines instead of bombs, lots of crazy stuff like that. It’s funny on many different levels. One, because these are great gags and sarcasm, but on another level because they embody so much of what we know to be disturbingly true.
What PlayStation games are you playing at the moment and what do you regard as the biggest achievements on PlayStation recently?
I’m still playing Driver. It’s the only fan mail I’ve ever sent to a developer. I think the controls and physics on this game were miles ahead of any other game on the PlayStation. I thought Gran Turismo had great physics, but ever since Driver came out, I can’t even play GT2 because it’s missing the burnout button and those great controls. The AI of the rest of the cars in Driver was also amazing for a PlayStation game.
Do you see Oddworld making a leap from the cathode‐ray tube to the silver screen?
It’s only a matter of time. The stories of the Quintology were originally conceived and written as though they were motion pictures. So the original conception of these stories has far more content and details than a game budget affords us to communicate, but this helps the game versions of the stories to have a rich backbone.
We detect a cross between Dr. Suess and The Three Stooges, but what was the real inspiration behind the Oddworld Inhabitants?
The real inspiration is from the injustices that have taken place in world history and are still taking place today. Abe was inspired by those poor bastard diamond miners of South Africa who have long been working as near slaves for De Beers [wahey!—Ed]. Munch was inspired by those creatures losing the extinction battle every day to our gluttonous appetites, and also those hundreds of millions of voiceless animals being tested on in laboratories every day. Whether you agree that these modern practices are okay or not is irrelevant to hearing the stories of those that have become victims. So for today’s world these are great stories with a lot of heart. On the ‘business of art’ front, inspiration has come from people who have built quality entertainment universes like George Lucas, Jim Henson and Walt Disney.
There seems to be a huge anti‐industrialisation message within all the Oddworld games. Does this mean Abe and chums won’t be seen advertising root beer or beauty products?
Our licensing philosophy has one rule: don’t tell us how to make content or tell our stories. By default, this counts out a lot of products and big corporations. For example; it&rsuo;s okay with us if McDonalds licenses Abe… but they never will. They won’t do it because they will never put a character on their burgers who is an anti‐deforestation representative. McDonalds is supporting the clear cutting of rain forests at a rapid pace, so they wouldn’t touch Abe unless they could have us change the story. To which we would tell them to piss off. Our characters all have issues like this. Characters like Mario or Crash are completely consumer product friendly because they don’t stand for anything. However, Abe and Munch have some serious issues.
In the first game Mudokons were mute, in the second they were blind and in the third Munch starts off in a wheelchair. What’s with this fascination with disability?
I guess it’s all representative of being a little guy in a big cruel world. I don’t think we’ve ever thought of them as having disabilities, it just comes naturally to us. We try to communicate characters that are underdogs and have lived with injustice, and these traits help us to tell a complicated background with a simple visual design. Of course, these traits also aid in creating humorous game mechanics.
The games industry makes more money than Hollywood. With games becoming ever more cinematic, do you see a day when Cinemas will become a novelty and interactive home entertainment takes over?
It’s already happened for me. I don’t go to theatres anymore, I just wait for the DVD to come out. I guess it’s mainly because I don’t like when people talk during a movie, I don’t like that I can’t hit pause and go to the bathroom or roll another… uh… I mean get another beer, I can’t turn up the volume, the audio quality usually isn’t that good, etc. The list goes on and on. It also helps that I have a huge screen surround sound system in a comfortable living room. A lot of people that I know feel the same way about this. So yes, I think this time is right around the corner. Consumer electronics get cheaper and higher quality while movie theatres are getting smaller, dumpier, and more expensive.
What do you see when you close your eyes at night and the demons come?
Janet Reno and the FBI storming my neighbourhood and broadcasting to the world that our entire block is evil and must be destroyed.