Archive:An Interview With Oddworld Inhabitants
- Published: 1 October 1999
- Host: Master Gamer
- Interviewer: Ivan Trembow
- Interviewee: Lorne Lanning
- Format: Published Online
Master Gamer's Editor in Chief Ivan Trembow recently conducted an interview with Lorne Lanning, the founder of Oddworld Inhabitants and the director of all of its games. During the interview, Lanning revealed some things about Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee and The Hand of Odd that had never previously been revealed to any other video game web site or magazine. Read on for the world-exclusive details.
Ivan Trembow: How is development of Munch's Oddysee coming along and when should we expect it to be released?
Lorne Lanning: I don't think I would be exaggerating if I said that Munch is the most ambitious game project ever put into motion by any company. It's coming along extremely well, but it's huge and we still have tons of work to do. However, it is our goal to release simultaneously with Sony's 128-bit system.
Ivan Trembow: When did development on Munch's Oddysee begin?
Lorne Lanning: Story development began even before the company of Oddworld was formed. Conceptual game design began in '97. Production design, actual proto- typing, coding, and art production didn't begin until late '98.
Ivan Trembow: In what ways has the core Oddworld gameplay formula changed in Munch's Oddysee?
Lorne Lanning: Our previous games were a gene splicing of action and adventure, with a lot of Hollywood production value injected into them. Munch's Oddysee is a gene splicing of action, adventure, RPG, strategy, and simulation, with even more high-quality production value everywhere. How to describe this when nothing like it has ever been seen before... is quite difficult. Seeing is believing, and nothing I can say now will even come close to giving a half-way decent impression of what this experience will be like. The most obvious difference between Munch and our past games is that Munch's Oddysee is in full, real-time 3D. Another one of the major differences is that our previous games tended to be puzzle-oriented and more game-like than life-like. Munch's Oddysee will be far more focused on world simulation and the behaviors of characters and eco-systems to achieve much more "living" impressions. We are simulating entire life cycles for all the characters in the world, all the communities, and even the landscape. We are truly going for a more "world" simulation approach rather than gauntlet types of puzzles. Super-advanced behavioral, simulation, and social chemistry models are happening in Munch's world. You will be able to GameSpeak around and manipulate large numbers of characters in order to have them do your bidding and re-shape your world. GameSpeak will also become much more highly evolved and smarter, but also much simpler to understand and use.
Ivan Trembow: In what ways are Munch and Abe similar? In what ways are the two of them different?
Lorne Lanning: Munch is similar to Abe in that he is also hanging at the bottom of the food chain. Munch is the last survivor of his species. He's a Gabbit, and all of the Gabbits have been killed off. The Gabbits' lungs made good transplants into Glukkons who had lung cancer. Lots of Glukkons get lung cancer, so there was a pretty big demand for Gabbit lungs. This has been going on for long enough that now there are no more Gabbits. Except for Munch, of course. So where is this last Gabbit living? Why, in a medical research facility, of course. So this is how Munch is similar to Abe. They're both screwed in life. Munch is also different from Abe in several ways. One, he's amphibious. Abe can't swim, and he nearly drowns each time he goes in the water. Munch can swim, and he's extremely fast and agile in the water. But when on land, Munch is a bit more clumsy and slow. He's got a RS232 port implanted in his skull cap that allows him to "possess" mechanical devices, whereas Abe possesses living things.
Ivan Trembow: What role will Abe play in Munch's Oddysee?
Lorne Lanning: Abe basically kidnaps Munch in the beginning, so Munch really hates Abe for first half of the experience.
Ivan Trembow: What will the relationship be between Munch and Abe?
Lorne Lanning: Completely dysfunctional... until they learn how to get along. Munch winds up in a wheelchair for a good part of the story, and during that time Abe just pushes him around to where Abe wants to go, without concern for how Munch feels. So Munch really resents Abe and doesn't hesitate to let him know it.
Ivan Trembow: What systems is Munch's Oddysee planned for, and why did you choose those systems?
Lorne Lanning: The PlayStation 2 and PC's that don't exist yet. We chose the PlayStation 2 because it had the minimum specs to achieve what we wanted to build. This is an extremely ambitious project.
Ivan Trembow: How do you manage to successfully draw the line in terms of difficulty in your games so that hardcore Oddworld fans will find a sufficient challenge, but gamers who are new to Oddworld or casual gamers aren't alienated?
Lorne Lanning: Munch's Oddysee will have three options of difficulty available upon start up. In our old games that were very puzzle oriented, it was very difficult to tune for various difficulty ranges. But with our new world simulation approach, it's much easier for us to dial the intensity of the world to be more or less aggressive.
Ivan Trembow: How is development of The Hand of Odd coming along?
Lorne Lanning: It's going to be amazing. Hand of Odd will use the Munch's Oddysee technology with the added multi-player functionality. Currently at Oddworld, we are focused on building a core technology and tool-set that will begin in and evolve through the 128-bit era. What this means is that shortly after players have had a chance to chomp on the universe of Munch's Oddysee, they will be given the ability to multi-play others with the same chemistry through Hand of Odd. This means that they will be able to build and develop their entire communities, then pitch them against one another or work cooperatively. It brings an entire new twist to the idea of multi- player conflicts.
Ivan Trembow: What characters will be in The Hand of Odd, and how will all of Oddworld's characters be seamlessly integrated into one game environment like that?
Lorne Lanning: Hand of Odd will utilize all of the species of Munch's Oddysee, and add several new ones. You'll need to see it to believe it because it uses the same sense of perspective, camera orientations, and overall world navigation abilities of Munch.
Ivan Trembow: When did development of The Hand of Odd begin, and when do you think it will be complete?
Lorne Lanning: It began alongside the development of Munch, but it will release about six to nine months after Munch does.
Ivan Trembow: What systems will The Hand of Odd be for, and why did you choose those systems?
Lorne Lanning: We chose the same systems as Munch and for the same reasons.
Ivan Trembow: Everything I've read about The Hand of Odd loosely defines it as a strategy game, but can you get more specific on what you'll have to do in the game and how you'll go about doing it?
Lorne Lanning: It's certainly not a strategy game, although when compared to any other type of play experience out there... I guess it's most easily compared to strategy. Imagine building your estates, franchises, communes, and investments, then defending them against other players who are doing the same, or trying to acquire other players' developments. Now imagine doing it through hundreds of characters that are being controlled not by a mouse, but by GameSpeak-using central characters. It's hard to define because it's so different from what's out there in games. I guess Black & White comes the closest to even treading on this type of territory.
Ivan Trembow: Will gamers be able to play as both the "good guys" and the "bad guys" in The Hand of Odd?
Lorne Lanning: Absolutely. The whole idea is choose!
Ivan Trembow: How are you managing to take the Oddworld series completely out of its element in a different kind of game, while still making it look and feel like Oddworld?
Lorne Lanning: These new games are actually getting much closer to the original vision of Oddworld as we initially perceived it. We considered the 32-bit PlayStation era to be a place where we could learn how to build games and begin to develop our universe. But the 128-bit era is really why we got into games in the first place. The titles that are coming, although very different in game form from what you've seen from us thus far, are much more "Oddworld" in their sensibilities. Much of what makes Oddworld special is the characters, the humor, the irony, the depth of story and universe, and the creative gameplay. The mechanics that we developed in the 32-bit era tried to evolve basic sensibilities about what we felt the future of games is going to be about, such as in-game character communication, more thinking, characters that seem to see and hear and follow other characters' commands, more orchestrated soundtracks, dysfunctional relationships, empathy instead of aggression, higher production values, etc. Our goal is that you will feel as though you are truly in the world of Oddworld, instead of just being in the game of Oddworld. It's going to be very emotional to play. Disturbing and inspiring at the same time.