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  • Published: 04 June 1998
  • Host:
  • Author: Paul O’Connor

The Designer Diary

Part 3: Exoddus

The problem with trying to kill yourself by jumping out of a window at Oddworld is that we’re on the second floor. You either have to aim for something sharp or be uncommonly determined. How did two game designers wind up on the ledge? Read on.

We never intended to do a direct sequel to Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee. The events and Inhabitants of Oddworld were supposed to be introduced via a five-part ‘quintology’ of games, with Abe’s Oddysee being the first and Munch’s Oddysee being the second. We were ready to gear up for Munch, but a funny thing happened.

Abe was a hit.

A big hit.

Suddenly it made all the sense in the world to give Abe another outing. We could have our gristle and eat it, too. Munch would still be the second game in the quintology, while Abe’s Exoddus would be a ‘bonus’ game. Lorne Lanning (the creative evil genius behind Oddworld) immediately locked on to the notion of creating one or more bonus titles for all the anchor games in the quintology.

Fortunately, we haven’t even scratched the surface of what we can do with the Abe’s Oddysee engine. ‘What?’ I hear you cry. ‘It’s a platform game! Platform games have been done to death! You gotta be 3D with two D-cups to be cutting edge.’ From an engineering point of view, you might be right, but I’m no propeller-head. I’m a game designer, and I’m here to tell you that if you thought Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee was the ultimate expression of the platform game, then you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.

The Exoddus began in June 1997, at Atlanta’s E3 trade show. I roomed with Rob Brown, who would end up art directing Abe’s Exoddus. (Actually, I roomed with Rob’s suitcase. Rob didn’t miss a party in Atlanta, and what he did off the top of that parking structure should have gotten him arrested.) When Rob wasn’t drunk, we whiled away the hours gassing about a new Abe game. We had visions of zeppelins and Slig slavers, with Abe cast as an unlikely king trying to lead a pack of recently freed slaves into nationhood.

Alas, getting Abe’s Oddysee out the door was a full-time job, and not much else was done on the Exoddus until later in the year, when we hired Chris Ulm into the design department. Ulm, the former editor in chief of Malibu Comics, forged our blue sky into a design outline. It was a very economical design, easily doable inside of a year. Ulm and I prided ourselves on how we managed to reuse so many existing environments and characters. This, we decided, would be a snap.

Brimming with confidence, Ulm and I pitched our idea to Lorne. We painted a word picture of Abe’s new predicament, described the movies, laid out the major plot points, illustrated the new venues, and generally raved about how this new game would be the greatest thing since phone sex.

Lorne hated every word of it.


— Paul O’Connor, Oddworld Inhabitants, 20 May 1998

NEXT: Designers on the Ledge