Archive:Universe - Oddworld History

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The Article

What the heck is Oddworld?" The question begins eating at you almost immediately after cranking up the first game in the Oddworld Quintology, Abe's Oddysee. Is it just a random place that the folks at Oddworld Inhabitants (the game's maker) picked as the backdrop for their hapless hero's (Abe) adventures? Or is it a place with a history? In order to fully appreciate each of the five games that will eventually populate the Oddworld Quintology, you need to have an understanding of the world on which they're happening. While it certainly mirrors some of our world, there are elements to it that are distinctly Oddworldian (for example, just how many people do you know on Earth who can possess their farts? excluding maybe Howard Stern).

One of the first things you need to understand about Oddworld is its sheer enormity. We're not talking about two or even three times the size of Earth. We're talking TEN - countem' , TEN - times the size of our planet. It would take the innards of at least one thousand Paramites to stretch around the entirety of the planet (and that's a lot of innards!). Now, stop for a second to consider just how many VERY different cultures could possibly develop on such a huge planet. Logic dictates that the spread of information would take 10 times as long as we're used to on this planet. You also need to remember that the Inhabitants of Oddworld are extremely resistant to change...even more than Republicans! For example, the Glukkons STILL use fat-powered trains (the same type they've been using for over a hundred years). So, let's say for the sake of argument that harnessing fire was discovered in Oddworld in the year 0000. If it took, let's say, 100 years for that knowledge to spread around our world, Oddworld as a whole wouldn't have that knowledge until - AT LEAST - the end of their first millennium (that's 1,000 years to you youngsters).

Now, simply imagine how different the first culture to discover this ability would be from the last; in all probability, the first to discover the harnessing of fire would have already moved on to far more complex stuff by the time the last culture even knew about it. So the reality is that Oddworld has the potential to play host to species that would seem as alien to each other as, let's say, a trustworthy president would be to us.

Another thing to understand about Oddworld - specifically with regard to size - is that the stuff we're seeing now (and will continue to see for a while) is taking place in a very small part of this planet called Mudos. While the breakdown of territory on Oddworld has no real parallel in our world, it's best to think of Mudos as a sort of country - its social landscape is sculpted from a variety of lifeforms (i.e. Glukkons, Sligs, Mudokons, etc.) that may not (and probably aren't) representative of the whole of Oddworld. Think of it as the dirtiest, most morally bankrupt city you can imagine (kinda' like Bevery Hills, without all the face lifts and tummy tucks).

While Oddworld exists in a different plane than our Earth, its inhabitants can't escape the issues that seem to glom onto any sentient beings, regardless of location. It is not Utopia. In Oddworld, there is a very distinct food chain that exploits those at the bottom and rewards those at the top. As we learned in Abe's Oddysee, Abe and his fellow Mudokons were at the bottom of the food chain; they were slaves of the Glukkons' infernal company, RuptureFarms. Obviously, the Glukkons were the ones at the top of the food chain in this scenario. But how did this scenario come to be? How is it that the Glukkons came to be in such positions of power? Like virtually every aspect of Oddworld, there is an explanation for it. But that explanation didn't come easy...this reporter was required to ply Lorne Lanning and Sherry McKenna, the President and CEO of the company respectively, with copious amounts of booze and ego-stroking to get the following info on their fictitious world. As the saying goes, though, it's dirty work, but someone's gotta do it!

A long time ago (and we mean a LONG time ago....millennia and stuff), the Glukkons and the Mudokons lived lives that would belie their future entanglement with one another. To put it mildly, they didn't have the slave-master relationship we see so painfully depicted in Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee.

Buried in the mists of Oddworldian time - unknown even by modern Mudokons - is a memory of the Mudokons as they once were: a race of spiritual folk who weren't necessarily averse to warfare. Lorne Lanning compares their presence at this time to Tibetan monks of the 12th century. Not warlike themselves, they served as advisors to many who were...not unlike the playground instigator or that kid from "The Simpsons" who always says "haaaa haaaa." As the mist shrouding Oddworld's past lifts - and it will lift over the course of the Quintology - the folk the Mudokons counseled and the not-necessarily-admirable stuff they did in that capacity will be revealed. We'll also learn just how this noble and seemingly powerful race of creatures went from the upper echelons of Oddworldian culture down to the slaves used in Glukkon factories. While the whole story isn't known right now (well, it is known, but Lorne won't tell anyone), it probably has a lot to do with the "Alechemy Age" through which the Glukkons were simultaneously working.

While their ruthless corporate activities in both AO and AE would lead you to believe otherwise, the Glukkons were at one time a very spiritual people. In fact, while the Mudokons were going through their "Advisor Era," the Glukkons were going through an era of their own: the Alchemy Era. At the core of their mysticism was a belief that a holy woman named "Shirley McClain" would come to the rescue...just kiddin'. In actuality, their belief system centered on the moon that orbited Oddworld; the face of the planet appeared to bear the mark of a Mudokon's handprint. At the time, the Mudokons considered this a sign that they were, for lack of a better term, the Chosen People. The Glukkons went to great lengths through their alchemy to disprove this theory and prove that they - in fact - were the true chosen people. During the course of these experiments, a disaster of unknown type occurred and almost did to the Glukkons what Jerry Springer has done to America's sense of decency.

In short, this accident set the wheels of fate into motion. The remaining Glukkons became what Lorne Lanning refers to as "Enclosurists," not wanting to look up in the sky and be reminded of the fact that they weren't the Chosen ones - kind of like DeadHeads after Jerry Garcia died. As a result, they immediately began spending all their waking hours inside - kind of like "Star Trek" fans. Over the course of the many years that ensued, their eyes became incapable of dealing with natural light. Further, they rejected their mystical heritage in favor of a colder, more scientific approach to their problems. Lurking beneath their disbelief, though, is almost an inbred hatred of the Mudokons for their claim to divinity. This scientific approach, coupled with nascent ill will for Mudokons eventually lead to the management approach that would have no problem enslaving Abe and all of his kind in the name of the all mighty bottom line.

So that's the story so far. There are a couple of important things to keep in mind as the Oddworld story unfolds in the coming years, though. First, history is being made in these games, and not just in the area of world class gameplay. The shrouded history of the Mudokons will come in to light over the course of these games, as will their future. Similarly, the Glukkons' past - one that may make you think twice before simply calling them "The Bad Guys" - will emerge slowly. And, of course, we're going to be introduced to other characters and species whose histories - while separate from both the Mudokons' and the Glukkons' - will be just as vital to the Oddworld story. So when you're sitting there playing AO for the 100th time, or sitting down with AE for the first time, take a second to think about the stuff going on behind the scenes, above the fart just might be surprised by what you find.