The Brutal Ballad of Fangus Klot
The Brutal Ballad of Fangus Klot is a cancelled video game that Oddworld Inhabitants started developing for Microsoft’s Xbox. It would have featured the same mix of first- and third-person action and combat as Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath, but with a more muscle-bound and human character wielding guns in a darker and more political setting.
In Fangus, various sapient races have evolved from felines and canines, the two cultures maintaining a deep mutual hatred. The inhabitants of Fangustan are a race of nomadic herders descended from bulldogs, but their lands are invaded by Vamps, the cat-like Mafia of another country. These feline Mafiosi build factories and refineries to produce hardcore catnip, forcing the native shepherds to work them.
Amongst the shepherds is Fangus Klot, who is taken from his familiar forested hills and popberry fields and enslaved for years as a pitfighter. After many fights with increasingly powerful opponents, Fangus is pitted against a huge and rabid fighter who bites Fangus—infecting him with rabies—and destroys enough of the arena to allow Fangus to escape. With the help of his rabid flock, Fangus must then free Fangustan before he succumbs to his rabies.
The game was going to use the Stranger engine, which Oddworld Inhabitants were very proud of and wanted maximise their use of, to tell the story of an Inhabitant ‘so intense he makes Stranger look like Munch in terms of intensity’.
The story is inspired by documentaries about Russian forced labour camps in Siberia that grew into city-scale prisons. Lorne Lanning and Raymond Swanland were interested in exploring an area of Oddworld ‘like where Eastern Europe meets Russia’ and drew on the timeless mythical rivalry between cats and dogs to create opposing races who harboured an unrelenting mutual hatred, like Palestine and Israel. Fangustan was modelled on traditional Afghanistan, populated by nomadic herders, while the Vamps were inspired by the post-Soviet collapse of Russian intelligence services into a corrupt mafia.
Production started on The Brutal Ballad of Fangus Klot, including concept art, level design,, music and realtime animation (with over 100 animations outsourced to Alcazar Entertainment), all with a more serious, intense and politically shocking tone in response to the current trend in the market. Originally, Lanning had set the story on Oddworld, albeit different part of it (even giving it a title of a different ilk to past Oddworld games), but keeping the setting on Oddworld, albeit a different part of it. However, having given the production team more control over the project, he saw that they shifted the design into something much more realistic and human to make a more traditional shooter. Eventually Lanning lost interest, but let the game’s development continue on the proviso that it would not be set on Oddworld at all.
The Brutal Ballad of Fangus Klot was announced in the April 2005 issue of Game Informer, previewed for fans on the Oddworld Forums by member LawnChairFire, but receiving some suspicion that it was an April Fools’ joke. Unfortunately, by the time the magazine had reached news stands Oddworld Inhabitants were already shutting down the game development studio.
Lanning was having talks with EA Games about a sequel to Stranger’s Wrath the year before the game’s release, but having seen that their retention of the Oddworld IP meant the publisher was unwilling to invest in the game’s marketing, OWI eventually settled on Majesco Entertainment to publish their next title. However, Majesco began witholding payments to coerce Oddworld Inhabitants into renegotiating their contract, a situation OWI were not willing to put up with. Feeling that an original Xbox title with no Live play would not succeed at a time when press and gamer attention was focused on the Xbox 360, and receiving no more technical support from Microsoft, Lanning and Sherry McKenna decided it was best to shelve the game and all future in-house game development. However, The Brutal Ballad of Fangus Klot remains a story Lanning would like to tell one day, possibly to be completed by an external story-game developer and digitally distributed.
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- Lanning, Lorne (27 April 2005). ‘A brave new Oddworld: Lanning speaks out’, interview by Graeme Boyd. ComputerAndVideoGames.com.