Abe’s Exedus Interview

Abe's Exedus Interview [Hosted by Nasty's Dungeon]

Date: 1st October, 1998
Interviewer: Kane
Interviewee: Lorne Lanning

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/19991009192122/http://mail.standard.net.au:80/~kane/abeint.htm

Firstly I’d like to say thanks to GTI Australia & the ABE Team for doing this for us fans, secondly thanks to Sharon for helping me out all the time. These questions are compiled from many questions asked from visitors to my site.

Q: What ideas did the first ABE story originate from? Did one of you guys have the idea or was it compiled over months/years of design?

A: The stories for Oddworld had been started (in written form) back in 1986. I used to write lots of stories that didn’t seem to have any practical application because they were so weird, yet ironically true. I couldn’t help but write them as they just seemed to haunt me. Eventually, many of these stories came together to form the basis of Oddworld.

The spine of the entire story, meaning the core of the content, the key characters, the primary dilemmas and conflicts… were created by me long ago. But when we get into an actual project, like Abe’s Oddysee, then a great deal of changing must take place to make it seem cohesive for an actual game.

In the original story of Abe’s Oddysee, SoulStorm Brew was a very important part. But because of time and production limitations, we had to cut SoulStorm Brew out of Abe’s Oddysee. However, with Abe’s Exodus, we had the opportunity to tell the story of SoulStorm Brew, which happens to be a very important part of the overall Quintology. But because it was originally written to happen with Abe’s Oddysee, it had to be completely re-written to be able to stand on its own and ultimately take place after the events of Abe’s Oddysee. When this happens to us, then our internal writers get involved creatively on what should happen, when, and how. Then we work as a team to create something that works with the overall flow of the universe of Oddworld.

Q: Will there be another great ABE sequel?

A: Abe’s Oddysee is the first of the Oddworld Quintology. The Quintology is a series of five games that will ultimately tell one massive story. Each game in the Quintology incorporates a new hero character that will join up with the previous games hero character. For instance, the next game in the Quintology will be Munch’s Oddysee. Munch is a new character with problems of his own and you can bet that he is also an unlikely hero with a twisted background and one hell of a dilemma. Abe will find Munch and they will team together to work towards a greater cause.

By the end of the Quintology, there will be five central hero characters that all work together in one massive game that is not even comprehendible with today’s technology. Fortunately, by the time we wrap the final game in the Quintology, it will be ten years from now and the technology will be significantly advanced from today’s. Along the way, each Quintology game will take significant leaps in terms of technology, innovation, gameplay, and overall size. Each of these will take about two years to produce.

In the meantime, we will be building the “Exoddus” games that help fill in the story and take the last Quintology game’s engine and hero characters to new places with new levels of character interaction. So in the next ten years, you will probably see 9 or 10 games that all take place on the Oddworld. To us, Oddworld is another planet that is absolutely huge. Abe’s Oddysee has just set you down on this planet and you’ve just seen a tiny portion. The Inhabitants and Gamespeak are something that we see as an interactive digital equivalent to Jim Henson’s “The Muppets”. Or as we would say, “The Muppets meets the X-files”.

Q: What improvements does Abe’s Exodus have over Abe’s Oddworld?

A: We spent a great deal of time making sure that all controls were in intuitive locations and could unfold in intuitive ways. There are a number of control possibilities, but it only adds to the entertainment value once you’ve spent the first couple of minutes with it.

During the development phase, we did a lot of focus testing. During which time we found a number of things that were making it more difficult for the focus testers, but their feedback allowed us to find the shortcomings play and then we implemented solutions for all of the problems. Also, many people are so blown away with the Quicksave option that they feel it completely takes away any unnecessary replay qualities and also removes the frustration factor.

Q: Did you plan ABE to have a sequel?

A: It was always our intention to create some games that would take place in between the releases of the Quintology games. We didn’t expect that we would do it this soon, but with the delay in the release of next level development systems (PSXII & Dreamcast), it made sense to wait a little while for Munch’s Oddysee. If we tried to make Munch’s Oddysee run on the current 32 bit level of technology… then it would certainly be diluted and not at all be the game that we have envisioned.

However, by waiting a little while, and making another great game for the technology that does exist, then we are actually strengthening the value of the Oddworld property and reinforcing our commitment to creative quality for all of the Oddworld fans. When people play Abe’s Exoddus, there is no way they will feel as though we are milking the cow. If anything, they will feel as though other games should strive for the same level of high quality, content, and detail.

Q: Is it hard making a GOOD game sequel & keeping up to the expectations?

A: When Abe’s Oddysee released we watched all the chat groups and forums on the net very closely. When we saw that some people were having difficulty and were getting frustrated it devastated us. I personally couldn’t sleep at night. We really poured our hearts into this game and we wanted everyone to love it. Some people weren’t bothered but others were.

We found that the biggest problem was our save feature and another was that they had to die often to learn the solutions to puzzles. We knew that you needed to die to learn solutions, that’s why we gave you infinite lives and actually encouraged dying. But when hundred of thousands of people start playing your game its weaknesses get revealed to you very quickly. If we knew earlier we would have fixed it and it would have resulted in less frustration. As it stands we have fixed both problems in Abe’s Exodus and it is even more enjoyable than the first game.

We all believe, as does focus testing, and also everyone else who has seen Abe’s Exoddus, that this one is going to be much bigger than the first. It is truly a work of art. The art, humor, gameplay, and overall attention to detail and integration is awesome. We really killed ourselves and it shows on every level. Much like Abe’s Oddysee, it’s a completely unique game for the Playstation. And if people want something different, which is what a lot of people want right now, then this game stands out from the crowd. Add in all the additional humour qualities…

Q: With Abe’s Oddworld being such a lovable hit did you guys have any worries about similarities?

A: Absolutely. This is why there are all new environments, many new mechanics, new characters, and most of all, new Gamespeak and Mudokon Emotions. With all of these new features, the game has similarities, but it is truely a one of a kind experience. It does not fall into the “hey, we had a success so let’s rip them off with a clone” syndrome.

Q: Did you ever think ABE would make it to be the very first computer game ever to be submitted for an Oscar Nomination? What are your feelings on this?

A: Believe it or not most of our old peers are envious of what we have done and what we have achieved since leaving Hollywood. They would all like to be constantly creating cool stories and characters, but there is so little (if any) opportunities to actually do it in Hollywood. When our former peers look at our work, they always respond with sincere compliments and praise. They know how hard great CG is to achieve and they know how difficult it is to make convincing characters and compelling stories.

Since the submission of the Oscars, we have been getting even more support from the film community. They are excited to see that the bar is being raised for storytelling and animation within the games industry. It’s a good thing for all of us. Both in the film biz and in the game biz.

Q: If ABE gets accepted for the Nomination & actually wins will there be an animated ABE movie!?!?! if so I want 20% commission for the idea *LOL* j/k

A: We plan to start working on the movie for Abe’s Oddysee in 2.5 years from now. So I imagine that it will be about 5 years before the first Oddworld feature film hits the big screen. It was always our goal, from inception of the story, to make the Quintology not only a series of five games, but also a series of five movies.

Q: In designing Abe’s Exodus did you find yourself veering away from the original ABE game style?

A: In the respect that there are thinking puzzles which often times involve action, the game’s pace is similar. But this is a much bigger game with quite a few new tricks that have a different feel than the first. But the basic type chemistry in strategy is the same. However, the fact that you now command multiple Mudokons at once and use them to work puzzles for you… has changed the feeling of the pace significantly.

In general, all of the puzzles are new and you now have emotional characters and also the ability to possess all the characters. The nature of these puzzles remains similar to the first game, but the amount of characters that you use to solve the puzzles, and the way that you need to manipulate the other characters, has greatly increased your ways of dealing with puzzles. And just like the first game, there will always be multiple ways to solve any one puzzle.

I don’t want to spill the beans and describe any of the puzzles. But I will say once again, if you liked Abe’s Oddysee, your going to love Abe’s Exodus. That’s a promise.

Q: What were the key aspects in the designing stages of Abe’s Oddysee & Abe’s Exodus to make him such a lovable character & playable game?

A: Personality of character is something that most game developers completely overlook. Then creating game mechanics that actually enhance character personality is a very challenging task. If you don’t spend a ton of time trying to specifically design mechanics that enhance personality (like Gamespeak and emotions), then it isn’t going to happen.

Q: Why do you think ABE is so lovable to even hardcore gamers such as myself, generally level/platform games are ok but ABE just draws you in immensely!!

A: We believe that there are several degrees of detail which must be achieved before your characters exude any sense of life.

First of all, animation must be flawless and smooth.

Secondly, the way in which the character interacts with the backgrounds must make sense and not look fake. I am constantly amazed at all of the Mikee Jackson moonwalk cycles that are going on in the game business. It’s like the animators and designers just don’t think it’s important to have their characters feet not slip all over the floor.

Next is the voices and the timings of their responses. Gamespeak gives us a great edge in personality as it adds a functional and dynamic audio element to gameplay and humour.

Finally, it’s the way in which characters interact with each other. Trying to get the interactions to feel right and feel alive without becoming mechanical or “gamey” takes a lot of effort. We have put a great deal of effort into all of these areas and we believe that these qualities are what hook in the gamer to our characters.

Q: What programs do you use in the creation of a game, as in graphics/programming?

A: Our CG department uses SGI computers with Alias software and numerous other plug-in software. The Paint department uses Macintosh computers with PhotoShop. The Game Designers use a proprietary package for game layout. The Programmers use PC with C++.

Q: Do you use game testers or do you have in-house testers?

A: We have a staff of 2 full-time bug testers and during the Alpha period we then hired another 4 part time testers. GT also had a group of testers working out of one of their offices.

Thank you very much for your time, I would like to once again thank all of GTI Australia , Sharon Simmons & The ABE team for allowing the time to do this for us gamers & keep us up to date & continually in contact with the gaming world.

Thanks, Kane.