William Anderson worked at Oddworld Inhabitants — during the developement of Abe’s Oddysee — as Manager of Interactive Design. He was kind enough to answer our questions.
Magog on the March: You have said that Sherry McKenna always treated you like a family member while you worked at Oddworld Inhabitants. How so?
William Anderson: I’ve worked for many people over the years, but Sherry never made you feel like you were an employee, more like someone to encourage. Never a harsh word or hint of judgement, and showed respect for what you had to add to a project.
Magog on the March: You apparently helped Oddworld Inhabitants get the design of Abe’s Oddysee “approved by Sony”. Could you expound on that?
William Anderson: While Lorne and Sherry had a great background in CG development they were unknown in the game industry and when I was brought in it was not only to set the game play design direction but to give Sony confidence that the play design was in experienced hands. With my background as lead game play designer on Aladdin (Game of the Year), Cool Spot and other hit console games many publishers knew my name at the time.
Magog on the March: Michael Madden claimed that the engine of Abe’s Oddysee was initially built on the technology of Demolition Man for Sega Genesis. Do you know more about this story?
William Anderson: True! Oddworld took over much of the programming staff and assets from Alexandria, Inc. who created many games with that engine.
Magog on the March: According to you, “Lorne started telling people I never worked for his company and to this date doesn’t list me on the credits for the game.” How do you explain that?
William Anderson: I can only explain it the way it was explained to me by Lorne when I found out and confronted him at E3 about it. At the time of my employment Oddworld was owned by a Venture Capital company called CPTV, the same VC company that owned Alexandria, Inc. Lorne claimed that because of this I worked for CPTV, not Oddworld which was bull, for under that logic Lorne also didn’t work for Oddworld. But I also think it was to hide my departure from publishers at the time. Loosing a high-profile lead game designer is never a good sign for any studio.
Magog on the March: Did Lorne Lanning know back then that, according to you, Abe’s Oddysee owed “its core design motivation to Heart of Darkness“?
William Anderson: He totally did! I brought him into my work area to show him it and we went over it repeatedly, knowing that we had to be better than it, if it was to come out when people said it would. But Abe’s Oddysee owes its design inspiration to many games at the time: Heart of Darkness, Heart of the Alien, Flashback and Interplay’s Blackthorne were all games I used to set the play direction.
Magog on the March: Were the developers of Heart of Darkness, Amazing Studio, aware of this?
William Anderson: We had zero contact with Amazing Studio and at the time they were in hot water with Virgin Games for slacking off on the development of Heart of Darkness after a great E3 showing.
Magog on the March: What do you think about New ‘n’ Tasty?
William Anderson: To be honest I’ve been so tied up with my own game project that I haven’t followed New ‘n’ Tasty or any other projects Oddworld might be working on. That being said, at some point I do want to come back to the Oddworld play mechanic for a new game, so always rolling around ideas in my head about it.