Oddworld: Story Stones

Introducing “Oddworld: Story Stones”

Today we have the privilege of unveiling the next stage of Magog on the March! For almost a year, we’ve been working hard to compile everything Oddworld in one convenient location. From dozen upon dozens of interviews, magazine articles, forum posts, and ancient, forgotten references excavated from the WayBack Machine. Our archives are growing every day. While we still have a long way to go, the Magog on the March is pushing forward, as strong as ever. And with the range of Oddworld content at our disposal, we now have the liberty to do something with it that’s worthwhile.

“Oddworld: Story Stones” is an effort to create compendious and completely sourced video dossiers of Oddworld’s varied inhabitants, culture and locales. They will be derived entirely from facts and collect everything that is currently known about each topic. Our debut instalment takes a comprehensive look at the frightening, yet enigmatic Guardian Angel character who made a brief appearance in the unaired commercial for Abe’s Oddysee. Although the Shrink was played primarily for scares—as well as a tidal swell of raw oddness—as with all the inhabitants of Oddworld, there exists an extensive history that we’ve excavated from various interviews, websites and literary sources.

Prepare to be blown away by the amazing depths of THE ODD.

For a transcript of this video, check out the drop-down box under the new “Rumor Kontrol” tab overhead, or just click here.

soulstorm

SOULSTORM: What Exoddus was Supposed to be?

Since the initial announcement of Soulstorm, there has been a whit of confusion surrounding the exact nature of the upcoming Oddworld instalment. For over a year, fans have been scratching their heads and trying to dissect the scant information being leaked by Oddworld Inhabitants, as if Soulstorm itself is another piece of the meandering ARG. Is the game a sequel, a remake or a reboot? Will it be a 2D platformer? Is Munch a playable character? Who is Toby? These are just some of the questions that have plagued the dedicated fandom, and while several vague answers have been dolled out via various forms of social media, perhaps the greatest confusion surrounding Soulstorm is whether or not it is a course-correction on the Quintology, fixing the mistakes that the purportedly rushed Exoddus introduced into the storyline. In other words, is Soulstorm what Exoddus was supposed to be? Let’s try and figure this out.

To understand whether Soulstorm can possibly be a course-correction, we must first determine if Exoddus did indeed stray from Lanning’s masterplan. It has been well-documented that Exoddus was created at the behest of GT Interactive, Oddworld Inhabitant’s initial publisher, following the overwhelming success of their debut title, Abe’s Oddysee. Lanning states that he “never intended to do a direct sequel” and that the development team was “ready to gear up for Munch” by the time sale figures started to roll in.[1]

0017
The many iterations of Munch, as revealed through The Lost Archives, are a testament to the level of investment Oddworld Inhabitants had in Munch’s Oddysee, even before Abe’s Exoddus went into production.

A new game needed to be made fast. The Oddworld team, however, was not ready to delve into Munch’s Oddysee and have it finished and polished within less than a year. Lanning outwardly refused, not wishing to sully his intended vision of the forthcoming instalment.[2] Very quickly, the idea of a ‘bonus game’ was devised, one that would utilise the building blocks of Oddysee and promote a fresh experience, yet still fall outside of the realms of the Quintology.[3][4] This would simultaneously allow the development team to mature the A.L.I.V.E. engine, and allow Oddworld Inhabitants to deliver a new game for GT Interactive in a timely manner. Ergo, there was never supposed to be an Exoddus in the first place, a claim corroborated by Paul O’Connor. He says:

[Lanning’s] story plans didn’t include Exoddus, so we had to create a tale that fit ‘inside’ the envisioned continuity. We also didn’t want to do something that was exactly the same as Oddysee, so we opted for a different tone in the story.[5]

If this idea of an impromptu instalment is to be believed, then one could easily understand the need for Soulstorm to right the wrongs of Exoddus. Lanning, however, has never provided any evidence to suggest that what become Exoddus had a malignant, or even tangential effect on the proposed Quintology. In fact, he states the opposite, claiming:

Abe’s Exoddus was true to the vision even though we referred to it as a ‘bonus game.’[6]

In other words, Exoddus may have been a piece of the Oddworld story that was created out of financial necessity and hurried out to store shelves, yet a cognisant and empirical effort was still implemented in order to weave it smoothly into the overall Quintology. After all, stories are living beings, and sometimes they go off in wonderful directions that could never have been anticipated. How, then, would it be possible to fix what was never actually broken?

abe2big2
With a scant nine months to start and finish the production of Abe’s Exoddus, the game’s script had to be signed off in little more than a week.

Soulstorm is being billed as both “a complete reimagined remake of Exoddus” and “a brand new game”.[7] In other words, it is a new instalment inspired by the original, twenty-year-old story. This decision was made because of attrition. Following an audience poll that pined for an HD remake of Exoddus—in the same style as the recent New ’n’ Tasty—Lanning vocally detested going back to do that game all over again. He says:

I groaned, but then I looked at that: Exoddus was a game that we only had nine months on, a game I was never expecting to make. But I’ve looked at that game, for the next one, for Soulstorm – I’ve looked at what the old story was, and rewritten the whole thing. The drink, Soulstorm Brew, is still at the center of things, but that’s where the similarities end.[8]

Essentially, Lanning had already done Exoddus once; he didn’t want to make it again. This line of thought would be easy enough to empathise with, but matters are promptly obfuscated. 

Since the announcement of Soulstorm in early-2016, several Oddworld Inhabitant sources—including Lanning himself—have attempted to highlight the spectral nature of the beloved Exoddus, suddenly claiming that elements were either dropped or changed during the hasty production cycle. Such comments range from vague marketing rhetoric, to Lanning outrightly stating that Soulstorm will be what he “wanted Abe’s Exoddus to originally be”[8]. This is in direct contradiction to Paul O’Connor, who reveals that the only story threads dropped from Exoddus were those that Lanning thought were “a big, steaming pile of merde”, and even going further to state firmly that Lanning didn’t care about what happened in Exoddus, so long as it was “stunning” and “original”.[9]

oddworld-soulstorm
With a focus on Soulstorm Brew and a return to the monolithic brewery, Soulstorm is being built upon the bones of Abe’s Exoddus.

How do we make sense of such starkly opposed comments? It’s almost as if Lanning and O’Connor are talking about two different games.

And what if they are?

When Lanning discusses Soulstorm being what Exoddus was originally intended to be,[10] perhaps he’s not implicitly referring to Exoddus at all, but rather drawing attention to what was always intended to be the second instalment in the Oddworld universe. In other words, Soulstorm isn’t making up for any errors or misdirections caused by Exoddus—an otherwise harmless, if meandering instalment—it’s fixing an aberration that has been left in the franchise since the colossal failure of Munch’s Oddysee.

This is supported by many of Lanning’s revelations during the keynote at EGX 2017. Lanning says that the intention of Soulstorm is to move the plot forward, something Exoddus was never designed to do, and something that Munch’s Oddysee was curiously unsuccessful in executing. Furthermore, many of the elements that are referenced in the presentation seem to be borrowed directly from the parts of Munch’s Oddysee that were left on the cutting room floor. These include the oft-fabled return of Molluck the Glukkon, a deeper and more profound focus on interaction with fellow inhabitants, and a long-awaited integration of the Oddworld Population Control Scheme.[11]

3dz0qpc
One of our earliest Magog on the March articles dissected the EGX 2017 Keynote and attempted to find all of the references to Munch’s Oddysee and the extended lore.

To be even more precise, Lanning speaks about what “was supposed to be the second game in the Oddworld Quintology”. He says:

And I had this big vision of what that game was going to be. But the reality was: we needed to provide our partner a game in nine months, and that was not our plan. So what happens is, the story of Exoddus got reshaped into something that wasn’t really in line with that original vision … It was all related to the Brew. It was all related to flammable liquids, highly volatile environments in a slightly different storyline; and so it became something that wasn’t the original intention.[11]

While Lanning does indeed specifically reference Exoddus, it becomes clear that Exoddus is not guilty of any proposed crime when one takes into account that Munch’s Oddysee was always intended to be the second game of the franchise. When Lanning says that “the story of Exoddus got reshaped”, he’s really saying “the story of the second Oddworld instalment got reshaped”.

Suddenly, it all makes sense.

As the tentative release date of Soulstorm draws near, it’s important to recognise and attempt to harmonise the difference between Exoddus and its successor. The most simple solution to the conundrum is in accepting that Exoddus is (and always was) a bonus game, a tangential piece of the original Quintology—Abe’s Oddysee 1.5, if you will. Soulstorm, meanwhile, is the second piece of the new Quintology, an entry that has the ability to not only progress the overarching story toward its rightful conclusion, but also supplanting the need for the rejected Munch’s Oddysee. Soulstorm is not what Exoddus—the bonus game—was intended to be; rather, it is what the second instalment of the Quintology should have been. The difference, most certainly, is a fine line, yet understanding that difference is crucial to accepting and appreciating both the old world and the new one.


References

[1] Paul O'Connor, Abe's Exoddus Designer Diary, Part 3: Exoddus (https://magogonthemarch.com/designer-diaries/abes-exoddus-designer-diary/part-3-exoddus/)
[2] Retro Asylum, Episode 124: It's An Oddworld! Lorne Lanning Interview (https://youtu.be/EVDKKmx8AqY?list=PL4AJYR2UselUA6zR6dPWapySupmOmZVcu&t=3724) 
[3] Gog, Editorial — Oddworld: Abe's Exoddus (https://web.archive.org/web/20140122093946/http://www.gog.com/news/editorial_oddworld_abes_exoddus)
[4] Retro Gamer, Strange Empire: An Oddworld Inhabitants Retrospective (https://magogonthemarch.com/retro-gamer-strange-empire-an-oddworld-inhabitants-retrospective-2014/)
[5] Paul O'Connor, The Oddworld Yahoo Group, Posted on 3/4/2000 (https://magogonthemarch.com/paul-oconnors-posts-on-the-oddworld-yahoo-group-1999-2001/) 
[6] Adventure Classic Gaming, Lorne Lanning — Oddworld Inhabitants (https://magogonthemarch.com/lorne-lanning-oddworld-inhabitants/)
[7] The Sixth Axis, Peter Chapman on Soulstorm (https://youtu.be/2GHHkL51J-E?list=PL4AJYR2UselX2VynzBuqT2SGPm_OAA1eq&t=97)
[8] Waypoint, Discussing the Enduring Appeal of Abe with Oddworld Creator Lorne Lanning (https://magogonthemarch.com/discussing-the-enduring-appeal-of-abe-with-oddworld-creator-lorne-lanning/)
[9] Paul O'Connor, Abe's Exoddus Designer Diary, Part 4: Designer's on the Ledge (https://magogonthemarch.com/designer-diaries/abes-exoddus-designer-diaryvideogames-com/part-4-designers-on-the-ledge/)
[10] Caddicarus, Oddworld: Soulstorm at EGX 2017 — Exclusive Lorne Lanning Interview! (https://magogonthemarch.com/2017/10/06/egx-2017-lorne-lanning-interview-with-caddicarus-transcript/)
[11] Lorne Lanning, EGX 2017 — "Brewing Oddworld: Soulstorm" (https://magogonthemarch.com/egx-2017-lorne-lanning-brewing-oddworld-soulstorm/)
abe's oddysee

Finding the Source: A Brief History of Oddworld’s “Lost Code”

Earlier this week, Oddworld Inhabitants made a groundbreaking announcement that a huge cache of archived Oddworld material had been found, which included the source code for Abe’s Oddysee, something that was believed to be lost—or, rather, unworkable—for many years. Today I thought we would take a moment to talk about the bewildering history of Oddworld’s source code, what it means, and the implications of this announcement.

ssae0006
This “HD Screenshot” of Abe’s Exoddus, which was used for promotional purposes, is believed to utilise the original, uncompressed, high-quality assets.

When Oddworld Inhabitants partnered with JAW, rumour quickly spread around the internet concerning a polished, HD upgrade of the two original Oddworld titles. Upon shaking hands with Stewart Gilray, Lorne Lanning handed the entire Oddworld archive over to JAW, which included thousands of discs worth of footage—at least 15 TB of data were collected by the team, all of which was preserved by Lanning et al during the closure of Oddworld Inhabitants in 2005. On those discs were models, assets, audio, and documents, ranging from Abe’s Oddysee to the unreleased Brutal Ballad of Fangus Klot.[1] Gilray also declared that JAW had access to the source code from the first two games:

We’ve got the source code to both Abe’s Oddysee and Abe’s Exoddus. However, we don’t have final PSone code for Oddysee, and no PC code, but we have final PC code for Exoddus, and no PSone code. So we’ve got a mix.[2]

Of course, one must then beg the question that if JAW had access to the source code all along, why would they opt to build a remake from the ground up when a polished version of Oddysee and Exoddus would have performed with equal eminence, if not more? The answer is one of practicality and accessibility. In simple terms, the software used to create Oddysee and Exoddus is so archaic when compared to modern technology that the team could not find a way to work with the archived source. [3][4] JAW even reached out to some members of the original design team to try and understand how the old builds operated, yet even these high-profile veterans were stumped with the state of the source code.

One of the guys now works at Google in Munich, one works with Rad Game Tools, and another has just done some work with Lorne Lanning on his non-game related project.[5]

We must remember that the original Oddworld games were a helter-skelter mess from a design perspective. While the final products embody the spirit of two of the greatest digital experiences of all time, the men and women who were building these games were not seasoned game designers, and would do whatever they needed to do to achieve a result. As such, the code that is left behind was not tailored for posterity’s sake and appears to be quite unorthodox.

The abysmal state of the source code was further confirmed earlier this year when Truant Pixel re-created The Shrink for a new PS4 theme, and discovered challenges in transferring the original build of the geometrically complex character to new software. In layman’s terms, the team had to “selectively isolate and rebuild the model components”, and in some cases had to cover up missing pieces with clever replicas. In the end, it took “a couple of weeks” to update the single model of the Shrink into something that could be manipulated and used in modern software.[6] How long then would it take to update the entire game?

 

boardroom-feat
New ‘n’ Tasty was made because the original source code could not be easily manipulated for modern engines.

 

According to Alex Carroll of Oddworld Inhabitants, Square One is the company responsible for finally cracking the code that might allow the source to be manipulated in a more convenient manner. Carroll claimed that the narrative of the discovery was quite fascinating, saying further that:

We’re working closely with Square One who are technical wizards at this sort of stuff. Some of the source was actually missing but they’ve done an amazing job at getting it all recompiled, given the age of the tools and the code.[7]

Beyond the complexity of the source code, however, there is also the issue of the raw assets themselves. While there a couple of exceptions, such as the large matte painting of RuptureFarms, which was a digital construction produced by Steven Olds and used for the FMV sequences of Abe’s Oddysee, the majority of the assets from the original two games lack the quality to be updated into anything acceptable by modern standards. For this reason, not a single code of the original game was inherited by New ’n’ Tasty’s updated engine.

The old backgrounds are 640 × 240. We really can’t go backwards in quality.[8]

What does it mean, therefore, that Oddworld Inhabitants now has open access to the original source code of Abe’s Oddysee? Even if the code can now be manipulated, would it even be worthwhile to attempt a polished version of the two original games when the quality can only be improved so much. It has certainly been proved—take a look at the Happy Hol-ODD Days Christmas Card for proof—that the old sprites and animations can potentially be used to create a familiar, if limited, experience, but what is the extent of these ancient assets? How far can they be feasibly stretched? Is it really possible to bring a venerable version of Abe HD to the next generation of consoles and appease those who were disheartened with New ’n’ Tasty? I’m not sure it will be so easy, but time will tell.

One thing is for sure, we can now finally stop quipping about how the source code fell out of Lanning’s back pocket during brunch.

References

[1] Stewart Gilray, The Making of Oddworld Stranger's Wrath HD (https://magogonthemarch.com/the-making-of-oddworld-strangers-wrath-hd/)
[2] Stewart Gilray, Oddworld Forums — Oddbox: AO & AE at higher resolution (http://www.oddworldforums.net/showpost.php?p=473849&postcount=20)
[3] "Glitch", Oddworld Forums — Happy Hol-ODD Days 2011! (http://www.oddworldforums.net/showpost.php?p=523883&postcount=51)
[4] Lorne Lanning, Reddit AMA with Lorne Lanning & Stewart Gilray  (https://magogonthemarch.com/qa/reddit-ama-2012/)
[5] Stewart Gilray, A glimpse into the future of Oddworld  (https://www.destructoid.com/a-glimpse-into-the-future-of-oddworld-248708.phtml)
[6] Unknown Truant Pixel Employee, Oddworld: Rebuilding "The Shrink" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jwSdzKcJBM&feature=youtu.be)
[7] Alex Carroll, The Official Oddworld Inhabitants Discord (Posted by OWI_Alex on 5/12/17 at 2:10 PM)
[8] William Bunce-Edwards, Oddworld Forums — Abe HD (http://www.oddworldforums.net/showpost.php?p=527739&postcount=154)
abe's oddysee

Abe’s Lost Oddysee: 20th Anniversary Celebration

In celebration of Abe’s 20th Birthday—yes, we realise we’re a trifle late to the party, but we at Magog on the March always prefer to be fashionably late than undesirably early—we have compiled a handful of the elements that were dropped during the production of the original Abe’s Oddysee. From the curious Elum Traps that have piqued the curiosity of fans for two decades, to an unknown revelation about SoulStorm Brew that will raise an eyebrow in regards to the upcoming Soulstorm, today’s article should provide the hungry inhabitants of Oddworld with a tasty morsel to wait out the lengthy hiatus. Enjoy!


Elum Trap

Elum trap-teleporter

We start by taking a look at the Elum Trap, a device that was utilised by the Magog Cartel to capture wild Elums. It is a little-known fact that the poor, docile, honey-loving Elums were hunted by RuptureFarms in the same manner as Paramites and Scrabs, being served up as finger-lickin’ Elum Chubs. A poster for Elum Chubs even appears in the Playstation Demo of Abe’s Oddysee, but was removed from the final game. Alas, the Elum Traps were also absent from the retail version of Abe’s Oddysee, their existence and mechanics superseded by the infamous mounds of honey and those ravenous beehives.

Source: http://www.oddworldforums.net/showpost.php?p=2230&postcount=12

Speak No Evil About Possessing the Possession

Possessing

It is kind of stark to think about an Abe experience without the ability of possession, but if Lorne Lanning had had his way, players would have had to flail their way through RuptureFarms and the Stockyards without this handy slig-detonating ability. It has been well-documented that Lanning desired Oddworld to be a thematic experience, and adding to Abe’s inferior and feeble status, the Mudokon Savior would have needed to learn to survive without this spiritual firearm, only learning how to chant after his stitches were removed in the Monsaic Lines.

Similarly, Abe’s stitches would have been so tight that he lacked the ability to speak to his fellow Mudokons. GameSpeak, therefore, would have been locked out to the player until several hours into the game, raising a flood of questions about the puzzles these earlier levels would have entailed. We could have seen a very different game!

For the sake of the player’s sanity, however, both of these abilities were offered to the player from the outset. It is clear that from a storytelling perspective, however, that Abe does not possess the ability of possession until he has proved himself to be a survivor, likely after he was resurrected by the Big Face.

Source: https://magogonthemarch.com/2008-2/nathan-interviews-lorne-lanning/

A Different Abe

Early drafts for Oddworld did not cast our hapless hero as a floor-waxer and RuptureFarms Employee of the Year. Instead, Abe would have been a native fisherman living a green life off the fat of the land, being introduced to the industrialist lifestyle as the story progressed. It has been implied that the abandoned movie version of Abe’s Oddysee would have focused on this reversal of roles.

And yes, Abe would have had his noble pet Elum to keep him company when wandering the musty banks of Mudos.

Source: The Art of Oddworld Inhabitants (p.46)

Desert Buzzard

Desert Buzzard

This bulbous and ill-proportioned creature would have likely featured in the desolate wilderness of Scrabania. Not a sight for sore eyes, is he?

Source: The Art of Oddworld Inhabitants (p.82)

Sleeping Pods

Mudokon sleeping pods

These ominous sleeping pods, complete with visual entertainment and a SoulStorm Brew dispenser, were the designated sleeping quarters for the Mudokon labour force of RuptureFarms. According to the Oddworld artbook, the pods would have been glimpsed in the opening FMV of Abe’s Oddysee, but they did not make the final cut and are completely absent from the final game.

The sleeping pods did finally make an appearance in New ‘n’ Tasty, featuring in the background of Zulag 3.

Source: The Art of Oddworld Inhabitants (p.69)

The Shrink

The Shrink

By now, the Shrink—also known as the Guardian Angel—is a familiar face to the fans of Oddworld. Feared mostly for its infamous appearance in the unaired Abe’s Oddysee commercial, which was rewarded to players who managed to rescue all 99 Mudokons hidden within the game, hardcore fans also know that several of the spider-like Shrinks still keep the Mudokon Queen company within the bowels of Vykkers Labs.

Until recently, however, it was not quite clear what the Shrink’s purpose at RuptureFarms exactly entailed. Released by JAW several years ago, a variant of the unaired Guardian Angel commercial altered the Shrink’s final line, suggesting it was tasked by Molluck with acquiring a confession from the imprisoned Abe before his execution.

Truant Pixel’s short documentary concerning the new PS4 Guardian Angel theme also confirmed the Guardian Angel’s purpose, cementing the unaired commercial into the Oddworld timeline.

In his recent interview with Caddicarus, Lorne Lanning spoke openly about the Shrink, revealing its intended purpose within the RuptureFarms workplace. He said:

What the Guardian originally was is something we never got to do, cause we never so much got into the Mudokon lifestyle. So that was who a Mudokon would be sent to see if they started to have moral problems at work. It was like a robot face analyzing psychologically what you need to get productive. Sometimes [saws and syringes are] motivating. He’d say: “Get an ‘A’ on your test or we’re going to pull some teeth.

It was also meant to make a cameo appearance in New ‘n’ Tasty, but the model was far too complicated to justify its creation.

Source: https://magogonthemarch.com/transcripts/egx-2017-lorne-lanning-interview/
Source: http://www.oddworldforums.net/showpost.php?p=616575&postcount=328

Meeches

Meech

In the final version of Abe’s Oddysee, the Meeches exist only as a memory and a download of exposition. In the form of Meech Munches, the tri-jawed beasts—originally green in colour and altered to brown with reddish stripes later on—were one of RuptureFarms’ tantalising flagship products, no longer available due to the wild packs being hunted to extinction. If the disc space of the PlayStation Compact Discs had been big enough, however, Abe and the players would have had to deal with a third species of wildlife, travelling to a tropical biome where the Meeches nested, delving into yet another dark and dangerous temple, and earning the final piece of the mystical Shrykull tattoo.

 

Ironically enough, the first decent footage that Lanning saw of Abe’s Oddysee was a pack of Meeches running in the wild!

Source: https://magogonthemarch.com/emails-sent-to-matt-lee-2007/

Source: https://magogonthemarch.com/qa/reddit-ama-2012/

Source: https://youtu.be/8HGCtgocCL4?t=1973

SoulStorm Brew

11598-0-1459679338

Yes, you read that right! According to an interview from 1998—thought lost for nineteen years until our team of blind slaves uncovered it in the depths of the internet burial ground—SoulStorm Brew was intended to make an appearance in Abe’s Oddysee but was dropped along with the other elements we’ve showcased today. Read what Lorne Lanning had to say about the addictive beverage and its importance in Abe’s grand story:

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.

New ‘n’ Tasty was finally able to rectify this deficit of the deadly brew in Abe’s debut adventure. Scattered bottles were slipped into several landscapes and giving the audacious Alf a position tending an illicit bar in the depths of RuptureFarms, serving an early iteration of SoulStorm Brew to some lackadaisical sligs.

It begs the question: Will the rebranding of Abe’s Exoddus to Soulstorm, and the revamped story, reflect the greater beats of the Quintology that have been missing for years? We at Magog on the March certainly think so!

Source: https://magogonthemarch.com/1998-2/2969-2/

 

abe's oddysee

Abe’s Oddysee: A Case of the Parasites

In Lorne Lanning’s recent interview with Caddicarus, the creative mastermind behind Oddworld likened the dense mythology of the series to an onion, boasting many layers for the audience to sift through, always uncovering something new once they believed they had reached bedrock. Lanning claims that the audience’s level of engagement is inspired by the amount of work that a creator injects into their work to create the foundation of a world that is both interesting and believable.

Alas, only the tips of these lore-heavy icebergs—or lorebergs, as I call them—are ever uncovered, the bulk of the creator’s efforts hidden beneath the surface to maintain the sanctity of the world they support.  Sometimes, however, the ocean currents shift, the elements do their mystical dance, and Climate Change plays its part to make a few of these lorebergs sweat and reveal a piece of mythology that was potentially staring us in the face the whole time.

If we turn back the clock to ’97 and boot up our brand new copy of Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee, we’re greeted with one of the most breathtaking introductions to the Sony Playstation. We drift through the dystopian paradise of RuptureFarms, riding the miserable wavelength of Abe’s voice, until we find ourselves in the belly of the beast at the RuptureFarms Annual Board Meeting where the infamous mudokon floor waxer comes face-to-face with destiny.

The visual presentation at the Board Meeting, presented by Molluck and his trusty slig secretary, is bare-bones compared to the New ’n’ Tasty version, which is brimming with nuggets of lore that we will decipher in a future article. The slides serve a curt purpose of exposition, telling us what we need to know, i.e. the profits are falling and something needs to be done.

Yet there is a small detail that has rarely come up in conversation over the past twenty years, seen on the side of the sale statistic pages:

Molluck.png

What could those symbols be? They almost look like insignias. Are they just decoration? I’m not so sure, for the following reason. Under each symbol is a short excerpt of unintelligible writing, and each excerpt is a different length. This suggests some sort of description or dialogue, perhaps commentary. But what entities could possibly be commentating on the statistics presented at the RuptureFarms Board Meeting who aren’t already present?

Lorne Lanning has already provided the answer:

Then you have the Glukkons, Vykkers, Gloctigi and Oktigi—the Oktigi are a more powerful as families. So, in Stranger, Sekto is an Oktigi. They’re more primal to the evolution than the Glukkons so they’re not even full land‐forms yet. They’re parasites. When we do make the movie and you see the boardrooms of the Magog Cartel, they’re all modelled after parasites, leeches, flees, ticks… but they’ll be sitting there in Armani suits.

— Lorne Lanning, Nathan Interviews Lorne Lanning

They do look strikingly parasitic, don’t they? The last one even looks suspiciously like an octigi! And if we interpret Lanning’s vision for the abandoned Oddworld film and apply it to what we’ve seen in the games, it’s not hard to apply these symbols seen in the RuptureFarms Board Meeting to corresponding investors, providing feedback and commentary on the state of the company’s performance from their luxury suites in Nolybab.

What do you think? Have we already seen a glimpse of the investors? Was this why the symbols were sorrowfully missed in the revamped introduction of New ‘n’ Tasty, because their appearance so soon could be construed as a spoiler? Perhaps we can infer their prodigious appearance from their symbols. Or perhaps we could choose not to, otherwise we might all have nightmares. After all, we all know that powerful entities control the fabric of Oddworld, and the price of failure is steep:

There are scenes in the film I want to do where Mullock, after he fucked up and he’s being taken to the boss and he passes his mom who says “You blew it,” and he has to go down and meet the investors. They live underground; like how I said about how the world is separated. He takes an elevator ride down 1700 storeys and a little midget guys picks you up as an escort, but as you go down and the temperature increases, they’re getting bigger and bigger, while the security guards from up above are dying and sweltering from the heat.

— Lorne Lanning, Nathan Interviews Lorne Lanning Again

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EGX 2017: Lorne Lanning Interview with Caddicarus [Transcript]

Lorne Lanning’s recent interview with YouTuber Caddicarus proved to be most fruitful, as, for the first time in many years, we are offered a taste of the wider Oddworld lore. We have decided to transcribe the interview for archival purposes, and for the sake of legibility, as the presentation of the video itself lends itself to some confusion, due to the editing style and the impromptu nature of the interviewer.

Concerning Abe’s Exoddus: The ‘Bonus Game’ [5:45]

Exoddus was something that time, relationships, the marketplace, partners—it was something we did in 9 months. Abe’s Oddysee took us three and a half years. Exoddus was intended to be the second game of the Quintology. You know, time and circumstances shaped into something that wasn’t, which is why we called it a ‘bonus game’.

With the success of New ‘n’ Tasty, we asked the audience before that what game would you like us to do next if we were doing this. We didn’t think New ‘n’ Tasty would be as successful as it was [6:56] and we didn’t necessarily … But it did great. And it allowed us to up the budget so the audience came back and said: “We want to see Exoddus remade.” And we were like “if we’re going to do that what if we did the way it was originally intended”.

So the idea of Brew, the idea of what was happening around the brew, that wind up in Exoddus, except it got way watered-down. It was supposed to be something much more, we were planning to build a new engine and all this stuff. So that’s why we called it a ‘bonus game’ because it wasn’t what we intended it to be but the team did an amazing job by delivering it.

 

Concerning the Oddworld Quintology [7:52]

We said: “What if we could get back to what the original intent was with the Oddworld Quintology; really Abe’s primary story?” So Abe was this character who’s gonna drive [the story], he was the primary hero through the Quintology, but then we were like “oh, as we’re gonna add on his sidekicks, we’re going to feature them.” And that’s not necessarily the most wise thing to do.

We started this twenty-three years ago, we launched Abe twenty years ago. We’re gonna approach this in a more technologically agile way. We have some ideas; brew was at the core of it; brew was always supposed to be highly-flammable. I thought we could do it in 1998—thank god we didn’t try. I designed how it works back then, I just never had the chance to implement it. So it really felt like a highly volatile, flammable liquid.

So we said: “Okay, let’s start here, building on top of Unity, and we get to start where New ‘n’ Tasty left off, but we’re going to re-do a lot of the technology.” We didn’t have a whole staff who was trying to make art, or trying to do level designs ahead of where the code is. We said: “We really need to find the synergy of this and stay true to Abe, right?” Abe is really about followers, empathy, puzzles. So how do we do that but really turn the volume up to eleven on the genre? So I call it a platformer game and then push that dynamic too.

It’s a reset button on the story, but the story of Abe in Abe’s Oddysee and New ’n’ Tasty, that fable—it was really like a fable, a slave begins toppling a major system of oppression. We said: “Let’s keep the fable, but let’s get it running with 21st Century technology,” because that was on with where the [partner relationships were] for that point in time. Then we go forward and we go: “The rest was not.” So let’s use that opportunity to get back to what [the Quintology] was. And if we do it right, hopefully, the audience was with us.

 

Concerning Hand of Odd [11:06]

First, RTS was largely the same model as I perceived it as a genre, which was two opposing sides depleting an environment until there’s nothing left and whoever uses that environment in a weaponized way to beat the other wins in an apocalyptic landscape. “You won! … in an apocalyptic landscape.”

But I was like: “What if one side was harnessing the forces of nature the way Yoda would and the other side was doing the industrial model.” So one is growing, one is raping and harvesting. And the idea of Hand of Odd was that balance. So one was empowered not by chopping down trees but would use the power of the spiritual energy in trees [which would become] something you could harness, a power, and the other tribe is trying to chop it down. So you had this different dichotomy of conflict, introducing more opposing approaches to a single RTS playing field. So that was Hand of Odd.

One of the reasons it never happened, I remember because I was in a men’s room at LAX. And standing next to me was Bobby Kotick, the CEO of Activision. And I was like: “Oh, hey Bobby, long time no see”. He was like: “Oh hey, hey, what are you guys doing?” And I said: “You know, we’re about to do an RTS game”. He goes: “Don’t do it, there’s no market there anymore”. When he said that I just totally got terrified, because Bobby Kotick is no dummy, like that was before he was multi-billionaire. We started to get a little cold-feet about that idea if the head of a major publisher was going: “Look the genre is dying.” So it was really the men’s room visit that killed it for me.

 

Concerning Wildlife [13:27]

In the Oddworld universe, [there is more diversity in the breeds of wildlife just like the Glukkons and Mudokons]. In this title, you’re more focused on the conflict with the Industrials. You’re going to find more of the old world, of the real secrets of Oddworld in this game. But there will be fewer encounters with wildlife and stuff. This is more the birth of a revolution that finds a lost history.

 

Concerning Mudomo & Mudanchee Trials in Abe’s Exoddus [14:17}

We only had nine months to get [Abe’s Exoddus] done. [Mudomo and Mudanchee weren’t] in the original plan. It was like: “What do we do? We don’t have time to create new NPCs! Well, re-use Scrabs, re-use Paramites!” It’s practical stuff, man. Someone’s like: “That was a great idea!” And you’re like: “Not really, it was kind of, you know, we needed to fix the flat tyre and that was the only pump we had.” Really practical choices.

 

Concerning Soulstorm Plot [15:00]

We’re picking up not with the 301 possibilities of how many guys every different player saved. We’re assuming that you did a perfect run.

 

Concerning Soulstorm’s New Gameplay Mechanics [15:23]

Let’s say, in the past, the puzzles, even in New ‘n’ Tasty, Abe didn’t have an inventory system. So the puzzles were more like, you need this, to solve this, now. So you need to get this, to achieve that power now, because you’re going to use it here. But what that did is it made it very fixed and limited in your options.

All of those powers and all those abilities is something that should be available to the player: a) When they achieved it, and; b) When they choose to expend it. So the value of a certain power like the Shrykull is something that you can accumulate. It’s your choice when to use it. But we’ve created so many more abilities that there are just very few things where one solution is the way. As far as I’m aware, so far, there’s none of them.

We really wanted that flexibility of the player in more of what you would have expect in—this is not an RPG—but it’s more of what you would expect in an RPG, where you go through, you accumulate usages of power, potions, whatever it is, and then you execute them when you want. Maybe you make some bad choices, but it was all the player’s agency to make that decision. That’s where we wanted to get to: It’s all the player’s choice.

 

Concerning Abe’s Pony Tale [16:52]

It’s really technological resolution and budget, right? So when we did New ‘n’ Tasty, we didn’t really have the budget to go in and re-change all the databases, so we had the ability to take them up to a certain level where it made sense. So if you look at the cover of New ‘n’ Tasty, Abe’s ponytail was still like: “What is that? Kind of like a dirty sock.”

But Abe was always imagined as—it was talked about, you know, [Munch’s Oddysee] had Labor Eggs—[Mudokons] were descended from birds. We descended from monkeys, right; they descended from birds, so they still hatch. [The pony tail is made up of] feathers. It was always intended to be feathers because … feathers were tough. I mean we could have had a feather object instead, but it just ended up being like a limp sock and we stayed with it.

 

Concerning Mudokon Feathers [17:55]

If you keep a fish in a tank, he will only grow a certain size. But if you get him out of the tank back into the wild then, all of a sudden, he can become twenty-five-foot shark. The environment shapes your natural ability to bloom.

So the idea with the Mudokons was that they’ve been so, basically, enslaved and misinformed as to who they really are. And that’s part of the Soulstorm story, it’s re-learning who they really are. To me this is a parallel with humanity.

 

Concerning Abe’s Stitches & his Ability to Chant [18:22]

Abe has something special about him, which leads to why he has stitches, which leads to how empathetic he is. And in that empathy, he’s able to sort of embrace something that is part of their natural heritage and become something that the other guys aren’t necessarily encountering. And that empathy, in the beginning, is what led to him getting these stitches in the first place. They were put there to save his life, which is different from all the others because it seemed like a different problem. So the stitches are at the heart at Abe.

 

Concerning the Depth of the Oddworld Universe [19:10]

If you want to try and build a property that’s going to resonate with people as deeply as Game of Thrones does, then it has to have this depth that the audience has to feel like they can continually uncover it. But if they start pealing a few levels of the onion and that there’s nothing there, then it’s really hard to have it lasting; it’s really hard to get that really passionate fanbase. I knew that in the beginning.

I was really into population control, propaganda, misinformation, disinformation, how populations are controlled, how people are ignorant of that. And how the news and the television shows and the newspapers, they’re not telling you anything. I was interested in taking that, and I was like: “This is a deep passion of mine for many levels.” And I think it resonates with where the world is at today, not necessarily that it’s aware of it, but I’m trying to be a bit predictive. Like Abe was kind of like an original 99 percenter, right? When we released New ‘n’ Tasty, people are going “Whoa, twenty-years ago, the steam still holds up, more relevant today.” It wasn’t psychic; this is just well-researched.

If I’m going to engage in a property, I want to feel the richness to know that the creator put a lot more in it than I’m able to uncover. And if it’s in themes of what I’m interested in or get provoked by, then I’m going to have a deeper connection to it. That’s what I was trying to nail, people having a deeper connection to it.

You can tell when a creator gets bored. We see it in sequels and movies all the time. So if you don’t have a deep passion for doing it, you’re not going to be very glad in five years. The DNA nucleus of what it is has an infinite possibility to stretch out from because it’s actually deep and rich and based on something real.

 

Concerning Abe & Playstation [20:25]

It’s funny that people have this strong association with Abe and PlayStation. They often thought that Sony was really involved and the fact is Sony wasn’t. They were very generous, they put us on a disk for free in the beginning, a lot of people saw that, cause it went out to PlayStation owners. Some things like that happened, a demo went out. Things like that happened and so they were really generous but they weren’t giving us money. We didn’t have a real deal besides a license to do it.

 

Concerning the Humor in Soulstorm [22:38]

We said it will be a little dark. There has to be [some dark humor, too], and even light humor.

 

Concerning the Soulstorm Teaser Trailer [22:55]

You’ll learn later in the game [that] what you’ve seen in that trailer [are] snippets of an original business plan of the brew solution being marketed to get financing from upper-higher finance groups in the shadowy world of the pyramid [23:09]. It’s embedded with the ton of information to be decrypted.

 

Concerning Quarma in Soulstorm [23:12]

So what we always wanted to do, which was very difficult to try to achieve, is that Abe is aware of the presence of you, the guiding force over his life. Now, in this game—I mean, time and energy will shape what the final product it—but it was important to us that he reflected more of: “What is that force that’s guiding me? It’s like letting me get there, but is really doing with what’s in-sync with who I am? Or is it doing something opposite?” And then it would have some cascading effects, I would think, as that proceeds.

When we first made Abe get chopped up in the bad ending, there was so much opposition internally, in the company. Because they were like: “I played this whole game and if I play the game I want to win, I don’t want to be told that I killed the guy because I won!” And I was like: “It was how you won. You were an asshole, you deserved to have that happened, why don’t you try playing as a better person.” And they were like: “That’s ridiculous! People are going to hate that!” So there was all kinds of vehemence against that idea.

We were like: “Well, we want to enable that, but we want to have a greater sense of consequence, a greater impact on the psychology of the character.”

 

Concerning Abe and the Oddworld Social Pyramid [24:24]

So when people’s food prices change because of what Abe did, that’s where Abe is going to start being branded as a bad guy. And the propaganda will be shaped [against him].

 

Concerning the Guardian Angel [24:54]

Right now it’s [just a Playstation] theme.

What the Guardian originally was is something we never got to do, cause we never so much got into the Mudokon lifestyle. So that was who a Mudokon would be sent to see if they started to have moral problems at work. It was like a robot face analyzing psychologically what you need to get productive. Sometimes [saws and syringes are] motivating. He’d say: “Get an ‘A’ on your test or we’re going to pull some teeth.”

 

Concerning JAW [25:45]

It was a great relationship. Everyone on that team did a great job. But it was hell on me. It was strictly UK-based. It was very difficult. I got Bell’s Palsy at the end of New ‘n’ Tasty. First, my face on this side got paralyzed, a hundred percent. And, fortunately, I got that resolved, then this side went paralyzed. So, fortunately, I’ve regained some of my facial control, but that was because I ran myself too low, too hard, too long, and I’m not getting any younger, in case you didn’t notice.

We had to bring most of the development close to home. Health was a major concern. We felt great about JAW for this title, and that’s a nice thing to take away.

 

Concerning Unity [26:56]

Everything [has been updated] because this is physics-based rendering. The fire, even smoke trails, they’re dynamically lit.

I have to give Unity a lot of credit. I think it’s really robust, really well-engineered software at the core of it. That doesn’t mean you can buy it out of the box and make what we made, you have to put millions of dollars of code on top of it. But it doesn’t crash with what we’re pumping through it.

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Soulstorm: Picking up the Dropped Threads

We at Magog on the March have been thinking about Soulstorm a lot over the past few days and have noticed a number of parallels and homages to pieces of lore that were dropped from finished games—notably Munch’s Oddysee—or tidbits offered in interviews by Lorne Lanning over the years. We decided to whip up a curt image depicting all of the elements that we’ve come across.

Have we missed any?

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A Quintology of Errors: Soulstorm & Greater Oddworld Lore

For the first time since Soulstorm’s announcement in early-2016, Lorne Lanning has spoken openly and in great detail about Oddworld’s upcoming release, which is touted as a successor to the original game, Abe’s Oddysee, and a spiritual remake of the classic Abe’s Exoddus. What is being described as a “revolutionary” title was finally unveiled at the EGX 2017 keynote, and while no footage of Soulstorm was explicitly shown, Lanning provided an interesting exposé on what to expect from the final game.

 

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A storm is brewing at the new and improved Soulstorm Brewery.

 

The most poignant aspect of Lanning’s entire keynote was Soulstorm’s status within the fabled Quintology. As most Oddworld Inhabitants fans know, the Quintology was always slated to be a five-act experience, beginning with Abe’s Oddysee, followed closely behind by Munch’s Oddysee, then Squeek’s Oddysee, and two final episodes that were never announced or even spoken about. Each of these acts would simultaneously introduce a new hero within the Oddworld mythos—starting with Abe—while exposing the complex and seemingly endless socio-political structure of the grandiose powers that control Abe’s world. Of course, as has been well-documented, plans changed, which began when Abe’s Exoddus was unexpectedly released the year after Oddworld Inhabitants debut title.

Abe’s Exoddus—which is the foundation for the upcoming Soulstorm, or the “backbone” as Lanning describes it—was not an official entry in the Quintology. While the story picked up immediately from the ending of Abe’s Oddysee, it was always described as a “Bonus Game”, intrinsically linked to the first act of the Quintology. The biggest contributing factor to Abe’s Exoddus’ status as a “Bonus Game” is its thematic value, which relies heavily on the beats from its predecessor, and does very little to advance the overall story. Essentially, from a storytelling perspective, if you’ve experienced Abe’s Oddysee, you’re not missing much from Abe’s Exoddus.

Surprisingly, this is changing with Soulstorm; Lanning states it will be the second part of the Quintology. This is not a small decision. The fallout from this alteration has ramifications for the entire series, which is still implied to be told over five acts. This, of course, means that one of the planned acts has to go, and based upon the many snippets revealed throughout the EGX keynote, it seems very likely that anything of any value from Munch’s Oddysee has been preserved and rejiggered into Soulstorm’s framework, sans our little lonely gabbit.

 

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Molluck the Glukkon is back, a character who was not slated to return until his trial against Lady Margaret in Munch’s Oddysee!

 

Not only will the vykkers make an appearance—supposedly as the architects behind the eponymous beverage—Oddworld’s larger socio-politcal structure, which Lanning has never spoken about publicly before, and the power struggle of this daunting, pyramidal scheme will finally have an influence upon the ongoing Oddworld story. He hints at the higher powers, those who tower over Molluck the Glukkon, preparing the audience for the revelation that someone as seemingly influential as the mastermind behind Mudokon Pops is nothing but a puppet on a very long ladder to “The Eye”.

During the keynote, Lanning also begins to detail the waves of revolution and the cone of trepidation that will ripple out as a consequence of Abe’s actions at RuptureFarms. The closure of the worlds largest meat processing plant is going to shake the foundations of the pyramid, causing a great deal of concern for the many investors with stock in the company and reflected upon the average consumer, pushing up prices on all their favourite tasty treats. This is notable because previous Oddworld games have barely hinted at the larger economic ramifications of Abe actions, yet Soulstorm seems to be setting the stage for the fires of rebellion and the eventual collapse of this socio-political system, the original thread of the Quintology that never really came to the forefront.

 

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Oddworld’s foundations will be shaken to its core.

 

The great irony, however, is that Abe never intended to spark a rebellion; he never intended to fracture the pyramid. He only sought to preserve himself from being chopped up into a Sunday snack, yet the unintended consequences of his actions have branded him a terrorist, placing him in the crosshairs of everyone towering above him.

As Lanning so eloquently puts it:

He’s raising prices of your Happy Meal! He’s gotta go!

Yet that is the fabric of Oddworld, a twisted version of our own corrupt system, and it’s wonderful to see these facets come into the light after dwelling for so long in the darkness. It certainly provides Soulstorm with a platform to show everyone what Oddworld really has to offer beyond the dark aesthetics and the slapstick comedy.