FAQ December 2003: Lorne Lanning answers a few questions from the fans

Lorne Lanning answers a few questions from the fans in 2003 [Hosted by Oddworld.com]

Date: December 2003

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1. Oddworld hasn’t released any information about the next game except for the Discovery Channel’s “X Factor” show in June. Why? We don’t even know the title or release date?

Lorne Lanning: There has not been a set release date. We will make the announcement when we have agreed on the exact date with the publisher. It is safe to say sometime in 2004, but the exact time window hasn’t been worked out. Also, there are times when the best strategy in creating a new game is to keep it quiet until as late as possible. Some people felt that we “over hyped” Munch and they criticized the game unfairly as a result. We would see magazine scores that said, “we rated the score lower than we would have because of the previous hype and we expected something different.” Nothing is more unfair to a newly released product than judging it on anything but its own merit. To give a game a lower score because the reviewer expected something different is totally lame and we will not allow this to happen on our new game. This game will be fresh, there will not be years of previous hype expectations built up, and when it releases it will be judged on the merit of how good it is. Not on how well it compared to the hype.

2. How does the next game fit into the Oddworld Quintology? What happened to the original plan of the Oddworld Quintology, and why didn’t OWI just continue the previously announced plans to make Munch’s Exoddus?

Lorne Lanning: The next game does take place on the Oddworld landscape, but it is not part of the Quintology. It is happening in the same mythos timeline as the Quintology unfolds, but it focuses on different characters with different issues and different play styles. We chose to build an entirely new engine, we chose to create a new cast, we had many new members on the team, and we wanted a clean slate to create something great that would maximize our studios capability while allowing us more creative freedom in the meantime. If we chose to do Munch or Abe again at this point, it would have been more narrowing for us on the creative front and would have labeled us the “Abe and Munch company”, which we are not. We are much more than that. So we took the opportunity to experiment with new play mechanics and play styles on this next title. The Oddworld signature is all over this game but we are also giving birth to something new and innovative in a market that is flooded with sequels and licenses. Abe and Munch and the Quintology will be back, in the meantime we have something new up our sleeve.

3. Do you think that the Oddworld games to date have become progressively more worldly and less “Oddworldly”? (There are concerns that real world elements compromise the fantasy element of Oddworld games, i.e. pork and beans, Sobe, chickens.)

Lorne Lanning: The first question asked in this interview was “Why are you not releasing any info about the new game?” Question #3 now states concern over the tiny info that has been released. So this question is the perfect example as to why we aren’t talking about the new game yet. Anything we say we are held accountable to and managing that takes energy. We’d rather keep our energies and our focus on building a great game and not on managing expectations externally. Do I think that we’re getting less “Oddworldly?” No, I don’t. We have always been about taking very real and horrific human conditions and dilemas and translating them into our virtual universe. We take the worst of earthly circumstances and make fun of them while also retaining deep meaningful subtext. Sometimes people identify more with characters that have some trace of something they recognize. The “Clakkerz” (chicken like characters you mention) are intended to be annoying and funny in the game, and so we wanted to have fun with them in this respect and we felt that worldly chickens where quite annoying and funny and we wanted to play off of that familiarity while placing them into a completely unique context. Yet, our new hero is much less earthly than Abe was. So while some characters and moments might seem more normal now, others are far less normal than before. It’s my goal to make sure that Oddworld is difficult for anyone to pigeon hole into a single theme. We’re a creative company and we want to exercise our full abilities.

4. Is OWI trying to get away from the types of characters its games are famous for featuring (“wimpy,” race-saving heroes), and if so, why? Oddworld heroes are not the muscle bound super heroes one wishes to be but the poor schmucks that we already are. How does STEEF fit into this conceptual theme?

Lorne Lanning: No, we’re not trying to get away from this. It’s just not the only trick up our sleeve when creating heroes. Not all of our heroes will be small and weak on the outside. Abe and Munch were weak on the outside but strong on the inside, Stranger (new hero who is a “steef” by species) is strong on the outside but is confronting his weaknesses on the inside. It’s a viable twist that is still true to the brand. His is a different journey that unfolds and relies on different strengths. Ultimately, we’re creating a portfolio of heroes that have different play mechanics and that can, in time, play off of all the others. Stranger’s play mechanics are a complete twist from those of the previous heroes of Oddworld, and thus it’s giving us a wider range to work from while still being completely unique for the industry and true to the brand.

5. What’s in store for Oddworld in 2004?

Lorne Lanning: We’ll see the completion of Stranger and the start of a couple of more projects that utilize our latest technology and cast. We’ve built an incredible engine and we want to get more games out to our fans without them having to wait for two years. We’d like to release a game a year. We also hope to have some really exciting news to release in 2004 about Oddworld in general, but it’s too early to touch upon any details.

6. What do you want for Christmas this year?

Lorne Lanning: A VACATION!!! … but I doubt that I’ll be getting it.