Gamers’ Republic: Munch’s Oddysee [2000]

Date: June, 2000

Author: Edd Fear

Source: Gamer's Republic, Issue 25, pp. 30-31

Status and power: Oddworld takes a lesson from the real world in order to enhance realism in their next virtual one

With E3 rapidly approaching, Oddworld Inhabitants are in a mad rush to prepare themselves for the craziness that this show entails. But president Lorne Lanning took a few moments from his insanity to give us a few more glimpses into what we can expect from their next title.

Just as Abe’s Exoddus was all about the emotional state of Abe’s fellow Mudokens, Munch’s Oddysee has a unifying concept as well: status. Oddworld doesn’t intend to do away with the emotion system they implemented in the previous game, just move focus away from it as an integral gameplay element.

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The shift to a status-based model was the outcome of scrutinizing their past efforts and ensuring that they continue the evolution of the games. “One of our goals is removing all menus and things like that, but yet getting the user all the information that they need,” Lorne says. “Another one of our goals is bringing everything to life and giving it personality. If something’s more powerful, it should look that way. If something has more shielding, it should imply that. That’s just basic design.” They shared their basic designs of the status/upgrade system for the various species around Oddworld, and you can now see the steps of status Sligs, Glukkons, Mudokens, and Vykkers may attain in order to climb the ladder of success. And you, dear player, must learn how to help or hinder them in order to help Abe and Munch through the game.

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Lorne described an early possible stage that would house a low-level Slig at the outset, guarding a voice-locked door that only a Slig may open. This test is simple: possess the Slig, talk into the lock, and advance. But beyond that door, there may be five machines that must be operated simultaneously by this possessed character and four other Sligs—but the other four Sligs in the area are of a higher status, and no amount of “C’mere” will get them to do your bidding. Lorne describes it best: “We’ll have a billboard—all the power-ups and the vending machines are being promoted to you in this game—that says ‘Tired of being dissed by fellow Sligs? You need the Big Whammy! Instant status!’ Now, Sligs can go up to ATM machines; all industrial characters have accounts, like Visa cards, right? I can take him up to the ATM as I’ve got him possessed, and I can go, ‘I want to buy the Big Whammy kit!’ And, if he’s got the moolah in his account, BOOM, the ATM will transform your character into a Big Whammy Slig, but he’s still the same guy I’m controlling. And now I go over to these other four guys, and I say, ‘Hey.’ And they say, ‘Heeeyyyy!’ [impressed] And I say, ‘Follow me!’ And they go, ‘You bet!'”

Many of you will not that previously, possessed characters were instant targets, but in Munch’s Oddysee, Oddworld has seen fit to add the element of infiltration and covert operations. Combining the problems of playing multiple character types, interacting with the other characters around them, and dealing with how the status level of each character relates to the status of the others around them is no easy feat, but must be not only solved but implemented seamlessly in order to create a believable sense of infiltration. Lorne weighs in: “If we get enough RAM, we’ll give fifteen different words that all mean ‘Hello,’ but in a different social ranking. To guys that are below me, my GameSpeak is condescending: ‘Hey, idiot.’ To guys that are equal to me, my GameSpeak is pretty much equal, socially: ‘Hey, how ya doin?’; it’s pretty level. To guys that are up above me in my social status, my GameSpeak is subservient: ‘Uh, hello, sir.’ So as you walk around with any of these possessed characters, if you’re hitting your ‘greet’ button, your character says different things depending on who you’re talking to, but it’s always in the same flavor; it always has the same meaning, it just has a whole different social connotation to it.”

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Just the raw concepts of this new game has us itching to try it (“Us, too,” says Lorne!), but we’ll patiently wait out the release of the PS2 in America for the release. And we’ll bring more info as Oddworld gets their development machine into high gear.

Visit our website to read the full transcription of our meeting with Lorne, and to learn more about the future of Lulu, the dorky-looking pud Glukkon to the right. And we’ll bring more info on him, Abe, Munch, and all the rest soon!