Date: March 2005 Source: GamesTM, Issue 30, pp. 76-77
“MANY OUTRAGEOUS IDEAS COME OUT OF OUR WORK – THE SKY IS GENERALLY THE LIMIT” – Jameson Durall
WE’VE ALL STARED IN AWE AT THE SURREAL ODDWORLD TITLES. LIKEWISE, WE’VE ALWAYS WONDERED HOW MUDOKONS EVER MADE IT OUT OF SOMEONE’S HEAD AND ONTO OUR SCREENS. JAMESON DURALL KNOWS HOW…
There’s always a worry when interviewing people in the games industry that you’ll hear the same old answers – the usual route into the job, the menial work in the early days, the inspiration drawn from other great games… But when you go to talk to people from Oddworld Inhabitants, the developer responsible for some of the weirdest and most memorable characters in gaming, you don’t quite know what you’ll find once you start picking their brains. Game designer Jameson Durall doesn’t disappoint, revealing the processes behind the creation of Abe, Stranger and the Oddworld.
“I spend a lot of time reading fiction novels and watch as many movies as possible,” he begins. “For instance, in preparation for working on Stranger’s Wrath the team watched Sergio Leone westerns to get a feel for the type of environments and action we wanted to achieve. Anything that gets my brain going creatively is a good push in the right direction – even playing various board games just to see how other game mediums continue to evolve and excite the player is always fun.”
Strange to think that some of the quirkiest characters ever to grace our screens could somehow have been inspired by a simple game of Mousetrap or Hungry Hungry Hippos…
Durall has been a designer for five years now, and got his first break at eMusement where he worked on an MMORPG for Square. Sadly, the project was never finished, but Durall has fond memories of that time. “I play a lot of MMORPGs now and would love to be involved in making a living world again,” he says. Oddworld Inhabitants hasn’t ventured into the MMORPG genre yet, with Oddworld titles so far being based on platforming and puzzling, though Stranger’s Wrath has seen the series take a change in direction; thrown into a Wild West-style world, players indulge in some first-person shooting. It’s a new type of game for the development team, but creating it seems to have been a hassle-free process.
“It was fairly easy for us to pull off because the humour and feel of Oddworld translates well into any many types of games,” says Durall. And, predictably, Oddworld Inhabitants managed to put an original spin on what Durall admits has become an over-saturated genre. “Shooters seem to be the way to go these days,” he says. “Games like Halo 2, Half-Life 2 and Mercenaries are growing in popularity while true adventure games seem to be taking a slide. Generally, though, the shooter genre isn’t changing all that much from title to title – it seems the same tried and true methods are being implemented, and are just trying to be executed better. This is making better games overall, but just not particularly innovative ones… I feel the Live Ammo system we used in Stranger’s Wrath is truly evolutionary.”
That said, while the FPS genre may be growing tired and increasingly in need of injections of inspiration, Durall says there are advantages to working within such a popular format. “The games are growing up, and the standards continue to be raised,” he says. “Technology is allowing much more detailed environments and more realistic gaming experiences. These games are greatly suited for multiplayer gaming, which is drawing a huge amount of players. On top of that, the younger players want to play what the older crowd is playing. It seems these games will continue to grow in popularity in the future as well.”
So now that Oddworld Inhabitants has successfully moved away from platforming and puzzling into shooting and exploring, will it stay with the FPS genre or move on further – perhaps even onto that MMORPG that Durall dreams of? No-one knows for sure right now, as Durall certainly won’t give anything away. “Our part on Stranger’s Wrath is finished now though, so after a period of catching my breath and watching for sales info, we’ll begin preliminary design on our next project,” he says. “But that’s all the info I can give on that…”