Hyper: Munch’s Oddysee [2001]

Date: June, 2001

Source: Hyper, Issue 92, p. 38

CATEGORY: 3D Platformer

Munch’s Oddysee couldn’t be in better hands. Creator, Lorne Lanning, is one of the more inspirational figures we’ve met in the games industry. And he wears big cowboy boots.

WE SPOKE TO: Lorne Lanning, Oddworld founder

Lorne Lanning, the founder of Oddworld, took us through a playable level of Munch’s Oddysee and the game couldn’t be looking any better. If we were to rank our excitement of the Xbox titles on show at Gamestock, Munch could come in second only to Halo.

What was most impressive was the game’s incredible visual power combined with the fast, dynamic control of the characters. As a duo, Abe and Munch are a pretty dynamic team, especially when Munch gets in his wheelchair or Abe slurps back a powerup and flits around the screen like an insect.

It also seems to be an important part of Oddworld’s design philosophy to permeate the minds of gamers with true empathy for their videogame counterparts. As Lorne Lanning explained to us, “These are stories that we want to tell, it’s about characters that have dilemmas. Our characters certainly aren’t the muscle-bound superheroes that we want to be, they’re the poor sad schmucks that most of us really are.”

ON BEING A LAUNCH TITLE FOR AN UNPROVEN PLATFORM: “It’s a big risk. To want to make a game like Munch’s Oddysee on Xbox, we have to think ‘look at the opportunity that we can really set the bar. Look at how we can build great stuff for this generation of hardware. If we can come out with a title that might not return the glorious numbers that we want, because the installed user base isn’t there yet, but it’ll help sell the hardware… You have to say ‘we are willing to break even on this title, so we can make something great and then exploit the technology later and make better games faster.'”

ON THE XBOX HARD DISK: “The hard drive, well, we’re still seeing how to maximise it. It’ll definitely make for better save features and things like that, but to exactly what extent with Munch’s Oddysee is yet to be determined. The excitement for us is really with the CPU & the GPU — the environment and the way it’s structured.”

ON DELIVERING EMOTION IN GAMES: “I think the future of games, is like the present in music — there’s a vast variety of different flavours. The future of prime time games — the big frontrunners that are character driven — is that you’ll need more and more emotional components, because if you don’t it’ll be like what happened in the movie industry — if you don’t have a great story and great characters, typically, it doesn’t do well. The games industry is headed to that same position. The reaction we got from you guys today when Munch was eaten by the Scrabs was really heartening for me to see that everyone was like ‘ahhh noooo, maan!’ It proved we (gamers) really do care about stuff and it doesn’t have to be hokey to pull it off.”

ON UNDERLYING THEMES IN HIS GAMES:
“I think I share the feelings of a lot of indigenous cultures, which is… man sort of fell from grace in the mythological scheme of things because he attained self awareness. Y’know, knowledge bit him in the arse. The Native Americans look at animals, and they say the animals were put here by the spirits to show us how we need to live. The wisdom that’s lost when we genocide the landscape and the ecosystems is tragic beyond measure. Especially when we live in a world that’s addicted to pharmaceuticals, of which 99% of their ingredients come from plants! Our appetite for materialism in this world has put a terrific strain on things that we could be learning so much more from. We’re still living in a world where we learn more from creatures by chopping them up, than we do from just witnessing them.

“It’s not about being a tree-hugger, it’s about understanding the impact on the system that grew us. Y’know, I have no problem with meat. What I have a problem with, is meat that is grown so cheap that it wipes out rainforests so that someone can sell a happy meal for 99 cents.”

HYPER VERDICT: Munch’s Oddysee shows true vision. This is the kind of Xbox game that will sell the system. There is so much charm in the characters, and so much potential in the clever 3D levels, that you’re loving the game before you even have time to appreciate just how amazing the visuals are. Awesome.

“The Xbox is the machine that is allowing designers to manifest more of their vision.

– Lorne Lanning, Oddworld (Munch’s Oddysee)