Lorne Lanning Takes Gamers Down a “Stranger” Path; The Wrath of Which Could Be Quite Odd

Lorne Lanning Takes Gamers Down a “Stranger” Path; The Wrath of Which Could Be Quite Odd [Hosted by GameZone]

Date: 19 January, 2005
Interviewer: Louis Bedigian
Interviewee: Lorne Lanning
Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20060113071439/http://ps2.gamezone.com:80/news/01_19_05_09_23AM.htm

Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath gives players a number of opportunities to find out what to do next. Talk to bounty clerks to receive valuable hints. Engage in deep and amusing conversation (gamespeak) with the local townsfolk for further details.

After cashing in a bounty, players will instantly notice the change in characters’ gamespeak. They don’t just say the same thing over and over again. Their thoughts progress along with the rest of the game.

Lorne describes this as a log system executed through dialogue, indicating how far you’ve come in the game. Gamespeak occurs with just one button – whenever you’re in doubt and Stranger is by himself, just press the gamespeak button and he’ll say something to remind the player of what needs to be done. Likewise, if you press the gamespeak button near another character, that character may give you more information.

A Not-So-Odd Conversation With The Oddman, Part 1

GZ: Tell us more about the Live Ammo. How do you get it? Do you just run up, grab a creature and fire away?

Lorne Lanning: It starts off with Stranger [having] a double-barrel crossbow. We wanted a double-barrel because we wanted to mix up chemistry, so you can choose any two at a time and they would fire off the left and right trigger. Which by the way, for third-person [the] left and right triggers are also your melee attacks. So anything that [involves] attacking in the game is right or left trigger.

The Live Ammo itself, the idea was that you hunt critters. You start off with a base type of ammo which is basically like your infinite ammo pistol as you would be accustomed to in a lot of games. In this case it’s a surge bug, it’s like a lightning bug, it sends out an electric shock. You can also hold down the trigger to power that up. The electric shock, that surge bug, you use in the beginning to start hunting any little critters you see on a landscape. If you see any little critter hopping around on a landscape, it’s basically special ammo waiting to be had. What this does is help to refine target practice. It’s not like running over a pickup item and picking it up. You actually have to hunt your ammo. And then you just step on the knocked out creature and of course it goes into your ammo supply.

There’s nine different ammo types, each of which has the unique upgrade that you buy with moola. You earn moola by hunting bounties and then you can upgrade your weapons, your armor, buy a number of different things that can upgrade your abilities and your ammo abilities. Of those basic types, they kind of split in range between lending toward stealth and live captures versus lending toward direct damage and potentially killing the enemy. For instance you have chipmunks and what they do is attract characters to different locations.

The reason we created stuff like that is we wanted your ability to play as stealth or as aggressive to be available to you at any time. We also wanted you to have the ability so you can set up characters for more entertaining payoffs when you take them down. So by allowing the gamer to maneuver enemies around the field by tricking them, as long as they’re not alerted to your presence, and setting them up in different locations for [various types of] attacks, they’re all things that give that chemistry to the user, allowing him or her to play the game the way they choose to play.

The result of that is that some people will approach a level entirely stealth, or entirely first-person, or entirely third-person, or entirely aggressively with damage ammo. The different play styles were very important to us – that the user had those choices at any point in the game.

GZ: Is there a comedic aspect to the Live Ammo when it hits the target?

Lorne Lanning: We didn’t really so much get into how the individual creatures die that are the ammo. You know, how they get expended. What we did was, if you fire the skunk bomb, the skunk will disappear but it’s going to leave behind a gassy cloud. Anyone within that gassy cloud is going to start puking: carrots, potatoes, coming up with their lunch as they’re hacking and gagging. So we’re looking for the entertainment payoff.

When you fire a chipmunk in the area, you’ll see the enemy come over and be like [puts on angry character voice], “D**m varmints I hate those things!” And they’ll run over and try to stamp it into the ground and that always cracks people up.

The Spider-Bola: fire it at someone and it leaves them bound and gagged for X amount of time, allowing you to take a live capture as long as they’re immobilized. You get into the other weapon types and they just have slightly different effects on the enemies. Always we’re trying to create a little more entertainment value. It’s really important at Oddworld [Inhabitants] that the characters talk, that they’re funny, that you start getting these entertaining payoffs as well as your successful challenge chemistry is at work.

All of the ammo has its own little sound effects and visual effects, but the chipmunk in particular is the one who really aggravates enemies ‘cause he talks a lot of s**t. When he’s on your bow he talks a lot of s**t as well. “Ooh, that’s gotta hurt!” and doing all these little, sort of funny moments with gamespeak. We paid attention and tried not to get those things to become repetitive or annoying. Overall in the game there’s about 5,000 gamespeak samples.

GZ: Where do you come up with these ideas? You have tons of great ideas and a hilarious storyline in every game. What inspires these?

Lorne Lanning: I think the real world [laughs]. The world we’re living in now is so comedic in its own way it’s surreal. That’s a big part of the satire of what we’ve always been after. If we are making fun of ourselves, making fun of things we’re familiar with in a clever way, then it’s not offensive, it’s not preachy, but at the same time it has an element of irony that hopefully strikes our funny bone.

We layered that on top, kind of like icing, on top of what’s really very dark stories. Abe or Munch, these are pretty dark, high-concept ideas. You talk about a guy who lives in a factory and they’re gonna chop up all the employees. Stranger, who’s a lone bounty-hunting outlaw, and you come to discover what his own plight is and what the manic plot and arch of the story are that make him a very Oddworld-like character conceptually and schematically and in terms of little guys fighting for big causes.

So for us, we spend a lot of time at the conceptual stage trying to shake out what would constitute some innovative changes. In general we look at the game medium. There’s a lot of great games out there and a lot of great people building games, but we still see it as a very immature medium. And I mean that in the evolutionary scale. We still got a long way to go. There’s a lot of new types of gaming experiences that are going to be built that we haven’t seen yet. What we try to do at Oddworld is figure out a higher integration with the character development as well as the story and how that relates to what the characters in the game actually do.

So that it’s not just a guy with a gun like every other guy with a gun, and there’s a couple new features but the layouts are better but this time his wife betrayed him and he’s getting hunted by the FBI or something. This [the Oddworld series] is: who are our characters? What do they do? And what are the unique mechanics that they perform that are directly integral to who they are and what the story’s about?

So if it were Abe you know he had possession and he rescued Mudokons and he could talk to guys he was supposed to rescue. For Munch it was the zapper on his head and swimming abilities and the wheel chair, things that are directly related to who the character is. For Stranger, it’s the ramming, the high-speed loping in third-person view, and the Live Ammo, all start to make sense to why these gameplay mechanics are directly related and suggest that there’s more depth to who our hero character is.

These things are really important to us at Oddworld. We try to create rich stories and rich heroes and layer that with a lot of entertainment value on top. So whether or not you get the subtext messages or the deep, conceptual ideas and how they reflect our modern, troubled world, you shouldn’t have to understand that to enjoy the experience at a very superficial, lighthearted level. So like a good film, like the original Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings, there’s a very superficial level that you can enjoy it at, but there’s a deeper level where a fan group might get really behind it because they like that it has deeper thought going on. I think that’s ultimately how we end up with the types of stories and characters that we have thus far.