Oddworld's Inhabitants: Sherry McKenna, CEO/Co-founder - Lorne Lanning, President/Co-founder [Hosted by Oddworld.com] Date: November 2000 Interviewer: Oddworld.com Interviewees: Sherry McKenna & Lorne Lanning
Nov. 2000 – We’re sure you’ve heard that Oddworld Inhabitants is jumping on the Microsoft Xbox bandwagon and want to know more. So, where better to hear the REAL truth then from Oddworld’s founders, Sherry McKenna and Lorne Lanning.
Sherry McKenna, CEO/Co-founder
Lorne Lanning, President/Co-founder
Q: Why did you leave Sony? We’ve heard rumors there was some bad blood between your two companies?
Lorne Lanning & Sherry McKenna: We’ve had a great run on Sony and enjoyed a lot of success making Abe’s Oddysee and Exoddus on the Playstation. But when we thought hard about where we wanted to take Munch and the technology and raw horsepower needed to take the Oddworld franchise to the next level, it was apparent only the Xbox offered us the future-generation technology and stream-lined architecture we needed to bring our full vision of Munch’s Oddysee to life. Munch tests the limits of gaming – from reality bending environments and special effects to life-like characters with motivations, emotions and actions. Only the Xbox had the revolutionary technology to allow the ALIVE 2 engine which Munch is based on to deliver the kind of vivid organic virtual experience we are looking to create.
Q: What is it about the Xbox that most attracted you to the platform?
Lorne Lanning & Sherry McKenna: Three points, really:
* Xbox’s technology with 3X the graphics horsepower of any competitor, awesome stereophonic sound support to bring gaming experiences alive, a unique dedicated hard drive, and cutting edge broad band support which offers a more diverse range of game design opportunities.
* Xbox’s stream-lined architecture based on Direct X 8.0 which allows us to develop on a platform specifically designed to make development and coding as easy as possible so we can spend more time designing cutting edge games with revolutionary new features and gaming challenges.
* Microsoft has a unique passion for understanding gamers and delivering unprecedented quality and support in getting products out to market.
Q: You’re shooting for a Fall 2001 release. That gives you only 12 months to get out the door and on the market… How is that possible given most developers need 3 years?
Lorne Lanning & Sherry McKenna: Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee is already well underway in development and fortunately, due to the Xbox’s streamlined architecture and Direct X roots, transferring our design to Xbox should be a snap. Coupling Xbox’s powerful future-generation technology, familiar architecture and dedicated developer support, we feel extremely confident in harnessing the full power of the platform to deliver the cutting edge experience we are seeking to create with Munch’s Oddysee.
Q: What are the specifics of the deal? How much is Microsoft paying you to develop exclusively for the Xbox platform?
Lorne Lanning & Sherry McKenna: We’re not at liberty to discuss specifics of our contract or financial arrangements with Microsoft. We can say we have committed to developing the next 4 titles in the Oddworld franchise with MS and are looking forward to harnessing the full power of the Xbox. It’s very exciting for us because the passion and desire of Microsoft Publishing is to deliver the most revolutionary and life-like gaming experiences ever.
Q: Some folks might question why you’ve allied yourself with a company as big as Microsoft. Especially when your main characters are all about taking a stand against giant corporate forces. How do you, and Oddworld Inhabitants respond to the repeated accusations of “selling out” ?
Lorne Lanning & Sherry McKenna: The proof that we’ve not sold out is in the simple fact that we have not prospered personally in any financial way as a result of this deal. What has prospered is the security of the property and the assurance that the games we envision building are the ones that we will ultimately build. What is hard for people to understand is just how difficult it is to get publishers to fully support the high priced creative games that Oddworld builds. It has not been an easy road to continually re-sell the vision of Oddworld just to get another title published. Even though we’ve sold millions of games, our price to develop is high and this is an industry that typically doesn’t want to take the risk.
Microsoft has committed itself to supporting our vision. Microsoft also has an extremely powerful console system that can more fully realize our vision. Microsoft sought us out because they parallel our commitment to creativity and quality. These are the reasons we are now on the Xbox.
Q: What will be different about Oddworld Munch’s Oddysee on the Xbox than we would have seen on the Playstation 2?
Lorne Lanning & Sherry McKenna: Well, first off, you’ll see a lot less gray hairs around the office then you would have seen 🙂 But seriously, the powerful graphical and audio technology the Xbox promises will allow us to unleash the full potential of the ALIVE 2 gaming engine letting us make the world of Oddworld come alive. We need to push a lot of data and nothing out there is doing it better than the Xbox. Plus, the hard drive and broad band connectivity allows for interesting future design possibilities that we never would have had the chance of considering on alternate platforms. The Xbox’s technological possibilities and the ease of coding and designing for it are truly exciting!
Q: Why cancel the PS2 version completely?
Lorne Lanning & Sherry McKenna: What really tipped the scales, is we’re not developing the ALIVE 2 engine just to run Munch but the next in the series of Oddworld games and we had to make a major technology and design decision for the franchise and our company. The reality is, making great games takes a lot of time and the investment and commitment of teams of talented people dedicated to a common vision. We felt the we were fighting an uphill battle that was compromising and would continue to compromise our vision for where Oddworld was to go in the 128 bit era. With Xbox our vision would not only stay in tact but instead of focusing our people to tackle constant technology issues we could dedicate our resources to making better gaming experiences. After the trials and tribulations of working on Munch for the last 18 months, the decision, at the end of the day, wasn’t a difficult one. To make the game and the foreseeable future games we want to make, Xbox is the right home for Oddworld.
Q: If you were to use one word to describe the Xbox, what would it be?
Lorne Lanning & Sherry McKenna: “Future” – The Xbox represents some of the most exciting next-generation technology we can imagine. For the first two installments of Oddworld, we really pushed the limits of what we had to work with as a platform. With the Xbox, the sky is literally the limit. Finally we can create realities that are intense, living and most importantly, fully express the passion we have as not just designers, but gamers.
Q: If you were to use one word to describe the Playstation/Playstation 2, what would it be?
Lorne Lanning & Sherry McKenna: “Past” – We are fully committed to harnessing the power and promise of the Xbox and working with MS Publishing to make Munch’s Oddysee the biggest title in the history of the Oddworld franchise.
Q: Do you think your fans will “follow you” to the Xbox?
Lorne Lanning & Sherry McKenna: When the power of the Xbox is as visible to the gameplayer as it is now for the developers building for it… then every gamer out there who wants to be playing the hottest titles is going to be getting an Xbox. Our fans like rich games and we see that the richest games are going to be on the Xbox.
Q: According to the press release you have signed an exclusive deal to bring the next 4 installments of the Quintology to the Xbox. Will the Xbox really be powerful enough to handle all 4?
Lorne Lanning & Sherry McKenna: Yes it will. It was a big decision for us to make. When you consider the power of the Xbox, the power of Microsoft, and the passion that Microsoft is exuding when it comes to their commitment to releasing the best titles and strongly supporting developers… it wasn’t a hard choice at all.
Q: Is the team of Inhabitants excited about this change in direction?
Lorne Lanning & Sherry McKenna: Thrilled. It means that Munch’s Oddysee will be more of what we originally wanted it to be.
Q: When will we see the first glimpse of Munch on the Xbox?
Lorne Lanning & Sherry McKenna: Soon. Very soon.
Q: Will there be a PC version?
Lorne Lanning & Sherry McKenna: At the moment we are focusing on Munch’s Oddysee for the Xbox.
Q: Will Munch’s Oddysee be a launch title?
Lorne Lanning & Sherry McKenna: Yes.