Date: June 2014 Source: Official Nintendo Magazine, Issue 108, pp. 16-17
Name Lorne Lanning
Position Co-founder/God of Odd, Oddworld Inhabitants
Lorne created Abe’s Oddysee, perhaps the greatest platformer never released on a Nintendo console, but it finally arrives in the form of the rebooted New ‘N’ Tasty, which hits Wii U this year.
Fingers, fauna, farts and the future of indie videogame development: Oddworld creator, Lorne Lanning, joins us to talk all things Abe
ONM: Hi, Lorne. Thank you for talking to us! So, first up, what made you decide to expand Oddworld’s horizons into the Nintendo realm?
Lorne Lanning: We had always wanted to, but conditions and resources kept us bound to fewer platforms. Admittedly, we were memory hogs: our problem was that our 2D titles had too many art assets for cartridge, while our later titles were already maxing out DVD storage capacity.
This history was always disappointing to us, because Miyamoto’s games were always a key inspiration for our Oddworld developments. Alas, we never got there — well, except for two crappy DS games done as part of a publisher licence, but I’ve tried to suppress those memories.
Today it’s a different world. We’re re-building the essence of our platformers upon more flexible technologies while aiming for a fresh, 21st century take on what we feel — and what we think the audience feels — made that platforming great.
We have faith that the Nintendo audience will think so, too, so it’s about time we reached it and found out for certain.
ONM: Do you find creating a, well, odd world helps you experiment with new mechanical ideas?
LL: The real world always seemed too obvious to me; I’ve always been drawn to and wanted to create fictitious universes. I spent a lot of time out in the woods in rivers and creeks as a kid. I interacted with a lot of animals. Still do, in fact. I’ve always felt there was something inherently magical about it and part of me wanted to translate that into experiences that people could engage with in videogames.
As a videogames designer, I was often specifically looking for more animalistic relationships while dreaming up the kinds of characters and games we could create. It’s incredibly fascinating and extremely cool to interact with life forms of which you have very little or no understanding.
They are potentially dangerous, but you could observe and then learn how to navigate around, or even manipulate them. Combine with that my youthful angst and disillusion with the nutcases running our world, and I wanted — I guess needed — to create Oddworld.
Fortunately, I convinced [Oddworld Inhabitants co-founder] Sherry McKenna to do it with me, or we wouldn’t have got through the development cycles of the games and I wouldn’t be sitting here talking about them with you today.
ONM: You’re creating a ‘premium’ indie game. Do you worry that ‘indie’ is becoming too synonymous with ‘cheap’?
LL: I don’t think so, I think the perception has always been exactly that. Largely, that’s because the indie space has been somewhere smaller teams have been experimenting with fewer dollars, resources and time.
Indie doesn’t have to mean ‘cheap’ games, though. Technically speaking, it means ‘independently financed and published’ games. In film we often see the ‘indies’ wind up winning the Oscar for Best Picture. The same happens in music.
The financing and distribution have always been the biggest hurdles that have caused creators to be in publishing contracts, but if you can self-finance your own high-quality games — those normally considered AAA, and have the ability to reach an audience who want those games — then why wouldn’t you?
So why should ‘indie’ have a low-price association? It shouldn’t if it isn’t worthy, obviously: titles are going to have to convince the audience that ‘indie’ is going to mean a lot more in the coming years than it has in the past. Fortunately, it’s already happening. We sincerely believe that mid-tier has got a really big future. We think its time has arrived.
ONM: Other developers have told us that the contemporary move back towards smaller, independent studios feels a lot like ‘the old days’ of videogame design. Do you think that’s the case? And is it a good thing?
LL: I think that’s true, but it’s better than the old days because you’re not as isolated from the audience, there’s conversation between the two and that is priceless. Is it how games should be made? For us, I think that’s true. It fits our weird tendencies far more naturally.
ONM: You’ve explained — in your own, special and wonderfully sweary terms — just why OddWorld: New ‘N’ Tasty isn’t a remake in other interviews. Do you think games developers are wasting opportunities to update their past titles in the same way?
LL: Ah, yes: that was one of my more articulate moments. I must admit, I haven’t thought much about what other games developers could do with the IPs they create, if they still own them. What I do know is that we felt the conditions and qualities of what made our Abe games special initially could be enhanced and improved upon with today’s technology.
There are many reasons why we believed that, but at the top of the list were core emotional connection with characters, humour, and artistic experience. This made making the decision to rebuild Abe easier for us.
ONM: You recorded Abe’s vocals for the original Oddworld game. We have to ask, is that you farting on the soundtrack too?
LL: Nah, my farts are way better than those. I’d prove it, but I don’t want to be rude in sharing them. The game farts were done by hand and voice, which is kind of disgusting to talk about.
ONM: Famously, you possess some of video gaming’s most powerful facial hair. Talk us through it: is it all your own design?
LL: Is there a hidden camera in here? I’ve never heard that before, so I think maybe you are just messing with me. Frankly, I have so little body hair I just try to keep what little I can grow. I couldn’t grow a beard to save my life, so I’ve taken what I can get, which isn’t a whole lot. I think must have some kind of Latvian/Native American crossbreed thing going on.