Part 1: Developer Roundtable 1: The Premiere Entry!

New ‘n’ Tasty Development Diary

Author: Oddworld Staff

Interviewees: Matt Glanville, Brett Lewis & Craig Spiers


A few weeks ago, we handed the microphone over to you guys so you could pick the brains of the developers behind Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty. And now we’re gathering together so we can answer your questions and show you a bit more behind the scenes!

The first question was submitted by Rikoray, who asks whether Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty is going to have a map editor built into the game for players to build their own levels. Rikoray also asks whether the game would have a multiplayer co-operative mode.

This question was discussed by Craig (our producer for the game), Matt (our game designer), and Brett (one of our artists).

Craig Spiers: So we can answer the co-op question right off the bat: we’re putting in the original game’s hotseat mode – “classic co-op”.

Matt Glanville: Yeah, hotseat style. Control swapping – when one player dies, the other player gets a go.

Craig Spiers: Lorne [Lanning] told me that parents and kids tended to like this mode in the original game. And they used it in-house to help them test originally. It’s fairly straightforward to implement so that’ll be in the finished product at launch.

Matt Glanville: So there’s the idea of having an asymmetric relationship between players, using separate controllers – you know, they can help each other or hinder each other. Different players could do different things.

Brett Lewis: We talked about this at the start of the project. One scenario was that you could control other Mudokons. So we’d have secret areas where one player would possess a Slig, and the other player would sneak slave Muds across to a portal to rescue them. It would have meant designing and redesigning a significant amount of game, so it didn’t get very far.

Matt Glanville: Yeah – we’d have to have really built the whole game around that.

Brett Lewis: Yeah – or have a separate co-op mode, which is an entirely new game in itself.

Craig Spiers: Yesterday Matt was talking about Rayman on the Wii U — how Rayman’s second player gets to interact with the background on the controller. I was saying it’d be really awesome in New ‘n’ Tasty to have the second player use the touch pad to drop barrels on Sligs or something. What else were we going to do with co-op stuff?

Brett Lewis: We might have said we were going to do a [downloadable content] co-op mode.

Matt Glanville: That was in the initial concept pitch for Sony.

Craig Spiers: So it was in the concept as DLC, and now we’ve just put it in the game. We’ve effectively de-monetized our product, it’s backwards!

Matt Glanville: Yeah, separate custom levels was the initial idea.

Craig Spiers: So the level editor part of the question got me thinking… we could just ‘do’ the editor. We’re using a free engine.

Matt Glanville: Potentially…

Brett Lewis: Ok, so we’ll cover this as design and art separately.

Matt Glanville: Most of the issues are art-related: how do you get users able to place stuff and make it look good? Obviously it doesn’t have to look as good as what we’re providing… Games like Trials HD did a good job of giving lots of tools for creating content.

Brett Lewis: In my opinion, the best example of a level editor is LittleBigPlanet because it’s not really an editor: it gave you a selection of backgrounds, then it changed the light and stuff. We don’t have those backgrounds as pieces – we’ve got a sky, but they’d have to place trees and background art themselves.

Craig Spiers: So you’d prefer an actual in-game editor, rather than giving out tools to mess with assets?

Brett Lewis: Yeah.

Matt Glanville: There’s a lot of things we could just give people to drop into levels – for instance we could give them some tools to convert assets into a usable format. Everything in the game is a prefab now for ease of our use, and that translates across to community tools.

Brett Lewis: It wouldn’t be fun.

Matt Glanville: Fun to use, or fun to make stuff with?

Brett Lewis: Both!

Craig Spiers: For me, I love people seeing our mistakes. Like lifting the curtain and all the smoke and mirrors. I like the idea of people seeing how we did stuff, seeing the challenges of game development.

Craig Spiers: The final line, as the producer, is that we didn’t have the budget so this isn’t a mode we can accommodate, sadly. I still think it would be a cool idea to release Rupture Farms Zulag 1 Path 1, that first iconic level, as a standalone project. “Hey, look at how we made the game”.

Matt Glanville: Like an actual Unity project?

Craig Spiers: It might work, if we gave out the scripts and the code needed to make it work. It’s like giving back to the community. It would be cool to tell people what to aim for by showing them what we’ve done with the engine and the tools.

Brett Lewis: I can destroy this idea in 5 seconds. A lot of what we’d have to give out is plugins and such, and we can’t legally hand those out. So much of what we’ve done is modular and uses things from the asset store to implement. We could potentially make a small test scene to hand out, strip out the plugins and custom stuff.

Matt Glanville: I think an actual editor is a nice idea if we had the time. Like an actual basic level editor, so here’s a bunch of blocks…

Craig Spiers: I think that has its own challenges, you’ve got to make stuff robust, and be a lot more modular than us like Brett was saying.

Matt Glanville: A lot of stuff that could work. We’d have to maybe build a bunch of drag and drop assets –

Brett Lewis: – it needs to be more than drag and drop. We’d need the ability to draw in floors and walls.

Matt Glanville: It’s easier to use an editor than to learn Unity. I mean, that’s how I started.

Brett Lewis: Yeah, but there’s a line between game development and fun; it’s the effort versus the fun of it. Like, you can’t just say, “I want this lighting in this level,” because all of our lighting is uniquely set up.

Matt Glanville: We could do lamps?

Brett Lewis: It would look nothing like our game! If we did this for a different game we could build around it, based on demand. That’s the other question, how many people would use the level editor? Is it worth the time and effort for a niche audience?

Craig Spiers: I think it’s born from the existing tools for the original Abe’s Oddysee; people broke that apart. It’s not as easy anymore, so could we cut short that process of deconstruction?

Brett Lewis: LittleBigPlanet was really good for this. I mean, you could mash out an area to play in 15 seconds – we take about an hour to do the same.

Matt Glanville: LittleBigPlanet was ahead of a lot of other things, though. You look at 10-year-old game editors, you don’t expect drag and drop. There’s a group of people who put the time in, and 10 years later, they’re game designers!

Brett Lewis: It’s a niche.

Matt Glanville: It is a niche, yeah.

Brett Lewis: I think people are used to LittleBigPlanet stuff.

Matt Glanville: Or the Trials HD editor. You place panels, floor pieces, it has grab and rotate. It’s a middle ground between LittleBigPlanet and older games.

Brett Lewis: Maybe if we made things quite grid based…

Craig Spiers: Yeah, like Timesplitters 2 was. Bespoke pieces in a giant arena.

Matt Glanville: Yeah – you just draw a floor and a wall, then click “Generate” and the code works out where art goes.

Craig Spiers: …so now we’re at 2 artists and coders as well! The team for this keeps growing!

Matt Glanville: It’s doable!

Craig Spiers: Yeah, like we said before, with appropriate budget and time.

Brett Lewis: What I’d want to say is “the game’s great as it is! We already made a bunch of levels for you!”

Matt Glanville: People want to make challenge levels these days, though.

Brett Lewis: Yeah, so we can make them!

Craig Spiers: Yeah, we should send that out to the fans – “send us in your napkin math levels” –

Matt Glanville: – and we’ll build them for you!

Craig Spiers: Could we make an asset pack for the Unity store? With some unique pieces from the game in it, like the Glukkon Head furnaces in Zulag 1 Path 2? There’d be copyright issues, though…

Brett Lewis: I’m back to LittleBigPlanet again; we could give out themed assets. We have Stranger and Munch on there, why not Abe?

Craig Spiers: For the record, Abe is on LittleBigPlanet. Ok, thanks for your time, guys. I think we’ve answered the question, and then rambled around it for 15 minutes, so… bonus!

And there you have it, Inhabitants! Our first roundtable + first dev diary: complete! Got any pressing questions that Alf would just never understand? Wanna know more about the day in the life of the Oddworld/Just Add Water crew? Shoot them our way on Twitter (hashtag #OddDevs) or Facebook or leave it in the comments below! See ya next time!