Part 13: The Year in Review

By Paul O’Connor, Senior Game Designer

It’s hard to believe an entire year has elapsed since the beginning of this latest series of designer diaries. In the past year, I’ve hyped our new game – Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee – talked about the craft and tools of game design, and previewed some of the characters and play patterns that we’re working on for the game. From past entries, I hope you’ve developed an appreciation of how organic the game-design process is… how we’ve changed our expectations of the game to accommodate elements that have blossomed over the last year (such as swimming), while at the same time defining, in concrete terms, those aspects of the game that we know are going to feature in the final product (such as basic world geometry and character control).

In other columns, I’ve taken a look at the mad scramble that accompanies the big E3 trade show, and I’ve filed reports on the microhell that is the production process for creating a game demo. I have even provided an outline and overview of what we are looking for when we hang out the shingle advertising an opening in the game-design department.

So much for where we’ve been. Where are we going?

The team is poised for the stretch run of development. At this point last year, the project was a big ocean of unknowns, with a few bits of familiar land thrusting up through the waves. Now, those waves have receded, and the landscape is largely known, with only a few puddles and a couple of lakes here and there representing the speculative elements of the game. While core code is still being written, portions of the team are working on “finishing” parts of the design – particularly on the art side, where a few well-known environments from our demos are ready for their final touches. The design department has tremendous traction, plowing through layout with excellent speed, referring to the treatments we so laboriously created last summer, then modifying them as necessary to adapt to the changing nature of the design. We’ve cut some stuff and added some stuff; we’ve spotlighted a couple of new things and quietly shuffled other aspects into the background.

In all, we’re right where we’re supposed to be, settled into a marathon pace, nailing things down, beginning to consider some of the end-to-end aspects of the game (like difficulty ramping and character growth), and even, tentatively, beginning to poke our heads out of the trench to consider the future….

…which means Oddworld: Munch’s Exoddus, of course! Yep, there’s going to be a Munch sequel, keeping with the pattern established by Abe’s Oddysee and Abe’s Exoddus. You’ll learn more about the Gabbits and their dysfunctional relationship with the Mudokons, and you’ll get to know some other inhabitants – particularly Sligs – like you’ve never known them before. I’d tell you more, but then I’d have to kill you.

With any luck, I’ll be here a year from now telling you that Oddworld: Munch’s Exoddus is nearly done. But first things first – so back to Munch’s Oddysee. See you next month.