Part 7: Mo’ Better Boffo!

By Paul O’Connor, senior game designer

Most folks live from day to day, or week to week, or maybe paycheck to paycheck. Software developers live with an entirely different concept of time. Developers live from project to project.

Except when they live from E3 to E3.

For those of you who don’t know, E3 is the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the preeminent video game tradeshow on North American soil. All the companies will be there, trumpeting their latest titles. E3 is about five weeks away as I write this… but for Oddworld Inhabitants, it’s here right now in the form of deadlines – as in get-it-done-yesterday-type deadlines.

Oddworld is mounting a two-pronged attack on this most important event.

The majority of the studio is presently consumed with “the Demo.” This will be a playable, interactive slice of the larger Munch’s Oddysee pie, intended to show off key game features, characters, and venues.

A few intrepid souls – myself among them – are also working on “the Brochure,” which will be passed out to the teeming throngs already expected to mob Oddworld’s exhibit floor booth. The first thing we try to do is isolate the main idea or image we want to present in the piece. I just came out of a meeting where we hashed this over at length. We kicked around a number of ideas: the contrast between native and industrial lifestyles, Munch’s experience as a victim of animal experimentation, the dysfunctional relationship between Abe and Munch, and more. I can’t tell you which theme we’re going to emphasize, because I’m dashing off this diary entry between meetings… and knowing Da Boss, we may very well end up going a different direction altogether.

After we’ve settled on a theme, we’ll consult our image library to determine what art we have that supports what we’re trying to show. This will be a mixture of existing production art, screen captures from the game, and original work created specifically for the brochure.

With the art selected or in progress, I get to swing into action, providing text for the brochure. For this job, I expect we’ll cook up a headline, a slogan or two, and some explanatory text – probably in bullet form – that illuminates the imagery. It’s a challenge to render complex Oddworld concepts in a few deft lines. It’s even more of challenge to make those lines interesting (or “Boffo!”). And of course, being Boffo isn’t enough. It needs to be More Better Boffo before it’s ready to go.

With the concept, a rough layout, text, and images at hand, Cathy Johnson gets to burn a weekend putting the whole thing together then rip it all apart again on Monday morning when we decide we want to change everything – which is expected, because you can’t know what you’ve got until you see it…

… and they can’t see it until I write it. A task that needs to be done by… tomorrow night??

Egad! I’m late for a meeting. More next month!