Reddit AMA with Lorne Lanning & Stewart Gilray Date: 20/12/2012 Source: https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/156eaz/iam_lorne_lanning_creator_of_oddworld_and_stewart/
Munch’s Oddysee HD for Xbox 360
Q: Munch’s Oddysee is one of my all-time favourite games. Is there any chance of seeing an updated HD version for the Xbox 360?
Gilray: We’ve been trying for a good while now to get both Munch HD and Stranger HD on to the 360, but so far they’ve been totally closed to allowing us the platform.
So far it’s 100% Microsoft stopping us
Q: Do you know why?
Gilray: Officially? no.
Unofficially, I think they’re just ticked at the past.
Q: Remake it for the ps3! I don’t have the game for Xbox anymore and I’m not going to get a 360 since ps3 has free online.
Gilray: umm we already did 😉
Stranger’s Wrath HD released on PS3 a year ago tomorrow. and Munch released YESTERDAY in Europe, and has been confirmed as Christmas Eve in North America!
Q: Who came up with the idea of Community Translations for Stranger’s Wrath? I’ve came across it and tried the polish one. Who can I say “Good job” to? Only found like one mistake in the whole thing.
Gilray: That was Wil Bunce-Edwards in the offices at JAW that came up with that.
He suggested it, I originally thought that was a crazy idea. But no it worked out really well!
Q: To Stewart:
Have you heard of Project Eternity? The studio made a Kickstarter for it and it raised almost 4 million dollars. Given that you’re funding everything yourselves, why don’t you use crowd funding like Kickstarter? I’m sure lots of people would help out.
Here is the link to the Kickstarter by the way: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/obsidian/project-eternity
Gilray: Lorne and I have spoken about Kickstarter actually.
Personally, though the recent UK based KS’s from the likes of Peter Molynuex, David Braben and the Oliver Twins, have put me off.
As there seems to be an expectation that BIG names in this industry have enough moolah to fund projects themselves, so people DON’T back them.
We’ll see what happens in 2013 though.
Lanning: We’ve considered, but the NEW games we would build would cost much more than what Kickstarter successes are bearing. Think back that Abe’s Oddysee cost 4.5 million in 1994. Still, there are some approaches thinking about doing, but will have to do it in a unique way to not disappoint and yet clearly communicate exactly what we intend to do.
Q: Since you guys are a digital-only studio, how are you going to increase awareness about new Oddworld games and advertise them?
Gilray: Great question, and it’s something that things like this will help with.
As print magazines are disappearing (another 2 died this past month in the UK) Digital space is all the more important, as is social media.
So aside from placing web adverts and takeovers, it’s about engaging with the fans, which is something I do A LOT. I’ve been camping on NeoGaf the past couple of years, and more so this week reading the reactions to Stranger VITA, and people seem to love the fact that we ARE so engaging with the Fans.
On the larger picture, it’s about spreading the community and awareness.
Lorne has been active in this space recently perhaps he can jump in too.
Q: You mentioned at Eurogamer, that you saved all of the assets and I’m guessing those were the ones you used for the art book. If you still have all of them, why aren’t you using them for the HD remake? Why re-create all of those models all over again?
Lanning: There are two forms of assets. One is finished art and the other is the databases that created the art/code/design, etc. All of this was archived with foresight. We are using much of the original databases to build new databases from, shortening the dev time, but getting higher res and keeping consistency to an uncanny level.
Q: Could you please release some high-resolution screenshots of notable places in Abe’s Oddysee and Abe’s Exodus? Like this one: http://vimeo.com/38063702
Gilray: We’d love to, however we just dont have any HIGH res images from that stuff, after all it is 17 years old, and those WERE high res back then 😉
Q: Oh, it’s just that on your FB page, there’s a really high-resolution picture of Rupture Farms… I was just wondering if you had any more that high res from the first two Abe’s?
What about the cinematics from them? Do you have them in higher resolution?
Lanning: These were the original digital matte paintings used for the video sequences, so they were in really high res when they were created. Steve Olds did the RuptureFarms painting and design. It was his first Digital Painting that i FORCED him to do. He resented me for it along the way, then was happy once he started figuring out photoshop. For the record… Steve Olds was one of the most brilliant production designers i have ever encountered.
Q: So did you ever find out what the deal was with Play Station All Stars? Last I heard they never got back to you, I signed a petition to get Abe in the game but was it just a lost cause? Will we see any Abe DLC?
Gilray: We are looking at it still, but still waiting to see any movement from those guys…
Q: Thank you for doing this. I’ve always been a massive fan of Abe. My question to both of you is did you both want to be game developers or did you want to pursue a different career?
Lanning: I wanted to be a bank robber, but i didn’t think i’d hold up well in prison.
Gilray: I’ve been making games since I was 14, I’m now 42, so it’s all I’ve EVER known 🙂 and I love it.
Q: Do any of your own spiritual beliefs carry on into Oddworld if any?
Lanning: Definitely they do. I believe in humans over nationalists and capitalists. I believe the greatest possibilities have not even raised to visibility and that we have a very dark ruling class above us all. They need to go, but awareness of them needs to happen first. My games are but small glimpses into waking up to the ways of the world… without trying to beat people over the head with it.
Q: Will we get to see the backstories of the slig/mudokon/glukkon queens that were pulled from “Munch’s Oddysee”?
Lanning: ok, here goes… I would love to tell the backstories of the Sligs and their Queen. Feel it would be most relevant to our dysfunctional, absurd world today with millions dying over lies and deception at the highest levels. The Slig Queen was designed to embody the dysfunctionality of a disconnected parent from those she will rent out for wars for profit.
but… telling these stories costs millions. So our approach can be seen on youtube (Eurogamer Oddworld 2012) that we did in London recently. It sheds light on how we go from where we are, a mini-micro publisher, to where we want to be… self-funding the Quintology without the noise of traditional developer / publisher relationships.
Q: I overheard from Alf that the Octigi are higher ranking than the Glukkons. Is that true and does it mean that the Octopus demon from Stranger’s wrath is more powerful than the glukkons?
Lanning: Yes, they are. Parasites can possess many forms, and thus they are shapeshifters of an unusual nature. THey are also more powerfully ranked in the elite families rankings. You will find, the parasites are near the very top, in all walks of life. So on Oddworld, I wanted to reflect that and still have a long way to go to dive all the more deeply into the universe. Our planet is so saturated with corruption and ignorance… there is a lifetime of inspirational material to work from.
Q: After New n’ Tasty and Hand of Odd, what Oddworld games to you want to work on next?
Gilray: I want to work on ALLLLLL of them 🙂
In all seriousness, we’ve got a bunch of stuff we’d like to work on, but we’re literally taking it one project at a time.
Q: But which one would you want to go back to first?
Gilray: Personally, I want to do Squeek’s Oddysee 😉
Lanning: I want to do Squeek’s Oddysee, but it would be a very expensive game. Will take some time, but its a very messed up story 😉
Gilray: What he said 😀
Q: How expensive? $20 million, $30milion? I’m willing to sell a hobo’s kidney if it’ll help.
Gilray: Yeah around $25m, so how much can you get for the kidney 😉
Q: What is the status of The Brutal Ballad of Fangus Klot? I thought the premise and artwork released were incredible!
Gilray: Fangus had a LOT concept art done for it, as well as an early EARLY EARLY build running…
Q: Any chance of it returning? I really wanna be a rabies-crazed shepherd! It’s on my list of to-dos.
Gilray: I think it’d be great to return to it at some point 🙂
Lanning: I would absolutely LOVE to build this game. It would take place on Oddworld and be able to play with the inherent dynamics we’ve built into the world (tone, humor, depth) but it would be much, much darker and more brutal (though not gratuitous).
While Abe, Munch, and Stranger were capturing much of the western worlds issues, Fangus would focus MUCH MORE on the trials and trauma’s coming out of the eastern european side of things. Imagine drug cartels and human trafficking… meets Oddworld extreme. That was our goal and I would love to make this game.
Q: Are you guys seeing yourselves getting back to the ideas of SligStorm?
Lanning: A big question is… how will people react to a Hero that is a slig. Sligs ain’t so pretty, I mean they even make Abe looks handsome. So this is a curious challenge and would like to get feedback into the idea of a Slig as a hero in a game. Well, it’s actually an albino slig.
Q: I remember reading in an interview that the Khanzumers are the only truly evil race/group on Oddworld. Now I can understand the Glukkons because of the whole Mudokon race rivalry in the background but what of the Vykkers? They don’t seem to have an excuse.
Lanning: As we continue with new content… you will learn that nearly all the big power players on Oddworld actually answer to higher and more powerful forces. Much like our own world, those most powerful are NEVER in the spotlight. The Vykkers represent big pharma and a complete loss of consciousness toward the pursuit of progress and profit. They are masters in their special areas, but they serve many masters.
Q: Stranger’s Wrath 2 someday? 😉
Gilray: Actually, Fangus Klot came out of documents and discussions for a Stranger 2 🙂
Lanning: I could create Oddworld all of my life, but the money is always the challenge. If you understand what’s happening in the console community development communities… you’ll see how many teams thought they had funding, but their publisher is drying up and thus… funding cut. Team screwed. We want to avoid that and so its a harder road albeit a freer one with more possibilities in not getting hostilely acquired.
Q: Lorne and Stewart, there is something I always wanted to see that is apparently in your archives. I once read about that you had Meeches from Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee actually running and moving in the game engine, even though you took them out. Would you someday reveal to the public this footage (and other deleted content from the Oddworld games)?
Lanning: Ya know, I have to admit, the first decent footage I saw of Abe’s Oddysee in its earliest stage… was a pack of meeches running and chasing Abe. There were like 20 of them and their movements were just great and felt so creepy. Like a gang of creepy critters. But… by the time we got deep into the game the meeches didn’t hold up as “we lost the disc space”. That’s when we decided they had become extinct. Because we didn’t have the space to fit them in the PS1 with Abe, Mudokons, Scrabs, and Sligs. Memory was tight in those days. we never actually videotaped those screens, though I wish we had. Sorry about that.
Q: If money was not a problem, what sort of crazy game(s) would you guys come up with involving the Oddworld franchise? What do you think about concerning an MMO or some other large-world game based on the Oddworld universe? Since the world of Odd is so huge, I’ll be willing to bet that there is lots of room for interesting game mechanics and storytelling devices. What do you guys think?
Lanning: I have been fixated on a game called “Oddworld: Slave Circus”. It is seriously whack. You start the game by buying a slave. Think Gladiators on Oddworld. Have done a tremendous amount of work on this and have never mentioned it. But it is in the coffer and there may be some light for it down the road. But has some other contingencies depending on it. Requires new level of social integration into console gaming. It’s insane. Hopefully not so insane it won’t come to life.
Gilray: I’d like to do something for the distant past on Oddworld.
There are parts in Stranger’s Wrath, where there’s obvious “roads” or cement and steel. To me this comes over as a 1000 year old, forgotten Oddworld civilisation, so what was there? Who were the people/characters, what was their world like?!
Q: Does every species on Oddworld have a queen and if they do how do they interact with each other?
Lanning: They are not all superspecies. The Vykkers, for instance, come from labs and a larger ruling body “the Vykker Collective”. It’s where the old Vykkers go to get graphed and retire, and it spits out new ones from test tubes. They are sick, sick, sick. I love em. There are more, more species with strange reproductive rituals and practices, and our aim is to twist all the knowns that we’re familiar with to come up with relevant species that bring a new level of twistedness.
Q: I know Munch’s Oddysee changed a lot from PS2 to Xbox, but can you say what exactly changed? Gameplay? Story? Characters? Anything?
Lanning: There were massive changes. There was an entire RPG/RTS set of elements that all got cut. This went to my insanity in thinking such a huge game could be built, and i was way off. Tried too many experiments in one game and this hurt a fair amount of the dev time. It was a massive learning experience for me. In this, the story needed drastic changes, the design needed changes, layouts, art, characters… a lot. Was a ton of redo getting this together.
Most disappointingly for me… was that “HULK MUNCH” got cut. You would use Abe to start slapping around Munch to get him mad, once he got made he would turn into this huge hulking kick ass Gabbit on steroids. Then you could do some serious enemy pounding… until Munch’s adrenaline wore off. It gave munch a super power move that was triggered thru emotional trauma. Sick, but funny as well. Didn’t make it in. (sigh)
Writing, Inspiration & Creation
Q: Hi guys I’m glad to have the chance to thank you for your efforts on Strangers Wrath. Although I have yet to play your previous games, I fell in love with Stranger’s Wrath’s style, writing and gameplay.
I would like to ask as an aspiring writer for video games what went into the writing and dialogue for Stranger’s Wrath and how much contemplation went into its narrative.
Lanning: I approach writing in an extremely structural yet intuitive way. I design the character’s mechanics as part of their character development. For me, the two are inseparable. While writing anything engaging is difficult enough, it is further made difficult in our games as the design of gameplay mechanics and abilities MUST mirror and be relevant to the characters plight. So writing is integrally tied to design, and they both work up together simultaneously.
Then… pure story… much homework into the backbone of the culture and conflicts that you’re writing about. For Stranger, it was all about IMF backed theft of indigenous water supplies in their support for awful corporations like Monsanto. IMHO… great writing is a result of deep research and serious contemplation towards how to renew tastefully the worlds most disturbing messages.
Q: I got a question for Lorne. You’ve mentioned many times before that Oddworld was a reflection of our own world. The sentiment I have and many others have, especially about the first game, is that it has a ‘deeper’ meaning in a sense. Something I’ve always wondered, is if the portrayal of Abe as a “savior” of sorts, is related to anything religious?
I would also really like to know what religion you follow, if any.
Lanning: Notes first: I am deeply spiritual and have no taste for religion. That said, I named Abe after Abraham of the old testament. In the Hebrew version, he was the father of monotheism, which we later learned was plagerized from the first true father of monotheism, King Tut’s father. So nothing is what it appears, and the lies and distortions of history leave us with a lump of truth so distorted we can’t find the original context any longer.
Abe, in this case, was named such as a being that is trying to find out who he really is and what is it that he should really believe. He needed a slap down from fantasy land, where most people live, but in rising in awareness he transcends the old models. So I felt Abe being such a pivotal figure in religious history (and massively misrepresented one) was a perfect place to start for our first hero.
Q: What inspired the art style in Abe’s Oddysee and Abe’s Exodus?
Lanning: I loved the look of the European graphic novels in the 80s. Many dealing with oversaturated color schemes and far more dramatic cinematic lighting. I wanted to capture a unique signature that was closer to graphic novels and movies than traditional game art.
Q: What was your biggest inspiration for Oddworld? Games, movies, or otherwise?
Lanning: My biggest inspiration comes from the laborious work of digging thru the misinformation to figure out what is really going on in the world. It’s certainly not being told to you by TV or MSM, so finding out on your own is pretty shocking and maddening.
I channelled my fury into my art, as I feel we are under the umbrella of massively deceptive campaigns to keep people ignorant, in fear, and unknowingly supportive of truly evil policies. So from this dark stuff comes my art, and I try to make it humorous for the victims and the guilty. Putting it on Oddworld lets me get away with much more than I could say if it were taking place on earth.
Q: How did you come up with the characters of Oddworld? What inspired their appearances?
Lanning: We were creating anti-heroes. One’s NOT like those being celebrated by Wall Street or the White House. One’s that reflected true conditional suffering while not losing their hearts. So the key was in making them like have adorable traits that warmed the heart, but with enough stamina and intelligence to survive the most brutal of trials. We created these heroes to set a more human standard.
For me… the guy who looks all badass and shoots Arab people all day long because he believes the bigger lies being rained upon him… that’s not a hero. That’s a clueless macho dipshit. Not my kinda hero.
Q: Who is the most difficult character to voice act for in the series?
Lanning: Munch was the most difficult for me. Was all voice acted with a big stick stuck between my (mouths) cheeks, looking like I was swallowing a pencil.
New ‘n’ Tasty
Q: I read somewhere that there was a possibility of getting fans to voice the Muds in “New ‘n’ Tasty”. How likely is this still to happen, and how can I get involved? haha.
Lanning: We are encouraging fans to send voice samples of characters they would like to do. If they are great, JAW would like to talk to you about characters to do. Oddworld has always done its own voices, and hopes to keep the tradition in the fan community. Some fans just happen to be famous actors… but that will be announced later. Is way cool when this happens.
Gilray: Yeah we have a few famous fans helping out this time 😉
As for other stuff, we’re going to announce something in late January that the fans can get involved with, in this regard 😉
Q: I can voice a perfect Alf!
Gilray: I think our resident Alf, might have something to say about that 😉
Thanks & Goodbye
Gilray: Hey guys, Lorne and I would like to thank you all VERY much.
It’s been fun and an education. It’s the first time either of us have done something like this, and we hope we got it right 🙂
Hope we could answer your great questions and that you enjoy what’s next 🙂
Lanning: Thanks, Folks! Been great being on here with you and do let us know if you’d like to do this again. Happy Holidays!