soulstorm

A Personal Take on Soulstorm’s Alternate Reality Game

The Magog on the March! News to cure your ARG blues!

Today our special guest, Sliglet, s’got a few words to say about this Alternate—whats-a-yer-call-it—Reality Game? The one being churned out by those chumps at Oddworld Inhabitants. Y’all know the one I mean.

Remember, neither Magog on the March or Rumor Kontrol endorse or really care too much one way or the other about Sliglet’s informed viewpoint. If you don’t like it, GET OVER IT!

Sliglet?

— N.C. Slig


DISCLAIMER: While this critique is built on facts, it portrays my own subjective opinion.

When I first heard about Soulstorm and joined the related communities, the ARG’s first phase had already started, so I only joined later, if I remember correctly, at the Message box[1] puzzle or maybe a bit later. For a long time, namely until the third phase, I had no big problems with the ARG, sure it was a bit slow sometimes, but one can bear with that. It was compensated by being dark, mysterious, vague, but not too vague and its puzzles were challenging but fair. And let’s be honest, an ARG, done by OWI? It was very exciting to see what kind of dark secrets will surface while we play this game.

I have to commend OWI for starting this project because a proper ARG takes tons of preparation and extra work from the developers and yet they decided to do it. However, sadly, there is hardly anything I can praise except these efforts.

 

spirit1
In an attempt to fill the gap between New ‘n’ Tasty and the upcoming Soulstorm, Oddworld Inhabitants has been tinkering with an ARG, which depicts the struggle of a renegade terrorist organisation fighting back against the evil Magog Cartel.

 

In my opinion, the ARG took a huge nosedive starting with its third phase and I’d like to explain the details of why I’m saying this:

– Ed, and nearly every other of OWI’s in-universe characters, are all very one-dimensional. Most of them are based on one “emotion” or goal only, which leads to them to become very repetitive and boring. There is no “character development”, as such. Ed was a cowardly whistleblower at the very beginning and he still is. If one compares his first few tweets[2] and his newest ones, there is hardly any difference between them. I can forgive that he doesn’t have much personality because that’s the point of his character, a nobody who does a lot. But there is nothing that connects us to Ed, that makes us care for him. He has episodes of anxiety and depression, but that’s about it. Another character, the revolutionary group Spirit of 1029 has stated many times how they are against propaganda, yet their tweets[3] are almost solely composed of these kinds of messages. “We will rise”, “A storm is brewing”, “Join us”, just to name a few. The only exception to this is ironically the Magog Cartel Twitter[4]. Their tweets are full of snarky and dark humor, reminiscent of the tone of the original two Oddworld games. If the aforementioned two characters were this well-executed, then while the ARG still wouldn’t be perfect, it would be much more fun to play.

– The newer puzzle rewards are abysmal compared to the work one has to do to solve them. Many of these contain vague, filler sentences that just frustrate the solver rather than provide enjoyment. As an example, it has been established early that the new SoulStorm Brew is not only flammable, but after ingestion the consumer develops a very strong addiction to it. Two days without the brew causes the addict to suffer lethal cardiac arrest. This information has been hinted at since March of 2017 and it has been confirmed in September. Yet puzzles following this revelation still tried to sell us this as new and shocking information[5]. But this is not even the most irritating example. Throughout the whole ARG we have seen the “We will rise” and “A storm is brewing” messages so many times, that the community became desensitized to them. They were no longer hype-inducing, instead they just made people sigh and immediately disregard them.

– OWI seemingly haphazardly/randomly/arbitrarily changes the ARG before our very eyes. I would have no problems with them modifying things up in the background, those puzzles and information which we haven’t discovered yet, but if something has already been revealed, then it should be left untouched or at the very least the change should be explained in-universe. A very prominent example is the second phase of the ARG. Over the course of months, we were supposed to uncover five pictures[6], which – as we later found out – were part of the game’s teaser trailer. However, one day the placeholder for the fifth picture just disappeared without any reason. To the community’s inquiries, OWI replied with “the initial phase of the ARG ended when [they] wanted to”[7]. Not only is this dishonest practice, it shows that the company was not prepared properly for this occasion.

– There have been multiple long pauses in the ARG. These were the following:

* July – December 2016 (with some minor activity in September)
* May – August 2017
* September 2017 – May 2018

 

gin6gii
The Soulstorm ARG started very strong and had a lot of support from the community. The exhaustive length of the experience, however, has created a lulling effect, and many players have since abandoned the hunt for more clues.

 

While it is indisputable that an ARG has to pause at times so development and real-life events can catch up, but in this case, neither of these pauses were communicated properly to the community. The characters just stopped posting as if they had dropped dead in their places. The lack of communication caused confusion multiple times, especially at the time of the third and longest pause. This could have been mitigated by simply having an in-universe event that causes the characters to go into hiding. For example, before the almost ten-month pause, Magog could have announced that it found the current hiding place of the Spirit of 1029, who could have released a frantic tweet explaining that they had to escape and erect a new base of operations, which will probably take a very long time. To add insult to injury, OWI had multiple times purposefully dodged questions related to the ARG’s status and one time even openly mocked a concerned ARG solver[8]. While this was done from the MagogCartel Twitter account, it still feels unnecessarily rude and unprofessional.

However, the problem that I think drove the last nail into the ARG’s coffin is the lack of direction. There is no official source from where one could comfortably start their solving career. It took the valiant efforts of multiple members of the community to make summaries, trying to give a helping hand to anyone who would like to participate. And, of course, total documentation isn’t and shouldn’t be expected to be provided, but a pointer, a nudge in the right direction or a quick recap would help the community greatly. At the time this article is written, we received “the ARG is still going on and there are older clues left unsolved” as a status report from OWI. This simply doesn’t work. The first part of the sentence is almost useless without any kind of extra information and the second part falls apart because of the previous problem. Even if people took the time to solve them, they would probably get some vague message about the oncoming revolution which equals to a laugh in their faces. This kind of vagueness is especially appalling, because in the older phases of the ARG OWI did create a recap[9]. It wasn’t perfect per se, but it was magnitudes better than the one-liner answers we get in the Official Discord.

 

pkbh4iu
Will Ed and the Spirit of 1029 achieve victory over the malicious Magog Cartel? Unless the most dedicated ARG players can find something to help motivate them forward, it looks unlikely!

 

All in all, the ARG had a lot of potential, but most of it went to waste because of completely avoidable problems. The continuous mismanagement and miscommunication made the majority of the ARG solving communities pull out their forces and because of this, only the most loyal fans remained. However, this is not the point of an ARG. An ARG should bring new people into the series, incite hype, and provide new information to the fans. In its current state, it provides neither of these. It is not exciting enough to pull in new people, it provides disappointingly few details to the loyal solvers and it lacks the distinct “Oddworld-feel”. If we would remove Brew and the Oddworldian creatures from this ARG, the remaining skeleton could fit almost any dark themed game.


References

[1] http://oddworldlibrary.net/wiki/Soulstorm_ARG_Summary#20160323
[2] https://twitter.com/edmudokon
[3] https://twitter.com/SPIRITOF1029
[4] https://twitter.com/MagogCartel
[5] http://oddworldlibrary.net/wiki/Soulstorm_ARG_Summary#20180530 - "This thing is lethal"
[6] http://web.archive.org/web/20170222211607/http://www.oddworld.com/soulstorm/
[7] https://imgur.com/fJbaXPc
[8] https://twitter.com/MagogCartel/status/968903190010847237
[9] https://us3.campaign-archive.com/?u=2b6dca21053bc375cbdad7077&id=b08e7b2d60&e=6a2b5665ee
abe's oddysee

Finding the Source: A Brief History of Oddworld’s “Lost Code”

Earlier this week, Oddworld Inhabitants made a groundbreaking announcement that a huge cache of archived Oddworld material had been found, which included the source code for Abe’s Oddysee, something that was believed to be lost—or, rather, unworkable—for many years. Today I thought we would take a moment to talk about the bewildering history of Oddworld’s source code, what it means, and the implications of this announcement.

ssae0006
This “HD Screenshot” of Abe’s Exoddus, which was used for promotional purposes, is believed to utilise the original, uncompressed, high-quality assets.

When Oddworld Inhabitants partnered with JAW, rumour quickly spread around the internet concerning a polished, HD upgrade of the two original Oddworld titles. Upon shaking hands with Stewart Gilray, Lorne Lanning handed the entire Oddworld archive over to JAW, which included thousands of discs worth of footage—at least 15 TB of data were collected by the team, all of which was preserved by Lanning et al during the closure of Oddworld Inhabitants in 2005. On those discs were models, assets, audio, and documents, ranging from Abe’s Oddysee to the unreleased Brutal Ballad of Fangus Klot.[1] Gilray also declared that JAW had access to the source code from the first two games:

We’ve got the source code to both Abe’s Oddysee and Abe’s Exoddus. However, we don’t have final PSone code for Oddysee, and no PC code, but we have final PC code for Exoddus, and no PSone code. So we’ve got a mix.[2]

Of course, one must then beg the question that if JAW had access to the source code all along, why would they opt to build a remake from the ground up when a polished version of Oddysee and Exoddus would have performed with equal eminence, if not more? The answer is one of practicality and accessibility. In simple terms, the software used to create Oddysee and Exoddus is so archaic when compared to modern technology that the team could not find a way to work with the archived source. [3][4] JAW even reached out to some members of the original design team to try and understand how the old builds operated, yet even these high-profile veterans were stumped with the state of the source code.

One of the guys now works at Google in Munich, one works with Rad Game Tools, and another has just done some work with Lorne Lanning on his non-game related project.[5]

We must remember that the original Oddworld games were a helter-skelter mess from a design perspective. While the final products embody the spirit of two of the greatest digital experiences of all time, the men and women who were building these games were not seasoned game designers, and would do whatever they needed to do to achieve a result. As such, the code that is left behind was not tailored for posterity’s sake and appears to be quite unorthodox.

The abysmal state of the source code was further confirmed earlier this year when Truant Pixel re-created The Shrink for a new PS4 theme, and discovered challenges in transferring the original build of the geometrically complex character to new software. In layman’s terms, the team had to “selectively isolate and rebuild the model components”, and in some cases had to cover up missing pieces with clever replicas. In the end, it took “a couple of weeks” to update the single model of the Shrink into something that could be manipulated and used in modern software.[6] How long then would it take to update the entire game?

 

boardroom-feat
New ‘n’ Tasty was made because the original source code could not be easily manipulated for modern engines.

 

According to Alex Carroll of Oddworld Inhabitants, Square One is the company responsible for finally cracking the code that might allow the source to be manipulated in a more convenient manner. Carroll claimed that the narrative of the discovery was quite fascinating, saying further that:

We’re working closely with Square One who are technical wizards at this sort of stuff. Some of the source was actually missing but they’ve done an amazing job at getting it all recompiled, given the age of the tools and the code.[7]

Beyond the complexity of the source code, however, there is also the issue of the raw assets themselves. While there a couple of exceptions, such as the large matte painting of RuptureFarms, which was a digital construction produced by Steven Olds and used for the FMV sequences of Abe’s Oddysee, the majority of the assets from the original two games lack the quality to be updated into anything acceptable by modern standards. For this reason, not a single code of the original game was inherited by New ’n’ Tasty’s updated engine.

The old backgrounds are 640 × 240. We really can’t go backwards in quality.[8]

What does it mean, therefore, that Oddworld Inhabitants now has open access to the original source code of Abe’s Oddysee? Even if the code can now be manipulated, would it even be worthwhile to attempt a polished version of the two original games when the quality can only be improved so much. It has certainly been proved—take a look at the Happy Hol-ODD Days Christmas Card for proof—that the old sprites and animations can potentially be used to create a familiar, if limited, experience, but what is the extent of these ancient assets? How far can they be feasibly stretched? Is it really possible to bring a venerable version of Abe HD to the next generation of consoles and appease those who were disheartened with New ’n’ Tasty? I’m not sure it will be so easy, but time will tell.

One thing is for sure, we can now finally stop quipping about how the source code fell out of Lanning’s back pocket during brunch.

References

[1] Stewart Gilray, The Making of Oddworld Stranger's Wrath HD (https://magogonthemarch.com/the-making-of-oddworld-strangers-wrath-hd/)
[2] Stewart Gilray, Oddworld Forums — Oddbox: AO & AE at higher resolution (http://www.oddworldforums.net/showpost.php?p=473849&postcount=20)
[3] "Glitch", Oddworld Forums — Happy Hol-ODD Days 2011! (http://www.oddworldforums.net/showpost.php?p=523883&postcount=51)
[4] Lorne Lanning, Reddit AMA with Lorne Lanning & Stewart Gilray  (https://magogonthemarch.com/qa/reddit-ama-2012/)
[5] Stewart Gilray, A glimpse into the future of Oddworld  (https://www.destructoid.com/a-glimpse-into-the-future-of-oddworld-248708.phtml)
[6] Unknown Truant Pixel Employee, Oddworld: Rebuilding "The Shrink" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jwSdzKcJBM&feature=youtu.be)
[7] Alex Carroll, The Official Oddworld Inhabitants Discord (Posted by OWI_Alex on 5/12/17 at 2:10 PM)
[8] William Bunce-Edwards, Oddworld Forums — Abe HD (http://www.oddworldforums.net/showpost.php?p=527739&postcount=154)
soulstorm

EGX 2017: Lorne Lanning Interview with Caddicarus [Transcript]

Lorne Lanning’s recent interview with YouTuber Caddicarus proved to be most fruitful, as, for the first time in many years, we are offered a taste of the wider Oddworld lore. We have decided to transcribe the interview for archival purposes, and for the sake of legibility, as the presentation of the video itself lends itself to some confusion, due to the editing style and the impromptu nature of the interviewer.

Concerning Abe’s Exoddus: The ‘Bonus Game’ [5:45]

Exoddus was something that time, relationships, the marketplace, partners—it was something we did in 9 months. Abe’s Oddysee took us three and a half years. Exoddus was intended to be the second game of the Quintology. You know, time and circumstances shaped into something that wasn’t, which is why we called it a ‘bonus game’.

With the success of New ‘n’ Tasty, we asked the audience before that what game would you like us to do next if we were doing this. We didn’t think New ‘n’ Tasty would be as successful as it was [6:56] and we didn’t necessarily … But it did great. And it allowed us to up the budget so the audience came back and said: “We want to see Exoddus remade.” And we were like “if we’re going to do that what if we did the way it was originally intended”.

So the idea of Brew, the idea of what was happening around the brew, that wind up in Exoddus, except it got way watered-down. It was supposed to be something much more, we were planning to build a new engine and all this stuff. So that’s why we called it a ‘bonus game’ because it wasn’t what we intended it to be but the team did an amazing job by delivering it.

 

Concerning the Oddworld Quintology [7:52]

We said: “What if we could get back to what the original intent was with the Oddworld Quintology; really Abe’s primary story?” So Abe was this character who’s gonna drive [the story], he was the primary hero through the Quintology, but then we were like “oh, as we’re gonna add on his sidekicks, we’re going to feature them.” And that’s not necessarily the most wise thing to do.

We started this twenty-three years ago, we launched Abe twenty years ago. We’re gonna approach this in a more technologically agile way. We have some ideas; brew was at the core of it; brew was always supposed to be highly-flammable. I thought we could do it in 1998—thank god we didn’t try. I designed how it works back then, I just never had the chance to implement it. So it really felt like a highly volatile, flammable liquid.

So we said: “Okay, let’s start here, building on top of Unity, and we get to start where New ‘n’ Tasty left off, but we’re going to re-do a lot of the technology.” We didn’t have a whole staff who was trying to make art, or trying to do level designs ahead of where the code is. We said: “We really need to find the synergy of this and stay true to Abe, right?” Abe is really about followers, empathy, puzzles. So how do we do that but really turn the volume up to eleven on the genre? So I call it a platformer game and then push that dynamic too.

It’s a reset button on the story, but the story of Abe in Abe’s Oddysee and New ’n’ Tasty, that fable—it was really like a fable, a slave begins toppling a major system of oppression. We said: “Let’s keep the fable, but let’s get it running with 21st Century technology,” because that was on with where the [partner relationships were] for that point in time. Then we go forward and we go: “The rest was not.” So let’s use that opportunity to get back to what [the Quintology] was. And if we do it right, hopefully, the audience was with us.

 

Concerning Hand of Odd [11:06]

First, RTS was largely the same model as I perceived it as a genre, which was two opposing sides depleting an environment until there’s nothing left and whoever uses that environment in a weaponized way to beat the other wins in an apocalyptic landscape. “You won! … in an apocalyptic landscape.”

But I was like: “What if one side was harnessing the forces of nature the way Yoda would and the other side was doing the industrial model.” So one is growing, one is raping and harvesting. And the idea of Hand of Odd was that balance. So one was empowered not by chopping down trees but would use the power of the spiritual energy in trees [which would become] something you could harness, a power, and the other tribe is trying to chop it down. So you had this different dichotomy of conflict, introducing more opposing approaches to a single RTS playing field. So that was Hand of Odd.

One of the reasons it never happened, I remember because I was in a men’s room at LAX. And standing next to me was Bobby Kotick, the CEO of Activision. And I was like: “Oh, hey Bobby, long time no see”. He was like: “Oh hey, hey, what are you guys doing?” And I said: “You know, we’re about to do an RTS game”. He goes: “Don’t do it, there’s no market there anymore”. When he said that I just totally got terrified, because Bobby Kotick is no dummy, like that was before he was multi-billionaire. We started to get a little cold-feet about that idea if the head of a major publisher was going: “Look the genre is dying.” So it was really the men’s room visit that killed it for me.

 

Concerning Wildlife [13:27]

In the Oddworld universe, [there is more diversity in the breeds of wildlife just like the Glukkons and Mudokons]. In this title, you’re more focused on the conflict with the Industrials. You’re going to find more of the old world, of the real secrets of Oddworld in this game. But there will be fewer encounters with wildlife and stuff. This is more the birth of a revolution that finds a lost history.

 

Concerning Mudomo & Mudanchee Trials in Abe’s Exoddus [14:17}

We only had nine months to get [Abe’s Exoddus] done. [Mudomo and Mudanchee weren’t] in the original plan. It was like: “What do we do? We don’t have time to create new NPCs! Well, re-use Scrabs, re-use Paramites!” It’s practical stuff, man. Someone’s like: “That was a great idea!” And you’re like: “Not really, it was kind of, you know, we needed to fix the flat tyre and that was the only pump we had.” Really practical choices.

 

Concerning Soulstorm Plot [15:00]

We’re picking up not with the 301 possibilities of how many guys every different player saved. We’re assuming that you did a perfect run.

 

Concerning Soulstorm’s New Gameplay Mechanics [15:23]

Let’s say, in the past, the puzzles, even in New ‘n’ Tasty, Abe didn’t have an inventory system. So the puzzles were more like, you need this, to solve this, now. So you need to get this, to achieve that power now, because you’re going to use it here. But what that did is it made it very fixed and limited in your options.

All of those powers and all those abilities is something that should be available to the player: a) When they achieved it, and; b) When they choose to expend it. So the value of a certain power like the Shrykull is something that you can accumulate. It’s your choice when to use it. But we’ve created so many more abilities that there are just very few things where one solution is the way. As far as I’m aware, so far, there’s none of them.

We really wanted that flexibility of the player in more of what you would have expect in—this is not an RPG—but it’s more of what you would expect in an RPG, where you go through, you accumulate usages of power, potions, whatever it is, and then you execute them when you want. Maybe you make some bad choices, but it was all the player’s agency to make that decision. That’s where we wanted to get to: It’s all the player’s choice.

 

Concerning Abe’s Pony Tale [16:52]

It’s really technological resolution and budget, right? So when we did New ‘n’ Tasty, we didn’t really have the budget to go in and re-change all the databases, so we had the ability to take them up to a certain level where it made sense. So if you look at the cover of New ‘n’ Tasty, Abe’s ponytail was still like: “What is that? Kind of like a dirty sock.”

But Abe was always imagined as—it was talked about, you know, [Munch’s Oddysee] had Labor Eggs—[Mudokons] were descended from birds. We descended from monkeys, right; they descended from birds, so they still hatch. [The pony tail is made up of] feathers. It was always intended to be feathers because … feathers were tough. I mean we could have had a feather object instead, but it just ended up being like a limp sock and we stayed with it.

 

Concerning Mudokon Feathers [17:55]

If you keep a fish in a tank, he will only grow a certain size. But if you get him out of the tank back into the wild then, all of a sudden, he can become twenty-five-foot shark. The environment shapes your natural ability to bloom.

So the idea with the Mudokons was that they’ve been so, basically, enslaved and misinformed as to who they really are. And that’s part of the Soulstorm story, it’s re-learning who they really are. To me this is a parallel with humanity.

 

Concerning Abe’s Stitches & his Ability to Chant [18:22]

Abe has something special about him, which leads to why he has stitches, which leads to how empathetic he is. And in that empathy, he’s able to sort of embrace something that is part of their natural heritage and become something that the other guys aren’t necessarily encountering. And that empathy, in the beginning, is what led to him getting these stitches in the first place. They were put there to save his life, which is different from all the others because it seemed like a different problem. So the stitches are at the heart at Abe.

 

Concerning the Depth of the Oddworld Universe [19:10]

If you want to try and build a property that’s going to resonate with people as deeply as Game of Thrones does, then it has to have this depth that the audience has to feel like they can continually uncover it. But if they start pealing a few levels of the onion and that there’s nothing there, then it’s really hard to have it lasting; it’s really hard to get that really passionate fanbase. I knew that in the beginning.

I was really into population control, propaganda, misinformation, disinformation, how populations are controlled, how people are ignorant of that. And how the news and the television shows and the newspapers, they’re not telling you anything. I was interested in taking that, and I was like: “This is a deep passion of mine for many levels.” And I think it resonates with where the world is at today, not necessarily that it’s aware of it, but I’m trying to be a bit predictive. Like Abe was kind of like an original 99 percenter, right? When we released New ‘n’ Tasty, people are going “Whoa, twenty-years ago, the steam still holds up, more relevant today.” It wasn’t psychic; this is just well-researched.

If I’m going to engage in a property, I want to feel the richness to know that the creator put a lot more in it than I’m able to uncover. And if it’s in themes of what I’m interested in or get provoked by, then I’m going to have a deeper connection to it. That’s what I was trying to nail, people having a deeper connection to it.

You can tell when a creator gets bored. We see it in sequels and movies all the time. So if you don’t have a deep passion for doing it, you’re not going to be very glad in five years. The DNA nucleus of what it is has an infinite possibility to stretch out from because it’s actually deep and rich and based on something real.

 

Concerning Abe & Playstation [20:25]

It’s funny that people have this strong association with Abe and PlayStation. They often thought that Sony was really involved and the fact is Sony wasn’t. They were very generous, they put us on a disk for free in the beginning, a lot of people saw that, cause it went out to PlayStation owners. Some things like that happened, a demo went out. Things like that happened and so they were really generous but they weren’t giving us money. We didn’t have a real deal besides a license to do it.

 

Concerning the Humor in Soulstorm [22:38]

We said it will be a little dark. There has to be [some dark humor, too], and even light humor.

 

Concerning the Soulstorm Teaser Trailer [22:55]

You’ll learn later in the game [that] what you’ve seen in that trailer [are] snippets of an original business plan of the brew solution being marketed to get financing from upper-higher finance groups in the shadowy world of the pyramid [23:09]. It’s embedded with the ton of information to be decrypted.

 

Concerning Quarma in Soulstorm [23:12]

So what we always wanted to do, which was very difficult to try to achieve, is that Abe is aware of the presence of you, the guiding force over his life. Now, in this game—I mean, time and energy will shape what the final product it—but it was important to us that he reflected more of: “What is that force that’s guiding me? It’s like letting me get there, but is really doing with what’s in-sync with who I am? Or is it doing something opposite?” And then it would have some cascading effects, I would think, as that proceeds.

When we first made Abe get chopped up in the bad ending, there was so much opposition internally, in the company. Because they were like: “I played this whole game and if I play the game I want to win, I don’t want to be told that I killed the guy because I won!” And I was like: “It was how you won. You were an asshole, you deserved to have that happened, why don’t you try playing as a better person.” And they were like: “That’s ridiculous! People are going to hate that!” So there was all kinds of vehemence against that idea.

We were like: “Well, we want to enable that, but we want to have a greater sense of consequence, a greater impact on the psychology of the character.”

 

Concerning Abe and the Oddworld Social Pyramid [24:24]

So when people’s food prices change because of what Abe did, that’s where Abe is going to start being branded as a bad guy. And the propaganda will be shaped [against him].

 

Concerning the Guardian Angel [24:54]

Right now it’s [just a Playstation] theme.

What the Guardian originally was is something we never got to do, cause we never so much got into the Mudokon lifestyle. So that was who a Mudokon would be sent to see if they started to have moral problems at work. It was like a robot face analyzing psychologically what you need to get productive. Sometimes [saws and syringes are] motivating. He’d say: “Get an ‘A’ on your test or we’re going to pull some teeth.”

 

Concerning JAW [25:45]

It was a great relationship. Everyone on that team did a great job. But it was hell on me. It was strictly UK-based. It was very difficult. I got Bell’s Palsy at the end of New ‘n’ Tasty. First, my face on this side got paralyzed, a hundred percent. And, fortunately, I got that resolved, then this side went paralyzed. So, fortunately, I’ve regained some of my facial control, but that was because I ran myself too low, too hard, too long, and I’m not getting any younger, in case you didn’t notice.

We had to bring most of the development close to home. Health was a major concern. We felt great about JAW for this title, and that’s a nice thing to take away.

 

Concerning Unity [26:56]

Everything [has been updated] because this is physics-based rendering. The fire, even smoke trails, they’re dynamically lit.

I have to give Unity a lot of credit. I think it’s really robust, really well-engineered software at the core of it. That doesn’t mean you can buy it out of the box and make what we made, you have to put millions of dollars of code on top of it. But it doesn’t crash with what we’re pumping through it.

soulstorm

A Quintology of Errors: Soulstorm & Greater Oddworld Lore

For the first time since Soulstorm’s announcement in early-2016, Lorne Lanning has spoken openly and in great detail about Oddworld’s upcoming release, which is touted as a successor to the original game, Abe’s Oddysee, and a spiritual remake of the classic Abe’s Exoddus. What is being described as a “revolutionary” title was finally unveiled at the EGX 2017 keynote, and while no footage of Soulstorm was explicitly shown, Lanning provided an interesting exposé on what to expect from the final game.

 

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A storm is brewing at the new and improved Soulstorm Brewery.

 

The most poignant aspect of Lanning’s entire keynote was Soulstorm’s status within the fabled Quintology. As most Oddworld Inhabitants fans know, the Quintology was always slated to be a five-act experience, beginning with Abe’s Oddysee, followed closely behind by Munch’s Oddysee, then Squeek’s Oddysee, and two final episodes that were never announced or even spoken about. Each of these acts would simultaneously introduce a new hero within the Oddworld mythos—starting with Abe—while exposing the complex and seemingly endless socio-political structure of the grandiose powers that control Abe’s world. Of course, as has been well-documented, plans changed, which began when Abe’s Exoddus was unexpectedly released the year after Oddworld Inhabitants debut title.

Abe’s Exoddus—which is the foundation for the upcoming Soulstorm, or the “backbone” as Lanning describes it—was not an official entry in the Quintology. While the story picked up immediately from the ending of Abe’s Oddysee, it was always described as a “Bonus Game”, intrinsically linked to the first act of the Quintology. The biggest contributing factor to Abe’s Exoddus’ status as a “Bonus Game” is its thematic value, which relies heavily on the beats from its predecessor, and does very little to advance the overall story. Essentially, from a storytelling perspective, if you’ve experienced Abe’s Oddysee, you’re not missing much from Abe’s Exoddus.

Surprisingly, this is changing with Soulstorm; Lanning states it will be the second part of the Quintology. This is not a small decision. The fallout from this alteration has ramifications for the entire series, which is still implied to be told over five acts. This, of course, means that one of the planned acts has to go, and based upon the many snippets revealed throughout the EGX keynote, it seems very likely that anything of any value from Munch’s Oddysee has been preserved and rejiggered into Soulstorm’s framework, sans our little lonely gabbit.

 

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Molluck the Glukkon is back, a character who was not slated to return until his trial against Lady Margaret in Munch’s Oddysee!

 

Not only will the vykkers make an appearance—supposedly as the architects behind the eponymous beverage—Oddworld’s larger socio-politcal structure, which Lanning has never spoken about publicly before, and the power struggle of this daunting, pyramidal scheme will finally have an influence upon the ongoing Oddworld story. He hints at the higher powers, those who tower over Molluck the Glukkon, preparing the audience for the revelation that someone as seemingly influential as the mastermind behind Mudokon Pops is nothing but a puppet on a very long ladder to “The Eye”.

During the keynote, Lanning also begins to detail the waves of revolution and the cone of trepidation that will ripple out as a consequence of Abe’s actions at RuptureFarms. The closure of the worlds largest meat processing plant is going to shake the foundations of the pyramid, causing a great deal of concern for the many investors with stock in the company and reflected upon the average consumer, pushing up prices on all their favourite tasty treats. This is notable because previous Oddworld games have barely hinted at the larger economic ramifications of Abe actions, yet Soulstorm seems to be setting the stage for the fires of rebellion and the eventual collapse of this socio-political system, the original thread of the Quintology that never really came to the forefront.

 

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Oddworld’s foundations will be shaken to its core.

 

The great irony, however, is that Abe never intended to spark a rebellion; he never intended to fracture the pyramid. He only sought to preserve himself from being chopped up into a Sunday snack, yet the unintended consequences of his actions have branded him a terrorist, placing him in the crosshairs of everyone towering above him.

As Lanning so eloquently puts it:

He’s raising prices of your Happy Meal! He’s gotta go!

Yet that is the fabric of Oddworld, a twisted version of our own corrupt system, and it’s wonderful to see these facets come into the light after dwelling for so long in the darkness. It certainly provides Soulstorm with a platform to show everyone what Oddworld really has to offer beyond the dark aesthetics and the slapstick comedy.