Oddworld: Story Stones

“The Big Face” | Oddworld: Story Stones

For the second instalment of Oddworld: Story Stones, we’ve opted to do something a little bit less lore-intensive than our debut episode. While there are almost countless subjects we can tackle, we want to show a little love for some of the more familiar inhabitants of Oddworld too.

The Big Face is an enigmatic character who plays a pivotal role in Abe’s Oddysee as the spiritual advisor to the Mudokon Messiah. While little is revealed about the Big Face within the games themselves, there’s some interesting tidbits and nuggets of lore that have cropped up over there years, and we’ve compiled them all here for your viewing pleasure.

interview

MOM Interview: Elodie Adams

Today we were able to ask a few questions to Elodie Adams, Australian neo-gothic rock artist, best known amongst Oddworld fans for having her song—entitled “Born To Love You”—featured in the credits of New ‘n’ Tasty. We want to thank her for taking time out to answer our questions.

Elodie-Adams

Magog on the March: We’ll start off with an easy one: What is your favourite game in the Oddworld franchise?

Elodie Adams: My fondest memories are of playing Oddysee. The environments were incredible back then and of course still are today even though we’re talking 90s graphics. I’m a very terrible gamer buy I absolutely love immersive fantasy environments and the gameplay was/is so fresh and original.

Magog on the March: You once said in an interview that your were introduced to Lorne Lanning via a friend on Facebook. Could you please tell us more about your relationship with Lanning and the conversations that led to your involvement with “New ’n’ Tasty”, perhaps for the benefit of those who would like to work with Oddworld Inhabitants one day?

Elodie Adams: Ah. It was a very once in a lifetime sort of thing. Chance. Unfortunately the music industry is a cruel beast and I was just fortunate Lorne heard my voice. A friend told me Lorne had a Facebook account so I sent him a link to my YouTube demo and he actually listened to it. That never happens! He replied and told me he felt the lyrics were about Abe’s journey and his relationship with the Mudokons, which I felt was such an honor. It’s interesting as a songwriter, when you compose music with one intention and those listening hear something entirely else.

Magog on the March: What’s the story behind the song “Born to Love You”? Could you also give us your interpretation on how it relates to Abe, Oddworld and “New ‘n’ Tasty” itself?

Elodie Adams: Well I wrote the song about my relationship with the music industry. How it is sort of evil and tears you apart from the inside out without a care in the world but you keep going out of love for the music. I am sure Lorne can answer this question much better than I can. Actually he never discussed with me what his interpretation of the lyrics were… just that he had one.

Magog on the March: Some hardcore fans of the Oddworld franchise have voiced criticism at the inclusion of “Born to Love You” in “New ’n’ Tasty”, believing the atmospheric ode of that tied off the original game suited the atmosphere of the world better. What is your response to this?

Elodie Adams: Lorne created Oddworld and he loved the song that I wrote so his opinion is the only one I really pay any attention to. I have an incredible respect for Lorne. What the fans don’t know is that we also went through… maybe 10-15 or so revisions of the song so the final product is the one that Lorne himself responded very positively to.

Magog on the March: Did you get a chance to play “New ’n’ Tasty”? If so, what did you think of the final product?

Elodie Adams: Yes of course I did. I had to hear my song in the credits. I felt the developers did a wonderful job!

Magog on the March: What is it like to work with Lorne Lanning?

Elodie Adams: It was a life changing experience that I felt I was a bit too young for at the time. He really taught me what it’s like to work on a large scale professional project and the importance of creating a sound that is appropriate for the overall vision. Before that I was making music on my laptop on my bedroom so I definitely wasn’t prepared for anything of that scale! I definitely put my everything in to working as hard as I could and creating the best sound that I could. I grew up from being involved in New ‘n’ Tasty.

Magog on the March: Feel free to answer: Were you once an Oddworld “Fan of the Month”?

Elodie Adams: Yup that’s me as a kid! How embarrassing!

Magog on the March: Will you be playing “Oddworld: Soulstorm”?

Elodie Adams: Absolutely. How could anyone resist giving it a spin!

Magog on the March: What are you working on next in your professional life?

Elodie Adams: I’ve been dealing with some pretty serious health issues since then. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, which doesn’t have a cure and means I’m constantly in chronic pain and… well you know, life sometimes throws challenges at you that break you before making you stronger and I feel that I’m just coming out the other side. I wouldn’t recommend getting an incurable illness.

Regardless of that, music will always be a part of my life whether I like it or not since it sort of follows me around like a stalker. I can’t stop melodies and lyrics from talking to me. It’s always been that way.

Honestly… I have no definitive plans for my life right now so we’ll see what happens. Life is funny like that.

interview

MOM Interview: Stewart Gilray

It is a big day for us at Magog on the March, for we finally take our own place in the annals of the Oddworld Archives with our very first interview. Today we were able to ask a few questions to Stewart Gilray, CEO of JAW Ltd., the man responsible for bringing the Oddworld series back from an extended period of hibernation with the well-received HD Remake of Abe’s Oddysee. Gilray was gracious enough to answer our questions, and we want to thank him for his time and willingness. It was very gracious of him.

stewart-gilray1

Magog on the March: We know that you’re an absolute fan of the original Oddworld games. Fans, however, have noticed that there’s quite a difference in the atmosphere between “New ’n’ Tasty” and the original “Abe’s Oddysee”. We believe this was a deliberate choice, and would like to know if this was an aesthetic decision made by JAW or under Lanning’s advice.

Stewart Gilray: Oh all the changes were directed by Lorne. We put some stuff forward, but the look, feel was definitely driven by Lorne.

Magog on the March: Do you believe that “New ’n’ Tasty” is what “Abe’s Oddysee” was supposed to be if the technology was available at the time?

Stewart Gilray: I don’t know to be honest, it wasn’t something Lorne and I ever spoke about. But I can’t answer for him.

Magog on the March: What do you think was the greatest success of “New ’n’ Tasty”? Conversely, where do you believe the final game could have been improved?

Stewart Gilray: I was pretty happy with the game, I think the greatest success was that the game was as well received as it was, bearing in mind the development team was only 13 or 14 people at JAW, with a couple of other externals. So a very small team. In terms of improvement, I would have loved it to run at 60fps all the time, but that’s just a personal preference.

Magog on the March: What was the origin behind Alf’s Escape? Was it a planned addition to “New ’n’ Tasty” at conception (the rumoured “Alf’s Oddysee”) and a necessary part of the Oddworld story or was it designed to take further advantage of the new assets and engine?

Stewart Gilray: It came out of various conversations, whilst it wasn’t planned at the start, the intention was to have some DLC levels post-release, and that’s what the guys built.

Magog on the March: Where is the special slig that you spoke about in “New ‘n’ Tasty”? Is it, perhaps, the slig boozing at Alf’s Bar, that may or may not be albino? The lighting makes it difficult to tell!

Stewart Gilray: It might be. You know who the albino slig is, don’t you?

Magog on the March: Lorne Lanning has spoken previously about a deleted scene from the original “Abe’s Oddysee” that depicted the Mudokon Moon being formed by a meteor shower as Abe escapes RuptureFarms. Was there ever a discussion to include this scene in “New ’n’ Tasty”?

Stewart Gilray: Not that I can remember, but bear in mind our first discussions on NnT or “Abe HD” were in 2011.

Magog on the March: Feel free to respond to this question: What happened between JAW and Oddworld Inhabitants?

Stewart Gilray: We’d worked with Oddworld for 4–5 years and really wanted a change, a chance to work on something different, and Oddworld wanted to move future development closer to “home” for them. It was a mutual decision.

Magog on the March: We don’t know if you’re aware, but it has recently been announced by Oddworld Inhabitants that the original source code for “Abe’s Oddysee” has been found and a team is currently working on it. Both yourself and Lanning spoke about the abysmal state of the source code in the lead-up to “New ’n’ Tasty”, and we we’re hoping you could share your own experiences trying to crack the code. Additionally, do you personally believe that a version of Abe HD, using the original assets, could ever be possible?

Stewart Gilray: We spent months going through archives and by the time we’d finished we had the source to Exoddus, and the assets for Oddysee, but not the source for Oddysee or assets for Exoddus… If they have found the source for Oddysee, I’m glad and can’t wait to see if they manage anything with them. In terms of an HD version of the original, I really don’t know to be honest. We had 640×480 assets for some of it, but nothing above that resolution.

Magog on the March: With the announcement of “Soulstorm”—a direct sequel to “New ’n’ Tasty” and retelling of the original “Abe’s Exoddus”—the future of the original Oddworld Quintology seems uncertain. We know that you had hoped to see the Quintology finally completed. As both a fan and the man responsible for the rebirth of the Oddworld franchise, what is your take on “Soulstorm” and this new altered Quintology?

Stewart Gilray: I know nothing about Soulstorm other than what’s public, so like you, I’m equally excited to see it and play it. It’ll be fun to play a new Oddworld release that I’ve—we’ve—not been a part of. As for the Quintology, no idea. I WOULD love to see it finished, as a fan.

Magog on the March: How serious were the discussions to finally develop “Hand of Odd” and other abandoned Oddworld games, such as “Fangus”?

Stewart Gilray: Lorne and I spent a lot of travel time talking about Hand of Odd, and we had some ideas for it. I’m not sure if it will ever be un-shelved. As for Fangus, having seen the assets and the project, I would LOVE to have seen it finished, no idea if it ever will though.

Magog on the March: Based on your close relationship with all of the Oddworld archives, out of all the games that never saw the light of day, which one would you love to play the most? Why?

Stewart Gilray: Right now that’s still Fangus, as it was the followup, NOT the sequel to Stranger, and I love Stranger.

Magog on the March: Who is Squeek?

Stewart Gilray: If I told you, I’d have to kill you.

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.