Dear Alf #1

They say the only dumb question is the one that doesn’t get asked. Well, I beg to differ. The dumb question is the one that gets asked OVER AND OVER AGAIN! So, before you write, check our list of Most Frequently Asked Questions!

Q: Can you tell me anything about The Hand of Odd, other than that it is a multi-player game that is coming out after Munch’s Oddysee?

Alf: Hand of Odd is about us using the technology of Munch, enhancing upon it, and bringing it into the multiplayer world of gaming. How many players will be able to interact at one time is still yet to be determined. If we can get 8 players at one time for Hand of Odd we will be happy. It will be enough. If we can get more we will be ecstatic. Hand of Odd will not be an online community in the way that Everquest or Ultima Online are. But we do plan to take advantage of features like downloadable units that will help to keep the world fresh even after it’s been out there awhile. Our most important function will be speed. We’ll take advantage of as much as we can until update rates become an issue. There as so many questions that relate to the multiplayer Internet capabilities that are yet to be answered technically, that we can’t lock down to the degree that we would like yet.

Q: What can you tell us about the story and gameplay of Hand of Odd? 

Alf: Think eco-extremists versus corporate greed. It’s Exxon vs. Greenpeace and you get to choose which one you want to be. There are three sides, or ideologies, wrapped into one playing field. You will be able to choose between one of three master characters for three different races. Each of these three characters will have the ability to control masses of their own kind. Each of the three has interests that conflict with the others. It can be played competitively, or cooperatively, or you can just exist and experiment while nurturing a particular world. You may choose to have full-scale conflicts, or just make a lot of moolah via destroying it. We are also out for something that can be left on and grow while you’re not even home. We’re after fully persistent universes that have a life of their own. Eco-system simulation is a big part of the next level for the Oddworld games. We really want you to take ownership of the world, and then deal with the inevitabilities that arise out of your behavior of your forces.

Q: Will you ever develop games for Macintosh? Dreamcast?

Alf: There are currently no concrete plans to do so, but if it makes sense to us in the future we certainly will.

Q: What will the PC requirements be for Munch’s Oddysee?

Alf: At this time, it is too soon to be determined. We still won’t know for a few months.

Q: Are you still planning on coming out with an Oddworld movie?

Alf: We see the five stories of the epic of the Oddworld Quintology eventually becoming five motion pictures. However, there is no rush for us to produce the feature films. They may happen sooner than later, but we won’t compromise game development just to make movies. The game medium is too important to us.

Q: Why did Abe go from having four fingers in the Abe’s Oddysee to having three in Abe’s Exoddus?

Alf: Well, it’s a long story that needs to be told. So here it is… Japan has a strict discriminating policy against any simulated characters entering their country with four fingers. Historically, Japan has had a subclass of meatpacking workers that were typically looked down upon in their society. In later days, the blatant displaying of a four-fingered hand gesture, intentionally directed at another, came to mean that you were calling them a member of the meatpacking subclass. Which, we understand, was not at all a compliment.

It appears that the four finger connection with the meat packing class was due to work-related accidents, but was so frequent that it came to symbolically represent the sub-class. It seems as though this is a part of the Japanese history that some groups within Japan would like to see forgotten. Therefore, it is at great risk that you publish four-fingered characters in Japan, as you may very likely end up in legal battles with a vociferous pressure group. This group claims that this type of representation is equivalent to and as degrading as the yellow star forced to be worn on Jews by the Nazi’s during the Second World War.That is, it’s offensive and degrading unless they can extort enough money out of you. Then it’s all okay. Case in point: We were told that the Walt Disney Corporation is charged five million dollars a year by this group so that Mickey Mouse may live in Japan and retain his original four fingered design. Otherwise, old Mickey would need to see a surgeon and have something done about that insulting forth finger.

The moral of this story is… if you want to pay, then it’s ok. If you don’t want to pay, then it’s a horrible insult to our culture. In other parts of the world, we have a word for these types of two-faced tactics. We call it extortion. If it is truly offensive and degrading, then don’t allow it at all. But to allow it for a price… is to belittle the case altogether. It suggests that the real truth behind these groups is that they are using the darker moments in their own cultures’ history as an excuse to coerce money out of content providers.

Well, being that this is Oddworld, we felt that this seemed like a perfect addition to the Abe story. We thought it was ironically perfect that he was being discriminated against for being who he was. As the message came from Japan, “They don’t like his kind here,” with the sincere suggestion, “Just chop off one of his fingers cause you don’t have the money to pay up…” caused us to feel that we indeed needed to allow Abe to go through the suffering that goes along with being a poor slob at the bottom of the Food chain. Yup, we chopped off his finger so that the Japanese wouldn’t get offended (or paid). He didn’t like it one bit, but due to the fact that there ain’t much he can do about it… we decided that he could donate his finger rather than us donating five million dollars. Such is life in Japan when you’re a four-fingered meatpacking worker.

And that is how Abe lost his finger in Japan. He’s still pretty pissed off about it, but we convinced him that with the amount of games sold in Japan, he still might be able to get his message through to their culture someday. As a true believer in his cause, he felt that the sacrifice of a finger was but a small price to pay in hoping to shed some light on discriminations and injustices the world over.

Q: Can you tell me what Lorne Lanning’s email address is so I can write him?

Alf: No, we really can’t give that out. Lorne is a very busy man spending up to 80 hours a week creating the Oddworld games, and although he would love to respond to everyone, he doesn’t have the time. Most of the fan mail does come his way though, so he does read your encouraging words and sees the great fan art. This is what reminds him and all of us at Oddworld that all the hard work is definitely worth the effort. So, keep the letters and art coming!

‘Till next time, this is the number one Mud that ain’t no dud — so when you have a question and need the direct line to information central, don’t forget to ask:
What’s it all about, Alfie?