Alf’s Inhabitants Anonymous – August 2004

Up ’til now, we’ve done a pretty good job of keeping quiet about the next game. (Well, except for that one loose-lipped Inhabitant, but we stitched him up right! We sho’ did!) But we’re all still dying to blab about this project! So we racked our brains and came up with this safe haven for our Inhabitants to spill their proverbial guts. This is the dirt, straight from the source about what production is working on now. This isn’t news or gossip; it’s what we’re doing and how we feel about it. We’re going to keep you updated on a regular basis, so check back for fresh info!

For your convenience: The Geek-to-English Dictionary
Demo: A polished area of the game set isolated to show the best features of the game. A demonstration.
CG: Computer Graphics. Dept. responsible for FMV/CG.
XXX XXXX XXX: Programmer speak. Definition not available.
RT: Real-Time. Artists and animation dept. responsible for the in-game art.
NPCs: Non-playable characters
EA HSN: Electronic Arts’ Hot Summer Nights press only event held on July 15th.

If you’ve been reading the news, you already know that the big debut demo last week was a smash hit. Big debuts like that don’t just fall out of the sky, though! A few long days, and a really long weekend of rapid-typing-finger-cramps made the demo solid, smooth and from the sound of it, a blast to play. It’s crazy what a tiny slice was shown, how excited people were by it, and how much more there is to come.

The PROGRAMMERS are still pretty much just working out kinks in the code and doing performance tuning where it is needed, plus the aforementioned demo preparation. There are more details, but surely you don’t want to hear about how one the programmers just removed a hiccup when XXXX XXXX XXX XXXX XXXXX Okay, maybe you did want to hear about it. Curse the self-censorship! Rest assured the hiccup is no more, and in its place there is only silky smoothness.

DESIGNERS are currently wrapping up all content in the next few weeks. Tweaks, balancing, and bug fixing will be on going. We’ll have to start thinking about the localization issues soon as well.

On a side note, Lead Designer Erik Yeo says, “It was great to see Stranger get such a positive response from the press. That makes the hard work and late nights worthwhile.”

The REALTIME dept. is relieved to finally get the big press unveiling behind them. They worked pretty hard to get to the point where they were comfortable showing the product, and are very pleased with the reactions its been getting. That said here is what they are up to. Raj is once again making all the ammo’s look even cooler. Also he will be tweaking the mortar boss giving him a bigger weapon. John and Matt are hard at work finishing up any stray animations and polishing all the npc movements. Marke is finishing up the reworked mine cart Boss. Rob is working on the dust storm town to make sure that all the missions play out as the designers need them. Jeremy is doing some cave lighting tweaks and will be joining Rob on town 2 work. Brad is finishing up the “sunken ship” level and will be moving on to the temple. Ryan has been doing even more effects work and some general tools updates. Things are really starting to come together. It’s a really exciting time!

The main job of cut scenes is all but done for the COMPUTER GRAPHICS boys. There is a pass at every shot so now they are going back and putting the final touches and polish on everything. They’re even getting the chance to go back to previous movies, not just the end movie, and checking off some of the wish list items there. The project went pretty smoothly for CG thanks to the great scheduling and producing work by Josh. Coming up will be some small additions to be cut into the current movies, along with any PR tasks that may come up. Now that the Christmas to summer crunch is coming to a close, we finally get a chance to take some vacations. Rich went back up to the motherland for the world famous Calgary Stampede. He cowboy’d it up with the best of them all week, while of course finding some time to attend a cousin’s wedding. Iain’s getting ready for his big fishing trip to Vancouver Island, followed by some well-deserved R & R in Canada.

Whew! The SOUND DESIGN dept. made it through another demo. The last couple of weeks have really been a sprint to get parts of the game together to be shown off to the press at Hot Summer Nights. Because of this, the sound design for the gameplay is starting to become tight and sound good. Still, there’s much work to do. It was nice to have the extra 2 days off after the demo to clear heads. This week Michael is back to work on composing music for the CG movies in the game and Jamie (our other sound designer) has been editing dialog.

The time has come for Stranger to finally be formally introduced to the public. As the marketing process for this game approaches full steam, PRODUCTION DESIGN shifts towards the creation of images meant to represent and ultimately, sell the game. Raymond says Stranger’s world is dark and mysterious as well as light and goofy. Deciding on the tone that best represents Stranger entails a good deal of exploration, from sketches all the way to finished illustrations that may never be seen by the public. This exploration refines our sense for the attitude we want to express and evolves our vision for marketing the game into a solid, consistent approach. ACTION, mystery and heart seem to be a few themes that have come to dominate the conception of each new image. Whether Stranger is lurking in the shadows or smacking an outlaw right in the chops, our marketing images for this game are recognizably Oddworld with a twist towards a darker and far more dynamic territory.

Silvio has been working on many PR pieces, especially for the EA HSN event, giving him a chance to work on large posters, integrating several character paintings into a scene. This process is much more of an illustration-type approach with composition, lighting, and depth reads, etc. a series of disciplines you don’t use as much in production design. Since there you focus mostly on a particular design, character or functionality. This type of exercise really helps you appreciate how much of the illustration techniques you can use to make production pieces more exciting and convincing.

PRODUCER, Scot recently attended Hot Summer Nights EA event to help demo the game to the press. Stranger’s debut at the event was a huge success. Our kiosks and conference room had a consistent buzz with inquisitive press people. Each and every presentation by Lorne was to pretty much a full room. EA producer Dave Ross and Scot, had people requesting to play the demo the entire time on the floor. In general, the press was very surprised and receptive to the latest Oddworld incarnation. There were lots of laughs, woo’s, ahh’s, and holy s***’s ; ). One constant through out the show was the questioning from the press. They wanted to know all about it!

And straight from the horses mouth, Scot reports,”Around 8:30PM, when we were trying to wrap up and I had a marketing person from Japan approach me. Requesting a quick demo, she recognized my fatigue, and quickly stated, ‘you have to demo the game for me, everyone is saying Stranger is the best thing at the show!'”

The July 15th demo made for another busy month in ADMINISTRATION. Now things have slowed down just a bit. A new receptionist was finally hired, so she will be starting soon. After training the new receptionist, Cat will re-join Jen and help with all the various administration tasks. Nick has continued to help out the sound designers, so admin. hasn’t seen much of him lately. Inevitably, it’s gonna get busy again real soon, so they’re enjoying the lull while they can, and having fun to seeing the game move along and hearing the buzz and excitement of people waiting for it to be done.

CREATIVE SERVICES is putting the finishing touches on the book. Cathy and Rob have been trying to remember the old days of Abe’s Oddysee and Abe’s Exoddus. Raymond, Silvio and Gautam have been contributing to Munch’s Oddysee and Stranger. Of course Lorne and Sherry are writing their comments, too. Everyone is pleased with how the book is coming out. Hopefully it will be satisfying to the fans, as well, for whom the book was really made for.

We created eight unique posters for EA’s press event “hot summer nights”. The posters were over 4 feet tall and were a big hit. The wonderful EA PR and marketing folks are keeping us busy with all types of projects. They are extremely excited to work on this game and we are equally excited to work with them.

We are thrilled about a feature we have just done for a magazine. Raymond created an awesome image of Stranger for the cover and the feature will be loaded with never before seen images. Stay tuned for this one later this month.

Things are spicing up in the MARKETING! A recent meeting with Marketing’s EA counterparts revealed some exciting ideas for the fans. They really recognize the importance of Oddworld’s core group of people, but they also have the expertise to relate to the larger gaming community as well. Be on the lookout, as more and more information is soon to be released on Oddworld Stranger!,

Jenny took a much needed break to wrap up production of the musical “Sweeney Todd” (all in her spare time, of course … can you say superwoman?). And is now back to facilitating Oddworld requests like a multitasking, multi-armed, Hindu goddess atop a lotus flower! People from every aspect of the media come to her in hopes of being granted an interview or footage of Stranger, wondering, will they appease the goddess?!

The Hot Summer Nights event has definitely generated some hot summer days! Look for these offerings to manifest themselves soon at a magazine shelf or website near you! Because of the great response to HSN, Kristin has her work cut out for her, keeping up with all of the press, making sure it is all documented and shared with the studio. There are also lots of editing and support for the book and other end-of-game, beginning of marketing projects. To this she says, “Bring it!”