David Fried Q&A [2018]

Date: 12/10/2018

Source: Official Oddworld Discord (subchannel:"general_oddworld")

Q: So what was your job man? It’s real nice to talk to a dev.

David Fried: Game Designer. Primarily I came up with the sniper script and did a few of the boss fights. Elboze Freely and Fatty McBoomboom. And some of the areas leading to them. It was fun. Just a sad time at the end. But honestly the best game studio working experience I ever had. Sherry and Lorne really cared about their people.

Q: Oh cool, did you work on fangus too?

David Fried: Fangus? Oh, no.

Alex Carroll: Congrats on Stranger – it’s my favourite Oddworld game

David Fried: Cool. It was my favorite too.

Alex Carroll: It’s the one I think still holds up the strongest.

David Fried: Yeah, there’s something about the ports that don’t quite feel right. I did try to play it again. Something got lost and I’m not sure what. Could just be nostalgia though.

Alex Carroll: I like the ports, but there’s something rather pure (and yet, revolutionary) about the original SW. so ahead of its time. so what you working on now?

David Fried: I can’t say. I have an app if you’re into tv trivia crosswords though. It’s free. Mobile game. http://designerdave.world/geekwords

Q: Nemin asked a good question and since you worked on SW you might know the answer “The thing I don’t really understand in SW’s storyline is why does Stranger contact Sekto about knowing the whereabouts of a Steef? I mean of course he himself is one, but he must know what Sekto does to his kind”

David Fried: He contacts Sekto to gather information so he can kill him. When you ARE a steef, and there’s bounties on it… you kind of want to… clamp that shit down. And ultimately he succeeds… ish…

Q: So he both does want to hide that he himself is one, but also wants to save his own kind? I guess that explains it.

David Fried: “I need this to survive.” If you think of his actions in terms of survival it all makes sense.

Q: Yeah but if he just went for survival then just getting the surgery and then getting the heck out of there sounds much more logical.

David Fried: It is, but there’s always that underlying threat of… “what if they find out.” And then he gets exposed so what choice does he have?

Q: But that’s why he was getting surgery. And while I’m sure it would be distasteful for him, I don’t think he would have had any qualms about making the Vykker doc silent.

Q: I have an unrelated question, if you recall: was there some cut content (apart from some of the live ammo)?

David Fried: Cut content… hmm… There were some early level designs that didn’t quite make it. But we reused almost everything. If he had successfully gotten the surgery yeah, but when he got exposed all hell broke loose and his Stranger Persona was basically done.

Q: Yeah but he spoke with Sekto much earlier.

David Fried: Keep your enemies close? One could imagine his early plan was to get an audience with Sekto and assassinate him in person. The alternative was that he was actually going to hunt down a fellow Steef and murder him or her to get the bounty so he could have the operation. It’s really left up to the audience to decide whether Stranger’s fight for survival was at the point of self-loathing. I think a lot of what makes Lorne’s stories great is the potential ambiguity. It certainly was the reason I went to work for him.

Q: During production, do you (people working on the game) talked to Lorne about the plot and everything?

David Fried: Here and there, it’s more about gameplay at that point. The story is effectively written as the cinematics have to be done ahead of the game being completed. Lorne literally would play every level while in production. And you could tell when he loved it. He’d hand you back the controller and it’d be hot.

Q: If his controller gets hot, then i wonder how hot his phone would get.

David Fried: Guess it depends on if it’s a Samsung Note.

I found my doc where I write everything I did. So I can speak in detail on anything here:

The Looten Duke (the boss and all of the enemies leading up to him).
– Elboze Freely (the boss and all of the enemies leading up to him).
– Fatty McBoomboom (the boss and all of the enemies leading up to him).
– Buzzarton City (all interactions, scripts were also used in other towns).
– Forest Sniper Run at the beginning of region 3 (before town).
– In region 1, section after the town and up to the 3 cutters at a rope climb.
– In town 1, the jail cell interactions between outlaws and jailer.
– Sniper enemy gameplay behaviors and defeat script.
I wrote a lot of lines of dialogue for some of the interactions as well.

Q: Nemin raised a good question, but here’s another: why did Setko call D. Caste Raider after Stranger called him? Did he suspect that Stranger was actually a Steef or was there another reason? That’s one action I’ve always found odd.

David Fried: He certainly suspected something. https://youtu.be/wMC3cFcB048
“Where do I… Find you?” Or maybe he’s cheap and would rather his already paid goons bag it and not pay 20k.

Q: D. Caste Raider was under the impression that he’d get the 20 grand…although, come to think of it, Setko never actually said that. He only said that Stranger wouldn’t get the 20 grand, not that D. Caste Raider would get it.

David Fried: Sekto is greedy scum.

Q: That’s actually really clever. Sekto was subtly manipulating D. Caste Raider via using Exact Words.

David Fried: Almost like he’s some sort of corporate criminal monster.

Q: I must admit, that had never crossed my mind. I like Sekto even more now.

David Fried: Ooh, probably not the intended effect.

Q: One can always enjoy a good villain while also wanting to give them a good beating. Though, it’s probably also because I found the Gloktigi far more of a pain in the ass to deal with than Sekto. Who came up with those?

David Fried: Lorne Lanning.

Q: During production, did Lorne raise the possibility of a sequel?

David Fried: I like Elboze cause I designed him. 🙂 I think a sequel was sort of planned… hard to remember. But the early sales were so poor that they changed course to a totally different game. Fangus.

Q: Fortunately, early sales are not as important nowadays as they were back then. Thanks to digital distribution, a game can keep selling potentially forever.

David Fried: Yeah that’s probably why OWI got restarted a bit.

Q: There was no alternate ending in SW, plus killing or sparing the enemies didn’t change the outcome was it ever discussed during production? I ask because it’s radically different from the previous games.

David Fried: Hehe, it didn’t change anything. It was unaccounted for. There were no discussions for that either, mainly because the timetable when I joined was very tight. The main point of the live bounty was the challenge of bringing them in alive. I think maybe there were early plans about some sort of alternate ending but there was no time. Also, if they’re alive, you get the conversations in jail in town 1… That’s something, right?

Q: You should totally make an interview with MoM

David Fried: Who?

Q: To me the gameplay was so entertaining that I had no time to think about eventual weakness of the plot before having finished the game, which is a good thing i think

Q: http://magogonthemarch.com/

David Fried: Yoah yoah, I don’t think the plot is weak. It has some ambiguity, but overall I think it’s pretty strong. But as with most games you can hit absurdity due to gameplay. Like in any game where there’s a plot point about there being extreme time pressure… yet you can literally play for days on end doing anything but the next plot point. Hehe, MoM interviewed Michael Bross. Interviewing me after that is like interviewing the Janitor after you had an interview with the President.

Q: I don’t think so. You were an important part of a game that’s supposedly Mr. Lanning’s favorite.

David Fried: Did Lorne say that?

Q: Plus, never underestimate the Janitor. The Janitor holds all the keys.

Q: “The main point of the live bounty was the challenge of bringing them in alive”, that’s always bothered me precisely because it felt nothing more than a video game: surprisingly, Lorne was okay with it.

David Fried: I think at that point we had to ship a game. Or go out of business. Ironically thanks to EA we did both.

Q: Ah, I see, time constraints?

David Fried: Not just time but money. And then when Fangus funding didn’t happen, that was it. Because EA f*d us so severely on the advertising. They literally said “we don’t know how to market this game.” Then wtf did you want to publish it for? Sorry, little bit bitter. Yeah I rant about them at great length. On YouTube if you’re into that sort of thing.

Q: Could you make a video about your time at oddworld?

David Fried: I… could yeah. I’ll start writing a script. Yeah, I mean why not. I haven’t made a vid in 6 months and there’s clearly demand for that info. It was definitely one of my favorite games to work on, mainly because I had so much freedom. I’ll think about how to frame it. These types of videos are better when they have a unifying theme.

Q: ‘mainly because I had so much freedom.’ how so?

David Fried: I was literally given an area… a block of space… and then I would design the layout and write the dialogue and create the gameplay. Artists would refine it and then I’d refine the gameplay. The plot and main gameplay points were decided, but they were vague. We knew the movie parts and so forth, but everything in between… That was largely up to us. Primarily Erik Yeo, he was the lead design.

Q: Out of curiosity: if you could add or change anything to Stranger’s Wrath, what would it be?

David Fried: Diverging plot lines and narratives. But that’s kind of my thing.
Probably wouldn’t have done a lot for the game in all honesty. I also tried to do a lot with the Clackerz in town reacting to things you had done, but I wish I had time to be more nuanced. And I probably would have differentiated them a bit more and had a few standout individuals that you could mess with or had specific reactions to events based on personality. Truth is all the clackerz are on one script. One.

Q: How do they have different lines, then?

David Fried: branching script. It’s cyclical though, you’ll notice it if you keep poking.

Q: Ah, so you’d want to add more scripts for the Clackerz?

David Fried: Yeah.

Q: who’s your favorite character in SW?

David Fried: Fatty McBoomboom. VERTICALLL SLIIIIIIICE! That’s a gamedev term for showing the game. Pushing one area to completion/polish. That’s what he screams during his elbow drop. It would have tied the story more into the gameplay. Like a karmic retribution if you just murder everyone, or potentially new allies if you take them in alive… or having to rebounty them or fight them again later. There was a lot we could have played with there.

Q: I find interesting that the members of the oddworld team kind of love the clakkerz, most of the fans don’t (“big chickens”). how do you explain that disparity?

David Fried: Clackerz are kind of representative of normal people… They could have been sheep humanoids but it’d be too on the nose. Shaved sheep?

Q: Would it be correct to assume that the Clackerz represents the typical population of people who are fundamentally selfish in nature and don’t really care about issues that don’t affect them?

David Fried: Yeah. Well Oddworld characters are traditionally totally alien.
So you can’t really come up with an animal based one that feels like an oddworld character. The Clackerz were indeed old West based settlers. Just as the Natives were… I mean… Natives.

Q: Did lorne talk about Munch’s Exoddus during the production of SW, or not at all?

David Fried: Uhh. I vaguely remember him saying he was disappointed about how it turned out. That was one of the reasons they hired me. I had a distinctive pedigree. Or maybe I was thinking of Munch’s Oddysee.