Edge (UK): Middleware: sinner or saviour? (Excerpt) [2001]

Date: Christmas 2001

Source: Edge (UK Edition), Issue 105, pp. 61-62

Engines ready

One of the bellweather titles in this regard is Oddworld Inhabitants’ Munch’s Oddysee. The studio was set up by special effects and computer animation veterans, Lorne Lanning and Sherry McKenna, who by definition did not have experience of game development. What they did have, however, was a vision for the games they wanted to make. So when they decided to make the move into three dimensions for Munch’s Oddysee, there was never any question that Oddworld would buy in a middleware engine. Starting off with Epic’s Unreal engine, Oddworld then switched to NDL’s NetImmerse.

“Oddworld is primarily an art-driven company,” says NDL’s president John Austin. “It’s a great example of a company that created 2D games but which needed to lever itself into the 3D world. Obviously, the game started out on PlayStation2, and then it was decided to make the switch to Xbox. One of the reasons Oddworld made that switch so quickly and successfully was because it built on top of an engine that supported both platforms. Oddworld didn’t have to rip out platform-specific code in order to port the game.”

“Artists like Lorne Lanning and Gabe Newell are entering the pantheon of ‘gaming gods’ by pushing our ideas of gameplay, interactivity and character in games,” agrees Jeff Wofford. “If the game is great, nobody cares how it got great. If Munch’s Oddysee ships and is a great release, everyone will want to work for Oddworld Inhabitants. It won’t matter where the technology came from. It frankly doesn’t matter whether we think developing technology is macho or not. Macho doesn’t put bread on the table.”