Experiencing something new and tasty with Oddworld Inhabitants

Experiencing something new and tasty with Oddworld Inhabitants [Hosted by TheVitaLounge]
Date: 19 January, 2016
Interviewer: Paul Murphy
Interviewee: Peter Chapman

Source: http://thevitalounge.net/2016/01/19/experiencing-something-new-and-tasty-with-oddworld-inhabitants/

After what seems like forever, Oddworld: New ‘N’ Tasty has finally arrived on the PSVita and has been worth the wait. We caught up with Peter Chapman from Oddworld Inhabitants to find out more about the reimagining of a classic adventure.

TVL: Hello Oddworld! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us! This is now the third Oddworld title to see a re-master for the Vita. For those that do not know, where does New N Tasty fit in to the series?

Peter Chapman: Well, Munch’s Oddysee and Stranger’s Wrath were remasters of their respective originals, but New ‘n’ Tasty certainly isn’t – it’s a ground-up remake of Abe’s Oddysee but with every single aspect redone from scratch. The audio, the graphics, the gameplay, even some parts of the level design – it’s all brand new.

TVL: All of the games have been a little different to each other. What gameplay can Vita owners expect to see in New ‘n’ tasty?

Peter Chapman: Well, New ‘n’ Tasty is a sidescrolling 2.5D adventure. It’s in full 3D, but Abe is normally only moving from left to right (or vice versa) rather than in and out of the screen. It’s more Oddysee than Munch in that respect.

The story is that Abe, a Mudokon charged with cleaning the floors of a giant meat factory, stumbles across his boss’s latest novelty meat product, which will mainly consist of Mudokon. So, he tries to escape the factory, saving as many of his fellow species as he can. Once free, he discovers much more about his former employer, the environment around him and the other species that inhabit the areas nearby. Armed with a new-found desire to do right and save the planet, he completes two sets of difficult trials before being rewarded with a very special power, one that might just help him get his own back and save the Mudokons from their twisted fate.

Whilst the basic premise is the same as Abe’s Oddysee, on the Vita we’ve made significant changes to how the game plays, ensuring we really match the strengths of the platform. The game feels much more ‘digital’ in its controls, it’s a little grittier looking and is designed to be played whenever the player has the time – be that in short bursts on the bus or in-between meetings at work, or for a couple of hours laid back on the sofa at home.

TVL: New ‘n’ Tasty is a remake of Abe’s Oddysee but it is so much more than that. What exactly has changed?

Peter Chapman: Everything apart from the plot, the overall level design and the characters, really. It looks and feels like a brand new current-gen game, but we’ve kept the bubbling themes of environmentalism and capitalism – mostly told through cut-scenes – of the original. Fans of the 1997 classic will feel at home, but we’ve been very careful not to alienate anyone whilst also ensuring it’s fresh for even seasoned Abe veterans. A difficult set of balls to juggle!

TVL: How difficult has it been to get New N Tasty onto the Vita? Were there any points where you thought it just wouldn’t happen?

Peter Chapman: We never thought it wouldn’t happen, but it’s fair to say that squeezing the PlayStation 4 version onto the little handheld has been something of a challenge. When you’re dealing with a mobile device like the Vita, it’s literally a case of examining every single part of the game with a magnifying glass and deciding what needs to be changed to make it work.

Naturally, as it was with PlayStation 3, RAM was an issue. We couldn’t keep the high-poly models from the PS4, and we had to do a fairly global reduction on the pixel size of most of the textures. Which is fine, by and large, as most of the raw textures were higher resolution than the Vita’s screen anyway! But we’ve spent an extraordinary amount of time getting the game to look and feel how we want it to do. To give an example, we’ve been pulling individual plants out of the ground, moving little piles of rocks, changing the number of particles in dust clouds and – where we’ve been CPU bound – subtly masking a few of the myriad bones and joints for the characters, tweaking the physics, activating enemies only as they become visible, and reducing their activity off screen. It’s been tough, but the end result is a mobile version of our flagship title that we’re proud of. It shines on the Vita, and we hope our fans really enjoy the experience without being confined to a nearby TV or power supply.

TVL: Out of the three released Vita titles, which is your favourite Oddworld title?

Peter Chapman: Technically Oddysee and Exoddus are available on Vita, and we’d get lynched if we didn’t give a nod to our 1997 original at least. The Oddworld games are meant to be diverse, albeit with a unified theme and visual style, so it’s really hard to pick. We’re really wanting to see how New ‘n’ Tasty does on the platform, of course, so naturally that’s the one we’re really focused on just now.

TVL: If you could make any game in the Oddworld Universe, what would it be?

Peter Chapman: With New ‘n’ Tasty we followed our community’s wishes in their request for a remake of Oddysee. We’ve announced we’re in the planning stages for the follow-up, too, but we’re not yet in a position to talk much more about what that might mean. Rest assured we’re always reading the opinions out there, and don’t think we won’t have a few surprises along the way in the relatively near future… 🙂

TVL: New ‘n’ Tasty appeared on PlayStation Plus earlier this year for the PS4, and through the blessing of Cross-Buy many Vita owners will have “queued” the game for when it arrives. As a developer, what are your thoughts on Cross-Buy and PS Plus – especially when there is a gap between the platform releases?

Peter Chapman: We’re well aware that for consumers, PlayStation Plus is an excellent way to boost your personal video game libraries, and coupled with Cross-buy it does mean that we’re not going to see the sort of figures on PS Vita that we’d really have liked to have seen. But we’re sticking by our word – the game will be free to download if you’ve already got the PS4 or PS3 version.

TVL: Are there any games coming out for the Vita that you are looking forward to? What have been your favourites so far?

Peter Chapman: We’re probably entering the twilight years of the console just now, but there’s been some truly excellent games released for the Vita and there’s still a few to come. PlayStation Experience 2015 showed that there’s still life in Sony’s little console yet, and developers – even if most of them are indies – still love it.

We think New ‘n’ Tasty is great on Vita, purely because it’s the full console experience on the go, but not all games are like that and don’t need or want to be, and that’s what makes the platform so diverse in terms of content.

Everyone loves the likes of Minecraft and the big AAA titles on there like WipEout, Killzone and LittleBigPlanet, but we adored some of the early PlayStation Mobile titles and the likes of Olli Olli, Velocity, Guacamelee!, Retro City Rampage and so on show that there’s plenty for everyone.

TVL: What’s next for the Oddworld series?

Peter Chapman: Whilst we’re just getting started with Exoddus, we’d be reluctant to talk too much about what else is bubbling away in the background.

TVL: What are the chances of it happening on the Vita?

Peter Chapman: We’re unlikely to forget about the Vita – New ‘n’ Tasty has shown that anything is possible – but without going into detail about our plans for this year and the next, it’s difficult to really give you an accurate answer. Sorry!

TVL: Finally – of the two released Vita models, the 1000 series OLED and the 20 series slim which do you think is better?

Peter Chapman: In terms of New ‘n’ Tasty, the OLED screen really makes things ‘pop’, but we adore the weight and feel of the 2000 series unit. It just feels fresher and new. Rest assured we’ve tested the game extensively on both, and tweaked the colour curves to best match the two devices.

TVL: We would like to thank Peter and Oddworld Inhabitants for their time with this interview! Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty is out now on the PSVita and we will bring you a review as soon as we can!