Hyper: The Future of Gaming [2000]

Date: August, 2000

Source: Hyper, Issue 82, p. 38

Oddworld Inhabitants (the genius team behind Abe and the Oddworld games!)

1. What are your impressions of the Dreamcast, PlayStation 2 and (from what you know) the X-Box and the Nintendo Dolphin?

Lorne Lanning: Dreamcast is the most powerful system on the shelf today. However, when the PS2 gets here, it’s a whole different ball game. The PlayStation 2 is a very serious machine that we are very excited about. However, it is very difficult to program for and has some funky limitations that make it clear it was designed by engineers who don’t understand how to make great looking computer graphics. It’s causing a lot of extra work to get around some basic technical oversights. But in the end, it’s still one hell of a machine, and I’m sure it will live a fabulous life. The X-Box is an even more serious machine with even more potential. Let’s hope Microsoft delivers what they promise. If they do, then gaming has even more potential. All that the world needs now is more designers that are creative and take advantage of these new and powerful machines (PS2 & X-Box) to create truly new experiences – unlike the most recent stuff that was shown at the Tokyo Game Show. As for the Dolphin, it seems as though Nintendo has made it clear that they are a toy company only and have no interest in being a true media entertainment company. They want to keep making machines with limited potential so that they can keep control over game developers and publishers while enforcing those insanely high manufacturing costs. The Dolphin is not on our radar screens.

2. Where does the PC fit into this new oncoming console era?

Lorne Lanning: Good question. It’s not clear at all how the PC is going to be able to compete with consoles like the X-Box. PC game sales are dropping while consoles keep increasing. We don’t think that PC games are going to go away, but more and more PC game developers are setting their sights on machines like the PS2 and X-Box. If you go to a Sony PS2 technical conference, more than half of the audience are PC developers who are changing gears. They know they can sell more games on console, and now that they’re able to build more of the games they want on these new consoles… it’s going to be a very interesting next couple of years. We will keep converting our games to PC as long as the power is there to properly deliver the vision of the game.

3. When and what do you think will be the next revolution in game design?

Lorne Lanning: I believe it will happen this year with the release of Munch’s Oddysee. I also think Black & White will open new doors. Fully simulated self aware worlds are the future.

4. Will all this new hardware result in only a visual improvement to games or will we see gameplay evolve too?

Lorne Lanning: Most people are not evolving gameplay. There are a couple of solid reasons for this. As game costs rise publishers are more adverse to taking risks with creative concepts that haven’t been proven. Also, if you see what’s going on out there, the game design community just doesn’t appear to be injecting much new creativity. So, most games will look better, but will be the same old game. Just like what we saw from Tokyo last week. However, a few games will break the mold and will be such rich and entertaining experiences that the bar will be raised and a new generation of game design will follow.

5. Tell us about a game (or a game concept) you’re working on now for one of the new systems.

Lorne Lanning: Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee will be more focused on world simulation and the behaviours of characters and eco-systems to achieve much more “living” impressions. We are simulating entire life cycles for all the characters in he world, all the communities, and even the landscape. We are truly going for a “world” simulation approach rather than gauntlet types of puzzles that you saw in our previous games. We are also spending a ton of effort in advanced behavioural, simulation, and social chemistry models. GameSpeak ™ will also now allow you to move around and manipulate a large number of characters in order to have them do your bidding and re-shape your landscape. GameSpeak has become more highly evolved and smarter, but simpler to understand and make use of. Munch’s Oddysee is a gene splicing of Action, Adventure, RPG, Strategy, and emulation, with Hollywood storytelling and production value sprinkled all over it. It is quite difficult to describe this when nothing quite like it has been done before – to see and play will be to believe. As for familiarity of this universe to previous fans, the good news is that this has been planned from the beginning. Meaning, we introduced Abe(tm) and Oddworld in 2D while always planning to evolve them into 3D when the technology was there. So it’s not like we’re developing an after-thought. The creativity and the conceptual qualities are completely in sync with the universe we’ve developed thus far. In the final analysis, we believe that existing fans will be much happier about the oddness of Oddworld in 3D than they ever could have been in 2D. I can’t imagine that anyone will say, “But ya know, I really liked the old 2D games from Oddworld better.” I guess we feel that the PlayStation2 3D world of Oddworld is far more “Oddworld.”

6. In a nutshell, what do you think the future of Gaming looks like? (VR headsets? Neural implants?) Discuss!

Lorne Lanning: How far into the future? Near term is controllers. Mid term is eyeglasses. Long term is a multitude of options including Neural Implants for those crazy enough to do it. But this is purely hardware, it’s the software side of things that will become really interesting. Like all those digital sexual peripherals that will inevitably arrive.