Interview of Lorne Lanning

Interview of Lorne Lanning [Hosted by]
Date: 24 February, 2005
Interviewee: Lorne Lanning


We had the opportunity to ask four questions to Lorne Lanning, co-founder and director of the Oddworld Inhabitants studio. This was the occasion to know more about the Oddworld Quintology, his vision of video games and the future of the market. Also, we let Mr Lanning ask you a question, so you’re very welcome to answer it.

Xbox Dear Lorne, thank you very much for accepting this interview.

Lorne Lanning:
You’re most welcome

XM: Originally (correct me if I’m wrong), the Oddworld series was supposed to be a five-episodes saga, with each episode being played by a different character. Then the concept evolved, Abe got two episodes, Munch just one, and Stranger, who isn’t directly related to Abe’s universe, came in the line as a spin off. What is happening—are you saying goodbye to your original idea or is this all set to be converging to something you had already planned? And if you changed your plan, what are you shifting towards and why?

Lorne Lanning: This was the original idea. However, after Munch, I felt the story of Munch was so drastically changed due to technological challenges, that I didn’t want to see this happen to later stories in the Quintology. It has always been one of our hopes to bring these stories to the big screen as fully animated movies, but to see the stories altered due to tech challenges, which is something that the game medium is continually facing, caused me to think twice about trying to release the stories as games first.

XM: Does that mean you are more willing to make an animated series of the quintology instead of the original gaming plan?

Lorne Lanning: I’d say ‘more comfortable’ instead of ‘more willing’.

XM: Some values are common to every Oddworld game, including Stranger: respect of nature, wildlife and indigenes, criticism of corporate demagogy and abuse for profit, or praise of the oppressed banding together and fighting against their oppressor. Globally, Oddworld games are very engaged, and you even seem to be willing to go further with Citizen Siege. Do you consider that games ought to be more militant and reflected, and that it is time some people use games in the way that Michael Moore uses cinema? (i.e. inform and fight through entertainment)

Lorne Lanning: I think that games are a viable art form, which means that they are capable of being a delivery system for personal expression. Personal expression always makes for more interesting entertainment. The best films, novels, plays are always the result of passionate artistic thinking and a re-interpretation of the artists perception of the world. The themes used in Oddworld have always been ones that I have cared much about, so to me it’s been quite natural to translate these themes into the games medium.


XM: Making a game is becoming more and more costly and time consuming, and the arrival of next generation consoles is obviously going to worsen this situation. This means that investors are going to be less and less eager to produce non-licensed titles or games that are too original (too outlandish). Even worse, the marketing mode of thought (i.e. adapt games to what people want) may become a real threat to creativity. Cinema can sometimes avoid that thanks to the independent distribution. Do you think the gaming industry, that quickly shifted from a ‘everyone can make anything with a few ideas’ mentality to a ‘Hollywood and majors’ model, can also see the emergence of an independent distribution?

Lorne Lanning: Independent distribution will be viable when digital distribution is practical. I don’t believe it can happen so long as retail is the outlet. There are also many more complexities involved with game production that aren’t necessarily faced by film production, so it’s still a bit of ‘apples and oranges’. However, I do believe that digital distribution (and the business models that come along with it) is a great hope for creativity in games in the years to come.

XM: There is a major technological shift that hasn’t yet been used in Oddworld games—online gaming possibilities. As you often emphasize, you think the gaming industry has something to offer that cinema and literature cannot. Online application can obviously be seen as one very promising attribute of gaming. How do you see online gaming integrating into your future projects (if you see any)?

Lorne Lanning: Online gaming is a huge part of the future, but to talk about our direct plans for it at this time, would be premature. One thing we’ve learned in this business is that if you talk about grand ideas before you actually have them functioning as demos the industry will likely bite back at you.

XM: Bonus question: you can ask a question to our readers and we’ll send you a summary of the answers (translated, of course) back to you. Interactivity is something the written press can hardly offer, so why not take advantage of it?

Lorne Lanning:
Okay, What types of games, and what form of evolutionary elements, are you hoping for in the coming generation?

Please, send us your answer either by posting on our boards , or by sending it to our email adress. We will send a bonus DVD on Oddworld Series to a lucky one of you.

XM: Thank you very much for your availability and kindness, and best wishes with your next projects.

Lorne Lanning:
My pleasure. Hope these helped toward what you were looking for.