Interview with Lorne Lanning

Interview with Lorne Lanning [Hosted by Oddworldian and Oddworld-Web]
Date: 30 October, 2000
Interviewers: Abe Babe & Sydney
Interviewee: Lorne Lanning


Exclusive to Oddworldian and Oddworld-Web, President and co-founder of Oddworld Inhabitants answers seven questions.

Oddworld Inhabitants recently gave Oddworldian and Oddworld-Web the opportunity to put together some questions we would like answered between the two main Oddworld fan sites.

1. Oddworld characters we’ve met in Abe’s Oddysee and Exoddus have been male, or at least displayed characteristics traditionally seen as male. How will Munch’s Oddysee address the gender issue?

Lorne Lanning: Oddworld is composed mostly of “super species” races. This means that there are queens that do the reproducing for the entire colony. On Earth, these reproductive types are more commonly found in insects rather than in mammals. Although there are the naked mole rats, which happen to be a personal favorite, but beyond these rare cases the insects are typically the super species that we’re familiar with (bees, ants, termites, etc.). Which means that most of the concepts of traditional human male / female relationships have been turned on their head for the purposes of creating a matriarchal based society.

Ultimately, the continent of Mudos, where the Quintology takes place, is run by females. We have just not revealed them in our games, yet. Munch’s Oddysee will reveal the Mudokon Queen, who’s name is Sam. It will also start to reveal Maggie, the Glukkon Queen. As the Quintology unfolds, we will see a lot more females. Some of them heroes, some of them enemies. However, you won’t see much of the traditional ‘boy meets girl’ scenarios in our material. The world is overflowing with these stories, and we want ones with much different twists.

2. You have previously stated that Munch’s Oddysee will see consumer weapons as opposed to more violent means of attacking/being attacked. How will fear and adrenaline be instilled into the player while still maintaining an appropriate level of violence?

Lorne Lanning: There will definitely be the more conventional types of weapons like firearms, bombs, land mines, etc. Everything you’ve seen so far from Oddworld… but there will also be more. The consumer product weapons in Munch’s Oddysee are used to “turn” characters from one side to go over to the other. This allows you to gain characters and get them working for you… but you can also loose them to the other side if they get hit by the consumer product types of weapons. But then you can rescue them again and get them back. This was a way of creating really powerful and humorous weapons with a new twist.

3. When you were developing for the PS2, you mentioned the fact that gamespeak would be extended to include different emotions (i.e. lightly tapping a button when using gamespeak would give a different response than hitting it harder). Is the Xbox able to include this feature and would it be able to be expanded on from the original PS2 concept?

Lorne Lanning: Yes, the Xbox is supporting these same control concepts. It’s our goal to make controls simpler while adding to the depth of things the player can do.

4. In other interviews you have mentioned that the Xbox will allow more characters per level. How do you see this changing the gameplay (i.e. more situations, different possibilities, etc.)?

Lorne Lanning: The more characters you can get at any one time on screen, the cooler the circumstances that you can create. Although the core conceptual mechanics in the game are not changing as a result of the hardware change, anything that we could do before just allows us to now do it in greater quantity. As a simple example, imagine a gauntlet that you need to possess a gun character and shoot your way through. It has a shield of protection, it has a powerful weapon, and it just needs to blast away for a little while. On the PS2 there are 10 guys you need to get through, on the Xbox there are double. Double is a lot more fun. It also looks a lot better.

Another example… Munch collects Fuzzles and gamespeaks them to attack other characters. The more Fuzzles he can rescue then the stronger his attack. Same with Abe and the Mudokons, same with a Slig that you would use to gamespeak other Sligs. More is more, and more is stronger.

5. During the production of a game, what would you say is the most difficult stage and why?

Lorne Lanning: Creative and conceptual development for tools, engine, gameplay, etc., is very hard. It’s hard to get a whole group of people thinking outside the box and also singing off the same sheet. It’s very challenging to do this even when you have a group of extremely talented people. But I would have to say the most difficult part of all is actually building the game’s software technology and getting it to run within the limitations of any one machine. It’s one thing to figure out what a game machine does well, and then you create something within the limitations of the machine’s strengths. It’s another thing entirely to want to create something truly unique, and then try to bend the machine to your will and get it to create what you want it to do. Not just what it wants to do. It’s like computer graphics in general. The tools want to create very geometric polished-looking things that are squeaky clean. But if you want to have rich atmosphere and dirty surfaces everywhere that look worn and beat up, then it’s a lot harder; but ultimately worth the payoff.

6. What are your inspirations in creating the characters in the Oddworld Universe?

Lorne Lanning: Three things really,

1. The industrial dilemmas of our own world that are too often ignored or simply hidden. The ugly side of modern civilization and consumerism.

2. The spiritual dilemmas of our own world. We are incredible creatures with vast potential, yet we tend look at ourselves as poor victims that are simply pawns in some larger god game. We’ve paid a great price for our modern, scientific, consumer- based world. One great price paid has been the lost wisdom that we failed to inherit from our history’s more eco-conscious indigenous cultures.

3. All forms of corruption. When in the face of adversity some choose to cave in and take the easy way out. How this manifests is something that is usually inspirational material for various species and circumstances. Truth is far stranger than fiction. From this you can get great inspiration and background material.

7. How do you see Oddworld Inhabitants in another 10-15 years?

Lorne Lanning: We will have completed the Oddworld Quintology of games. We will have had a couple of the Oddworld motion pictures completed (our idea is that each of the stories of the Quintology eventually becomes its own movie: full CGI). We will have developed far more of the planet of Oddworld in every aspect. We will have attracted more and more extremely talented people and created an environment where they are able to express their creativity and production prowess to its fullest extent. It is our dream to develop this universe far beyond that which anyone would have believed possible.

Thank you for your support. It means so much to us.

Lorne Lanning