Interview with Lorne Lanning creator of ODDWORLD INHABITANTS INC [Hosted by Katzenjammer Records] Date: May 2013 Interviewer: Katzenjammer Records Interviewee: Lorne Lanning Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20130802051823/http://www.katzenjammerrecords.com/interviews/interview-with-lorne-lanning-creator-of-oddworld-inhabitants-inc-may-2013
Oddworld Inhabitants Inc. is an American video game developing company founded in 1994 by special-effects and computer-animation veterans Lorne Lanning and Sherry McKenna, who are best known for the games under the banner of Oddworld. Products of Oddworld Inhabitants range from Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee released in 1997 through to the 4th game Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath released in 2005. Abe is one of the most loved and important animated characters in the gaming world, since his creation in 1994.
It is with great pleasure that we have the time of Oddworld Inhabitants Inc. Founder and developer, (and of course the voice of Abe and most other characters from the games) Lorne Lanning, to answer a few questions about the Amazing legacy of the Oddworld series, the battles and triumphs of the gaming industry and the human condition relative to the games that took the gaming world by storm.
So grab yourself a (soulstorm) brew, light em if ya got em and read this highly informative and very interesting interview with one of the world’s most loved game developers.
Katzenjammer Records: Let’s start from the beginning, how did you start working with animation, and how did you get into this kind of work?
Lorne Lanning: I started off as a painter, that was my training, I went to school for illustration, fine art and photo realism in New York, and then in the 1980’s I saw these people doing computer graphics, where in the beginning it was paint box and later it become ‘Oh my god!’. To me it just blew me away the 3D Computer graphics, and there was almost nowhere to do it where you could actually have a job doing it, it was only in a few companies around the world, and they were servicing commercials and networks, and the rare, very occasional film that would have some graphics in it at that time. So if you really wanted to do that, you only had so many places you could go, so I wound up in Los Angeles at this company called Rhythm and Hues, So at that time I’m trying to figure out a couple of things; One is I’ve fallen in love with this medium of 3D computer graphics and I’ve worked my way up. I actually did a stint on aerospace working on the real Star Wars (computer) program, which was the other place (at the time) using 3D Computer Graphics. And at this time, I’m just living off my credit cards (laughs), trying to get a job in the industry, and I get this call from TRW Aerospace saying, ‘I hear you know how to use this type of software’ and I was like ‘yeah’, and I didn’t really, but I kinda did, like, I knew where I could go and copy the manual (laughs). I had some hands on experience, and they said ‘Well come down here’, so I go down there and it’s actually TRW Aerospace and they’re visualizing all these weapons programs for Reagan, you know, when Reagan was in office. My Dad was working with Nuclear Submarines, so as a younger kid I was kinda a military brat, and I had insight into it all, but I really hated the whole idea of the military Industrial complex and everything, and what it was about, and then they like called me and offered me a job because no one knew this software in the day. So I was like ‘Oh shit’ I have this little bit of a moral dilemma, like I don’t believe in this shit at all, what am I gonna do? I’m living on my Visa card right now, so I started working at Aerospace. It was the first real paying job in 3D computer graphics that I could get. And then, through that, I got to see all this crazy stuff, like weapons systems that even today people would still see as Sci-Fi, like most of the world has no clue about, so that was very insightful.
KR: I had inkling that there was a kind of political, state of the world, type of influence in the games…
Lorne Lanning: Well at the same time I had spent some time around some pretty hard-core intellectual, art with a capital ‘A’ artists out of New York, that were pretty successful, and pretty relevant and pretty poignant in the messages they had, it was all social and governmental criticism, globalization criticism, and this was still like, mid to late 80’s, So I’m starting to realize just how fucked up the world is, when I was growing up I had a pretty decent vague idea but now I was like specifically figuring it out. As an artist you have that burning desire to re-express that experience somehow, re-express whatever you see going on right?
KR: For sure, that’s pretty much exactly what a lot of artists are doing within the music industry…
Lorne Lanning: Well, Music was one of those places where historically, if you go back through the history you got like the age of Elvis, and he’s actually ratting out, and calling the FBI trying to get them to follow John Lennon, because he doesn’t think artists should be expressing themselves ‘politically’. That’s real history, shit like that was going on, How dare Bob Dylan and John Lennon start talking about political issues, you know, they’d say ‘Song and dance should just be for song and dance, shut the fuck up you artists’. So music really started to do that in the sixties, and started breaking more out, but in the area of film, well, films been doing that ever since we had Fritz Lang making Metropolis or earlier. But as we’re coming into the latter half of the 20th Century here and approaching the 21st Century, I’m trying to figure out how do I really tell stories about what I see going on in the world the way Pink Floyd was making music or Judas Priest was or these people who totally rocked my house in the 70’s and 80’s and I still listen to today. Where is that today in the medium that I’m in love with, which was computer graphics, which meant animation, which is ‘how do I start to tell stories of political criticism or globalization, how do I start reflecting that the way Orwell did in ’1984′ or more specifically like in the pseudo-children’s book ‘Animal Farm’.
KR: How did you meet up with your partner Sherry McKenna and how did the concept of Oddworld Inhabitants Inc come to light?
Lorne Lanning: We (me and Sherry) started as partners in business and eventually became partners in life as well. I was in Los Angeles at the time, in the film business working on visual effects and predominately in 3D computer animation. I convinced Sherry McKenna after a couple of years to try and start the company with me, and what she actually said was, I think she humoured me, she goes “Well… If you can get the money, then I’ll do it”. And I was like “OK, you just got to help me put together a business plan and I’ll get the money”. And I think she humoured me further and we put together our business plan, and then she was probably like “Oh Shit” when I actually got the money. And at that time it was 3 and half million dollars and it was 1994. So that’s how it started and that was the desire, then we actually got into the mix of building it and it was like “Oh my god, what did we actually get into!” (laughs)! This shit is really hard!
KR: So, you started (the company) Oddworld Inhabitants before the first game, or was it happening at the same time?
Lorne Lanning: We did it before we started the game, so what we did was, like I had this sort of perspective with technology seeing A: Hollywood technology and then B: Aerospace technology, and then just understanding the curve of increased performance. At that time, games were about to go 3D, and there were not really any 3D games yet. So, two things were happening within the video game industry, that was visible to wall street, one was, they knew that 3D was going to become a norm for gaming, and at the same time, none of the development studios had 3D expertise.
Look, it’s less about having muscle-bound guys with big guns, and check this out, Our hero, he doesn’t even have a gun he’s going to have to use his brains he’s the last you’d want to be in a fight, so you going to have to find other ways to deal with your problems. It was a message that was really ready to be heard by the executive class in the industry, but also the investment class, they like the idea of hearing that someone would be approaching content in a more filmic storytelling, deeply character driven way, and I think our timing was just right. And that ultimately led to us being able to get the money. So we got the money, before we started doing any production, before we did any of that. It was really a business story, that we were able to have a nice content twist on, that ultimately found some support, and then that got us started, so with that money, we were able to start setting up the company, hiring people and then start making a prototype for the game, and then with that prototype we were then able to go out and get a distribution deal.
KR: Ok, so obviously Sony created the PlayStation, obviously this game would’ve taken a long time to do, and you’re not going to start a game at that kind of expense without a buyer right? So did Sony give you an advance or how did that all come about?
Lorne Lanning: The game took a couple of years to make, and no actually, Sony never paid anything to us and its funny, because often we are thought of as a Sony title. But what really happened was this; we didn’t really know anything about building games, so we get the money and now we’re trying to figure it out (laughs). We didn’t know that you had to have licenses to develop on the PlayStation, that you basically needed approval of your concept by Sony to even have access to the, at the time it was $18,000 or something like that, per development station, per person working on the game, to even be able to work on that equipment to make your game. So it wasn’t like you could just go and buy hardware and start making something then see if someone liked it, you were supposed to have all that shit signed off before you even ever got access to development stations and we had none of that.
So we actually eventually did the deal with GT Interactive the title was on PC and PlayStation, so we did get our license and all that stuff out of the way, but the biggest sales of course, came from PlayStation. In many ways, Abe, sort of became, for a lot of people, Abe became synonymous with PlayStation at the time. But really, Sony wasn’t paying for it, they liked the title, they were giving us some support, but really we weren’t getting huge support, because we weren’t 3D. This is like I just told you that we borrowed all this money on 3D expertise. (laughs) And then I figured out, just to address that real quick, that the 3D in these systems are so crappy, like, no one’s going to be able to distinguish themselves from one another, it’s just so bad. So instead why don’t we pre-render everything in real high end 3D, the animations, the backgrounds, everything, and then what we’ll do is bring that in like old school bitmaps and we’ll do this side scroller plat forming but really with 3D pre-rendered bitmaps, and it was totally like you weren’t supposed to do that. But, I was like, this would help distinguish us. We could actually make beautiful looking graphics this way, and I didn’t believe anyone was going to make beautiful looking graphics with the 3D that was available at that time. So we borrowed the money based on 3D expertise and we released a 2 and half D game, to the surprise of our investors. So that’s how that happened.
KR: Going more into the game now, how big is the fictional world of Oddworld? As you have these 4 games now and they are all in different parts of Oddworld, do you have some kind of vision to these places?
Lorne Lanning: Well, I did and I do. I used to say some silly things like Oddworld’s at minimum ten times the size of Earth. And then I’d have some astro-physicist who would write something and say that’s ridiculous, because the gravity wouldn’t work with a guy who’s shaped like that you know (laughs) I was like shit man, I was just thinking in acreage I wasn’t thinking about gravity… But the idea was, like I said the things that made a huge difference for me in my life were the stories like ’1984′ or ‘Brave New World’, and what these guys were doing. What I wanted to do with Oddworld is I wanted to create like; at times I want to talk about Third World Labour Exploitation, and I knew that no matter what I was doing I always wanted to put the hero in that seat, like the last place you would ever want to be, and probably be equipped with the last things you’d ever want to be equipped by, which is almost nothing, from that basic conceptual position of biggest loser, the most downtrodden, hopeless possible position. That would be our hero’s starting points. And every hero we built on Oddworld would come out of that soil.
So when I looked at Oddworld as a planet I wanted to think of it as a planet. So I was thinking that right now in Abes Oddysee we are only really dealing with the diamond minors of South Africa, and we’re really talking about how the De Beers completely destroyed their culture to enslave them into poverty. And now generations later, people don’t even have recollection of what happened; even tho they are still working in the mines or in the plants. And the other thing was what was happening in the fast food industry, so, I knew for Abe I wanted the food crisis and the plight of the third world completely exploited labour to be centre stage. But I also knew that in this universe I just wanted that to be one theme. I wanted to be able to say that later on we’re going to take a flight say this far away and we’ll land somewhere else and then we’ll focus on the animal testing victim, the ultra-last guy you would like to be, the lab-rat, who has nothing going on you know, so that was Munch’s Oddysee, that was the idea, I wanted to jump there. So the idea of creating the universe is we would start with this rich fabric of possibility that was basically heavily woven with the dark side of globalization, the dark side of the multi-national fallout upon the human condition. So as a theme, that was the theme of Oddworld.
The well-financed market forces know that there is this appetite for people that want to A: escape, B: Consume entertainment and C: Do these different things. So I thought, Trojan Horsing that idea, creating a rich enough soil to grow heroes out of this core concept based around the dark side of globalization, where it’s like the Muppets meets the X-Files. Where it’s just absurdly stupid, and at the same time highly relevantly poignant. And then I thought if we do that well, and we do that with a lot of heart, meaning, if I can make you like and care about the characters in playing in and interactive experience then we might be making some evolutionary steps within the idea of gaming. I thought it would really start to resonate with people, and it kind of did.
KR: Abe has become a very admirable character for those who play the game, mainly because of the feature ‘gamespeak’ which lets Abe interact with the other characters in the game. This was the first game to have that feature, is that correct?
Lorne Lanning: Yeah that’s right.
KR: And I believe you also laid the voices down for most of the characters is that right?
Lorne Lanning: Yeah, historically that’s true, in the new products I was happy to see they were doing voice approvals for these other people and I wasn’t involved, I think, yay! (laughs)
In the beginning it was like, I remember what Henson did with the Muppets, and the model that they had was if you were going to control the puppet then you were going to do the voice too. And I thought that was really interesting, like those guys were all like on drugs and shit (laughs) having fun and walking around with these totally hippy psychedelic puppets on their hands with goofy voices. I loved the chemistry of it, the same way I like the chemistry of the old Looney Tunes Cartoons, where you had Mel Blanc voices and today you look at DreamWorks animated movies and all I’m hearing is actors voices, like regular actors, like Bruce Willis or something. I wanted more of these extremely exaggerated character portrayals. So it was just easier at the time and more cost effective to just sort of do it myself and try to convince other people to do it as well in the studio, and we really managed that way. On all four of the first games all of the voices were 100% people working on the production. And then, yeah, I did most of them.
KR: So were you using any kind of effect on your voice to distinguish between characters?
Lorne Lanning: Yeah sure, it was like I would speed up, stretch and time convert, so I’d raise the pitch and slow the speed back down, things like that. So I could get a slightly higher pitch for whether it was Mudokons or the small cuter guys, I could get a higher pitch but it wouldn’t turn into chipmunk. And then on the Glukons and stuff I could lower the pitch and then I could speed up the time again, so I could again get what sounded like normal tune of the way someone speaks but it would be lower pitched than what I actually speak. So we do pretty simple process like that, no real hard-core voice processing effects, just time converting, pitch shifting, things like that, just to help separate and make it feel like these are different guys and not coming from the same voice and I certainly wasn’t Mel Blanc, I certainly didn’t have any training for how to do voices, I was just an idiot making stupid shit up.
KR: So when you met fans of the game, do you ever get asked to do the voice of Abe?
Lorne Lanning: Yeah, and I always say, man, in a room in the dark and alone with a mic yeah, but not with you guys looking at me (laughs). I try, because there’d be fans and sometimes I’ll do something’s but you know, I don’t think I could be a musician or I don’t think I could be an actor or dancer. It’s like one thing building a product and putting it out there, but being on the stage in front of the audience live and vulnerable, man, I just don’t think I’m cut from that cloth.
KR: Were you at all surprised with the success that Abe’s Oddysee had on its release? I’d like to say that Abe’s Oddysee and Exoddus are my favourite games of all time. You must have been pretty happy with the final results of the game? To me it goes along with say Crash Bandicoot in saying that Abe is a very important part of Sony PlayStation’s History.
Lorne Lanning: I appreciate you saying that, I gotta say at the time, you’re so caught up in things that. Well like I said we had raised the money first, it wasn’t like we were just a few guys who built a game then someone financed our dream, it was actually a business plan that was entangled with that.
And I’m sure you’ll be able to relate to a lot of this, it will go great in a couple of territories at the launch and in others it will be a total disaster.
So rather than be focused and happy with what’s going right, I had a big tendency on focusing on all the shit that was going wrong. And we were getting calls and I remember people saying, “Congratulations man, we love the game, but we can’t even buy it its all sold out congratulations!” and I’d be like “It’s fucking sold out? How are we going to sell more games if it’s sold out? What happened to the shipping what happened to…” you know, so I got caught up in all that, so it was kind of miserable at the time. I’m trying to fix all these things; I’m just trying to be a control freak, and not really getting it yet. There’s been a lot of growing up.
Ultimately, out-of-the-gate, Abe ended up selling around 3 and a half million units in that first window. So that was kind of huge, it was huge for us. But, right away the publishing company was like “I want you to build another game just like it and we need it in 9 months”. And you’re like “what!” So now the next game cost like 5 million cause we had to double the staff and in 9 months we had to figure out Abe’s Exoddus and get another game out and I had various insecurities of thinking, well, if it’s going to be a sequel it’s has to be twice as big and all these kind of loose wisdoms of the day that people have the tendency to think about that I don’t necessarily believe are true, but at the time I did. So I’m putting more and more effort in, with more cinematics, more game levels and more characters to rescue, and all this in one third of the amount of time. So it was really brutal, and even Abe’s Oddysee was just brutal getting it done. So I wasn’t experiencing a lot of that joy where I should have been, but a lot of lessons come with that, but I really needed that success to be able to keep on building games. It’s like, if you make enough money to continue, then that’s good. At least you get to keep building, but if you can be like some of these guys and you make a lot of money, then you can continue with a lot more fun, and it’s not as highly pressured, you have some buffer for some screw-ups, you have some cushion. As opposed to riding a machine and kind of continually breaking even. It can be really brutal and tiring.
KR: So what can you say about the 3rd game Munch’s Oddysee, and the switching from Sony PlayStation to Xbox?
Lorne Lanning: For whatever reason we all make our art, for me it was really about this core message, the dark side of globalization so, the worst possibility was that I started making content that wasn’t as poignant, that’s what it felt like. Trying to get the poignancy of the messages in the games and trying to do it now with twice the staff in a third of the time and then with these big console transitions, like going from Abe’s Exoddus into Munch’s Oddysee and then having the market forces shaping that a little bit.
We were also at the beginning of a new console cycle, and what the meant was, basically, throw out all your tools and throw out all your engine technology and just start over. And it’s a huge expense so at the same time I’m internally suffering from these pressures of, the story needs to be great and we need to keep the soul of Abes Oddysee, that signature to Oddworld and if we lose that then were kind of killing our brand before we’ve really been given a good chance to start. I was very intense about doing my best to try and keep that, but you’re dealing with an interactive medium that really programmers are the gateway, it’s not like the audio engineer being the mixing booth as your gateway, and if you have got a good one, you’re still largely mixing on the same boards, and today, more and more people are mixing on their Mac. But in games it wasn’t that way man, like you had no tools unless you built them, and that was the real challenging part for game development, and it’s starting to change more and more today because you have more game engines available that you can buy, you have more different tool solutions and more people figuring out how to make money in different sectors for different solutions to developers, so there is a lot more available. But, at the time, there was very little available. New hardware comes out, you don’t know how the hell it works PS2 and Xbox was sort of a prime example of that, very difficult time to build games, very expensive, you needed to up the quality of the content just graphically and performance wise. So you’re writing the tools; it’s like you’re writing pro-tools, the song and mastering the album all on the same budget.
People who aren’t in games don’t really get much insight to see that is a huge part of what games have been about. It’s not like you can just go into a recording studio, you have to write a new recording studio to even cut your album, so it was brutal you know, which is why so many of these different companies didn’t make it, it was really tough.
KR: Look I’m going to be straight up honest, when the third Oddworld game was announced it was only going to be exclusive to the Xbox I was highly disappointed. I certainly wasn’t going to buy an entire new console that I am unfamiliar with just for the one game, and I personally am not a fan of that particular console or 3D games, meaning I preferred the first 2D side scrolling games more. Do you feel you may have lost a few fans that were looking forward to continue the Oddworld saga on the PS2?
Lorne Lanning: Yeah, well you know, it was A- Sorry about that (laughs), you’re totally right, but B- It was more of an emergency measure for us, at the time for survival, and that’s just the simple truth of it.
Sony had great success with PS One and now they had PlayStation 2 and the core problem was because of the unfriendly development environment of the hardware. We started working on it and we’re getting it in there, and it was difficult, so we started to say “Look, we are not happy with it, we are not happy with the machine”. And it was funny because a lot of press was looking at our title and some people were saying “But dude, this looks better than some of the other games we’re seeing!” and we were like, “Yeah, but it doesn’t look like the way it should, relative to the amount of money we’re all having to put into it”. And that was really a thorn in our side at the time. So we had this drama with the PS2, it was very difficult to program for, but we could’ve gotten past that. What we couldn’t get passed was this; GT Interactive was now for sale and they are selling to Infogrames so that meant that Infogrames is now our new partner. And what we hear through the grapevine from all the other developers is that Infogrames is cutting every budget that’s over like, 3 million dollars. No titles over 3 million dollars. And that for us was like, “We’re dead”.
So we have to find a new partner, it was just really that simple, the writing was on the wall. Munch’s Oddysee was approaching closer to 10 million, or more-so projecting it was going to cost that much and these guys just looked like they were not going to pay for it.
KR: Was there any other partners you could’ve have teamed up with for the PS2? Or was it just that you didn’t want to be with Sony at the time?
Lorne Lanning: Well, you get into crisis’ where your burn rate is driving a lot of your actions. We had a studio that was now operating at maybe half a million, somewhere between 500 to 700 thousand a month depending on how high the staff was, depending on new hardware needs we needed to buy etc. And, at that level, you only have so much time figure that shit out. So when you have a new acquiring partner and then find out that basically you are on the cutting board, and that’s just common practice in capitalism, but we find out and we’re figuring, this is just not going to work, like we’d be reading about other companies who are showing up to work in the morning and there is padlocks on the doors you know? So we’re reading all this type of stuff and we’re thinking, “who’s got the money?” and now we’re building a title Munch’s Oddysee, which again, (laughs) we’re talking about the labrat right? The last place you want to be, and other guy’s got like Duke Nukem and Lora Croft and we got Munch (laughs).
So we didn’t necessarily have that many options of places to go, cause at the same time, there wasn’t that many publishers who were stepping up to really big bets and a lot of them that were had already placed their bets. And the only people that were really excited and behind us at that time and had the money to keep us going was Microsoft.
KR: Would it be fair to say that the 4th Oddworld game Strangers Wrath is one of your proudest achievements within the series?
Lorne Lanning: It was the one that was actually the most fun to make; it had some really excellent programmers on it, the team had really come together through the years and I felt like there was a great team in place. We wanted you to, through shooting, uncover puzzles and use shooting as a puzzle chemistry system, but what it required was that every piece of ammo basically had additional A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) attached to it so that it could say like: a Chippunk you’d fire it off and it’d be like “Hey Ugly, what you doing over there!” and it would piss some enemy off and they’d come running over and then you could continue to bait em away from the eyes of others, Shit like that. It became more of a sandbox of playing with people’s minds, that I felt was totally missing from games, you know, like I wanna fuck with things heads, I wanna outsmart them, trick them, I wanna do things to make me feel more powerful in that world and that more choices are available to me rather than like, do I shot em in the knee or do I shoot em in the head. So what we were doing with Stranger say, between 12 and 15 million dollars other people were like spending 50 million dollars and not coming anywhere close in terms of customer satisfaction, in terms of people actually enjoying it. So what we did at a 3rd or 4th of the price, we were still competing with the big boys.
KR: Ok, so what’s happening now? I know you recently released the Oddbox, a package that contains all 4 games and I have heard that Abe’s Oddysee is in the process of being re-done in HD? Is that still going ahead?
Lorne Lanning: Well, actually it’s not High Def. (We did do Stranger in HD maybe a year ago) what it is, is that it’s a complete remake all in 3D, so check this out, and as a fan of Oddysee yourself, I think you’ll dig this, let me tell you how we got there… But firstly let me answer about the Oddbox and all that.
We decided that we were going to shut down the studio, but we would keep the properties. Basically cut the expenses, shut down and let time go on until we could start bringing the property back up on digital distribution, which wasn’t there in 2005 when we were shutting down. So what we did was in 2008 we started getting those games back up on steam and started selling them digitally again. Then we started investing in getting all the games from PlayStation and from Xbox and from PC converted to wider platform, like PS3 and all that. And we thought if we do that we could call it the Oddbox Package. And the Oddbox would be all 4 of the games together. So what we basically did was revitalize the library to become available to digital distribution as global as possible. We then started asking the community and all kinds of communities all kinds of questions, like what kind of games would you like us to make next etc. And what came back was something similar to what you just said which was, I really like those old games better. I preferred the puzzle. And they would say if you’re going to re-do a game, redo Abes Oddysee, we’d love to see Abe’s Oddysee taken to that next level. And we were like huh, in what way? And they’d say, we want the 2D platforming games. And honestly we didn’t expect that. In gaming your so on that edge of like, are you using the latest chip capability to its fullest that you’re often not thinking that people just kinda happy with where something was a playable genre and it evolved beyond that for technological reasons but not necessarily because that’s what the audience wanted to go. They (the audience) wanted a more narrated, director driven experience that had a different pacing to it and they preferred to go left and right rather than have full 3D flexibility, as long as you give me a beautiful looking story that plays well. So we started looking at that and we thought what if we take that game, and instead of trying to res it up we just rebuild it on 3D technologies.
So right now the game is being built on Unity.
KR: Is this going to have the same story? Are you just upping the graphical power or is there more added to this game?
Lorne Lanning: New & Tasty is what we are calling the Abes Oddysee remake. So it’s remade on 3D technology. While the game is on a totally 3D engine technology platform, with that, we get real time dynamic lighting, real time shadowing, real time motion blurring, more analogue controls of speed with the characters. We get all the benefits of real time 3D particularly in lighting and beauty and clouds and all that shit, but what we found were people still liked left to right and didn’t want to be going in a 3D world the same way. So what we did was we started focusing on this stuff that we call ‘Nostalgialicious’. Which is, what you loved about that old stuff was, we’re gonna still keep it looking very much like that 2D platformer but as you increase speed running in the direction the camera will show you more of that direction in a dimensional way, we’ll do everything to heighten the dimension but retain the simplicity that people actually liked about classic platforming. What we’ll also do is we’ll fix the problems, like Abe’s Oddysee had save problems it had complexity problems. So now we’ll say ok, now it’ll have 3 levels of difficulty, now it will have these different things you can adjust and tune to an individual gamers skill level. Aside from that, let’s use the more cinematic capability the real time capability to enhance more the emotional experience that Abe was, so if he’s going up an elevator somewhere the camera will cut closer to his face and he’ll have that look of struggle and you’ll hear like Scrabs howling in the background and Abe will get more and more scared and more and more intimidated. Just all those little things to amp up the emotional value. But largely, the game is still the same game in terms of layout, levels, and all that stuff. But the art, I was just approving and patting these guys back the other day in the UK, they’re just really putting a lot of love and craft into it. So we have what looks like the same game, actually I’ll send you a link, it’s a couple of minutes preview of what the new game will look like…
KR: So will this game be an exclusive download? Or is this going to be on PS4? What consoles/mediums will this game be available on when it’s released?
Lorne Lanning: It will be a download, right now we’re talking to a few people about having some more visibility support and distribution, so it’s possible that we could wind up having the game at retail stores. I’m not sure.
KR: Well these days you could download from the PlayStation anyway, couldn’t you?
Lorne Lanning: Exactly. You can. So we’re definitely digital, the question is would we also be physical.
KR: I’m not sure where I read this, but are you working on a film?
Lorne Lanning: I was, we got into development, and in development we hit 2008 and that was the financial crash right, so we had a rated R film in all CG, it was called Citizen Siege. And we we’re going to get rolling in that, but the truth is, we never really got into full production we were just in pre-production and development. And then the crash happened, we had a 40-60 million dollar budget, on a radar CG film and then we we’re looking at the financial crash and all the complications, and this was a really risky film, so all things considered it basically got shelved.
KR: Would you do an Oddworld movie?
Lorne Lanning: I’d love too… Well I wrote a script for Abe, and that was the one I wanted to start with for the movie, and I was hoping they’d take it out and start shopping it. But what happened was, with 2008… You didn’t see animated films get more risky right? Not really, it’s still really sort of in the same genre class, and so we haven’t gone out there and really try and shop it because we just felt like it might be in vein, we could get into it for a while… Ideally what I’d like to do is I’d like to do it in Machinema, I’d like to be using the latest game technology to make motion pictures with, and I know we could do that, I was planning on doing that with Citizen Siege and I believe that in doing that, and if you look at the machinema tools like the teen fortress movies, the animated movies that they released, well not movies but video clips, the animation is excellent, it’s really like Pixar grade A animation but they do it all on this very sophisticated game engine technology and with that type of technology I believe we could deliver to the audience what looks like a 120 million dollar motion picture delivered for like 30-40 million.
KR: I remember back when Abe’s Exoddus was being released I got a promo video tape, VHS tape called Oddworld The Movie which consisted of all the movie scenes from the game, Did you know about that having had been released?
Lorne Lanning: Oh yeah, we actually cut that together and its got the guy going “Let me tell you what’s going on” (said in a mudokon voice) and he’s like the newscaster?
KR: Yeah yeah, that’s the one.
Lorne Lanning: Yeah we rendered those little scenes stitching together the movie scenes from Exoddus and submitted it for a short film Academy Award. So that’s why we did it.
KR: You have won some awards from these games correct?
Lorne Lanning: Yeah we got a number of them; I think in the history of the games we got like 80 to 200 awards we picked up on different fronts. And what you’re speaking of about the Motion Pictures I always wrote them (the games) like they were movies, I always approached the story in more of a deeper dive into the character development, I always saw these as movies and what I thought was games would be a great place to launch the property and as time goes on, as CG gets cheaper, as the game technology gets more powerful, as movies hopefully become more potentially cheap to make then we would have started the property, have some fan following and do exactly what you’re speaking about. The fact is, by today, Hollywood is kind of a disaster now right? There is very few enormous success’ and then there’s mostly failures, kind of like the console game business. We all see that the times are changing. I would love nothing more and Sherry would love nothing more than to make the Oddworld motion picture.
KR: What would be some of your favourite films and/or directors that you enjoy?
Lorne Lanning: Right at the very top is Fritz Lang (Metropolis, Ministry Of Fear) I just think the guy is incredible. Kubrick is also at the very top for me, a lot of people still don’t really understand what he was doing with his films. On the contemporary level I love JJ Abrams, he stands tall today as really doing some interesting stuff. The other guy that I love, and Strangers Wrath was based a lot on it, is Sergio Leone (A Fistful Of Dollars, The Good the Bad and The Ugly).
KR: What would be the last CD you purchased and what music do you enjoy listening to?
Lorne Lanning: The last CD I bought was Tool. I think they are pretty incredible. There’s this element of this angst, lost, die-hard spiritualism kinda taking place in there, the artistic capability, and as musicians they are incredible, and the intensity of how they ramp up the share force of human spirit you hear coming out there. There is this film I love called Valhalla Rising, and the soundtrack is a lot of drone, in the electronica class, and the result, it has these incredible peaks and rises they feel very slow and very organic, it has this epic scale and intensity even tho there is not a lot going on. The Wall is one of my favourite albums of all time by Pink Floyd and Roger Waters is still one my favourite lyricists of all time. I used to go see Judas Priest, I still crank Priest in the car, I just love the raw sound, the grating, raw deep, driving sound that great metal has…
KR: I actually just saw Black Sabbath live the other week and it was amazing!
Lorne Lanning: Are you serious!? No Shit?!
KR: Yeah man, it was unbelievable! I consider them to be one of the greatest bands of all time. Just to see these guys on stage performing right there, you know, amazing.
Lorne Lanning: I’m right there with you, it’s funny you say that cause I still have in the car, that I play at least once a week is Mob Rules. I also like the classic stuff, like War Pigs, that’s totally epic. Sabbath totally rocks; I saw them in concert in the 80’s, I was going to their concerts when I was in high school.
KR: Do you have any thoughts to come to Australia again?
Lorne Lanning: Man, I love Australia; it’s a country I’d love to live in, until they took your guns away man, what the fucks up with that? (laughs)
KR: Thanks very much for your time to do this interview Lorne, I’m very much looking forward to the new Abe Game, New & Tasty, when do you think it will be released?
Lorne Lanning: We’re aiming for the fourth quarter of 2013. It’s actually coming quite far along. So fingers crossed hopefully by Christmas, it will also be on a wide array of consoles…
KR: Thanks again.
Lorne Lanning: My Pleasure