Interview with Lorne Lanning

Interview with Lorne Lanning [hosted by UGO]
Date: 4 February, 2005
Interviewer: UGO
Interviewee: Lorne Lanning


Back in 1997, Lorne Lanning brought to this world Oddworld; a planet filled with fantastical creatures and beautifully bizarre places to explore. In Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath players are introduced to a whole new cast of loony characters and situations. Luckily, Lorne took the time to answer a few questions about his creations and what went into crafting this new adventure.

UGO: What is the mission statement for Oddworld? Presumably it’s something more than just being “out there.”

Lorne Lanning: Yeah, it’s not just being “out there,” it’s being “in there.” We want our characters to live in every living room. We believe games can be an experience for many people to enjoy together, and be entertained together. We want to share stories that live on in people’s minds long after the final boss is eliminated… of course we’re still going to give people a lot of bad guys to smack around along the way!

UGO: Why the decision to move away from the series’ primary characters? Should this be considered a spin-off or part of the ongoing travails of Abe and Munch?

Lorne Lanning: We haven’t exactly moved away from Abe and Munch, just put them on hiatus. There were a lot of things we wanted to accomplish within the games, and these new ideas seemed better suited for a whole new character. We’ve never thought of ourselves as “The Abe and Munch Company” but rather a place where a whole universe could be birthed, where many new species and characters, and their plights could be explored. Abe, Munch, and the Stranger are just the first settlers in the land of Odd. Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath is a completely new story, new mechanics, and new gameplay style, but maintains the signature Oddworld visual style and integrity of our previous games.

UGO: Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath clearly has an Old West vibe. What were some of your influences when creating the characters and environments?

Lorne Lanning: Yes, the game starts out with a very western flavor. The early influences were certainly the old spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone. The Man With No Name type character had a big impact on the design of the Stranger. We wanted him to have that same quiet badass quality. There’s a mystique about that persona that’s way cooler than your average guy-with-gun character.

UGO: Who would win in a gunfight, the Stranger or Clint Eastwood?

Lorne Lanning: Please! The Stranger’s got a wrist mounted, double barreled crossbow with 9 live ammo types, a 180 degree melee attack move, and can ram at speeds up to 55 mph!!! You tell me…

UGO: The weapons in Stranger’s Wrath are a little out there. Could you mention a few of your favorites and how you thought of them?

Lorne Lanning: We wanted to do a shooting mechanic, but, of course, with some kind of Oddworld twist. Something a little more interesting than just canceling NPCs. I liked the idea of the old westerns, where you encountered a “shoot out” versus just shooting…a prolonged battle that requires some stealth, some bait and trap tactics. The crossbow allowed us to have two types of ammo, and show those unique “live ammo” creatures simultaneously. The cool thing is, if the player wants to go in and shoot everything up anyway, they can. The team had a great time coming up with the ammo types and their hideous effects – especially the stunks, which induce horrendous vomiting in victims. We just wanted to have a lot of fun putting the outlaws through misery, as opposed to just killing them off. The crossbow was a lot of hard work, but also a lot of fun to design and implement, and then to actually use it…it’s a blast.

UGO: The other star of the game seems to be the various bounties you’ll go after. Could you describe one of the more complex and interesting bounty missions?

Lorne Lanning:
Some of the missions require you to complete other tasks in order to move on, like securing passwords or rescuing locals to help you out. So there’s a wide variety, you aren’t just entering a place, shooting it up and moving on to the next place. One interesting bounty is for Flint Xplosives McGee. It takes you on an Indiana Jones-style mine cart ride through a gauntlet of outlaw fire, and ultimately to battle Xplosives at his hideout. The stranger must use aim and timing to get Xplosives off track and on a level playing field in order to take him out – taking fire the whole time. After bagging Xplosives, the stranger gets word about a dude called the Black Marketeer and the opportunity to get some, uh, unconventional upgrades.

UGO: Where do you see the Oddworld franchise going in five years?

Lorne Lanning: We’d like to see the franchise branch out and introduce some more scenarios with the same socio-political, dark humored content, and introduce some more characters and locations. We’d also like to bring back some previous characters, possibly in film.

UGO: What are you most proud of in Stranger’s Wrath?

Lorne Lanning: I am most proud of the team that built it. I always have more ideas than there is time or money, and this crew really worked to get as much into the game as possible, and managed to make it fun to play and fun to work on, too.

UGO: Was there anything you simply had to cut because of time or feasibility issues that we might be seeing in the future of Oddworld? A little hint, maybe?

Lorne Lanning: Actually, from the original design doc to the manifestation of the game, we feel we came incredibly close. Of course we always wish for more time but rarely get it.

UGO: If you could have any one of the Stranger’s powers, what would it be and why?

Lorne Lanning: The ability to run with the speed of a motorcycle, ram into whomever and whatever I want, and watch them fly. Yeah, I’d like to ram a couple of people.