Lorne Lanning Interview

Lorne Lanning Interview [Hosted by Xbox.com]
Date: February, 2005
Interviewer: Xbox.com
Interviewee: Lorne Lanning

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20050620013506/http://xbox.com/en-us/oddworldstrangerswrath/spotlight.htm

Lorne Lanning, creative director and founder of Oddworld Inhabitants, scoops on what to expect in the highly original new Oddworld title, Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath™.

Xbox.com: Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath, more than any previous Oddworld game, mixes multiple genres, like stealth-action, shooter, and platformer, to name just three. How would you describe the title to gamers who are unfamiliar with it? What elements do you think are most important to the story and gameplay?

Lorne Lanning: A multiple-genre title with the visual style and philosophy of Oddworld is the best way I can describe it. We’ve been hearing a wide range of comparisons to elements of other games, but I think the gaming community has yet to experience them melded into one game, as they are in Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath. We really set out to take the things our fans seem to love about Oddworld, like our stories and characters, and apply it to a more gamer-centric experience.

There are three major elements that we insisted on. First was a great shooting mechanic. We’re serious about keeping the violence in check, but let’s face it: Shooting stuff is fun. So, we came up with live ammo, which let’s the gamer inflict just the amount of damage and dementia they feel is necessary. Second was a character with some serious issues. This is also an Oddworld staple. Finally, we needed to have a story—with a couple of surprises—that’s fully integrated with the gameplay.

Xbox.com: The main character, Stranger, is unlike any Oddworld hero we’ve ever met. He’s tough, tall, and most importantly, well-armed. He’s a classic Spaghetti Western “Man with No Name” character. What made you decide to take the series in this new direction?

Lorne Lanning: Make no mistake—we love Abe and Munch, and they’ve been great to us, but Oddworld is a universe full of characters. We’ve always intended to populate this world with a variety of species, not just Gabbits and Mudokons. From a development and marketing standpoint, we came to realize that shooters are where the fun is at. We knew there was a way to do it Oddworld-style, and it was the perfect opportunity to introduce a different type of character.

Xbox.com: The “live” ammo concept is a welcome innovation. How did you decide what each piece of ammo should do? Were there types of ammo that didn’t make the cut? Any favorites among those that did?

Lorne Lanning: Everyone’s favorite is the Chippunk. Trash talk is a fundamental part of the gameplay lifestyle, and the Chippunk does the job quite well. This was one of the very first live ammos. When we were coming up with the live ammo concept, the idea of a bait-and-trap technique was primary. Then, it sort of evolved (or devolved) into a more sick and twisted concept of messing with characters … and getting rewarded for it! Oddly enough, all of the ammo made it into the game, though each went through a lot of iterations in terms of visual appeal and the type and degree of damage that they do, and then the upgrades were added. The concept was so fun to work with that we just kept going with it.

Xbox.com: One of the game’s most enjoyable strategic elements is finding the perfect combination of ammo for a particular task. What ammo combinations do you find particularly effective?

Lorne Lanning: Generally speaking, you want ammo that lures and seals the deal. For example, a Chippunk and a Thudslug. This is particularly effective (and entertaining) when you can use the Thudslug to knock an outlaw into a fan. Using the environment around you is a good way to go. Another example of this would be to use the Chippunk to lure one or more nonplayable characters under a crate, and then use the Zappfly to activate the dropping of the crate on top of them. But, remember: If you want to take them alive, you’re going to have to use something a little less damaging, like the Fuzzles.

Xbox.com: The distinctive look of the game is stunning. How long did it take to design the elements and areas of Stranger’s world? What were the real-world inspirations, if any, for some of the locations in the game?

Lorne Lanning: The look of each region pertains more to the backstory of the characters who inhabit it than anything else. The characters are loosely based on real-world settlers, natives and industrial forces, so the architecture of their homes and their environment follow accordingly. That’s where we came up with the Old West look of the towns, which is where the Clakkerz live. They might be compared to the settlers of the Gold Rush Era. The village-type setting for the Grubbs was loosely based on some Native American dwellings. So, the look of the game was determined very early on, during the concept phase. The actual execution of those ideas into design varies and continues to be tweaked well into the production cycle, but everything was pretty well locked in within the first four-to-six months.

Xbox.com: How long was Stranger’s Wrath in development? Was it longer or shorter than the time spent on previous installments?

Lorne Lanning: The game was in production for about three years—longer than previous installments. A couple of our titles were produced under short time constraints. Abe’s Exoddus was only nine months in the making. Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee was about a year, in order to make the launch of the Xbox®.

Xbox.com: The new game is poised to win over a lot of new fans to the Oddworld universe, especially action-shooter fans. Do you see the series heading in a more action-oriented direction from here on out?

Lorne Lanning: Yes, we definitely have plans for more action-oriented titles. It’s been a lot of fun working on this game, and we’re ready to experiment some more with the genre.

Xbox.com: Do you have a personal favorite weapon? Move? Enemy? Ally? Line of dialogue?

Lorne Lanning: The relationship between the natives and the Stranger. One moment they’re kinda making fun of him behind his back, like, “Dude, does he know what the hell he’s doing? The next, they’re cheering him on like best friends. Working with the dialogue during production is a lot different than playing through the game and hearing that kind of interaction first-hand. And, you gotta love being able to ram into the Clakkerz and the Grubbs, even though they’re trying to help you, because they react the way they’re supposed to. It brings a lot to the experience.

Xbox.com: Stranger’s Wrath is one of many new games that make difficulty cool again—yet not so difficult that you want to stop trying. Could you offer our readers any gameplay tips, especially for some of the trickier bosses and challenges?

Lorne Lanning: In general, people should be aware that each boss has a weakness, so you really need to use your head to exploit that and get your ammo in check prior to approaching them. Players should take advantage of the ability to stop gameplay and load up the right ammo combination. It gives you the opportunity to assess the situation and strategize before going into a battle. Given the situation, players should also decide if it’s best to eliminate a group of enemies at once (by crushing them or using an upgraded Stunk, for example) or if they want to get a vantage point to pick off enemies one at a time. That’s the great part—the game is adaptable to different play styles.

Xbox.com: Finally, please give us your quick “movie pitch” description of Stranger’s Wrath in 25 words or less.

Lorne Lanning: Step into a brave new Oddworld, where the ammo is live, the outlaws are deadly, and the hero is a Stranger …

Xbox.com: Nice! Thanks, Lorne. We’ll look forward to playing it.