Oddworld Inhabitant: An Interview with Lorne Lanning

Oddworld Inhabitant: An Interview with Lorne Lanning [Hosted by BitMob]
Date: 6 October, 2009
Interviewer: Toby Davis
Interviewee: Lorne Lanning

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20100310014848/http://bitmob.com/articles/oddworld-inhabitants-interview-with-lorne-lanning

Editor’s note: Not only did Toby land an interview with Lorne Lanning, he also got the first official word that the Oddworld Abe games are coming to PSN, and the collected Oddworld series is heading to Steam as The Oddbox! -Demian

It was my pleasure to talk with Lorne Lanning recently, the co-founder and creative director of Oddworld Inhabitants. Many gamers recognize the Oddworld series for its unique and original vision, which all started with Abe….

Toby Davis: Before you released the first game, Abe’s Oddysee, did you ever think it would be as big as it was?

Lorne Lanning: After borrowing the amount of money we did to make the game, we had to to be thinking big or we would have been dead. Still, you bet we were extremely happy and quite relieved when things turn out as we had hoped.

TD: Will the gaming community ever see a re-release of the first two Oddworld games on the PSN store for PS3?

Lorne Lanning: Funny you should ask, because they are already on their way. We just signed the contract this week and the original Abe games will officially be coming to PSN very soon.

TD: Which character in the Oddworld universe is your favorite?

Lorne Lanning: It’s hard not to have Abe as my favorite, but I’m so close to Abe and see the world in such a dorky way like he does, that I actually like the bad guys most of all. Bad guys are so much more fun to evolve. You get to do your research and build their characters off of the very worst of humanity. You know, the soulless, corporate banking types. The Wall Street types, and then their henchmen that are in the field doing the dirty work.

Only recently has a greater portion of the Western world’s public begun to notice just how widespread the insidious corruption is, but this has been going on for awhile and [was] obvious to those that have been paying attention. For these fat cats and wannabe fat cats, their deeds and practices are so ugly and psychopathic that most people can barely, if at all, accept them as truth.

As a designer and storyteller, to utilize things that people would rather not know about (to their own detriment), and recast the offensive practices and hideous casts of characters and reinvent [them] as modern mythological parodies…is challenging and fun.

So I guess that’s a long answer as to why I like the bad guys most. Because they are the most true of all the characters. They are closer reflections of the soulless assholes that have more control in our world than [those that] serve the rest of us well. They are human; if you know them they are likable, but they do shitty things at the expense of the rest of us. So how do we make them lovable and ironic? Now there’s a challenge I enjoy sinking my teeth into.

TD: Did you develop any characters that you were excited about but didn’t actually make it into a game?

Lorne Lanning: Too many to list. Why is almost always the same reason. Not enough time, not enough money. A few times, a character we’d be attached to just wouldn’t serve the overall design well. So we’d nix it. You know, like Lucas should have done with Jarjar.

TD: I’m a big real-time strategy fan, and I understand you were working on an RTS project in 2005. Can you explain why the Oddworld RTS was canceled, and what you were planning to do with the genre?

Lorne Lanning: It was Hand of Odd. We were pretty excited about this one. Funny, because I just looked through the design doc the other day. Anyway, we were going to balance eco-spiritual consciousness against traditional reap-and-pillage-the-environment-for-military-industrial-growth models. We love RTS games, but we wanted to add a more shamanic warrior side that wasn’t just about spells and dopey shit. But more mystic, green warrior-based, where the natives needed the same resources but to be kept alive.

One side would grow the world and channel its living benefits, the other side would harvest the world and process the natural resources into war machines, eventually running out of materials and thus ending. A more perpetual chemistry might ensue.

Maybe we’ll still make it someday, but at the time there were a few bad RTS games that had been released by big publishers, and they didn’t do well. So the effect in the industry amongst the big publishers, at least those that could afford what we wanted to do, was now out of range. RTS games were fading, you would hear. Personally, I always felt there was more room for something unique and done well. But sometimes its just not worth the fight. When you have a big overhead, you need to make sure your company is financed for its next game before you’re done with the last. It was taking too long to finance, so we put it on the shelf.

TD: How big is the Oddworld universe in the grand scheme of things? Any chance of seeing another Oddworld game in the next five years?

Lorne Lanning: Oddworld is a creation that we’ll likely never sell or part with. It wasn’t created for that purpose. It was created with the intent of creating modern myths in pop culture mediums. Nurturing these myths and their casts [of characters] to actually mean something in an increasingly meaningless landscape of blatant consumerism.

So yes, we will be seeing more from Oddworld. Regarding the library, we are in the process of converting Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee and Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath to the PC, so that all four of the major Oddworld games will be re-releasing this winter in a package called “The Oddbox.” This will be the Abe games, Munch, and Stranger as one package for Steam’s digital distribution network, as well as a few other digital distribution outlets.

Regarding new material, we hope to have an announcement soon, but I’ve been saying that for awhile now so I’ll just shut up and hope for the best.

TD: What are your thoughts on motion control?

Lorne Lanning: They’re interesting, but not something that compels me to design for them. The online social medium is far more interesting at this period in time, and so the idea of limiting yourself to any one controller device or console is something we aren’t that interested in. We don’t see them as something we would want to be building a business upon. But don’t get me wrong. Some people will, and some of them will be rewarded handsomely for it.

TD: I know that you’re working on some behind-closed-doors stuff. Any hints about your current projects?

Lorne Lanning: I will say that our game projects are online and social-based. This is our dominant focus in this era, but as I said earlier, we would love to be able to release some info soon, but I’m sounding like a broken record in my own head already. Less words, more results. We’re working on it.

I’d like to thank Lorne for his time, and thank him and his team for great memories!