Oddworld – Odd Life [2017]

Date: 2017

Author: William Anderson

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20170912060628/http://awakengames.com/oddworld-odd-life

While I had been officially working for Oddworld Inhabitants for some time now, yet unofficially to keep peace in the family between Alexandria, Oddworld and CPTV, my official departure from Alexandria changed that.

I arrived at Oddworld with my new job title, Manager of Interactive Design, but with unchanged responsibility, that to continue my game play design work on Abes Oddysee.

It was really nice to be free of the politics between the two studios and to be able to just focus on my work, and it lead to some really cool innovations.

You see, when Sherry McKenna and Lorne Lanning first came to me with the story for Abes Oddysee and some really awesome concept art, we had a dilemma. That was that Sherry and Lorne were experts in creating 3D graphics, yet the 3D capabilities of games systems weren’t even close to being able to pull off the look Sherry and Lorne wanted. Also 3D game programming was just really starting off and finding expert 3D programmers was almost imposable.

So I made a proposal that would, in the end, define the game play style for Abes Oddysee.

While working at Virgin Games I was asked by David Bishop to consult on moving a game called Another World to the Sega CD. Which I pointed out at the time might be too short of a game for the Sega CD. So, because the designers of the original game never kept design notes I had to reverse design the game, screen by screen, creating a flowchart of the game that I placed up on my wall in my office.

Once David saw this it was agreed that the game was too short and the two original creators were flown to our studio in the US to meet with David and myself, to show them our concerns. They liked my game flowchart so much they took it back with them, just to see where to expand the game.

During this process I discovered the grid movement layout system they were using for the game and started to research other games like it, so I might use this technique in future games, for I liked its tight level of control over the players movements.

So I reversed designed Black Thorne from Interplay and Flashback from US Gold, to round off my grid based movement research.

It was this style of play that I proposed to Lorne and he accepted for the game, although he still had one more concern, he really wanted you to fell like were playing in a 3D world. So after talking to him about what they could do on their SGI machines, I proposed two more things that would pull off the illusion of playing in a 3D world.

One, we would generate video transition clips at the end of each level section, that would make the play feel like they had moved through a 3D world and I would add a distant background layer of play in some game levels.

This worked out great, although I had one more thing to innovate before Lorne’s artist should make the magic happen.

You see I designed each level for the game out on a grid, but that grid had to go over to the artist SGI computer systems to be overlayed on what was called at the time a 12 Field Guide so they could line up the 3D backgrounds correctly. Once that was done they could render out each scene.

What I came up with was a TV Switch Box located in my office that I could control to send my image over to each of the artist SGI station. Outside of figuring out how to run the cables over the ceiling, it worked perfectly.

Now we were in the running and all I had to do was wrap up the different world designs for the game, although maybe I should have designed a bit slower.

You see, when I was hired by Oddworld I was told at the start that I was there to design the game play and help Oddworld get the design approved by Sony, and they needed an expert game designer on hand for that to happen.

So I wasn’t overly shocked when I got the boot by Lorne after I finished the level designs and Sony’s approval was in hand, and I really didn’t have any bad feelings about it. They were honest in what I was there for and once done we went our different ways.

Although, I was upset when Lorne started telling people I never worked for his company and to this date doesn’t list me on the credits for the game. Bad Karma!