Oddworld Q&A; Part 1 & 2

Oddworld Q&A; Part 1 & 2 [Hosted by GameSpot]

Dates: 13/11/2001 (part 1), 14/11/2001 (part 2)

Interviewer: GameSpot

Interviewee: Lorne Lanning

Munch’s Oddysee has had as long and event-filled trip to completion as one of Oddworld Inhabitant’s games. Originally announced as a PlayStation 2 game, Munch’s jumped consoles to Xbox exclusivity in mid-development, providing Oddworld a sizable challenge when finishing the game. With the game wrapped up and in stores, we managed to grill Oddworld president Lorne Lanning about the game’s development.

GameSpot: Munch’s has had a long developmental road. How have you kept the game from drifting too far off from what you’ve always envisioned it to be?

Lorne Lanning: Actually, the game did drift off from what we originally wanted it to be. The story stayed pretty much intact, but the play changed as we hit more and more issues and also discoveries. There were a number of things that we thought would be new and fun elements in the inherent concept of the gameplay, but we found out that some of these just didn’t turn out to be fun when you played them. When you hit cases like these, you do everything in your power to provide remedies and make a quick about-face. Ultimately, you need to deliver a game that people have fun with. When you find something doesn’t work, you’d better fix it. Even if that means veering off the previously envisioned path.

GS: How has moving the game from console to console affected work on it?

Lorne Lanning: It definitely hasn’t made things any easier for us. When you move the code around to different consoles, ultimately there are some compromises that you wind up having to live with at the core of the code. The Xbox is extremely powerful, so some of the things that were done to try to optimize the PS2 left some residue that didn’t allow us to fully exploit the Xbox potential. We still got quite a bit further because of the Xbox, but next round we’ll really take advantage of the system.

GS: How has working on the Xbox been?

Lorne Lanning: It’s been a pleasure. Aside from the superior graphics performance, it’s been a huge gain to have 64 megabytes of memory. This makes a huge difference for everybody, but especially the artists. This is because they get to use a lot more textures and geometry for their levels and characters.

GS: Do you feel you got the most out of the hardware?

Lorne Lanning: No. There is a lot more to get out of the hardware. That’s what makes it very exciting moving forward. We know there is so much more that this machine can do. Now it’s a matter of trying to fully utilize it. It’s also powerful enough that many, many different types of effects can be done and will be done differently by various developers. Meaning we’ll see a proliferation of cool and unique special touches that we haven’t seen before.

GS: Did you feel any pressure due to the game’s status as an Xbox launch title? Did it affect development of the title at all?

Lorne Lanning: There was a lot of pressure because you want to reap the benefits of being a launch title. Microsoft was great in helping us get it done, and they were also great in that they didn’t want to compromise quality in order to get it done on time. We had worked on this a long time and, for us here at Oddworld, we wanted to get it finished and we wanted to move on. It did affect the title, but in a positive way, as it forced us to make some hard calls that were needed anyway.

GS: Was anything cut out of the end of the game due to time constraints?

Lorne Lanning: Sure, but that is always the case. You always want to get more into a game than you’re actually able to deliver.

Check back tomorrow for the second part of our QA.

In the second part of our Q&A; with Lorne Lanning, we talk about working on Munch and the future of the series.

GameSpot: Why didn’t you use the hard drive with the game to help loading?

Lorne Lanning: In some ways we did. However, because of the nature of how the code evolved (from PC, to PS2, to Xbox) we inevitably had to live with some of the things that were deep in the code and not easily changed. We would have liked faster load times, and it would have been totally possible with the Xbox, but our code was a bit compromised on this front, which is one of the reasons we’ll be building a completely fresh engine for our next title.

GS: Was Abe originally intended to have as large a part as he did?

Lorne Lanning: Pretty much, as it was always about cooperative gameplay.

GS: Gamespeak seems a bit scaled back in this installment. Why did you make that choice?

Lorne Lanning: Hmmm. Funny that it seems that way, as it’s actually quite a bit amped up from the previous games. We made a choice to have a lot more voices, more variations of voices for each command, and a lot more reactions from the other characters, and of course more functionality.

GS: Is the Xbox the new home for the series?

Lorne Lanning: For at least the next three titles after Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee.

GS: The lung subplot that runs through the story sequences isn’t really resolved. Will that show up in the next game?

Lorne Lanning: It is resolved in a movie if you get the bad ending. It is semiresolved in a newspaper heading if you get the good ending.

GS: Where does the series go from here–creatively speaking?

Lorne Lanning: We’ve just created a new central character, and we are going to want to have some fun with him. We also want to create some new sensibilities for our universe to surprise the audience, and we also want to bring to life a lot of new species. Of course, it’s also our major focus to truly exploit more of the power of the Xbox. But right now, we’re all just trying to get some much-needed time off.