Oddworld Stranger – Lorne Lanning Interview

Oddworld Stranger - Lorne Lanning Interview [Hosted by TeamXbox]
Date: 2 October, 2004
Interviewer: César A. Berardini
Interviewee: Lorne Lanning

Source: http://web.archive.org/web/20041103091227/http://interviews.teamxbox.com/xbox/914/Oddworld-Stranger-Lorne-Lanning-Interview/p1/

Developed by Oddworld Inhabitants, Oddworld Stranger features detailed interactive environments set in an enthralling new frontier of the Oddworld universe. Players step into the role of the Stranger, a rough and tumble bounty hunter who tracks down outlaws for moolah. Using a special weapons system that gives a whole new meaning to “live” ammo, players will encounter deviant species and hostile challenges along the way. Oddworld Stranger combines first and third-person gameplay with familiar Oddworld elements and an all-new engine to deliver a unique gameplay experience. Set to award-winning visuals, players will be moved by the complex and inspiring story as the Stranger comes to grips with his true nature in the hunt for the ultimate bounty.

On the heels of the annoucement by Electronic Arts that the planned PS2 version of Oddworld Stranger has officially been scrapped, we decided to talk to Oddworld Inhabitants’ head honcho Lorne Lanning to get his take on this surprising turn of events.

TeamXbox: First off, congratulations for Oddworld Inhabitants’ 10th Anniversary. It’s hard to stay alive in this industry as an independent developer, especially when you make “odd” things…

Lorne Lanning: Thank you. And yes, it’s definitely challenging being a small independent developer in today’s climate.

TX: Different publishers, same story. How is it that Stranger, like Munch’s Oddysee before it, is once again an Xbox exclusive?

Lorne Lanning: Stranger was built as an Xbox only game. When we signed on with EA they were confident that they could, with the help of some other developers, convert Stranger to the PS2. If they could achieve this, we would be fully supportive of it. In the end, they found it would take longer and cost more than they had anticipated, and as the Xbox version is nearly complete, they decided that a delayed release for the PS2 did not make sense.

TX: Back in 2000, when you announced you were switching development from Sony’s PlayStation 2 to Microsoft’s Xbox, you specifically stated the main reason for the change was due to the shortcomings of the PS2 hardware and the difficult task of programming for it. Is this the same reason that the plans for the PS2 version of Stranger were scrapped, or were there other factors?

Lorne Lanning: The decision to convert Stranger to PS2, and the decision to cancel the PS2 version, had nothing to do with us here at Oddworld. This was solely EA’s decision.

TX: How far along in the development process was it apparent that the PS2 version was a no-go?

Lorne Lanning:
They made this decision recently and I’m not sure how far deep into production it had actually gone as it was not being done at Oddworld. I believe it was still at a “proof of feasibility” stage in development.

TX: Will Stranger remain an Xbox exclusive or is this a temporary tag with a future PS2 version of the game in the works?

Lorne Lanning: EA has no plans for a delayed PS2 release at this time.

TX: In what specific areas does Stranger really push the bounds of current console hardware?

Lorne Lanning:
The sheer size of the acreage in our playing fields, the number of characters and animations on screen when in full combat, the AI combat and NPC witnessing behavior, real time music scoring that relates directly to the NPC AI mind states, memory management and streaming, set decorators (plantlife), the number of destructible objects, Depth of Field and other various real time distortion visual effects, etc. All of these aspects and more were pushed hard to try to make Stranger a unique experience.

TX: Have you had the chance to discuss with companies like Microsoft and Sony what you’d like to see in next-generation console hardware?

Lorne Lanning: No, we haven’t.

TX: From the specs that have been circulating regarding next-gen consoles; in your opinion, who appears to have a better strategy?

Lorne Lanning: Our biggest lesson is to wait and “believe it when we see it.” Until there are actual and final development systems in use, we will hold off on any opinions.

TX: Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions.

Lorne Lanning: Most welcome. Hope to see you guys soon and thank you for the support you’ve been giving Stranger.