Oddworld’s Inhabitants: Todd Johnson, Senior Programmer

Oddworld's Inhabitants: Todd Johnson, Senior Programmer [Hosted by Oddworld.com]

Date: November 2000

Interviewer: Oddworld.com

Interviewee: Todd Johnson

Oddworld’s Inhabitants are as diverse as the world they’ve worked together to create. Here’s where you’ll find interviews and other informative articles spotlighting the many creative folk that work at Oddworld Inhabitants. Be they headline players or behind-the-scenes heroes, the Inhabitants profiled here all share Oddworld’s ceaseless dedication to bringing you the best worlds and games that you’ve ever experienced.

Todd Johnson is one of the original Oddworlders. His code and innovated approach have helped shape Oddworld from its inception. After serving as a programmer on Abe’s Oddysee, Todd stepped up for Lead Programmer duties on Abe’s Exoddus. Now, Todd brings his quietly industrious qualities to the brave, new, 3D world of Munch’s Oddysee.

Todd Johnson, Senior Programmer

Q: Where were you working / what did you do before you came to work here?

Todd Johnson: I was working for a company called Alexandria. They did mostly Genesis and Super Nintendo titles, and wanted to work on PlayStation games. The company was owned by a venture capitalist who helped start Oddworld. The two companies were strongly intertwined, so I began working with Oddworld on Abe’s Oddysee even while employed by Alexandria. When Alexandria eventually shut its doors, I simply moved into Oddworld to continue working on Oddysee.

Q: What kind of technical training (i.e. college or self taught) do you have?

Todd Johnson: I earned a degree in computer science, which is the foundation of my programming training. Although I studied a little bit of computer graphics, working in the game industry is very different from anything in academia. Most of my knowledge comes from experience and seminars such as those at Game Developers Conference.

Q: What would you say is the most rewarding thing about being Programmer at Oddworld? What would be the biggest challenge?

Todd Johnson: We have some amazing and ardent fans. That might not seem related to programming, but I think we do a good job of making the characters maintain lifelike behaviors, which allows people to become attached to them. The biggest challenge is trying to fit very creative ideas into a logical system that can be put into code. A lot of the things that are easy to do when you have eyes can be extremely difficult to accomplish by sifting through a pile of numbers.

Q: You are one of the original Inhabitants. How have you seen the company change & grow?

Todd Johnson: The biggest change has been in the expectations for our games. Four years ago, no one had heard of us, and a lot of people didn’t think we would get very far making 2D games. Now, Munch’s Oddysee could be one of the games that gets people to buy a new console system.

Q: What’s your favorite game? (aside from your own)

Todd Johnson: People give me a hard time about this, but I still play Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine. I also like Toe Jam and Earl and Bomberman. A lot of 3D games give me a headache, so I tend to avoid them. My favorite 3D game would have to be WaveRace 64.

Q: What do you like to do outside of work?

Todd Johnson: I like to get outdoors, away from computers. I enjoy hiking and bike riding, whether on the road or up a mountain. I used to snowboard in the winter, but I haven’t gone in a long time because I live too far from the snow. My dream is to be on a team in the Eco-Challenge.

Q: What type of a place is San Luis Obispo? Is it really better than living in L.A. or the Silicon Valley?

Todd Johnson: For me, it’s great because there are a lot of wilderness areas to run around in. I grew up in San Jose, but I didn’t enjoy living in a big city. I prefer San Luis because of the clean air, no traffic, and low crime. As is true for most all of California, the weather here is great year-round.

Q: What advice would you give kids wanting to get into this field?

Todd Johnson: It’s not as glamorous as you might like to think. We don’t sit around playing games and cashing royalty checks all day. There is a great deal of work involved, and you really have to enjoy games or you’ll burn out in a hurry.

Q: What would you like to see happen at Oddworld over the next 10 years?

Todd Johnson: I know a lot of people that want to get t-shirts or toys or books with Oddworld characters, so I’d like to see more merchandise available for the fans of the series. I would also like to see a movie from Oddworld. If we weren’t busy making games, we could do it right now. Maybe in the next decade Oddworld will hit the big screen.