Online Chat with Lorne Lanning [2000]

Online Chat with Lorne Lanning

Date: 14th November, 2000

Description: Hosted by PlanetXbox, the chat took place on Tuesday, November 14, 2000 at 5 p.m. P.S.T. on GameSpy Arcade. Fans asked questions of President/Co-founder of Oddworld, Lorne Lanning. Here is a transcript just in case you missed it. Enjoy!


Gino Thanks for coming to the chat event tonight. On behalf of GameSpy I welcome you to GameSpy arcade, and PlanetXbox’s Oddworld chat. We have Lorne Lanning here to answer your questions about the series. Please message Brat any questions that you may have for Lorne.

Lorne Lanning Hi everybody. Thank you for coming on board!

Gino Lets first welcome Lorne. Lorne why don’t we get a quick introduction from you for the chat.

Lorne Lanning Okay. President, cofounder, and creative director of Oddworld Inhabitants.

[Admin]Brat *Duhreetoh* Will Munch have a musical language, or will he speak English?

Lorne Lanning Munch will have both. He will use musical notes, and also language

[Admin]Brat *robert_z* What will set Munch’s Oddysee apart from previous Oddworld games?

Lorne Lanning Oh my god! How do I describe this in a brief chat??? It will be, of course, real-time 3D. It will have a living world. It will have many more abilities for the central characters (Abe & Munch) … more dynamic, more physics-based controls. Analog controls… that is. It takes place on larger playing fields that have their own micro eco-systems.

[Admin]Brat *FiveIron* Why the Xbox? What made you guys sign on to Microsoft’s wonder box?

Lorne Lanning Okay, good question. This is the year 2000. Our game will be released in the year 2001. Our technological (software engine) infrastructure needs to be designed to expand over the next entire generation of console. That means at least 5 to 6 years. When working with the PS2, we felt that it would shortly be eclipsed by more powerful systems like the Xbox and even the PC. This was very distressful for us to know that we would be building a game that, image-wise, would be sub-par to today’s best PC. The Xbox was much more powerful, much faster, and much more intelligently designed… as a piece of hardware. Thus, our choice was to be with the strongest hardware platform… and thus we would be able to build the strongest games.

[Admin]Brat *prez* What are the chances of Munch’s Odysee coming out for PC? I know you say its up to MS, but surely you have an idea which way it will go?

Lorne Lanning I’m not sure that the chances are for it being on PC. Ultimately this will be a decision that is made after the release of the Xbox.

[Admin]Brat *evilthekrazykat* hey man when will Lorne release the new characters on the website?

Lorne Lanning This won’t happen until we get closer to release. The reasons for this are mostly related to the dangers of releasing production designs before they’ve released in the actual game. It’s a risk to put it all out there before release.

[Admin]Brat *John* What should we be especially excited about?

Lorne Lanning I think it would be that you’re going to be able to, for the first time, be able to control physics-based characters while also controlling a world that is more “listening” to what you want it to do. This combination of being able to grab groups of characters, then being able to gamespeak them to beat up, help, or shoot down other groups of characters… make for something that we’ve really yet to see.

[Admin]Brat *resurrectionbob* Is the music in Munch’s Oddysee going to be similar to the music in the first games and in the videos we’ve seen so far?

Lorne Lanning Yes. The music will always be similarly epic, but we also want to get more of a dub/techno feel in for the right appropriate areas.

[Admin]Brat *Josh{1}* From your experience, has Microsoft been as supportive of developers as it has claimed to be?

Lorne Lanning From our experience, Microsoft is the only publisher that really seems to truly be interesting in putting it’s hard cash where it’s mouth is when it comes to supporting truly creative titles.

[Admin]Brat *MrBeefy* does Lorne work exclusively on Oddworld? It would seem that one would need a break every now and then with a side project.

Lorne Lanning When I need a break, I go ride motorcycles or I go fly fishing. Every other moment of my life is revolving around Oddworld.

[Admin]Brat *robert_z* What inspired the Oddworld series?

Lorne Lanning Mostly the devestation of our natural world, the explotation of the little people of the world… and the way I felt about being a little person in the world. This seemed to be the only way to do something about being so frustrated.

[Admin]Brat *papamarx* We’ve all heard everyone talk about how the Xbox would allow you to do things that couldn’t be done on the PS2, can you give us some specifics?

Lorne Lanning 64 megabytes of main memory, 733 mhz cpu, 3 times the polygonal power of the other system 🙂 All of this means more can be going on at any one time. Also, the power is not distributed through a straw… or across three chips that need to work in very obscure ways with one another. This is a simple system that is what the gamer needs if the gamer is going to be getting more “game” for their money.

[Admin]Brat *Sligface* what kind of religion do mudokons have

Lorne Lanning Great question! Mudokons are currently on a path to “regain” the lost knowledge of their ancestors’ faiths. Ultimately, they will find that religion does not fulfil their spiritual needs. But that it is through the exploration of one’s self and the compassion and insights to the natural world around them that enables them to become more evolved… and ultimately transcend death.

[Admin]Brat *halcy0n* How many hours of gameplay should we be expecting?

Lorne Lanning If you race right through, you should expect at least 20 hrs. If you want to fully exploit the play that is available, then you could easily spend over a hundred hours. It will play differently depending upon how YOU play it.

[Admin]Brat *resurrectionbob* How will Munch’s Oddysee’s delay affect the plans for Hand of Odd and Munch’s Exoddus?

Lorne Lanning It does have some effects. Hand of Odd is getting pushed back a little more because we think it is such an awesome exercise for us. We want it to truly blow people away and we want it to utilize the technology (the cool stuff) that we’ve been spending these past few years on. Munch’s Exoddus will go into full production right after Oddysee delivers.

[Admin]Brat *FiveIron* I hear Oddworld Inhabitants is a crazy place to work. Is it true you guys give your employees daily doses of vitamins?

Lorne Lanning That be the boss woman! Yes, she believes that healthy people are productive people and she hates to see people get sick. I never said she was normal 🙂

[Admin]Brat *oots* this musical language, will it consist of whistles like Abe’s first speech, or be far different and hold more meaning to each sound?

Lorne Lanning Right now we are keeping it relatively simple… as we care more about the AI characters reactions to the languages and we need to make sure that everything we are doing actually works. Gamespeak is evolving quite a bit, but we’re trying to make sure that it does not become too complicated and thus confuse people. We are aimed at finding exactly the right balance.

[Admin]Brat *Duhreetoh* How on Earth do you manage to work so hard on such a detailed game when Sherry won’t let you have doughnuts?

Lorne Lanning funny. Okay, well, I find that junk food actually slows me down. So I like a good raw cow to help me concentrate.

[Admin]Brat *swat20* what were some of the challenges of making this game

Lorne Lanning Sheeesh! Where do I begin!????? Okay, I think the hardest thing is getting a full crew of people to understand how they need to build something that none of them have ever seen before. This is definitely the hardest part. You need to convince people why they can do what they don’t know how to do yet. This is hard for the director, and also for the forces at work.

[Admin]Brat *Gino* What was it like developing for the PS2? Were the problems that many developers face using the PS2 hardware lead you to the Xbox?

Lorne Lanning Developing for the PS2 was like stepping back in time. We are building for the future, and when we see steps backwards in hardware development, we get disappointed. We feel the future is about building better, more creative games, at a lower cost so that we can build more of them… as well as our peers building more of them. The Xbox is a step forward towards this goal.

[Admin]Brat *John* What kind of new abilities will Abe & Munch have?

Lorne Lanning They can pick up other characters in the world and do with them what they will. Abe can possess any enemy and wildlife. Munch is slow on land but really fast in the water. They can each use their “gamespeaked” buddies as weapons and as tools. Think “Age of Empires” but think of Abe and Munch as your mouse.

[Admin]Brat *MrBeefy* Is the navigation in 3d very difficult? Or will there be scripted angles as in the Alone In The Dark series?

Lorne Lanning The navigation will absolutely blow you away. We’ve spent a lot of time getting to a new level of what we feel 3D navigation should be about. Also, with the camera system that we’ve developed, you’ll feel as though you’re watching a movie, but you’ve had total control over a physics-based character the entire time. It will be far, far more elaborate than anything we’ve seen.

[Admin]Brat *Sligface* how many different consumer weapons will there be and can you describe some of them

Lorne Lanning There will be Blitzpackers, that shoot brew. There will be Snuzis, that shoot sleeping pills and tranquilizers. There will be competing products that will dictate what side a character works for (which factory). There will be more, but I don’t want to spill all the beans now.

[Admin]Brat *oots* what is gameplay like, is the movie BigBro Slig a good example?

Lorne Lanning The movie of the Big Bro is a good example, as is the movie where Abe tosses the slig out of the window, and also the one where he tosses the slig into the recycler. What you’ve seen is what you’ll get.

[Admin]Brat *raziela* what do you mean by living world?

Lorne Lanning What I mean by a living world, is that the trees are alive and can be used as resources. The water is used as a resource. Pollution is used as a resource. With this chemistry, you will find that you are able to bring the world back, through creating rains, growing back trees, cleaning up waste. Or, you’ll be able to deplete the world by doing the opposite. Native forces get power from the living spirit of the land, while industrial forces get moolah from the death of the land.

[Admin]Brat *robert_z* What do you think has been the key factor in the success of the series?

Lorne Lanning I think it’s the originality and the creativity… balanced with solid challenging play. I think the story aspects completely intertwined with gameplay are what help it to become more of a consuming experience.

[Admin]Brat *papamarx* Is it frustrating for you to get such “passionate” reaction from some fans about the switch to the Xbox?

Lorne Lanning Yes and no. It is always frustrating to see that people that like our work are unhappy. However, it’s also a great compliment that they care so much about the games.

The fact is, people have not yet had a chance to see what the future holds for games. I don’t mean to be arrogant about this, but we know the systems and we know what those systems mean for the near future of games. Much more powerful and better-looking games will be built on the Xbox, hands down. This will become apparent to everyone in the next year.

In the meantime, there are a lot of loyal sony fans. I myself was amongst them. Till we spent time working with their system. We saw the future, we didn’t like it. And we chose to go with the path that was more to our dreams and less frustrating. Not because of technical difficulty, which exists, but more so because of the compromise it meant to our vision of games.

[Admin]Brat *Duhreetoh* What kind of training should one go through to work for Oddworld Inhabitants?

Lorne Lanning Spend about six months in a psycho ward. Seriously, just get the best art/programming education you can and then find out the best path you can to get in anywhere that builds games. This is the beginning of a career.

[Admin]Brat *evilthekrazykat* Mr. Lanning, why did you “ditch” Playstation2 so close to release? why didn’t you give then a better notice?

Lorne Lanning Because the Microsoft deal was not in place before that. It may seem like awkward timing, and it was. We would have liked to ditch the PS2 earlier, but in the end, you can’t achieve anything without agreements. The agreements were not in place. That simple.

[Admin]Brat *raziela* couldn’t you work on a ps2 version 2? why exclusively the xbox?

Lorne Lanning To build for the Xbox, and to build for the PS2, are two entirely different beasts. To maintain production on the PS2 meant a much greater cost and much more frustration. It also meant NOT being a first title with the Xbox. First party support is what we wanted, and Microsoft had the right machine, the right team, and the right attitude about what we wanted to build. Meanwhile, I’m not even sure that Sony Japan knows who we are.

[Admin]Brat *resurrectionbob* How long did it take to decide you wanted to move the game to Xbox?

Lorne Lanning We wanted to do this for quite some time. It didn’t take long to figure out that we liked what the Xbox was all about. It was a philosophy about hardware design that we wanted… had hoped for.

[Admin]Brat *robert_z* Have there been any problems continuing development for Munch’s Oddysee on Xbox?

Lorne Lanning It’s been a great experience. No BS here. It’s an awesome machine, nearing completion, and it’s well designed. It’s smart. Very smart. It’s a machine that is thinking about developers needs and also gamers. There will be no doubt about the Xbox once it releases. It will be something that cannot be denied. And I’m not even getting paid to say this. I just want to build great games as do the rest of the people here.

[Admin]Brat *Sligface* can you tell us more about fuzzles or meetles?

Lorne Lanning Fuzzles are what Munch needs to rescue. He can also use them as weapons. Meetles are something that can be nurtured for other purposes. They can be transformed into greater creatures. Fuzzles are basically lab rats awaiting rescue.

[Admin]Brat *papamarx* How will the extra 8 months to a year of design time affect the final product?

Lorne Lanning It will have great effects. Most importantly, we will be doing tons of focus testing. This is a great thing because it means we will be able to balance, debug, and tune the game levels for an overall more pleasant experience.

[Admin]Brat *prez* Do you ever feel “bored” with continually working with the same characters/world? IS OWI ever going to branch out?

Lorne Lanning If you create your characters interesting enough, at their core, then you will not become bored with them. There is so much more to what our characters are about that they have yet to reveal. At the same time, we will be branching out tremendously, but by expanding the cast, heroes, and conflicts.The Quintology is extremely exciting and still is. I can’t wait to get to later versions because they open up whole new worlds, casts,

The Quintology is extremely exciting and still is. I can’t wait to get to later versions because they open up whole new worlds, casts, dilemas… etc. These keep us going and give us ways to think about the evolution of a world as opposed to always just trying to build one from scratch.

[Admin]Brat *papamarx* How will you use the Xbox’s “compose on the fly” feature?

Lorne Lanning I don’t know about the Xbox’s “compose on the fly” but we do understand it’s audio capabilities. Which means that we will be able to compose on the fly. This is exciting because it’s imperative if we’re going to be able to make games sound, move, and feel more like the quality of audio and soundtrack that we love about great movies.

[Admin]Brat *Sligface* will there ever be a good slig, glukkon, vykker, etc?

Lorne Lanning The answer to all of these questions is … yes. However, what is “good” is always in the eye of the beholder. To our eyes, some of these individuals within these races will appear good. But ultimately, we’re about blurring the lines between what is good and what is evil. It’s not an easy call and most people, governments, corporations … make this call prematurely. We want to leave people with uncertainty and let our work be a catalyst for debate… after the games been played.

[Admin]Brat *Duhreetoh* Will Vykkers be the main enemy in Munch, or are the Glukkons still a problem?

Lorne Lanning The Vykkers are the new enemy.. but the Glukkons are still a major problem.

[Admin]Brat *resurrectionbob* How many minutes of FMV cutscenes are expected to be in Munch’s Oddysee?

Lorne Lanning About 20 minutes. You’re going to love it. It’s better than our previous work. Maybe even more twisted.

[Admin]Brat *prez* How many people are working on Munch’s Odysee and how many on Hand of Odd?

Lorne Lanning Right now there are about 45 people working on Munch’s Oddysee. Hand of Odd is getting some pre-production work from a few people here. A lot of focus has been going into the script of Munch’s Exoddus at the moment.

[Admin]Brat *Sapphire_8400* will we see anything about a “mudancho” tribe in this game?

Lorne Lanning It’s possible. But not solidified.

[Admin]Brat *papamarx* Some folk are anticipating Abe/Munch to become the Xbox’s icons – would they dig that?

Lorne Lanning Yes, I think they would dig that. But they wouldn’t dig being icons for Oracle! 🙂 Microsoft is huge. But it has not depleted the planet and tested on laboratory animals to build its products. Munch and Abe are all for whatever it is that helps make the world a smaller place where people can more easily communicate with each other.

[Admin]Brat *tom* How many hours of development do you guys already have into Munch?

Lorne Lanning SHEEESHHHH!!! If I realized that right now, in exact form, I’d probably have a heart attack. At least 18 months with a full crew.

[Admin]Brat *Sligface* why you change the sligs mask from having one eye hole to two?

Lorne Lanning We felt that one eye hole had less expression capability. We want to get our characters to be able to have a lot of expression.

[Admin]Brat *papamarx* Do you see any irony in Oddworld’s depiction of ruthless Corporate Giants and your new relationship with Microsoft (the second largest company on Earth)?

Lorne Lanning It’s not the size that matters. It’s what they do with it! Microsoft has not ruined cultures, invaded territories for natural resources or stomped on the third world in the way that many multi-national corporations have. That they’ve played hardball with other computer companies is one thing. But it’s not what McDonalds is doing to the rainforest.

[Admin]Brat *Sligface* what kind of obstacles will Munch encounter when he’s swimming around in the water?

Lorne Lanning There are floating mines, strong currents, sewage machines…

[Admin]Brat *MrBeefy* Do you have safety measures set up so that, in the case that you become like George Lucas and try to release a Phantom Menace, will your team try to stop you, or cowardly let something like that out?

Lorne Lanning Wow. I hope that we never get so far removed from reality as to put out a story that we’re not proud of. Hopefully, our team has the guts to stand up and protest.

[Admin]Brat *resurrectionbob* How do non-player-controlled events like the Slig falling to its death affect gameplay?

Lorne Lanning It takes a character off the playing field … for one. It also ads much entertainment value. We feel that when we play games we don’t get as many laughs as we should. We’re trying to change that.

[Admin]Brat *Sligface* when the quintrilogy is done, will we have a pretty good understanding of Oddworld or will still be some mysteries left over for other games?

Lorne Lanning When the “Quintology” is done… we’ll have a damn good idea about what happened on a couple of continents. But there will still be many continents that have yet to be explored. Know that OW is ten times the size of earth.

[Admin]Brat *Sligface* how do scrabs and paramites sense their enviroments? they don’t seem to have eyes.

Lorne Lanning They use their brain glands and this gives them vision similar to what dolphins or sharks have. They sense the electromagnetic fields around the living creatures that they cannot visually see.

[Admin]Brat *prez* Other developers have commented about the difficulty of working with the PS2, but they are still making games for it. Was MS offering large amounts of money a definite factor in changing more so than the tech?

Lorne Lanning Not at all. Microsoft was offering the support of our titles to be made the way that we want them to be made. They were also offering a much, much more powerful system. The support you have means a tremendous amount in regards to how easy or complicated your development life is going to be. Building the games is hard enough, not having support makes it really crazy.

[Admin]Brat *X* I’m wondering why you chose the net immersion engine over any other engine or building one from scratch?

Lorne Lanning We look at the NetImmerse technology as a library of calls. We do not use it, or think of it as an engine. We see it as a library of calls that we can build an engine atop. This is a way that we feel games should be made. The old school game developers (managed by programmers) feel that everything should be hand built. We disagree. We feel that, just like with computer graphics in general, we should be able to buy what EVERYONE is going to have to write anyway and spend our time and money building the things that other people haven’t thought of.

[Admin]Brat *dcmcc18* Will the game be shipping on a dvd or cd upon its release?

Lorne Lanning On a DVD.

[Admin]Brat *John* Does one need to have experience with the previous games to enjoy the Xbox quintology?

Lorne Lanning No. We are building our games so that people do not have to be familiar with the previous games. However, if they are, then it’s going to be better for them. As they will see more of what’s going on.

[Admin]Brat *resurrectionbob* The story of you telling the story of Oddworld to Sherry a few years ago is almost legendary now. How much of Oddworld’s story did you tell her that day?

[Admin]Brat (that was the last question – by the way)

Lorne Lanning I mostly told her about Squeek’s Oddysee (3rd in Quintology) and moved a lot around the character and dilemas of Squeek. She loved Squeek so much that she didn’t believe we’d be able to make Abe as likeable. Now she loves Abe more. She also felt that there was no way she would like Munch as much as she likes Abe. But now she loves Munch just as much.

Gino Lorne, thanks for taking the time tonight to chat with us. We are all looking forward to the latest title in the Oddworld series, and can not wait to get our Xbox’s. Is there anything else that we did not cover tonight that you would like to add?

Lorne Lanning You’re most welcome. It was a pleasure being on and having some interaction with the fans. Good questions. That’s all from me. Except … to our big fan “Elum”… YES! Elum will show up in Munch’s Oddysee.

Gino Thanks once again … and thanks to everyone for coming out and making this possible.