Sega Saturn Magazine: The Most Realistic Saturn Game Yet? [1997]

Date: March 1997

Source: Sega Saturn Magazine, Issue 17, p. 7

Though it may not look it from these screen shots, GT Interactive’s new signing is set to be one of the most intriguing blends of arcade and adventure gameplay yet seen on the Saturn.

It’s called Abe’s Oddysee (sic) and has been developed by Oddworld Inhabitants, a team of programmers set up in 1994 by two veterans of the computer special effects industry, Sherry Mckenna and Lorne Lanning.

Abe’s Oddysee looks similar to such 16-bit classics as Flashback and Another World, but Oddworld are promising a much greater depth of gameplay. In the game, ex-slave Abe has to complete a trap-packed quest which will establish his right to the leadership of his people. Once he’s done that he has to single-handedly take on a sinister corporation which is threatening to grind his people into hamburgers.

All this is played out in what GT are describing as “a unique combination of gaming and storytelling,” that uses “the world’s most advanced 3D production techniques”. Apparently, Abe’s Oddysee isn’t so much a game as “a story dwelling experience”.

This “Story Dwelling” bit is actually a sort of game design philosophy that Oddworld have concocted, ant it affects several aspects of the game. One part of the Story Dwelling code observes the player’s movements and actions and somehow uses them to determine his or her state of mind. It then changes the mood of Abe to reflect that state of mind, making him act and look as if he is exhausted, frustrated, scared, pleased or whatever. In its turn, Abe’s state of mind has an effect on how other characters react when they meet him, and of course that. All this is meant to make you feel more like you’re actually in Abe’s shoes, rather than simply controlling the usual zombie puppet.

Story Dwelling also involves teaching the player the language of the alien world he’s running around in. This manifests itself in a process of learning control combinations which elicit verbal responses from the characters. The characters are all programmed to behave intelligently, responding not just to events, but to nearby sounds, such as weapon fire, and in some cases, even the smell of Abe is enough to lure them into action.

In an effort to make the gameplay seem as unrestrained as possible, Oddworld have made the game completely non-linear with numerous solutions to problems, thus catering for lateral thinkers. There are even several paths to the game’s conclusion, some of which hinge on major ethical decisions embedded in the action.

All this sounds very promising, but is this going to be one of those games were all this high-falutin’ ideas get in the way of the entertainment? GT have very high hopes that when Abe’s Oddysee is released in the autumn it will establish itself as a groundbreaking game. We look forward to seeing more on this game in the very near future, and when we see it, so will you.