The Oddworld Interview

The Oddworld Interview [Hosted by GlobalXbox]
Date: 30 January, 2001
Interviewer: Floris van Eck
Interviewee: Lorne Lanning


Lorne Lanning is the President and Co-founder of Oddworld Interactive. He founded the company together with Sherry McKenna and Oddworld is one of the most original game designers at the moment. We’ve had a huge interview with Lorne about Munch’s Oddysee, the Development and the good ol’ Xbox itself.

GlobalXbox: What do you think of the appearance of the Xbox so far? Do you think it’s going to win the console wars?

Lorne Lanning: I think the Xbox is THE machine. It’s the smartest design and the most powerful system. I think it will be the big winner for the next generation. Every developer is excited about it and Microsoft publishing is clearly passionate about supporting developers with creative missions.

GlobalXbox: What do you think of the look of the Xbox and it’s controller ? Do you like it’s sort of retro look?

Lorne Lanning: I was very concerned about the controller until we actually got our hands on it. Once you hold it, you see that it’s an excellent design. It’s not too small as it’s designed for larger hands but also works for smaller ones. This has always been an issue with controllers coming out of Japan. It’s got all the analog functionality that you would want, while also having some very deep analog button depth on the back buttons. This will allow for some serious control over brakes and throttle of racing games and the like. Before I held this controller, I had firmly believed that the PS2 controller was the best yet, but the Xbox controller is better. I don’t really care what a controller looks like, I just care how good it feels in your hands when your using it.

GlobalXbox: How are the Xbox Development Kits? Are they making the development a lot easier?

Lorne Lanning: The philosophy that Microsoft used in putting together this development system is far closer to the way most production companies will want to be building games. The whole goal should be about empowering companies to do their best creatively and in terms of play. The future is about getting more into the products and removing more of the development hurdles. It’s a smart system that is making traditional console development life a lot less painful.

GlobalXbox: Can you tell us about the support that you are getting from Microsoft’s R&D; team. What’re they doing that Sony didn’t?

Lorne Lanning: It’s not a completely fair comparison because with Sony we were 3rd party and with Microsoft we are 1st party. I can say that Microsoft has been extremely responsive and gives tremendous feedbacks to a degree that we’ve never encountered before.

GlobalXbox: Are you making usage of the Xbox harddrive? Where are you using it for?

Lorne Lanning: For our first product we are just looking at how it can help us with loading speeds, data access, and far more complete saving schemes. Console games are going to benefit greatly with their save schemes alone.

GlobalXbox: How many people at your company are currently working on Xbox games?

Lorne Lanning: We’re only working on one title, Munch’s Oddysee, and there are about 45 people in production.

GlobalXbox: Will the sound in Munch’s Oddysee support the Dolby 5.1 format?

Lorne Lanning: We hope so, but we need to make release and this is one of the things that just might not be ready by then.

GlobalXbox: Has Oddworld Inhabitants received a lot of angry letters from gamers when you announced that Munch’s Oddysee would be a Xbox exclusive?

Lorne Lanning:
We’ve had our share, but all in all people just don’t know how much more powerful this system is and the types of games that are going to be delivered for it.

GlobalXbox: Have you made a lot progress with the development of the game after the switch (PS2 to Xbox)?

Lorne Lanning:
This has been a tough production no matter which way you look at it. But it’s been a lot smoother now that we’re on a smartly designed piece of very powerful hardware that takes advantage of existing standards that are proven to work.

GlobalXbox: Will it be possible to play with Munch and Abe at the same time? Like you could play Donkey Kong Country on the SNES with a buddy?

Lorne Lanning: Yes, once you hook the two characters up in the game, then you can switch between them at any time. You can also use gamespeak to get one to work with the other.

GlobalXbox: How is the interaction between the characters going?

Lorne Lanning: Very well.

GlobalXbox: What is the lifespan of the game? How long do you think it will take to complete it and will there be multiple endings?

Lorne Lanning: An aggressive player will probably get through in 20 hours. But someone really investigating all the combinations of things that you can do will probably spend 100 hours. In the classic Oddworld fashion, there will be multiple endings.

GlobalXbox: Aren’t you afraid that the switch from 2D to 3D will affect the gameplay in a negative way?

Lorne Lanning: No. It was never a concern for gameplay. 2D was always limiting, but we chose to chew off various challenges at different times. For the PSX generation we stayed 2D because we didn’t like the limits of 3D in that generation with the character behaviors and humor that we wanted to create. In moving to 3D, we had a lot of creative challenges to get design features to work out, and we’ve had a lot of engineering challenges, but we always wanted to be 3D. We had ideas for 3D that just hadn’t been done and we knew that they would work and it did.

GlobalXbox: Will the game contain any online functions?

Lorne Lanning: Not in this game.

GlobalXbox: Munch’s Oddysee is one of the most wanted Xbox games at the moment. Are you afraid that the game will dissapoint many people cause they just expected to much from it?

Lorne Lanning: I don’t think this will be the case. This is a game that plays and feels even better than it looks.

GlobalXbox: Will the game be released in Japan ? I don’t know if Abe’s Oddysee and Abe’s Exoddus were released in Japan. If they were released, how many copies were sold?

Lorne Lanning: Yes, it will be released in Japan. Abe’s Oddysee and Exoddus were released in Japan, but they were not very Japanese types of games. They had dark screens and that is a big “no, no” in the Japanese market. Oddysee was also marketed to girls in Japan and called “Abe A Go-Go” in a pink box. Overall I think they sold a bit over a hundred thousand units. However, Munch looks to be more of the game that would appeal to the Japanese. It is also much less complicated controls with more capabilities. But when American games go to Japan, you just never know.

GlobalXbox: In a recent interview with Jeff Henshaw, he said many developers were jazzed about DirectSound Speech but there haven’t been made any announcements regarding this subject . Would you like to see this option used by developers in the feature?

Lorne Lanning: Our guys were excited about the idea.

GlobalXbox: Many gamers say that Microsoft is ruining the console industry with the Xbox project. They say Microsoft is buying everything so it becomes Xbox exclusive. Examples of this are Bungie’s Halo , New Legends and Munch’s Oddysee. Do you understand that?

Lorne Lanning: What’s going to hurt the industry is console systems that are poorly designed which force game developers to spend more money while delivering less of a title. It’s clear that Microsoft’s efforts are to do just the opposite.

GlobalXbox: What’s your favorite game at the moment? Can you give us your top five of the best games you ever played?

Lorne Lanning: At the moment, my favourite game is Driver 2 on the PSX. My favorite games of all time are Asteroids (arcade), Missile Command (arcade), Driver (PSX), Warcraft 2 (PC), and Age of Empires (PC).

GlobalXbox: What was the first game you ever played? And on which format?

Lorne Lanning:
The first game I ever played was Pong at the neighbourhood diner. Before that it was all pinball.

GlobalXbox: How old were you when you made your first game? What was it about?

Lorne Lanning: The first game I was involved in was Abe’s Oddysee and I was 29 years old when I convinced Sherry McKenna to create Oddworld Inhabitants. I had been designing game concepts on paper for years before that, but never had a chance to build them.

GlobalXbox: How do you look back on the first years of Oddworld Inhabitants? Are you satisfied?

Lorne Lanning: Oddworld has been a company that has been through many serious challenges all along its way. It’s been a humbling experience on many levels and it’s been an exciting experience. Are we satisfied, well, we can’t be dissatisfied because we’ve been successful. Are we proud? Yes, we’re very proud of what we’ve built, of the people who work here, and of the fans that have supported us.