Chat: Oddworld Inhabitants

Chat: Oddworld Inhabitants [Hosted by]

Date: 11/05/2001

Description: The Oddworld Chat started at noon (Pacific Time) on Friday, May 11, 2001. Chat attendees met the development team behind the whacked-out characters Munch and Abe. In attendance:

    Chris Ulm, assistant director
    Dan Kading, game designer
    Marquise Bent, real-time modeler
    Lorne Lanning, Oddworld's president and creative director


Q: How’s the Oddteam doing? tired?

Lorne Lanning: Hello!

Chris Ulm: I’m feeling fresh as a daisy, myself.

Daniel Kading: If by tired you mean utterly and completely depleted of all energy and, in some cases, vital functions… yeah, kinda.

Marquise Bent: Hanging in there… and excited about what is happening here for E3.

Q: Hey let me tell everyone what each of you do… Lorne Lanning is Oddworld’s president and creative director. Chris Ulm is the assistant director for Munch’s Oddysee. Dan Kading is Oddworld’s game designer. Marquise Bent is a real-time modeler for Munch’s Oddysee. Did I get all that right? 🙂

Lorne Lanning: 🙂

Q: Lorne, how long has the team been working on Munch’s Oddysee?

Lorne Lanning: Too long. About 2 1/2 years.

Q: This is the first Oddworld game to be completely 3D, right? What challenges did you face in shifting the game-play from 2D to 3D?

Lorne Lanning: The gameplay transition wasn’t bad… it was the code to get the gameplay to work in 3D that was a real killer!

Q: So… okay, what is it about Xbox that made you put your development efforts behind this platform?

Lorne Lanning: More memory, more CPU power, far greater polygonal horsepower… broader bandwith for pipelines, more audio channels, did I mention MORE MEMORY!!!! Also, Microsoft’s desire to support those titles that were trying to define the new edge. They wanted to support creativity… which was a huge breath of fresh air.

Q: dwb1222 asks in the Lorne’s presentation of Munch caught on video at, near the end he mentioned the game will have a ‘disturbing’ touch to it. Could he tell us more about that?

Lorne Lanning: In order to create more compelling experiences, you need to create dynamic ranges for the emotional experience. This means, even though Munch and Abe are quite endearing, what makes them more endearing is to see them caught and dealing with more disturbing circumstances. Hordes of attacking creatures, bully Sligs and other enemies, we don’t want these to be watered down, we want you to come to really dislike them… for the right reasons.

Q: Xmun asks How long did it take to get this game running from the ground up? From initial ideas to some playable form?

Lorne Lanning: It took about a year to get the basics in place… but then many difficulties fell out once we were able to run. Then the PS2 threw a lot of wrenches into our plans, so we got sidetracked for a while trying to figure out what could be done on that machine… till we eventually just dropped it. Then, only after the Microsoft deal, were we actually able to get the experience we were looking for all along… to actually run.

Q: Someone asks the game seems to focus on many HUMAN problems even though the setting is entreched in fantasy…was that your aim?? a sort of social commentary?

Lorne Lanning: The aim is to create compelling experiences that are not just junk food. Fantasy is a great place to reveal dilemas that our human condition has to deal with… so long as it’s just not about fantasy. When it’s fantasy for fantasy sake… it’s less interesting. To take what isn’t talked about because it’s taboo or politically (of corporate-ly) incorrect… is what makes fantasy far more interesting.

Q: The_GiB asks Will we get to see Munch running on Final Hardware at E3?

Lorne Lanning: It will not be final hardware. The final hardware will be a bit better.

Q: recarrie asks Exactly how beneficial has the built in hard drive been to the development of Munch and development in general?

Lorne Lanning: It helps with things like save schemes, etc. But the truth is that… things like the hardrive haven’t been factored into a lot of the console game designers out there… because designers didn’t really foresee something… this strong being available to them. So I think the console designers are just beginning to realize that they have this new capability to rely on in the design stage. In time, we’ll see a lot of creative uses for it.

Q: Hrmmm… someone wants to know what you’re wearing… is that a legal question?

Lorne Lanning: Pink tights and my bunny slippers.

Marquise Bent: Whatever it is, it’s a safe bet it’s black.

Q: Havain asks Will either Munch or Abe get more playing time? Or is it split pretty evenly?

Lorne Lanning: It’s split pretty evenly. They spend a lot of time together. There are things that need to get done that only one or the other can achieve… so they’re pretty closely tied through most of the game. They need each others cooperation.

Q: jeffbax asks in Munch, will Munch see more Moddukon’s, or were they all COMPLETELY captured and done away with… Will there be any hiding out in the game to team up with?

Lorne Lanning: Yes, there will be a ton of Mudokons. Abe is always about helping the mudokon slaves that labor in the factories they come upon. Munch gets to be protected by them, but only Abe commands them. Munch does command Fuzzles… but if Abe tries to command fuzzles they growl at him.

Q: jackal38 asks Will the environments in Oddworld have swaying trees, moving grass blades, clouds, birds that fly by and things like that?

Lorne Lanning: We have not been trying to get into this level of detail for this game. Moving trees has been less important to us… than hundreds of trees that can change their health condition. Grass blades might make it in by the end… but the gameplay is more important to us than many of these types of subtle details. Birds are used as health meters for our characters, so when you see birds it means your taking a beating.

Q: Jon_ArbCom asks ask if there’s any kung fu in the game

Lorne Lanning: It’s more like kung fu being attempted by complete klutzs. Very funny stuff happening that we’ll be showing at E3 that has never been seen before in any of our previous demos or visualizations. ots of gang fights going on at different times… funny stuff. Funny voices and sounds.

Q: Please spill the beans about what we can expect at E3 – then we’ll let you go Lorne…

Lorne Lanning: E3 will focus on gameplay. That’s it. Gotta run. Have fun!

Q: Dan, so you’re a game designer – geez, that sounds sweet – what exactly does that mean?

Daniel Kading: If I had a nickel for every time I’d been asked that, I’d have almost a buck-fifty. I’ll see what I can cover… At the moment, I write scripts for character AI… this is a simplified sort of high-level programming, so we’re part Programmer. We build geometry in 3DSMax that eventually becomes the environments that the characters play in, so we’re part Modeler. We prepare documents that describe the story and how game-mechanics work, so we’re part Storyteller and Tech-Writer. And of course we put in the puzzles, plan chases, arrange gunfights, place landmines, and set up grand, seemingly inescapable situations for our heroes with overwhelming odds…

Q: Hrmm… sounds like traffic in Seattle. Did you design that?

Daniel Kading: While leaving some key weakness for the player to discover and subsequently use to overcome their opponents and emerge victorious to move onto the next obstacle… and that’s probably the task that gives us the title ‘Designer’. And I hate the traffic in Seattle, so I certainly hope not. That’s the thing: traffic in Seattle is -wholly- inescapable. We at least give you a chance.

Q: Marquise, what are some of your favorite modeling tools (both 2D and 3D)?

Marquise Bent: I really enjoy working with 3DS Max and Photoshop. They make a good team. I’ve worked with Rhino nurbs modeling tool as well and that really compliments 3Ds Max.

Q: What would you say to encourage women who aspire to work in the gaming industry?

Marquise Bent: Well, we certainly could use a few more women in the industry and I’m glad to see games trying to include them in the demographics. I would say to just go for it. Learn as many aspects about the industry as you can, have a good heart, work hard, can’t go wrong. Well… actually, the realtime team counts on the production design team to design the characters… and we get really inspired by their creativity. There is a ton of talent there. The animators come up with moves based on the designs from the pdd team. you see them acting out the charactera alot in the office.. it’s kinda funny.

Q: Someone asks Chris, can you give us a short history lesson in the storyline of Oddworld?

Daniel Kading: Chris doesn’t do ‘short’ history lessons.

Chris Ulm: Eeek! Where to start…

Daniel Kading: Too late, Pandora’s box is opened.

Chris Ulm: Okay, Oddworld is an enormous place, many times the size of Earth…
Xbox_incabrain ducks for cover. So there’s lots of room… In the distant past, the species of OW respected the natural order and were in balance… But that’s all changed now. These ancient forces of balance and wisdom have been subjugated by rampant greed and consumerism… Glukkons, Vykkers, Sligs, and lots more..

Daniel Kading: *waits for Chris to work the word ‘palanquin’ into this.

Chris Ulm: So against this backdrop, Lorne has designed a “Quintology” of stories featuring very unlikely heroes. Hey, its coming… Abe was the first: a clueless meat factory worker that discovered that his peeps were next on the menu. And now, we’re meeting Munch, the last Gabbit on Oddworld. Munch is a big headed amphibious dude with a sonar unit grafted to his head — some unfortunate cosmetic surgery. So now, Munch needs to get the last can of Gabbiar (Gabbit Eggs) and restore his species.

Q: So anyone, and everyone, LiQuid|G-TXB asks What is the drink of choice for the late night programing?

Chris Ulm: Caffeine in any of its many sweet forms.

Daniel Kading: 2 tablets of Powdered Vivarin mixed in the beverage of your choice.

Q: azflo asks Will the game be seperated into levels or will it be one long segment?

Daniel Kading: Anybody who’s familiar with the traditional video-game level layout will find that yes, it’s divided into what we call “Regions”, and when a region is completed, there’s no returning. However… The Regions are huge, and generally include a space the equivalent of a few square miles, with multiple buildings and natural features that merit exploration to boot, all of which -can- be visited multiple times. Before you leave a Region, you’ll know it, a level won’t end unexpectedly… you’ll make the conscious decision to move on, so you have a chance to go back and rescue straggling fuzzles, or improve the environment for that extra bit of Quarma.

Q: So Dan, along the same lines, Pacen asks How long will the game be for the player to experience everything Munch’s Oddysee has to offer? I’ve read it’s over 200 hours, is this true?

Daniel Kading: I know -I’ve- played it for well over 200 hours, that’s for sure… But this is something I personally have never been able to really gauge myself… I’ve played games that claim 100+ hours of gameplay, and depending on how you play them, that’s truth. Anybody who plays Munch’s Oddysee and wants to see both the endings, wants to rescue (or even kill) every single fuzzle and mudokon, wants to get the most possible Moolah in each facility… they’ll be playing for a -lot- longer than 200 hours.

Q: Chris, image_efx asks Will this game feature dolby 5.1?

Chris Ulm: We are taking advantage of everything that we can…so the magic 8ball says “Most definitely possibly likely”.

Q: Wilbur_Whately asks So what are those furry things in all the trailers and character arts of Munch?

Daniel Kading: Da Fuzzles!!!

Chris Ulm: Fuzzles are Munch’s little buddies… sweet as pie one minute… Crazed carnivores the next!

Marquise Bent: HeeHeehee.. Fuzzles make me happy.

Chris Ulm: The Fuzzles are some of my favorite characters so far…

Daniel Kading: That’s because you have a Tribble fetish.

Chris Ulm: And that make US happy, Marquise.

Q: Oy! good one…. ripthesystem asks to everyone: what kind of music do you listen to, and did it have any infulence on the music you created for the game?

Chris Ulm: All the dirty laundry comes out.

Daniel Kading: That’d be Ulm again…

Chris Ulm: Michael Bross is actually the sound designer/composer for the game. The music for the game is highly designed to be integrated with the action. In terms of the game, we don’t slap pre-existing music or vocal tracks into either the game or movies…

Q: JediJared asks I would like to know how it was to develop for the XBox as opposed to other systems.

Chris Ulm: Developing for Xbox has been great! The level of support is very strong and the machine leads the class in terms of power, memory, speed, etc.

Daniel Kading: It’s nice to program for a system who’s devkit manual isn’t in Japanese.