Examiner chats with Co-Founder and CCO of developer Oddworld Inhabitants, Lorne Lanning, who discusses the studio's latest project, Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty, a high definition, next-generation remake of Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee which released in the 1990s on the original PlayStation. Be sure to check out our hands-on impressions of the game here.
For the full exclusive interview, read on.
Examiner: [Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee] came out in ‘97, correct? And this is a remake?
Lorne Lanning: Yes, it is a total remake. We stayed true to the original design, but the original game was 2D, bitmapped, you know, a flip screen platforming game, and [New ‘n’ Tasty] is all continuous, real-time, 3D, dynamic lighting, dynamic animation, ragdoll physics and all of that. What we wanted to do was rebuild the game on 21st century tech.
Ex: What made you guys want to bring this franchise back? Were there any installments in the last decade?
LL: Not new ones, we did a few real HD remakes of like Stranger's Wrath and Munch’s Oddysee, but in that case we were taking the same engine, and just up-resing textures and adding difficulty levels. Doing a number of things to make the game better but it was really the same game on the same technology playing on better systems. So we were able to get more memory texture maps, things like that.
Ex: So why now?
Because, basically for two reasons: we’re self-financed, so it took us time funding those [aforementioned] projects, getting our games back, our library of games onto the digital distribution networks, PSN, getting them from the Xbox over to the PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, and the revenue that we generated from that, by selling those games, allowed us to be able to finance this.
And for us, it’s still a few million dollar investment, for us thats huge, and it’s a big risk, but what we've been doing is we’ve been capturing more, more and more of the community of fans and trying to get information from them and what they’d like us to do, and they’re like, ‘We want you to build brand-new IP,’ and we’re like, ‘Yeah, but we don’t have the money [chuckles]. So maybe, if we could build something almost there, what if we rebuild this or that, what would you like to see?’ And they voted Abe’s Oddysee, like, redo Abe’s Oddysee in a beautiful way.
We evaluated that and we looked at the possibilities and we thought we saw enough support out there and enough people wanting us to do it that that’s really what I think drove the decision, ultimately, was paying attention to the community, seeing a positive response of how many people wanted us to go there and so we did. And I think they’re going to be happy; a lot of love and care went into the product.
Ex: Are there members of the original team helping you guys?
LL: There actually was. Raymond Swanland helped us out, he was the original production designer for Stranger and stuff. He came on at the very end of Abe’s Oddysee, but he was with Oddworld for a number of years, I think about seven years -- he helped us out with map paintings and stuff.
We had [J Mauricio Hoffman], he came on during Abe’s Exoddus, he worked for Oddworld for years and we were able to contract him for all the animation and he subcontracted out to a number of people.
There was myself, there was Michael Bross who worked at Oddworld for a number of years on Munch’s Oddysee and Stranger, he helped us out with the audio. He helped us out with voice recording, mixing, he did some more voices in this.
And then we had, well, we had the community actually supplying a bunch of voices for the Mudokon. So when you talk to the Mudokons you’re actually talking to a lot of fans that did the voices.
Ex: How did you reach out to [the fans]? Or did they come to you?
LL: No, we said it. Because really, today, as an indie, you really have to try and stay close and stay listening to your audience and to your fan base. But in the course of that we said, ‘Well, we want to get a lot more Mudokon voices.’ And I was like, ‘Well I can hire voices and all that. But why don’t we do this? And it’s gonna take us a little more time and money, but why don’t we do it this way? Why don’t we offer to the fan community?’ Because we always heard people doing voices, like everyone would be like [imitates Mudokons ‘Hello,’ ‘Follow me’ and ‘Okay’]. So we would often hear these fans doing voices, so we said, ‘Look, we’ll do a thing where, why don’t you submit voices? And if we like them, we’ll use them in the game and you’ll be able to say your voice is in the game.’
Now, we don’t really have a budget for that, because it costs us more to do that than it would have been to hire voices because we had to weed through hundreds of submissions, of which we only got to use dozens, and all that is time and effort and money. But we thought it would be really cool to offer that to the fans that have been supporting our games to get us back to here, where we could at least be here with something truly redone and rebuilt from the ground up.
And Sony’s support has been great, just letting us be in this booth is great. We’re just little guys, we don’t have an advertising budget, we don’t have marketing budgets anymore.
Ex: And you approached Sony?
LL: Well actually, Sony found out that we were building [the game] and they said, ‘Hey, why don’t you build it for PlayStation 4? Here are some dev kits.’ And we were like, ‘Really? That would be great.’ So they didn’t finance it but they’ve been very supportive. They’ve really embraced, as you’ve been witnessing, the indie community and trying to support that in a really easy way to let you market your own games, and, you know, dictate your own price points, things like that. That’s been really helpful.
So when they contacted us and said, ‘Hey, we saw that you’re doing the game, we always loved that game, Abe released on the PlayStation originally, why don’t you bring this over?’ And we were like, ‘How could we not?’
Ex: Could you tell us what are the more significant differences between the original and this game?
LL: Well, Abe was always a puzzle-platformer adventure game. Historically, there was a lot of speed differences back in the [original PlayStation] days, so today, it all plays fluently, it plays in real-time 3D, it has dynamic lighting, it has a lot more voices, it has a lot more humor, it has ragdoll physics. So we think the hilarity factor is boosted up quite a bit. We think people are going to be laughing a lot when they play this game.
The first game was [also] very difficult, a lot of people complained about the difficulty, but at the same time, many people had told us how it was the first game they ever finished because they cared about the characters. So what we wanted to do was make difficulty levels to make it more accessible to a wider range of people, younger people, and at the hardest difficulty level we wanted it to be classically brutal...and it is.
Ex: And when can we pick this up?
LL: This is July 22, and more laughs, more hilarity and more action than before. I hope they love it.
July 22 only signals the game's PS4 launch. Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty will also release on PS3, PS Vita, Xbox One, Wii U, PC, Mac and Linux at a later date.