In the early hours of Friday morning, Gravity Crash developer Just Add Water announced it was bringing back the much-loved Oddworld series. Needless to say, fans bounced off the walls at the news.
We checked in with JAW boss Stewart Gilray on plans for the series, the recently-dated Gravity Crash PSP, Gravity Crash 3D, 3DS and more.
Hit the break.
Interview by Johnny Cullen.
VG247: First off, congratulations. You must be proud of the deal itself?
Stewart Gilray: We literally just started talking to [Oddworld Inhabitants] last summer about something which we’ll announce soon. It was a passing relationship, just testing each other out, I guess, in some respects. But over the past year, we’ve become pretty good friends. And on the back of it, the whole thing has come to fruition.
And that in itself has been great, because I speak to Lorne [Lanning, creator] and the guys [at Oddworld Inhabitants] every few days, and it’s been good. I think I said in the press release I was blown away. You tend to get very sidetracked very easily, going, ‘What if we try this, what if we do that?’ And its been pretty cool, so yeah.
Are you happy with the reaction that has come out on the announcement?
Stewart Gilray: Completely. The reason it came about was a couple of days ago, I did a podcast with some US guys because, obviously, Gravity Crash Portable is out next week in the US and Europe. I did a thing at the back of that and threw the interview in the podcast.
And they said to me, ‘What are you guys doing next?’ And I was like, ‘Oh hell’. So I was frantically typing to Lorne on Skype, just saying, ‘Can I tell people we’re doing this yet?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, but don’t mention what we’re working on yet.’
So yeah. From that and the little bit we put on our website, which has only been a little bit: about three or four paragraphs. The reaction has been staggering considering it only went out live at about 1.00am this morning UK time, so only 13 or 14 hours ago.
And we’ve got the Abe Twitter feed, and he’s gone from 300 followers to over a 1,000 in 13 hours, which has been like ‘OK’.
And we’re getting a number of pings and trackbacks to the website and its little news item. I’m staggered, and I think the guys in the States will be staggered as well.
You say the talks began last summer, but how did it all really begin? Was it a run-in of sorts?
Stewart Gilray: Yeah. I met Lorne briefly at GDC last year, he was introduced to me via a mutual friend of ours. We stayed in touch between March and June time. And then in the beginning or middle of June I think it was, we started talking about doing something together.
I can’t even tell you what that is because it’s one of the things to come soon. But off the back of that, we just started talking more. We started doing some stuff for them – not in terms of development work, because they’ve got all these archives of data, and we had to go through it to find certain things we also had to put together for them because they were needing some things themselves for some stuff they were doing.
It’s been cool to us.
I think I said in an interview before to some other guys that the Oddworld games themselves, especially the first two Abe games, are the two best games of all time. The chance to work with those guys and to work with some of their properties feels almost like a dream come true in some respects.
The wording on the announcement seems to suggest that Lorne is involved at least in a consultancy level. Is that the case?
Stewart Gilray: Without giving too much away, they have to sign off on everything we do. But at the same time, though, we’re bouncing ideas back and forth and stuff. So they’re all extremely busy with their own lives and what have you, so what we’re doing is separate, but at the same time, because those guys are Oddworld, it wouldn’t be right for us to do it without… not getting their approval and stuff.
So everything we do, they have to sign off on.
Will we hear any platform announcements for it during gamescom, maybe before?
Stewart Gilray: Right now, we’re not planning anything for gamescom at all. So put those rumours to bed right now. We are doing something which will be announced I’m liking to think by the end of July, and might even be released by the end of July. But none of the “big stuff” will be announced yet. Not gamescom, nothing on that.
So for everybody saying to us, ‘Oh, it’s gamescom’: nothing is gamescom.
Can you clarify if any of these titles will be HD ports or new stuff?
Stewart Gilray: Oh goodness. That’s tricky, because anything we do do, if it happens to be on a console, will be HD.
Stewart Gilray: Whether it’s new or old or whatever, I really can’t discuss.
OK. There’s a big massive cult fan base for a series like Oddworld. Are you confident you’ll stay true to the series and please long-time fans?
Stewart Gilray: Well, like I said before, I am a long-time fan. So for someone to take a brand and go, ‘Let’s rape it into something else’: that’s not going to happen. It’s going to be what I enjoyed playing in the Oddworld games and what everyone else did as well.
What about new fans? What are these games going to do that’s going to bring in a new audience?
Stewart Gilray: I can’t say because it’s encroaching what we are doing, and we don’t want to give away what we are doing yet purely because it is early days. There are lots of announcements coming, and we’ve got times and places for the announcements.
Moving away from Oddworld, Gravity Crash PSP is coming out next week. That’s awesome news obviously?
Stewart Gilray: Yeah, I mean we’ve been working on Gravity Crash… We started pre-production in mid-2008. PS3 [version] kicked off production in January, February 2009, and we released on PS3 in November. The original intention was to release the PSP version not a long time after the PS3 version. But we started getting feedback from the punters on the PS3 version, so we said, ‘Let’s pay attention to what they say for a couple of months.’
And we took a lot of that and we fed that back into the PSP version, to try and get past some of the niggles people had.
And I think we’ve done it. I think we’ve managed it. The guys at Sony QA started by saying, ‘It’s been a bit hard’ or, ‘This needs to be done’, etc. And we’ve taken all their stuff on-board as well. Yeah, it works really well now. So we’re pretty chuffed for it, especially something on a handheld.
Yeah, I know handhelds are doing things like God of War these days, but it’s still kinda cool to get an old, retro style game on there. A game which was designed to be an 80s arcade game with extra bells and whistles on it. So yeah, we’re very proud of it and we’re chuffed we finished it and it’s out next week.
Staying with Gravity Crash, its style does seem suited for 3D. Would consider retrofitting GC with it somewhere down the line by?
Stewart Gilray: Do you mean 3D as in glasses support, or do you mean 3D as in 3D models and stuff?
Stewart Gilray: I don’t know. We actually discussed it in December, like for what [Super] Stardust [HD] has done. But we just didn’t think there was enough pull to update the PS3 version to support 3D glasses. Maybe we’re wrong. We don’t know. Something we’ll tell in time I guess.
But in regards to doing a 3D game where you’re flying into the screen and stuff, again, we’ve chucked some ideas around, but at the minute, we’ve decided not to move on any of them yet. We’ve always got a pool of, ‘Shall we try this next?’ type things, so who knows what will happen in future? But at the minute, there’s nothing moving in that direction, shall we say.
Fair enough. Outside of Oddworld and Gravity Crash, you’re working on Vektor Beat with Alex from TheSixthAxis. What’s the plan on that? Is it on hold for Oddworld?
Stewart Gilray: We got to Alpha with it, and then one of the discussions we had with the guys at Oddworld was to help them out with something. And without giving anything away at all, Vektor Beat is being temporally paused until probably later in the year, but we will get it finished. It will definitely be released soon enough.
I kinda feel crap now for announcing it now in February, thinking, ‘Yes, it’ll be out in May,’ then the next thing that came along, we went, ‘Oh, maybe not.’
OK. Will it be out this year?
Stewart Gilray: I don’t know yet. We’ll have to wait and see how we get on with what we’re doing at the minute. We’ll know better by the end of August.
What about future plans for JAW outside of Gravity Crash, Oddworld, Vektor, etc. Anything planned?
Stewart Gilray: We wanted to have a bash at some iPhone stuff. Vektor Beat will be on iPhone as well at some point, but we’ve got a few things in the pot, shall we say, for iPhone.
We wanted to basically test the market, I guess, so we’re not spending a massive amount of time on it. Same goes for iPad, or, as we call them internally, iDevices. We’re doing a couple of wee things on both together, universal apps, which may come out during the course of the year.
Would one of those projects maybe suit something like 3DS? Maybe something for 3DS?
Stewart Gilray: At the minute, no. For the first two years of JAW’s life, we worked on three projects with Nintendo. At the minute, we’ve got no plans to return to those platforms. But who knows?
So basically put, no Oddworld for Nintendo platforms?
Stewart Gilray: At the moment, we haven’t discussed it.
Gravity Crash Portable releases this week on PSN in the US and Europe.