What’s next for Oddworld? Just Add Water speaks

Tuesday, 12 March 2013 08:50 GMT By Dave Cook

Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee New’N’Tasty is the first step in the series’ rebirth. Dave Cook speaks to Just Add Water to find out what happens next.

Just Add Water

Just Add Water has teamed up with Oddworld Inhabitants to bring the series back, and to introduce new games further down the line.

The team is currently developing Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee New’N’Tasty, due for release Autumn 2013.

You can read my massive interview with Oddworld co-creator Lorne Lanning here. We discuss the series’ collapse and rebirth in detail.

Just Add Water has been confirmed as a PS4 developer by Sony. They haven’t revealed what they’re working on for it yet.

The studio has also released HD versions of Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath and Munch’s Oddysee. Check them out here.

Whether through a shift in the market, or the the pressures of the almighty dollar, Lorne Lanning and Sherry McKenna’s Oddworld Quintology was never completed.

After the collapse of their studio Oddworld Inhabitants, unreleased games Squeek’s Oddysee, The Brutal Ballad of Fangus Klot and Hand of Odd were thought lost forever.

But in reality, those ‘lost’ games do exist in some form, their concepts scrawled on paper by Lanning over the years.

The working Xbox prototype of Fangus Klot is real and it does run, there is a large design document for Hand of Odd, while the rest of the Oddworld road-map sits within Lanning’s imaginative, over-active mind.

Now that UK outfit Just Add Water is enhancing and releasing all of the Oddworld games, the developer is slowly catching up to the point that the series fell into obscurity, begging the question, ‘What happens next?’

That’s precisely what I asked studio’s CEO Stewart Gilray recently.

“We do have the original bound Hand of Odd design document here,” Gilray revealed, “as well as a version of Fangus running – An original Xbox build. A few of us here at Just Add Water know the basic story and identity of Squeek, so that’s definitely interesting.

“I’d love to tell you, but one of the things I’ve tried to install on Lorne, is not to talk too early about stuff, and to use that knowledge and information as a marketing practice in the run up for a products release, which is something you’ll start to see over the remainder of this year in the run up to the release of Abe’s Oddysee New ‘N’ Tasty.”

New ‘N’ Tasty looked stunning when I played it late last year, a 2.5D remake of the original Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee, displayed in full HD and with several new tricks up its sleeve. It’s a statement of intent – that Oddworld is back and this time, it’s here to stay.

So confident of the series renewed long-term success was Gilray’s team, that it conducted a fan poll to see what game it should work on next. The results were rather fascinating, with an HD remake of Abe’s Exoddus coming out on top, followed by an entirely new game, then lost titles, Fangus Klot, Squeek’s Oddysee and Hand of Odd.

The poll wasn’t just a fan-baiting exercise either, as Gilray explained, “It wasn’t just a case of gathering info that will gather dust in a drawer, we already have a rough plan for the next couple of years, but we wanted to make sure we weren’t just wasting time making something that nobody wanted, so we just wanted to give ourselves some confidence.

“Saying that there were some real differences in the results that we weren’t expecting. We were a little surprised that Squeek’s Oddysee wasn’t higher up the result. We knew Exoddus would be pretty high up there, but to see it where it ended up was nice.”

There has been some confusion and debate surrounding both Abe’s Oddysee and Exoddus in recent years – chiefly – what happened to the source code and ownership rights. Gilray was more than happy to clear up the matter for me, and shed light on some of New ‘N’ Tasty’s key changes.

“We’ve got the source code to both Abe’s Oddysee and Abe’s Exoddus. However, we’ve don’t have final PSone code for Oddysee, and no PC code, but we have final PC code for Exoddus, and no PSone code. So we’ve got a mix.

“We have all the tools and are actually using similar systems to the originals, but we’re obviously enhancing various things, like allowing woken up Sligs, to go back to sleep if they don’t hear or see anything.

“The biggest challenge is catching the same feel as the original. There have been various comments we’ve read where people have said “Oh no they’ve removed the gore” well we haven’t, and in some places the game is darker than the original, but we’ve not shown those areas yet.”

The team at Just Add Water is going to great lengths to lovingly remake Abe’s Oddysee, given the gaps in the game’s original source code, so it’s comforting to know that he series won’t be cancelled a second time.

“Oddworld Inhabitants own everything now” Gilray explained, “and I mean everything. Even the PSone versions are now exclusively owned by Oddworld Inhabitants. They spent a couple of years making sure they bought back, or waited for rights to lapse so they could “own” everything, and that is the case now.

“The only place this doesn’t apply is to existing boxed product. If you buy a copy from Amazon of the PSone titles, then that money sticks with Amazon. It doesn’t find its way back to Oddworld Inhabitants, which is why we encourage everyone that wants to support us to buy digital right now.”

With free reign to do whatever it wants with the universe it first set out to create through the 90s, Oddworld Inhabitants can take the franchise anywhere now, but for Just Add Water, a remake of Exoddus would be the next logical step.

“It would obviously be a lot easier,” Gilray explained, “as Exoddus is an extension of Oddysee, so that would also apply to us if we decided to tackle a remake of Exoddus next. We would literally face the same battles they did with Exoddus in 97/98 and that is to create a game on top of an existing engine and game.”

But should both teams decide to fulfil its fan poll and create an entirely new Oddworld IP, Gilray teased that Lanning’s mind is already full of ideas, “ There are some crazy ideas on paper we’ve found, but Lorne’ mind is filled stuff.”

Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee launches on PC, PS3, PS Vita and Xbox 360 this Autumn, and we’ll have more on the game throughout the year. Meanwhile, what would you like to see Just Add Water and Oddworld Inhabitants tackle next? Let us know below.

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