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Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty – “it’s not a fucking HD remake”

Tuesday, 25th March 2014 09:16 GMT By Phil Owen

Lorne Lanning has figured out why his fans want a new Oddworld game. Just don‘t call it a remake.

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“I’d rather not make games than go fucking be a slave for public companies who care more about their shareholders than they do about their customers.”

Lorne Lanning is remaking his old classic platformer Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee. He’s not remastering it with HD textures; he’s rebuilding it from the ground up in 2.5D with Unity, using the tools of today to develop the game a second time with the same blueprint.

This new version has a new subtitle, New ‘n’ Tasty, but apparently that hasn’t been enough to keep some folks from thinking that what he and Just Add Water are making is the same kind of thing Square Enix just did with Final Fantasy X and X-2, a concept people like to refer to as an “HD remake.”

“We still see press calling it an HD remake, and it’s not a fucking HD remake,” Lanning emphatically told me as we sat at a table in the back of the lounge at the Marriott Marquis in San Francisco last week.

The distinction is not about semantics, and Lanning is defensive about the label for reasons beyond it simply being incorrect. New ‘n’ Tasty is a completely new production of its own, unlike the updated HD versions of Stranger’s Wrath and Munch’s Oddysee you’ll find on PSN, but it represents Lanning’s efforts to turn his studio Oddworld Inhabitants, which is publishing New ‘n’ Tasty, into a fully viable independent producer of games.

All the Oddworld games had been previously put out by major publishers like EA and GT Interactive, but Lanning was sick of the sometimes painful realities of working with the majors and selling at retail.

“Fuck that business. I don’t want to play with that business, because it was a losing business,” he lamented. “I just don’t want to go back and play the old [publisher] game. I’d rather not make games than go fucking be a slave for public companies who care more about their shareholders than they do about their customers.

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“Why did Battlefield 4 ship? You know that team was crying. You know that team knew that game wasn’t ready to go. You know that team fucking spent a lot of sleepless nights building that shit out to look as good and play as good, when it was able to be experienced, being played as they were intending it to be played. Someone made a decision that the shareholders are more important than the customer. And we see a lot of that. How do you blow that? How do you take that fucking jewel and ship it with dirt all over it?”

Lanning did have kind words for one giant publisher, Sony, in regards to deals they’d cut for Oddworld games on PSN. He said they’ve been “a godsend” as of late for their brand awareness, as, say, Stranger’s Wrath going free for PlayStation Plus members had the side effect of boosting sales on Steam. So he’s not a blanket hater.

“There’s an increasing appetite for some of those types of games again today that I wouldn’t have expected.”

But while working out from under a corporate thumb has been freeing, not every idea Lanning and company had was viable from the start of this endeavour. So they came up with a list of possible projects, put it in front of the community, and out of “tens of thousands” of responses, an Oddysee remake was the winner. Being a 2D platformer from the ‘90s, that surprised Lanning.

“There’s an increasing appetite for some of those types of games again today that I wouldn’t have expected,” he explained. “Then I started looking at why is that. Okay, sure, retro is cool, and we have different people approaching it in the indie space in different ways and doing really cool things. But why would they care about platformers versus Stranger’s [Wrath], 3D, POV, whatever?

“What I came up with was, a lot of people, they don’t want to spend time steering around the world making sure they’re looking in the right direction. They just want to absorb the experience and have tight controls, feel like it’s really good, and have this impression – which is kinda what brought me to platforming in the beginning, that rotoscope quality of a lifelike guy. And I felt like out of all the games I play those are the guys that feel most alive.”

But it is more complicated than just that, naturally. Lanning’s rationalization for why gamers these days enjoy new 2D platformers also considered their palatability to people who are just watching someone else play, rather than playing themselves (“backseat driving games,” he called them).

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“People are playing on a TV, a big screen,” he said. “The big screen is always the center of the home entertainment system, basically, and the rest of the family is usually pretty fucking upset that you’re dominating the TV. And they don’t usually find Call of Duty that interesting to watch. It’s great if you’re playing, but people don’t find it that interesting to watch. So on that note it was like, how can the two get more combined so that when one person is playing the other feels like they’re watching a cartoon?”

That all seems logical enough, so why was New ‘n’ Tasty probably not the direction Lanning would have gone without input from the community? That, he said, is another side effect of working within the system for so long.

“It’s not, as designers, what we’re conditioned to think you want, especially by retail and by publishers.”

Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty is due for PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Wii U, Mac, PC and Linux.

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3 Comments

  1. Panthro

    Made the guy sound like a whining bitch…

    I love the Oddworld series but come on, does he really have to speak like that?

    It sounds like he was arguing with you.

    #1 6 months ago
  2. Selderane

    Droppin’ f-bombs; that’s how you get the kids on the playground to know you don’t care what teacher thinks.

    #2 6 months ago
  3. Hyperx64

    Never a truer word was spoken Mr Lanning.

    On the subject of “old” gaming styles re-emerging; it wasn’t just the hardware limitations that made games what they were. It is because these style of games are fun in their own right.

    Same as how animation, in the west, has moved from hand-drawn animation to High-Quality CG, and now to Low Quality/cost CG. Even though we want hand-drawn animation. Transformers was hand-drawn. X-Men (90′s) was hand-drawn. Ren & Stimpy was hand-drawn. etc DISNEY was hand-drawn…

    Japan still creates hand-drawn animation (and also pushes the envelope with CG render i.e. Appleseed Ex Machina). Why is that? It is because a certain “style” can only be done in a certain way.

    X-Men Animated Intro: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZAhqEiq4cA
    How awesome is that. Still. Cannot be replicated. Has to be done, exactly how it was done :)

    #3 6 months ago

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