Oddworld Inhabitants has been telling the interactive story of Abe for more than two decades. And now it has shown off the first look at the gameplay of Oddworld: Soulstorm, which is coming out on the PC and consoles in 2020.
The game picks up from where 2014’s Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty left off, and it is a re-imagining of Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus, which debuted in 1998. That original game was a bit of a rush job, ordered to come out on a fast deadline by the publisher at the time, GT Interactive.
And Oddworld Inhabitants is returning to this title to remake it in the way that it should have been made. The game is the latest attempt to spur a rebirth in a franchise that has sold 15 million games to date, and it’s the latest brainchild of Lorne Lanning and his Oddworld Inhabitants game studio in Emeryville, California.
Soulstorm is the second in a new Pentology that takes place in the Oddworld universe, where Abe, a meek slave among the Mudokon. He discovers that his people will be slaughtered for food in a meat factory at RuptureFarms, and he escapes. Then he leads a revolution to rescue the slaves. In Abe’s Exoddus, Abe leads his starving Mudokons on further adventures in a search for the secrets of the Soulstorm brew.
The game continues to pick up some of Lanning’s favorite themes about environmentalism, capitalism, consumerism, and addiction that have been the hallmark of the Oddworld franchise. Oddworld Inhabitants is working with Frima Studio in Canada, as well as Fat Kraken Studios in England. This new game has a bigger budget because New ‘n’ Tasty sold more than 3.5 million copies.
I visited Lanning’s studio in Emeryville and got a first look at the Unity-based Soulstorm. I also interviewed Lanning about his latest “triple-A indie” title.
Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.
GamesBeat: Tell me what you’re doing.
Lorne Lanning: Last time we talked was when New and Tasty was just announcing, I think. We were at a GDC. It’s been a while. Since 2008, when we started the business digitally, self-publishing the library–that’s when all the rights had reverted, so it became easier to do that. Steam let us do that. From that, we were getting tens of thousands of dollars from old titles. Abe’s Oddysee was 10 or 11 years old and still selling. That led to us being able to start making things like converting Munch’s Oddysee to PS3. But we were it the organic way, purely from sales.
The sales were always a little bit exceeding our expectations. We didn’t have high expectations, but it was amazing that 11-year-old games were still selling. That led to us being able to get to the point where we made Stranger HD. That got really good Metacritic. We were surprised. It had pretty good sales. Then we got to where we started to be able to spend millions of dollars, and that’s how we got New and Tasty.
New and Tasty then became our largest venture, self-financed, paid for the old way, the business building organically from sales and not borrowing any money or doing publishing deals. New and Tasty moved 3.5 million downloads. That was a surprise. It treated us well and helped us set up ground zero here, with a new distributed development model. New and Tasty was largely done under one development house, with a couple of others coming in to solve various problems. We learned from that and went all cloud-based. We control all the data through many development houses.
Right now we have people in Vancouver, in Seattle, in San Francisco, in San Diego, in Los Angeles, in Washington D.C., in Quebec City, in England, in Scotland, in Ireland, and in Australia. That’s our day. Managing the time zones is pretty fucked. But we’re able to control costs a lot better. It’s operating more like film development, where you set up the company for development and use all contractors. If you want to keep on going, you keep on going. You swell as you need it and thin as it makes sense. That’s the way we’ve been doing it.
It’s tough finding anyone who has the highest bar. It’s easier when we’re getting animation talent, because then we get them from the film industry, or we get them from top-tier experience. Lighting, modeling, rigging tend to go more film, less game. Then you get into level design, you’re really in a hybrid of being able to contract out. Depending on the skill set it’s easier or harder.
Traditional outsourcing companies haven’t really worked for us because they want architectural specs, basically, and then they can function on that. We’re still looking at more of a distributed development team rather than hiring outsourcers. More like contractors who know how to build games versus — if you look at the history of India and China for outsourcing, it’s very, “Tell us exactly what you need and we can get you that.” But if we have to work together to shave cycles or figure out solutions, outsourcing groups get harder.
GamesBeat: How many people do you work with now?
Lanning: When it comes to individuals, right now it’s about 30 on the project. That will be higher eventually. They’re all spread out. At times we’ll scale down and scale up. As we get through the rest of the project we’ll scale up a little, because we have your systems established and code and things like that.
Where we are with it, we started this about three years ago. We told the audience — we’ve had a lot more conversation with the audience on social, since we haven’t been at retail. We said, “If we’re successful with New and Tasty, what would you like us to do next?” They said, “Redo Exoddus the way you did with New and Tasty.” That brought us back to — Exoddus was this emergency game that we had to get done for GT Interactive because we had a hit in 1997 and they needed another hit in 1998. Other games that were supposed to ship for that publisher, like Duke Nukem Forever and Unreal, they all slipped Christmas. Being the one title that delivered for Christmas, that was our curse.
What I had thought was going to happen, I was hoping to have a hit with Abe’s Oddysee and then be able to take a couple of years and build a sequel. It would be this big five-part epic series. We put that on the back of the box. This is the first part of the Quintology. Then we got derailed from that right away because we needed to ship a game in nine months to be a good partner. It changed the story I had intended. Then I felt like the property started to get off course from that initial vision point. You know the history of the industry, the history of Oddworld.
From there, when they said, “Redo Exoddus,” we said, “Huh. We’re not sure if we really have enough money to do a new game.” It’s one thing to reskin and rez things up and re-envision. It’s another thing to do a brand new game, all new everything. We decided to bite the bullet and said, “If we’ll do that, let’s go back to the original vision of the Quintology and focus on what that second game, ideally, was supposed to be. Let’s reboot the idea of that five-part epic, where we’re at number two. If we can do that well, if we can keep the trajectory of Oddworld growing again and get more into the triple-A space where we had been, and get there on our own with the audience’s help, that would be a much different and better existence.”
We started this one about three years ago. We had the legacy of doing New and Tasty on Unity. At the time, Unreal was still a million-dollar engine. We didn’t have the money to throw at that. Unity was basically free. We continued on Unity. That had a lot of legacy code for various reasons. So we started building up, and fortunately Unity started getting better and better. We started pushing Unity in places it hasn’t gone yet. You saw a little clip the other day. All of that was rendered in real time in Unity. It’s not the highest of highlights, but we’re showing a little bit.
We have to be careful about how we’re showing the insights into the single-player story. We need the reviews come release. We’re still a year or more out.
GamesBeat: And your script is basically done?
Lanning: Oh, yeah. We built all the systems. We did a lot of code work. We expanded on what is Abe substantially. We’re riding the latest versions of Unity, so that we can help them to build into their engine the things that facilitate better building of games like this, rather than mobile games. We have a lot of caching, taking advantage of multiprocessor, various thread optimizations that they just weren’t doing because the mobile space wasn’t demanding it. How their portaling data, how they’re caching in and out. A lot of that streaming needed to get better. Various rendering things that needed to get better.
GamesBeat: Is that how you got on stage [at Unity’s event]?
Lanning: Yeah, we caught their attention early on this project. We contacted the CMO and he saw it and kind of flipped out. They’re chomping at the bit to show more. We agreed that we would only show this much, and only if it said sneak peek. It’s not a teaser and it’s not a trailer. We’re trying to be careful with that language so we’re not sending the wrong messages. But it seemed to work, because it’s just that video from the other day on a few channels that have covered it, including ours, but well past a million people have viewed it. That’s a good indication. Better than we’ve done in the past.
From there we’re going to stagger this out across the next year. We’ll try to get it done across the next year. I can’t say exactly when. There’s a lot of new systems in there, a lot of new tuning to do. We need the whole thing running synergistically. We want to do it right. It has to be a great game. But I think we’re in the zone.
GamesBeat: You’ve already been on it for two years?
Lanning: Three. It’s three years in, with another year to go.
GamesBeat: The original took nine months, and this is four years.
Lanning: Right. We’ve just ignored the original. This is a completely new game. It’s what Exoddus was inspired by, but couldn’t be. This gets back to the true inspiration. We’re able to run it better on 21st-century technology and do things I was thinking of before, but we’re probably lucky I didn’t try to do, because I would have shot myself in the foot.
GamesBeat: So a much larger game?
Lanning: Much larger. Probably the biggest game we’ve built. Definitely more sophisticated. This is why we’re going to the crowd. We’re still going to want to get physical deals. We’re still going to want to have promotional partners, various types of partnerships. We just don’t want to be at the typical end of that shortish stick, in terms of — you know how publishing works.
We wanted to take it to the crowd. Really the crowd is what got us here, because it’s the profits that allowed us to build this. It just wound up being more expensive than we expected.
GamesBeat: Does the title mean something?
Lanning: Soulstorm? It’s the essence — it means a lot of things. It’s the essence, the mystery of this one, the Soulstorm Brew. The Brew gets into, what is the Brew? The spoiler is, the Brew is the ultimate employee performance and retainment solution. What it is, it’s an energy drink. You get two a day if you’re an employee and you work in the factories. That’s great. They hype you up for optimal performance, and then to go to sleep they give you a Snoozie at night. Brews and Snoozies.
But the Brews — one of the by-products is, they’re highly flammable, which becomes an advantage. Another is, the mystery of it — what’s happening in this game is, it picks up where the last game left off. A ripple effect in the underground — all these other factories, they know they’re slaves. Think in the outlying parts of China, big factories, factory farms, pharmaceutical companies, whatever. They know they’re screwed. They just don’t have a way out. What happened in the mythos is the success of the destruction of Rupture Farms, Abe causing an uprising that frees the employees, it’s starting to spread the word across the land. Now we have employees starting to flee factories and catch up with the guys responsible for the uprising, trying to find Abe.
As they’re still just trying to keep themselves alive, Abe and the guys, now that they’re free from the farm, they’ve caused a lot of economic damage to a big — it’s like Oscar Mayer just got shut down. Imagine the impact on Wall Street. These guys are on the run and they start encountering more slaves from other factories that have fled to try and find the group that was responsible for the uprising. But all the ones that they find are sick and dying. They don’t understand yet that the Brew is designed so that you’re addicted to it for performance. If you ever try to flee the factory, the withdrawal will kill you in 48 hours. That way you’re not going to make it to the second world and talk to the labor unions and defense attorneys and human rights organizations. They keep them where they products are being built, safe away from the standards of the modern world.
That’s the theme of the game, the theme of the Brew, how the game works. That’s the initial start of it. We wanted to focus on a single-player story game. We know that’s not chasing all the trends, but we built a lot more in, a lot more RPG capability. Abe was always begging for it. Stranger took on a little more it. Here we’re going to do a lot more of it in terms of ways to exploit the environment and empower Abe to have a lot more abilities. He can deal with the world in more interesting ways and be more powerful. We’re turning the Mudokons you’re saving into less like beasts of burden and more like allies with AI mob dynamics, gang dynamics. They can have various benefits as well.
GamesBeat: Politically, you’re still pretty right-wing, then.
Lanning: [laughs] We were always considered pretty severely left. It’s funny. Someone asked me recently, “Are you a socialist?” I said, “Fuck no! My relatives were killed by the Bolsheviks. That’s not going over either.” It’s interesting, our demographic. It’s really wide. It’s misfits, right? Huge LGBT base. We’re big with women.
But sometimes I meet these guys — in England in particular, these big dudes who come up with Abe on their chest, Abe on their shoulders. What the fuck? They look like thugs, like hooligans. There were these twins, two brothers that both looked like MMA fighters, covered in Abe tattoos, and they’re like, “Dude, you don’t know, my brother and I, the shit that used to go down in our household, this is what kept us together. This was the only thing we could be successful at in our life, was playing Abe’s Oddysee. We played it through the most horrific part of our life. It meant the world to us. If we kept on trying, we could succeed.”
I met another guy who had an Elum and an Abe on his asscheeks. He wanted to show them to me. I still can’t figure that out, to this day.
GamesBeat: The new teaser looks nice.
Lanning: We’re investing a lot more in the expression of the characters and the emotional connectivity. We spent more time on the rigging and all that.
If we live long enough and have enough success, we finish the Quintology. This is part two. In that, we’re setting up — you don’t need to have played part one. They’ll stand alone. But we set up Abe’s condition — opening movies are getting shorter. People are trying to dial more for the free-to-play audience. We went the opposite direction. We want an eight-minute opening movie. We dialed in more on Abe’s dilemma, which is he’s waking up to the fact that this game is not over. It’s just beginning for him. His shit is just about to really hit the fan.
I’ll show you the opening movie. This is all rendered in real time in Unity. It’s about 12 hours for a straight playthrough if you’re playing like a speedrunner. Here we’re taking you back to where you’re actually going to begin to play. That’ll be the first screen of the game. In a traditional Oddworld flavor, we do the first screen last. [laughs] That’s where it’ll start, in that burned-down condition. He’s learning the basic moves in a burning-down hideout facility. We wanted to have destructible playing fields and more forces, like liquid, flammable liquid, and fire as true play elements that were more organic and spreadable.
Let’s go to a compilation of some gameplay. One thing we wanted to do — New and Tasty delivered in 2.5D. We were monitoring the audience and asking them about it a lot. What we found was that compared to POV or over the shoulder, they liked being directed through the narrative experience. They liked not having to steer. They liked seeing their character on screen. They liked being able to aim, do whatever they had to do. But it took them out of the traditional — it might not have been looking in the right direction, the camera showing what you should be seeing. They liked those aspects of it.
We focused in on that. We wanted to expand on that with something we call 2.9D. We’re using it as a little marketing hook. We are going into the world. We can be on curved paths around stuff. We can move in full dimensional space. But we keep it on rails, so the play style stays in sync with the evolution of the side-scrolling platform. We dial it up in the dimensions of the world, the feeling of being in the world and how deep the world is. What you’re seeing in the distance is something you’ll come to play, which is also an Oddworld thing, even back in Abe’s Oddysee. We took that a few pumps higher.
This is a compilation of some of the play that’s happening. First, a big change is we wanted to bring more RPG-ish elements. It’s not a real RPG. It’s still an action-adventure platformer. But we wanted to bring in a wallet, an economy, a crafting ability to allow Abe to have what we call a sort of homeless economy, a scavenger’s economy. He finds recycled bottles, bottle caps. He can sift through lockers or get change out of phones, pickpocket sleeping guards. He can cash in things at recycling machines and use that scavenged cash to start buying vending machine products, food products.
Out of the things he’s finding in the world — scraps, wires, paper, dirty rags, things that don’t seem to have much relevance — he can combine them through the crafting system and start making weapons a la the Anarchist’s Cookbook. You’re buying Pepsi and Mentos and putting them together to create your little sticky bomb. In our case it’s Fizzy Pop and Explos. That system allows much greater exploration in the world, much more of a slow-down pace — find, discover, create things with meaningful uses to the player. It gives the player more agency.
The other thing that’s happening, the Mudokons historically — Abe’s always about saving others. He’s an empathetically driven hero. But those others were always really beasts of burden. They had some value. In Munch’s Oddysee it was different. But they were basically hard to get out alive, and that was the challenge. We wanted to give them more agency as well, more power to the player. It’s more like you’re building up your gang. If you’re crafting things that become available in your inventory, you can gift them to your followers and set them to aggressive or passive. They can start fighting and defending for you in a myriad of ways.
That’s what will be happening here. The first thing you’ll run past is vending machines. I’ll speak to that as we play. All of our vending machines are in the light animated look. This is 2.9D. Here I can pickpocket some sleeping slaves. It’s still the same basic controls. Instead of hiding in steam vents and shadows, now you can hide in the lockers, and so can your followers. What you see in the distance, you’ll be playing later. You move through in a more Z way. It has a lot more depth. But you can still play in that classic platformer tradition.
You’ll find a lot of cases in the environment where you can set up industrial-scale accidents that you use as weapons. The Mudokons are armed as well, fighting for you. Extra powers come to Abe if he has followers that give him more benefit, more abilities. Here we’re taking down an end boss on a moving train. We wanted that physics, that overwhelming feeling of little vulnerable characters against a really powerful world, this industrial environment. Abe’s followers can defend him, and he’s the main targeting system. They follow through. We did the effects in all these candy colors because they’re built out of consumer products. We wanted these crazy effects to showcase the abilities.
Then every level has a tallying system, leader boards, and different achievements and badges and karma. There are lots of different ways to play it. We estimate that on this game, people will get their 100-plus hours’ worth, but it’s not like the first playthrough is 100 hours. It’s definitely there to be milked through the systems, though.
We’re running toward the very latest versions of Unity, which means this might crash. If we were sane, we would have locked it off earlier in the development and said, “We’re sticking to this version.” But if we did that we wouldn’t get Unity to be doing features in their source code that we made. Hence, if it crashes, that’s my excuse. [laughs]
We have a new UI system with lots more controls, but everything Abe always did is still there. The rest is built upon that. Every level is self-contained as a single story, with an intro and outro and tally. We’ve done a lot more hint systems in this game. You can turn that on and off depending on your needs as a player. There’s a log for objectives, where you are on missions.
This is more of that 2.D effect. You can see where you will be playing in the world. This is case where we wanted to have environments, particularly in the backgrounds, where you can come in and scope it out and spy around and see what these things are to understand what you’re going to face before you actually face it. This is one of those sniping spots, where we give the user controls to preview the level before engaging. If there are workers in a zone, you have to get them out of there.
In this case your mission is you want to get up and out to terminal 2 and free your guys along the way. The heat really starts picking up. The scavenger economy includes rummaging through these garbage cans. Let me say, you’re about 60 percent into the game here, but with the hints system none of these things have been activated yet, so you’ll see a lot of windows coming up. There’s not as much as that when you play the real thing. Every item is new because this is a fresh playthrough.
He’s picking up seemingly useless things half the time, but they actually have a lot of depth once we start applying them. There are destructible floors, destructible platforms. These things add up. You get a changing playfield based on action. We wanted to have that, so the environments didn’t remain static. Here’s where you go to cash in your recycled bottles and bottle caps. You don’t have enough right now, but you do get some of our cheesy music.
These are vending machines. Each gives you a description of what they do. These are Jawbreakers, and they can be thrown. Lockers can be looted, and you can also hide in them. If I have followers — you see that they drop their hats right away. Now, if Abe goes in a locker, they’ll go in with him. At the same time you get the benefit of — expanded followers equals an ability to loot faster, and also the additional powers they bring.
You get a sense of the scale of these levels and how they operate. We have lots of characters running around. Even off in the distance you can see people operating back there. All of that you’ll play, even when you have huge trains passing in the background that you might see going by. We’ll be playing all the way through that. I’ll come to lockers that I can’t get into, but I can do things like pickpocket the security guards, take whatever he’s got, and get the keys.
As long as I hold the sneak button, all of his moves are quieter. Now I have the key to the locker. You can get that health power-up right there. You have an extra ability in this case, so now let’s look at the inventory system. This is what I just bought. What it does, just as a base model, I can use this to knock guys out when I throw it. We’ll do that real quick. That’ll knock them out, the Jawbreaker, but he’ll wake up in a few minutes. It’s limited, non-lethal. But if I go into the crafting system and take this and add some rubber bands to make it bounce, and some tape that can secure it, I can craft a new thing.
When I get back into the game, now this guy is waking up. Aw, I didn’t get him. But I can do this old trick. I can possess these guys. I have that full round of capabilities. Then I can choose to de-possess him and knock him out or blow him up. That gives you different bad karma or good karma possibilities.
Let me cheat on some stuff to add more cash, some fire extinguishers, some Brews, some Jawbreakers, some Fizzy Pops, some rubber bands, some more tape, general crafting components. Now, these are some of the scenarios where these things — the ammo is sort of puzzle-ish. I have to summon this elevator so I can continue deeper into the level. These guys, who will have a lot more voices and humor in them by the time we release, they’re like, “Not on my watch. Not before 5PM. Not before the bell. Not while I’m here.” He’ll keep sending this shit back.
But if I’m using this, my bouncy Jawbreaker, I can add rubber bands, and each band I add will give a bounce to his capability. This is where it works well for the side-scrolling platformer style. These will go plink-plink and bounce around. If I get it in there, that’s a non-lethal takedown. It could have been lethal.
We spent a lot of time on the camera system so it’s more informative to the player. It has a more choreographed way about it. We’re able to have that sense of gameplay that’s familiar, but expand the dimensions of it with more of a Z and curved entrance into it.
GamesBeat: It’s a little like the latest Trials game. It’s still side-scrolling, but it has more of a Z dimension to it. A train comes at you from that direction.
Lanning: Yeah, we do that too. That’s coming up. With Brew, the thing about Brew is that we wanted to have a really flammable type of force that you could control and manipulate. If I had just a bottle cap, that would provoke a spark here. That’ll start to burn. I can spread this through ceilings, through other areas. At the same time, this is one of the reasons I have fire extinguishers. I can also spray my guys and make them fire-repellent.
I can take my fire extinguisher into the crafting and add some Brew, add a lighter, and add a battery and some wires. That gives me a flamethrower. Now I can put my fire extinguisher here and a flamethrower there. Flamethrowers are very dangerous. They have an amazing ability to stick to most everything. Here’s another case where I can’t go any further. If I try to open that electrical gate, that guy would keep it firing. I have to deal with him.
Let’s make one of these, assign it here — got him. Now I can go onward. With puzzles we’re learning to get more into action as part of the puzzles, rather than just twitch timing. We want you to be able to explore these environments, even though these are the guys you’re supposed rescue. You can walk around, navigate it all, figure out what’s going. You’re not under any real threat.
Each of these things up here is a guard tower. If it has a number five, there’s five guys in there that could be summoned out under certain conditions. We wanted a more emergent level. You have the ability to explore and do all these things, but once you start rescuing guys and pulling them off their jobs, everything changes. Once they drop their hats and they become followers, the whole place starts lighting up. Alarms, scary lights, scary guards coming out. The world starts emerging on you.
Anything I’ve crafted, if we go back into this, I can take over to my followers. Say I want to give my followers a bunch of Brews to throw. I’ll give them a bunch of bottlecaps to throw and start fires. I want to craft some Molotov cocktails, so I can take a bottle and a dirty rag and a lighter and craft a bunch of those. I’ll gift those to my followers real quick and then make a few for myself. I’ll craft up some Fizzy Pops too. I can increase the power of these by adding Blastos. And then of course I can keep powering these up through more and more levels, but this is good enough to demonstrate.
Some of this stuff, you can have fun trying to figure out how far you can get into different areas. These things have a lot of capability. One thing I can do is assign my guys to become more aggressive. Even if I’m not fighting, they’ll fight for me. When threats come along they’ll start to throw stuff and take them out. I have a mob that I’m working with now. There, they got him. The world stays more persistent in that respect. I’ll blow away some of these floors. My goal is to get as many of these guys out alive as I can.
Now I’m going to go through a gauntlet. This elevator has what we call air supply delivery cannons. Then I suddenly have an air cannon, like a potato cannon. Anything you’ve got in your inventory, you can use with that. You, as the player, have the inventory cannon, but the Mudokons you’ve armed are your support cover. As I go through here, the world’s going to wake up again. All the alarms go off. We wanted to get this real feeling of mayhem going on, a storm of visual effects from all the consumer products, lots of pinks and greens.
Each of my Mudokons also has keys, so they get me further into the level. I’ll grab some more of these guys. You notice that they have much more agility than in our previous games. I’ll blow a hole through the floor and let them shoot on out. My guys can find their own way, or I can leave them anywhere, like in a tower defense situation. Now I’ll pull this down and take them into the next level.
I’ll go through another one of these gauntlets, so I’ll want to arm these guys up real fast with more of these. I’ll gift those to my followers. First I need to take away these bottlecaps, take away water. We don’t need that. Instead I’ll give them all of my Fizzy Pops. I’ll get by with crafting up some more of these. Not as sensational, but they work. Now you see that all of my followers are represented by this icon on the lower right of the screen. I lost one guy in that battle. That didn’t work out so well.
Here I come to the train crossing. Recruit a couple more guys here, let’s go. C’mon, hurry up, hurry up! Just keeping that pressure on. Oh, shit! No! I’m so sorry. God, that was just brutal. All that work. C’mon, guys, hurry up! Get out of the way! And then this gets us into terminal 2. Here I’ve gotten a cheat charm. These open up a different store, which is basically the metaphysical store.
At the end of each level, if you choose to have this display on, it’ll give you a full tally of your stats, the achievements, whether you found the secret areas, everything that’s happening. Each of these saved and you can go back and play each level and master the achievements, master your karma, do your speedruns. There’s a whole series of bronze, silver, gold, platinum, diamond. Then, if you get all diamond, we’ll open up a couple more achievements per level.
The first playthrough, we estimate that to be viable it has to be a minimum of about 12 hours. But the people who are milking it, there’s more than 100 hours that you can spend.
GamesBeat: How much of it is in that kind of environment, the factory? Is it a lot of the game? Or do we see different places like the train?
Lanning: Oh, yeah. We start off in a hideout, with some more native environments. You escape that towering inferno. Then we go into old, abandoned towns that are a little more like Stranger, these old mill towns and mining towns. We have ancient ruins, pretty spooky-looking areas. We wind up at gas stations for trains, big fuel depots. Then we go to a Slix barracks and the Necromines, a mining factory that’s built on top of a graveyard, basically. They’re mining the bones. That’s the other secret ingredient in the Brew.
You need to hijack the train in the train level so you can carry your 300 guys from the previous game and keep them safe while you’re on the run. You’re stacking them all up. At the end of the game, if you played it perfectly, you’ll probably wind up with about 1,300 saved Mudokons. But you could have zero. The idea is you could play the game and kill everybody, with a really terrible karma count, or you could play the game and kill nobody, with the ultimate, most positive, new-agey type of friendly touchy-feely run.
GamesBeat: How similar would you say this is to the original gameplay?
Lanning: With the original gameplay, Abe could sneak, run, jump, and do the basic moves he was doing here. But he didn’t have an inventory system. You could only play through with one guy at a time in the original game, too. When we remade that with New and Tasty, all the guys in the level could follow you at one time, which was really taken from Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus.
In the original game, you could throw something, but it was just like, “I need to solve this puzzle. There’s an item I have to find in this room and then I can throw it.” But it wasn’t an inventory item you could carry with you to other places. It had no accounting system either, no wallet. It was really about what level you’re in, how fast you get through, and how many Mudokons you could save. That was the basis of it.
Now we’ve really gone off on the collecting, the exploring, finding secret areas, and community. Healing guys you find that are dying, crafting antidotes, crafting things with medicinal properties.
One thing you’re not seeing here, if you’re a completionist, the leaderboards that come up at the very end — if you want to get perfect platinum badges and compare that to the rest of the community, or zero deaths for slaves, or zero deaths for yourself, all of those things are different verticals you can play along and explore. That’s one of the big motivators. I want to see how I beat everyone.
This is what we’ve been doing. We thought that were in a fairly good position to make a more unique offering to the crowd, because it’s this far along. We don’t plan on giving out a playable. We just plan on dosing them with more information throughout the year, without blowing too much about the world.