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Weekly Musings #36 Bye Bye Oddworld
Author: Michael Ahlf 
Date: April 18th 2005

This weekend, Lorne Lanning officially killed off Oddworld Inhabitants.

I'm not going to say that the decision was made lightly, because I can't be in close enough to know that. Nor do I deny that his arguments - especially regarding how games are made, funded, and published these days - have validity.

That being said, I think this is horrible. Without fail or exception, the Oddworld franchise has been a joy for gamers. The first two Oddworlds were brilliant. The third had a decent story and gameplay, marred only by some questionable camera setups. Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath was absolutely beautiful to play, and the "live ammo" feature was a nifty twist. It deserved all the critical acclaim that it garnered, and then some.

However, this is a serious blow to gamers as a whole. Games are unlike any other medium out there, in that they're interactive. Players make choices, and that affects what happens; maybe not in the grand storyline, but in the intervening moments, players are free to explore. While it's true that the same technology can make a television show or a movie, it's not necessarily the same thing from a storytelling experience. Really and truly, playing Oddworld was about exploration and trying out new and nifty ideas as much as it was watching the storylines unfold.

The reasons he gave are numerous, but they're nothing we as gamers haven't heard before. Development costs are up. Next-generation hardware requires more and more people to code the same gameplay. Publishing companies refuse to promote games that they can't get for every platform. Selling a game is hard unless you can say "well it's like X", with X being a previous big-name title. Publishers, not developers, own the intellectual property.

On the downside, such terms are much the same in the movie industry where he's going. Sure, funding can be acquired from multiple sources; but as available processing power goes up and other companies raise the bar for graphics, it takes more and more to create "acceptable" graphics in computer generated series or movies. Mr. Lanning looks at movies and says he can make something that looks three times as good as Toy Story for $35 million: sure he can. But he can't create The Incredibles or Cars or Shrek 2 for that, and that is where he'll need to be.

Intellectual Property? Well, unless you're Pixar or Disney or Miyamoto, forget it. You have to be big in the industry BEFORE you can own your own intellectual properties, and all one has to do to observe this reality is to look at Michael Eisner's constant threats a couple years back to destroy Toy Story by producing a smash-run of crappily animated, worse voiced, "Toy Story the TV Series" episodes or Toy Story sequels (think The Land Before Time direct-to-video sequels) if Pixar walked away from Disney.

As far as consolidation, sequel-itis, and the rest... who does he think he's kidding? Hollywood's got almost nothing these days. Remakes of old movies are the biggest-ticket item. Rehashes of the same old plotline have been the norm in "romantic comedy" forever. There are a few bright spots like Pixar, but beyond that, everyone's trying to make sequels. Trying to bring Oddworld, or something similar, into that arena means that barring a miracle, he'll be looking back 6-8 years from now and wondering why he's making yet another movie in this same old series.

I eagerly await what he does next, but in the meantime, I'm very disappointed. Gamers have just been cheated out of a rare and wonderful world to explore.

Got Comments? Send 'em to Michael (at)!
Alternatively, post 'em right here for everyone to see!





Musings #36: Bye Bye Oddworld

Added:  Monday, April 18, 2005
Reviewer:  Mike Ahlf


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