Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee Preview

Oddworld Inhabitant's wonderkid Lorne Lanning spoke with videogames.com about Munch's Oddysee, answering all of our prying questions

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It's official. Munch's Oddysee, the second game in the Oddworld quintology (Abe's Exoddus was actually an offshoot of the first Abe's Oddysee game, not the next in the "series") will arrive on the PlayStation 2. Oddworld Inhabitant's wonderkid Lorne Lanning spoke with videogames.com about Munch's Oddysee, answering all of our prying questions. First, why did they wait for the PlayStation 2?

"We didn't go real-time 3D on the current systems because we never want to give up high image quality and lifelike animations. We want our characters to look like they come from lush lands of Oddworld, not from the land of low polys. Munch's Oddysee will be in real-time 3D, but it will do it in ways that have not been done yet, and it will look awesome. We are pushing the gamespeak, emotions, character navigations, and character AI to completely new places. This game will feel eerie in how lifelike it is and how alive and aware the characters seem to be. We are successfully merging more game genres into a single experience, and we are doing it in a most natural and intuitive way," said Lanning.

In a word, we asked Lanning who is Munch? Same race as Abe or different? "You have yet to see Munch," said Lanning. "He is a new character who has a codependent relationship with Abe. Each of them has his own set of problems. They are the oddest couple but compliment one another in a hilarious way. Munch is similar to Abe in that he is an unlikely hero who is also 'hanging at the bottom of the food chain and slipping fast.' Munch is the last survivor of his species, but he's living in a pharmaceutical research company. Why? Well, Gabbit lungs made good transplants for Glukkons who've had lung cancer. Lots of Glukkons get lung cancer, so there was a pretty big demand for Gabbit lungs. There was also a huge demand for the very expensive dish known as Gabbiare, which is made from Gabbit eggs. Thus, Gabbiare also added to the near extinction of the Gabbits.

"Overall, Munch would rather live life without all the hassles, but he still winds up getting caught up in the cause. As it turns out, it's Abe's cause that Munch winds up getting caught up in. You will play both Munch and Abe. They have different abilities so you will need to figure out whom is best for achieving your immediate goals," said Lanning.

Lanning also told us about the Munch's storyline. Abe's Exoddus, the Abe's Oddysee off-shoot, featured Abe again, trying to get the Mudokons safely out of their Soulstorm Brew-induced delirium and the Farm where their bones are being used for the Brew. But Munch's is the next phase, remember. Here's what Lanning had to say.

"Munch's story is a bit more involved than the previous stories that have come from Oddworld, but it's just as, if not even more strange than the Abe stories that have come before. This is not only in terms of the movies, but also in terms of how it affects play. It's also very exciting to be able to make our CG movies and audio at DVD quality (30 fps) with digital surround sound. So we are aiming at pumping up the power of the imagery and improving the animation quality over all."The most obvious difference between Munch and our past games is that Munch's Oddysee is in full real-time 3D. The major difference is that our previous games tended to be puzzle-oriented and more game-like than life-like. Munch's Oddysee will be far more focused on world simulation and the behaviors of characters and eco-systems to achieve much more living impressions. We are simulating entire life cycles for all the characters in the world, all the communities, and even the landscape. We are truly going for a World simulation approach rather than gauntlet types of puzzles. Super advanced behavioral, simulation, and social chemistry models are happening in Munch's world. You will be able to gamespeak around and manipulate a large number of characters in order to have them do your bidding and re-shape your landscape. Gamespeak will also become much more highly evolved and smarter, but much simpler to understand and make use of."

Speaking of gamespeak, Abe's Exoddus introduced an extension of the speech found in the first game. In the original Oddysee, for example, you "spoke" with or to one Mudokon at a time. So if you had to move five of them into another area, you had to keep returning for the next. In Exoddus, you were able to command an entire group at the same time. Lanning explained what we can expect from Munch's Oddysee.

" Gamespeak is expanding greatly, as are the numbers of characters that you will be able to control in the game. So there are a variety of different languages, as well as some that are more musical. There will be different languages and also some new gamespeak tricks that we've not even touched on before. We also believe that gamespeak will be much simpler to use, while at the same time delivering many more possibilities and entertaining payoffs," said Lanning.

So, you'll play as Munch and Abe, but the enemies are a major part of what makes Oddworld unique. Especially since you communicate with them in many cases, instead of just blowing them away at first glance. "Virtually all of the enemies from our previous games will re-appear in the new 3D world," said Lanning. "But they will be greatly evolved from what was experienced in 32-bit. (Bats won't be coming back, as nearly everyone hated them, and we really try to learn from our mistakes). They will all have life cycle patterns that make them more like real living creatures rather than game enemies. Some of the new ones will be much larger in scale, some will have strange co-dependent relationships, some will be aquatic. You'll also start seeing a lot more herds and the like. The real nasties will be the Vykkers scientists and doctors. These guys are very twisted."

While the creatures may be otherworldly, some of the items in the game will not be. Everyday objects such as ATM cards will have something to do with the gameplay, although Oddworld wants to hold a little bit of info back, considering the game isn't due out for about one year. Lanning did, however, tell us about the environments and some of the vehicles.

"There will be vehicles (land and air) in the game--all of which you will be able to control. Some will help herd creatures, some will collect goods, some will be for conflicts. For Munch, he has a mechanical port in his skull (compliments of the Vykkers Doctors) that allows him to "possess" mechanical devices like specialized robots.

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