Formed in 1994 by special effects and computer animation veterans Sherry McKenna and Lorne Lanning, Oddworld Inhabitants is dedicated to creating the next generation of interactive entertainment.
Through its existing catalogue, Oddworld has mixed a potent brew of Hollywood artistry with rock solid gameplay to produce experiences rich in emotionality, empathy and entertainment value. Combined sales of the company’s products are in excess of six million units and climbing.
Oddworld is introducing a collection of characters set in a common universe, sharing the highest standards of creativity, quality and unforgettable personality. More than actors in a play, the inhabitants of Oddworld are A.L.I.V.E.: Aware Lifeforms In Virtual Entertainment® with their own physical needs, emotional quirks and unforgettable personalities.
Our mission is simple: for Oddworld’s Inhabitants to live in every home.
Oddworld Inhabitants’ Lorne Lanning was classically trained as a painter of fine art, but came to realize that the mediums most influential on popular opinion were becoming electronic and mass-distributed. He graduated from the California Institute of the Arts with a BFA in Character Animation and eventually found himself working on feature films, advertisements, station idents and motion-based attractions at award-winning Hollywood visual effects studio Rhythm and Hues. It was here he met Sherry McKenna, already a successful producer, who he persuaded first to work at Rhythm and Hues then, eventually, to co-found a videogame company with him.
This persuasion took two years to accomplish. To Sherry, videogames were ugly, confusing and boistrous, but once Lorne had promised they could not only design a graphically beautiful, intuitively controlled game with a captivating and meaningful story, but also get it funded, developed and published, Sherry agreed to the idea. In September 1994, Oddworld Inhabitants was born.
Lorne’s original vision was to create a series of five videogames, the Oddworld Quintology, with each game introducing a new hero who would join the existing band of revolutionaries on their journey to put an end to the exploitation of cultures, people and the natural world by profiteering capitalists. It would culminate with five heroes in the consumer metropolis, but it would start with a hapless laborer in a third-world meat factory: Abe was a layperson in every way. He wasn’t strong or popular or educated, but he had the conviction to fight to make a difference when he realized just what a crapsack world he lived in. SoulStorm had already received a fantastic response from its private screening at the second-ever E3 in 1996 when it was renamed Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee under the advisement of its new publishers, GT Interactive.
Abe’s Oddysee shipped in September 1997 and work began on a direct sequel, Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus. Not technically part of the Quintology but a bonus title adding to the Oddworld mythos, Exoddus reused and built up on the Inhabitants’ game engine and assets to tell a bigger story for Abe and explore new areas of Oddworld before the release of the next generation of games consoles, which woud be required to properly bring to life the true second Quintology title, Munch’s Oddysee. Taking heed of the comments of critics and fans, Abe’s Exoddus scrapped unpopular elements, introduced a better save feature, and gave Mudokons a range of emotions and conditions for Abe to play psychologist with before he could lead them to freedom. Abe’s Exoddus was released in November 1998.
With years of conceptual design already behind it, work started on Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee in earnest, a revolutionary title combining action, adventure, role-playing, stategy and simulation, with vehicle-driving, critter-husbandry, environmental management and exploitable addictions, day cycles and class struggles. The gameplay moved from 2D to 3D, the platform from PlayStation 2 to Xbox, the publisher from GT Interactive (taken over by Infogrames) to Microsoft. Unfortunately, technical and time restrictions meant that the final game released in November 2001 fell far short of the Inhabitants’ original vision. It didn’t take the unsympathetic reviews or disappointed fans for the game to break Lorne’s heart; Oddworld Inhabitants decided the market was right to set the Quintology to one side and explore new sides to Oddworld.
Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath was a departure from the series’ established reputation as puzzle-platforming, with no appearance or mention of Abe or Munch. Gone too was the meek protagonist and black-and-white ideology, but the story and landscape were inescapably Oddworld, and for all the Stranger’s muscle and ammo he was no less at the bottom of the food chain and fighting to free his land from industrial ravage. Stranger’s Wrath was released in February 2005.
Oddworld Inhabitants closed its internal game development studio later in 2005 to persue a more traditional Hollywood model of outsourcing production to other companies. Although their debut feature film project was scuppered by the economic downturn of 2008, Oddworld games were made available on digital distribution services, eventually forming the Oddboxx collection of all four existing titles. Through this the Inhabitants formed a symbiotic bond with UK developer Just Add Water, who has seized the reins of Oddworld ever since.
Just Add Water have released Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD on PlayStation®3, PlayStation®Vita and PC; and Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee HD on PS3, coming soon to PS Vita and PC. The team is now firmly focused on Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee New ‘n’ Tasty, a 2.5D remake of the original 1997 game that is expected to release in the Holiday season of 2013.