It's been slightly over five years since Oddworld Inhabitants first announced the existence of Oddworld: Soulstorm. The game, a continuation of Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty! and a reimagining of Oddworld: Abe's Exoddus, was delayed multiple times, though at long last PC (through the Epic Games Store) and PlayStation players will get to play it on April 6th.
We recently chatted with series creator Lorne Lanning to discuss the specifics of this unexpectedly long development period, how that affected the final version of Oddworld: Soulstorm, and the developers' usage of PlayStation 5's features.
Oddworld: Soulstorm has been delayed a few times. Did your original vision for the game change or expand in any way because of this?
We expanded. We contracted. We just submitted Soulstorm for a first-party platform review,
which is very exciting. Once we decided on an early 2021 release date, we were able to focus
on what the final game would include. And though we made some cuts, in the end, what we
will deliver will have more content and gameplay than we originally planned.
Until recently, we funded the game’s development ourselves so it took longer to create. And
when we started we weren’t originally planning for the next generation. By 2019, we were fairly
sure our development would run smack into next-generation console releases, so it made sense
to work with Sony to create Soulstorm for PS5, which added more development time to
schedule. We had to learn new hardware, work with Unity on tools for the new hardware. It
was challenging, tiring, and oddly fun.
And though the creative journey was longer than originally anticipated, both for us and Abe’s
fans, it allowed us to try out new franchise features, explore mechanics that fit with the story,
and develop creative solutions to problems all developers run into when making games.
It’s odd, but this is what we live for as storytellers, new challenges that open up new avenues
for us to convey our story.
Why did you decide to go exclusive with PlayStation on consoles? Is this a timed deal and if so, will the game be available elsewhere afterward?
This is a timed PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4 system exclusive. PlayStation believed in us
and our game and was willing to financially support us in our development. It was a great
opportunity with a great partner. They have already proven to be amazing including us in
several of their digital showcases. I think us and maybe one or two others have been as
fortunate. The same goes for Epic Games Store. They have included us in several digital showcases
and the Game Awards. Our partners have been behind all the way.
How long will it take on average to complete Soulstorm?
Depends on your type of gaming. The game will be about 20 hours first playthrough, but if you are an achievement or stats hunter, you can easily spend dozens of hours enjoying Soulstorm where our previous games had nowhere near the replayability.
You've mentioned before that the PS5 enables you to enhance the game through 'stunning graphics fidelity, mind-blowing 3D audio, and the DualSense Controller'. Can you go into greater detail for each of these planned improvements for Oddworld: Soulstorm?
Our goal is to take advantage of specific PS5’s technical advancements that can increase a
player's emotional connection to Abe. Soulstorm runs at 60fps at 1440p on the PS5 and 1080p at 30fps on the PS4. The gameplay experience will be the same whether you play on PC, PS4, or PS5. PS5’s technical advancements do provide us the opportunity to add some additional features that increase visual fidelity from the PS5 and the emotional connection players will feel with Abe.
Using the Tempest Engine, PS5’s 3D audio allowed us to play with the game’s sound. Gameplay on every level takes advantage of spatial audio. The vast majority of sounds are positionally emitted except for instance where we need sound events to be 2D.
The DualSense controller brings several new functions that we felt would further increase a player’s emotional connection to the game’s characters. Imagine feeling the palpitations of Abe’s heartbeat increase in times of stress and danger. Or, experiencing resistance from the adaptive triggers when Abe has to push or fight against something.
Out of all these enhancements, which one is your personal favorite?
For us, it’s all about loading speed. The SSD on the PS5 is blisteringly fast. That is a game, pun intended, changer. The adaptive triggers are great. I was expecting a similar experience to previous PS controllers, but these allowed us to really build a stronger emotional connection between Abe and the player.
Also, the Game Hints activity cards are a lot cooler than we expected. The ability to give player hints along the way is really going to be helpful, especially with a game like ours which has a lot of puzzles to solve and more than one way to solve them most times.
What do you think about the impact of PS5's SSD on game development in general, anyway?
Anything that speeds up load times is a plus. Load times pull players out of the immersion. Everything in a game should serve the purpose of providing the most immersive experience and load times tend to pull you out of the game. SSE should help players keep players immersed.
Is there going to be a 'Performance Mode' option on PS5?
There isn’t a specific user-definable performance option. Soulstorm is adaptive and runs natively at 1440p 60fps on PS5. The UI supports 4K natively, the game will upsample to match the display device's resolution.
How will the PC maxed out version compare to the PS5 one of Soulstorm?
The PC and PS5 versions of the game are relatively the same. The differences in-game are due to features built into the PS5’s DualSense controller and the 3D audio, though I suspect if you have a great PC rig, you can experience similar audio.
Anything else you'd like fans to know about Oddworld: Soulstorm?
Soulstorm picks up where the original, and New ‘n’ Tasty, ended. The original was a dark storyline but underlined with hope. Abe’s story will continue as the quintology’s reluctant hero as the stakes and opposition rise against him. What’s funny is that the entire story of Abe remains relevant today, unfortunately for us earth inhabitants, and will probably always be relevant in that context.
When you consider how we first met Abe, he was a happy cog in the corporate machine. Believing the noble lies he was fed to keep up the good work, much like how millions of people are living today. Abe was happy in his ignorance of the real powers that puppeteer his reality. His only purpose was to serve a conglomerate of greed, and he had no idea that after his usefulness dried up it would consume him, quite literally, in the end.
In the process of creating contemporary myths or fables… Abe’s Oddysee/New ‘n’ Tasty, has a moment where Abe’s experience allows him to clearly see what is happening around him, not just what “big brother” tells him to see. And this changes his destiny, as it would for many of us. It is in that change where Abe’s journey begins. As with all revolutions, they build from unexpected places and take time. And to paraphrase a famous quote, the darkest hour is before dawn. It is safe to assume Soulstorm, as the second of a quintology, will have a darker tone to the storyline, but still retain the ability to laugh at ourselves throughout humorous gameplay.
Thank you for your time.