Issue: Volume: 28 Issue: 3 (March 2005)

The Art of Oddworld

Says production designer Silvio Aebischer of the imagery: “Regardless of its oddness, we try to follow nature closely, looking at its intricate workings, beauty, and behavior, and infuse that into our so-called Odd-creations.”

The Oddworld artists begin their creation process by forming rough ideas on paper, and then sketching them out in Photoshop. Later, the group transforms the concepts to 3D within Maya, where the team models and animates the imagery, before rendering and compositing it within Shake and Combustion.

For more than 10 years now, the digital artists at Oddworld Inhabitants have been making far more than game imagery; they have been creating digital fine art that just happens to appear in interactive environments. That accomplishment has been recognized time and again, from industry awards for the detailed work to international film festivals for the game animations. In addition, the developer’s second title, Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus, enjoyed a theatrical release in Los Angeles and was in contention for Oscar consideration in 1998. And, more recently, Oddworld’s fantastical creatures and backgrounds became the sole focus of a coffee-table book called The Art of Oddworld Inhabitants: The First Ten Years.

Oddworld’s four games are somewhat of an oddity in the gaming world in that the quality of the imagery, no matter how “different” the style, is just as important as the gameplay itself. According to company president and creative director Lorne Lanning, the game stories support the imagery rather than the other way around, and that is the key to what makes Oddworld‘s imagery more “artful” than that of most other games.

“It really isn’t that hard to impress people with great graphics these days, but to have art without purpose leaves you with, well, just nice graphics,” Lanning says. “Our images aren’t always pretty, but there’s always a purpose and a story behind every detail...such as the posture of Abe, the number of legs on a Gabbit, the color of the eyes of the Live Ammo, the stranger’s boots. We’d like to think that Oddworld gives players an entertaining experience, and a little something to gnaw on for a while once they’re done.”

A sampling of Oddworld game images appears on these two pages.
-Karen Moltenbrey

From Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath.

From Abe’s Oddysee.

From Abe’s Oddysee.

From Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath.

The creative style of the Oddworld game imagery is inspired by the company’s president and creative director, Lorne Lanning, who is a painter and illustrator. Lanning began studying fine art at the State University of New York (SUNY) before focusing on illustration at the School of Visual Arts in New York. He then supplemented these practices by studying animation and effects at the California Institute of the Arts. However, he claims his real education occurred at effects studio Rhythm and Hues, where he honed his skills.
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