Oddworld’s Lanning Quits – Savages EA

The end of an era as seminal gamesmith departs.

Posted by Staff
Oddworld’s Lanning Quits – Savages EA
Lorne Lanning of Oddworld Inhabitants has savaged publishing giant Electronic Arts, cancelled all current projects and will be leaving the games industry, it emerged last night.

The shock news came in the form of an interview in the Hollywood Reporter in which Lanning expresses complete disenchantment with an industry of which once he was a shining light.

“[Stranger’s Wrath] wasn't advertised or marketed because Electronic Arts couldn't get its PlayStation 2 port of our Xbox original to run and if EA isn't on all SKUs, it just won't promote the game,” stated a clearly distressed Lanning. “It was very disheartening to us that we could have a title with a user metric of 9.6 [out of 10], a game that was praised as being a fusion of filmmaking and video games in terms of being less 'gamey' and more story and character-driven ... and then to see that the largest publisher in the industry had no interest in marketing it regardless of how innovative it was.” It's an incredible attack, perhaps the most vicious assault on the practices of the world’s biggest third-party publisher from a senior source.

Lanning’s bitterness at the games industry and its base business model also came in for a roasting. “If you speak to any developer and they don't tell you they have the same frustrations that I had, they're lying. We closed the studio because of what the realities of the marketplace are. There is currently only one financing model in the games industry, and that is that the publisher pays for the entire game; it handles the manufacturing, the marketing, the distribution, the advertising, practically everything, much the way it used to be in Hollywood pre-United Artists. But, as the film industry matured, it took on a more sophisticated financing structure. Today, for example, studios don't pay for a movie by themselves. They pay a percentage and then other parties pick up the other 66%; it's usually a three-party investment package. But not in the games industry. And so, as a developer, you have limited options in terms of how many parties are actually willing to finance your games, what types of games they are willing to finance, and what are the terms you face as a third-party developer to get that financing. That's not a very exciting climate”, said Lanning, echoing concerns that developers across the globe have been voicing for years.

Although until recently, the super-big name studios - studios with a mass-market recognition level bigger than most publishers - had been thought somewhat immune from the problem of finding flexible funding.

It would seem that EA paid little notice to OH’s status, though the decision to withdraw almost all marketing support from Stranger’s Wrath is utterly stunning.

We’ll bring you more on this story, and an outline of what lies ahead for the Inhabitants of Oddworld, in the coming days.

And do let us know what you think in our forum.

Comments

Showing the 20 most recent comments. Read all 21.
ann0uk 18 Apr 2005 13:30
2/21
Yes you are right, EA are ruining this industry. Something has to be done and things have to change because all i see when i enter a game shop are the same s**t games.
Where is the innovation? EA obviously dont want to risk on innovation and have chosen to remain a company that produces very mundane games.
I always wanted to be a game developer and now i am at the end of my degree in computer animation i no longer want to be. The cost of producing games is getting bigger and bigger, this is leading to small companies going broke because they cannot afford the cost of producing a game.
If things dont change soon then this market is going to become a lot smaller. Customers will only take the same old crap for so long.
Bender 18 Apr 2005 13:42
3/21
ann0uk wrote:
Customers will only take the same old crap for so long.


Customers like myself have taken the same old crap for too long already. EA cannot be blamed explicitly for this though. They are, after all, a business out to make money.

I agree with you. There will be a turning point at some stage and re-hashes will just not be enough to keep EA profitable. Perhaps by that stage it will be too late.

It's sort of the reason why i'm not a fan of the PSP. I like the machine but the games are mostly EA re-hashes (from what i've seen)... and really, who's going to keep buying that stuff? Not me anyway.

The 2 Oddworld games i played (the original and the first xbox game) weren't that great but I am always sad to see any game developer close its doors.
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Mendez 18 Apr 2005 13:51
4/21
ann0uk wrote:
Customers will only take the same old crap for so long.


Sorry. Are you refering to EA or Oddworld Inhabitants?

I personally believe that both parties are guilty of this particular crime.
OptimusP 18 Apr 2005 15:41
5/21
Maybe sir Lanning should knock on the door of a Japanese developer... they like quirky innovative stuff.
Maybe the big on starting with a N
Joji 18 Apr 2005 15:51
6/21
Yes i noticed the PSP EA thing too. EA are a large company but instead of creating something fresh on the DS they push out ports of Tiger Woods, and an NFL game. The art of laziness isn't becoming of such a large outfit.

The PSP makes their job way too easy the way they want it because they can just port a lot of dross over quickly. Do notice that FIFA is almost identical to the PS2 version and will no doubt be pushed out the door quickly for xmas. We cry for original games and they ggive us EA vs Marvel (it's a beat em up on the way but might as well be a corporate buy em up.). The thought of another western beat em up is scary. Midway had to earn their beat em up stripes and have done it well with Mortal Kombat but also the fantastic Ready 2 Rumble series. I really don't EA beating them at all. The rest I'll leave to the japanese.

So it's either gobble the talented developers like Criterion etc and then somehow put the rest out of business. I think the gaming mags are not doing enough to highlight what these closures could mean in the long run to the gamers out there. Can't even remember the last time the mainstream press picked up on it either if ever.

Joji 18 Apr 2005 15:55
7/21
Good idea. I'm sure he'l be looking to sort something now he has no ties and E3 is just round the corner. I think some of his games would do well with Nintendo if tweaked more. Perhaps he might look at startin somethin new altogether.

Ditto 18 Apr 2005 17:42
8/21
Joji wrote:

So it's either gobble the talented developers like Criterion etc and then somehow put the rest out of business.


I think you're being a bit hard on EA. They didn't "gobble" Criterion, Criterion and EA felt they would mutually benefit from a takeover - Criterion gets money to develop its games and technology and EA doesn't pay to use the technology.

Everyone knows EA create trash. But then again a vast majority of developers now create crap games. They're no worse or no better.

Personally I'm still glad to see EA as an independant force in gaming - they provide a starting place for talent and the industry needs that - do you see anyone else offering industry work placements in gaming to help get people started?

The real crunch will come when Microsoft gets it's monopoly.
Pilot13 18 Apr 2005 19:25
9/21
My friend told me that he had ditched the gaming industry altogether and he's moving to the film industry. Probably a better place for his anti-corporate message so heavy in every oddworld game. I haven't played Stranger's Wrath but I'm very tempted to now, just to show EA there is a demand. Plus it's meant to be a good game.
shediesinred 18 Apr 2005 20:05
10/21
I’ve been saying that for a while.. I HATE EA with a passion , I think they are the worst video game developer on the planet. I refuse to buy anything with the EA logo on it. They are ruining the industry, they are afraid of innovation.. the only games they make are sequals and ports of the endless sports games they make. They stick to whats safe, they purchase developers with talent and then turn their games into mediocre garbage. Thank god there are still a few companys like Bioware, Capcom, Pandemic, and especially Nintendo who still put out new, fresh ideas. I also love Ubisoft, although they have been putting out a fair amount of sequals, they are usually much different each time around, and games like Beyond good and evil show that the’ve still got creative ideas
westerhive5 18 Apr 2005 21:22
11/21
Bring Oddworld over to Nintendo consoles. It's the only port into consumer hardware gaming that still is about overall satisfaction and innovation. I don't think EA should take all of the blame, although a large target does seem to be fittingly slapped right on their foreheads. The overall commercialism of the games industry is killing the ability to make wholly original products. It's self-destructing, and should have had a collapse of sort by now. Why hasn't it? Because the market is expanding so rapidly, consumers haven't had a chance to stop and see that they're buying the same game 5 times. And developers and designers are being forced to use the same "winning" formula over and over because people are buying it. And with two HUGE players with limitless wallets, the industry is stretching to the point of true inflation. If more things like this happen, you may just see a true revolution as far as a strong "indie" development union. As consumers, this is our fault, what we buy is what the companies think we like, and they won't change unless our actions do. Dump the Medal of Honor's and the GTA's and buy yourself a DS.
Joji 18 Apr 2005 22:54
12/21
What you speak is the truth Westerhive5. It's also the reason I try to buy the choicest games available, because I like to make sure my money goes to developers that I feel deserve it more. Now a lot of my games are japanese and there is a reason why that will always be, they are the following.

-The japanese think about the product first than the money. From the view of large dvelopers like SquareEnix they know how to manage their money but from the smallest kind of japanese outfit like say Nippon Ichi. It's this kind of dedication that keeps the DC still getting games in japan, the latest being shoot em up Trizeal.

-To think of the game first takes passion, this is something the japanese have a lot of and something we lack sometimes. If a game wasn't possible at EA because they didn't want to take the risk, lack of taking a risk becomes a risk itself. If big wig don't wanna put game B into production there is no reason why an employee couldn't work and flesh the idea out at home in free time, after all it's been binned. It's this kind of thinking we need.

When I see a game like I'll get it, regardless who it's from, east or west.
Pilot13 19 Apr 2005 00:31
13/21
I also love Ubisoft, although they have been putting out a fair amount of sequals, they are usually much different each time around, and games like Beyond good and evil show that the’ve still got creative ideas


I'm beginning to like UbiSoft a lot. I thought for a while games like Splinter Cell were just cheap cash ins on the current craze for stealth games (which is thankfully passing) but when you look at the latest one for example there is a lot of innovation in such a commercial genre. You could decide to go gung-ho and ignore the alarms, or you could literally sneak everywhere and kill everyone by stabbing them, or alternatively just walk past... And that's ignoring the multiplayer.

Also I heard a while back that the guy in charge of Beyond Good & Evil went to Ubisoft with his concerns that Jade didn't look old enough and wanted a little more time just to sort out her appearance a little (she was meant to be apart of a revoloution or something). Turns out UbiSoft were happy to let them have the extra time. In fact UbiSoft gave them like another year or something. A far cry from the rush rush modus operandi we've been hearing about EA.
ann0uk 19 Apr 2005 02:01
14/21
Yes i think Ubisoft are doing a great job, EA are sniffing around them though.
What ever happened to Britain? we used to make some brilliant games, but now we have fallen into that trap of making the same stuff.
I am not interested in buying games anymore and it is true that we only have ourselves to blame for the state of the market. The majority of gamers buy the same crap time and time again, i am so sick of seeing the countless sequels from EA, especially in their sports lineup.
We need to embrace something new, but the average gamer now only buys the same stuff, this is going to force good innovative companies out.
Pilot13 19 Apr 2005 11:02
15/21
The vast majority of British game developers either closed or got bought out. Which is why the SCI acquisition of Eidos is so interesting.
tyrion 19 Apr 2005 13:31
16/21
ann0uk wrote:
What ever happened to Britain? we used to make some brilliant games, but now we have fallen into that trap of making the same stuff.

The reason the UK, Scandinavia and Europe were such a hotbed of programming innovation was due to home computers being the dominant form of gaming hardware in the 80s and early 90s.

From the Speccy and C64 to the ST and Amiga, home computers in the 80s and 90s came with a version of the BASIC language. This encouraged kids to learn to code and to write games for themselves. These kids went on to become the games coders of the 90s and early 00s.

By comparison, in America consoles were the dominant form of gaming hardware. No BASIC, no early wish to code.

Now PCs and Macs do not come bundled with any sort of programming language and consoles are dominant in the UK, Scandinavia and Europe. This has led to a decline in early interest in coding.

Now you usually only get to code when you decide to commit to a programming course at school, college or university. This is a much higher cost of entry into a coding career and is a larger commitment than trying coding as a hobby you can always drop because you didn't pay any extra to get into it.

I have said this before, and I'll keep saying it, the lack of a programming language at an early age is depriving the games industry, and software engineering in general, of talented developers who would code for fun.

The only thing that is stopping the copmplete collapse of the developer career path is the web. The wish to have a cool website using JavaScript, ASP or PHP is probably the only opportunity most kids get to try coding these days.
Pilot13 19 Apr 2005 16:43
17/21
I completely agree, there's this website I still visit www.div-arena.com which was the community place for a DOS based programming language called DIV. Most of the people there now are doing Computer degrees in programming because DIV was their hobby.
DoctorDee 19 Apr 2005 17:24
18/21
Adam M wrote:
I'm still glad to see EA as an independant force in gaming - they provide a starting place for talent and the industry needs that - do you see anyone else offering industry work placements in gaming to help get people started?


But EA don't offer placements for the good of the student. They offer them for the same reasons any other company does, to try and identify and ensnare the best students before other companies get a chance...

It's all part of the capitalist mill, where individuals are just grist. There's only room for corporate profit, not altruism.

But that aside, Oddworld Inhabitant's Lorne Lanning has given SPOnG an exclusie interview to clear up what he claims was misrepresentation by Hollywood Reporter - read it here.
kid_77 19 Apr 2005 22:15
19/21
DoctorDee wrote:
It's all part of the capitalist mill, where individuals are just grist. There's only room for corporate profit, not altruism.


Bloody socialist scum. Shoot the bone-idle Unions I say, etc.
TigerUppercut 20 Apr 2005 08:59
20/21
Bah, you beat me to it.

Had to share this with you, from an email from Lorne:

OOOPS! Stefan, please note this correction as I just spotted it. (DOH! Man, I hope I caught this in time.)

In my response, my text said...

"That's where we're headed and that definately does rule out involvement in videogame productions."

It was a typo and should have said...

"That's where we're headed and that definately does NOT rule out involvement in videogame productions."

Lorne


So Nearly pulled a Vanity Fair Toby Young!
Ditto 20 Apr 2005 09:23
21/21
DoctorDee wrote:

But EA don't offer placements for the good of the student. They offer them for the same reasons any other company does, to try and identify and ensnare the best students before other companies get a chance...


I know, but it still gives people a way of getting in. There doesn't appear to be any other way of breaking in now.

And a lot of people seem to stay with EA before breaking off and setting up studios (which will probably then be taken over by EA sometime in the future).
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