The lights are on
In April of 2005, Game Informer announced Oddworld Inhabitants’ newest game: The Brutal Ballad of Fangus Klot. However, just as the issue left for the printers, Oddworld Inhabitants abruptly shut down production and closed its doors. The development studio had long pleased fans with creative and humorous titles such as Abe’s Oddysee and Stranger’s Wrath, often weaving smart social commentary throughout its storylines. Fangus Klot looked to be its most ambitious venture; it featured a darker tone, a more intense combat system, and was poised to take on real-world issues still relevant today. So why did its developer suddenly put the game on the shelf? Oddworld mastermind Lorne Lanning answered our questions about the lost Oddworld title, the trouble with publishers, and the future of gaming.
[Story originally appeared in Game Informer Issue 194]
What was the original idea behind Fangus Klot?
We wanted to explore some other territories of Oddworld. We had always created this idea of a planet that multiple things can take place on, multiple possibilities. On Earth we can have Eskimos on one continent, on another we have tribes in Africa, and in others there are New York City and Tokyo. All these different worlds exist on one world. So we wanted to head somewhere radically different from the Oddworld characters we knew, move away from the quirky edge, and take things somewhere more hardcore.
What we were inspired by at the time – I was watching these documentaries of these Russian cities that were basically prison cities, which were discovered after the Cold War. These cities were built in this Siberian climate or a mining area, and there would be 10 million living in the city. Everyone was a prisoner. They would build these prison cities to become sort of their own economy. They had their systems of justice, but if you were in that city, you were basically a prisoner. You didn’t get to leave that city. What blew us away was the idea that there would be entire territories that were basically imprisoned.
At the same time we wanted to play with another dynamic, the timeless mythical battle between cats and dogs – immortal, timeless enemies forever. In a general sense, Oddworld had these Homosapien-like creatures that had evolved out of dogs and cats. They’ve become intelligent, become strong, and built civilizations, but the timeless battle of cats and dogs still existed. The hatred between them was still to the bone. It’s kind of like Oddworld’s version of Palestine and Israel.
We wanted it to be really hardcore. When I say cats and dogs it sounds kind of light-hearted, but that’s not what we wanted, and I think the cover of Fangus Klot illustrates that. We wanted to take Stranger’s engine and basically re-skin something more hardcore, not have live ammo, and just be like, “Here’s a guy fighting for his life, for his people, for his territory, and the escape of his land being taken over.”
Sounds like you guys invested a lot into the game’s history.
Yeah, the idea of what is happening here – this canine-ish race had been like sheepherders. They’d been closer to the land, a little bit more aboriginal. Think of them a bit like – not so much Native American – but very indigenous in that respect. Very close to the Earth. Herdsman. They were nomadic. They moved with their herds.
Whereas with this other race – the cats – we were fascinated about playing with this idea of the Russian mafia. This post-war, Russian intelligence gone rogue into mafia and criminal behavior. Fangus Klot was a nomadic herdsman who had a huge flock, but that was his previous life. His country had since been invaded by this Russian mafia – this cat race.
If you think about all the Oddworld voices and stuff, imagine hardcore gameplay, but when you come around corners and surprise one of these heavily armed feline-evolved characters, you hear this “Hssssss! Rwaaar!” The cat noises would be intertwined with their language – barking, growling, hissing – and that timeless hatred we would encapsulate with Russian mafia sensibility where they basically took over this entire territory and enslaved it. They were setting up these catnip labs, which for them were kind of like meth labs.
So the main character, Fangus, became a slave to this new government?
Well, they were making fodder out of those who lived on this land before. If you remember New Jack City, it was kind of like that. His people were in the labs, but others, like Fangus, were relegated to pit fighting for entertainment. It’s kind of like gladiators for a post-Soviet era of collapse and corruption of unimaginable magnitudes.
I wanted to have this really dark tone of industrial civilization coming into what was basically – almost like Afghanistan has been in tradition. For thousands of years it lived the same way, it had sheepherders, crop growers and things like that. Then all of a sudden it turns into this whole other country, which is illicit drug trade and hardcore bastards that couldn’t give a s--- about anything but themselves.
That is the theme of Fangus Klot. As the later designs started coming in, we started giving the design team more latitude with the project, and the team wanted to go more humanoid. We started seeing designs that were coming out that way. At that point, I thought if we continued in that direction, it wouldn’t be on Oddworld. It would become its own place. If [our characters] were going to start looking like bald humans then it would not be an Oddworld game. It would be somewhere else, not even in the Oddworld universe. In some ways, it held less appeal for me that way.
Fans of Stranger’s Wrath might be interested to know
that living ammo – the mechanic that gave the game such a unique flavor –
wasn’t going to return in Fangus. In its place, Oddword Inhabitants was
developing a herd management system. Fangus would control a flock of
ravenous sheep-like creatures to take down enemies and solve puzzles.
Destructible environments also played a large part of the now defunct
Email the author Ben Reeves, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.