Co-founder of Oddworld Inhabitants and creator of the Oddworld games, Lorne Lanning, has made some very strong statements about virtual reality.
Despite the fact that he thinks the technology is game-changing, he also believes that most developers are jumping at VR despite not having any understanding of how to make a successful VR game. “A lot of [developers] are in lala land,” says Lanning. “They’re saying, ‘I’m going to do this and that and I’m going to change how you watch your music’ and it’s just like: no. No you’re not. They might be able to sell that to an investor that doesn’t know any better but that’s just not the nature of how this industry works.”
He makes reference to the VR fad back in the 80s to prove the point that people who take the wrong approach to VR, and don’t learn from the mistakes of the past, won’t be successful. “A lot of designers know nothing about VR, they don’t understand what we learnt and if they don’t get that right then they will fail,” he says.
It’s important to note at this point that Lanning knows what he’s talking about here. He used to help design big concept attractions for theme parks, so he knows how to work with new technologies. “We used to write big proposals for things like Euro Disney where they wanted 3D. We had to say what they needed to consider. We did that all very successfully, and these are all things you have to consider with VR,” he explains.
Lanning does acknowledge that the technology is far superior this time around (although it can lead to a “five hour headache” if done wrong) but he still points out that people need to develop their games specifically for VR, rather than thinking it can be applied to anything they create. “If you want to do your 3D around your space game that you already have it’s going to be an issue. One that’s not around that great tech, but around the design,” explains Lanning. “We’re going to see a lot of people that continue to blame this tech for their design problems.”
“When I listen to all these people that are so set that they are going to work on VR, I just know it’s not going to work. It’s not brain surgery, it’s just [developers] ignoring signs that we already learnt in other industries.”
He also mentions that health and safety have to be taken into consideration with a project involving VR. “This tech is really immersive, it means you gotta be at a safe setting and then that brings all these new safety issues which are really complicated. Designers really need to consider it because there really could be health effects. It reflects on you as a designer and I think it’s smart to do that,” says Lanning.
Lanning’s most recent project was the re-release of Abe’s Oddysee as the remastered New ‘n’ Tasty. It’s fantastically good fun and provides a modern twist to the 2d platforming classic, whilst retaining all the soul of the original. There aren’t any plans to bring Oddworld into the VR universe as of yet, and judging by the popularity of New ‘n’ Tasty, it doesn’t need to be.