Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath HD Interview (PS3)

In today's climate, updating a classic game is by no means an original idea, especially since the inception of the downloadable marketplace. Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network are two portals into gaming history, with franchises such as Street Fighter, Quake, and Sensible Soccer obtaining a 21st Century re-jig. Whether a title receives plastic surgery to upgrade its looks, or undergoes internal works to improve performance, developers have plenty to think about when they're retracing old ground.

This is even more apparent when a product is held in high-regard, something that Just Add Water Ltd know extremely well. We spoke to Stewart Gilray, the company's CEO, as he guided the company through development of the much-awaited HD update of Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath, a hidden gem missed by many first time round.

Strategy Informer: Why did you decide to work on a remake of Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath?

Stewart Gilray: We were asked by Oddworld Inhabitants (OWI) to take over porting the PC version, so we thought, why not ask OWI if we can do a HD remake for PS3, they said sure. That was really the start of the relationship we have with OWI now.

Strategy Informer: For those who missed the game first time round, why should they buy it now?

Stewart Gilray: Some have said that it is the most accessible of the Oddworld titles, and some say that it is the most fun, all we know is, it’s Stranger’s Wrath, and you get to use Live Ammo.

Strategy Informer: How do you keep your staff interested in working on a re-release? Is it harder to motivate than an original project?

Stewart Gilray: Not really, we all love this IP, so we were all really high on just being able to update it, plus we’re working on a non-port related project next, so that’ll be lots of fun, and so far we are all loving it.

Strategy Informer: Do you feel the current generation breathes new life into games like Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath?

Stewart Gilray: To a degree, but it’s more a case of with today’s hardware we can polish it the way Oddworld originally wanted to, but were hampered by hardware limitations. We’ve even gone to the extreme of re-writing a lot of the old tools and build processes to output the data in formats that makes it more optimized and friendlier for today’s hardware. We’ve also pushed out a lot of the view limits that the game originally had, so there is now no stranger looking grass fading in about 10 foot in front of the player.

Strategy Informer: How important is it for new generations of players to experience this game, and remakes in general?

Stewart Gilray: It’s not massively important; however there are so many great games from days of old that a lot of today’s gamers have missed, so it would be a shame if they have missed them completely, but doing HD updates, we get to see these games looking great, and play great too.

Strategy Informer: What was your main focus when starting work on Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath?

Stewart Gilray: We just wanted to polish the heck out of it, whilst not breaking the game, and what it was.
Strategy Informer: Is there anything you wanted to significantly change or improve?

Stewart Gilray: We wanted to update the art, resolution and frame rate. The original ran at 30fps, 640x480, and our ultimate goal was 60fps, 1080p. We’ve taken the original art and upgraded every character in the game; we’ve doubled the bulk of the textures in the game, we’ve tweaked the environments, we’ve updated most of the objects in the game, we’ve got a completely new UI, it really is a major HD remake, it’s not a simple case like some games where they’re simply running at a higher resolution.

Strategy Informer: Do you think a re-release can massively alter the legacy of a game and how it's remembered?

Stewart Gilray: When Stranger was first released in 2005, it was the very end of the original Xbox’s life-cycle, about 6 months prior to the 360 being launched, so it fell between the cracks of that transition. By re-releasing the title on multiple platforms with updates we can certainly hope to give it a much broader opportunity that it had originally. Stranger had a Meta-critic of 88 on its original release. The only thing that let it down was the availability it had.

Strategy Informer: Stranger's Wrath was critically acclaimed when it landed, does this add a lot of pressure to your work?

Stewart Gilray: To a degree, but we wouldn’t want to mess with it and break it anyway, we tried to improve on, or at least polish what there already was, and we feel we’ve done that.

Strategy Informer: Are there any HD remakes that you feel have done an excellent job of promoting an old title?

Stewart Gilray: I loved the GoW 1 and 2 remakes, personally I think they were better than GoW3, and I’m also looking forward to playing the Team ICO titles. I loved those the first time around, but SOTC suffered from frame rate issues, so that I’m looking forward to. As for others I’m not sure, I think Beyond Good and Evil should not have been updated, as it’s only gone to show what Rose Tinted glasses we had in the old days.
Strategy Informer: If you could work on one other HD remake, what would it be and why?

Stewart Gilray: This all started off as I’ve been bugging Lorne Lanning for years to either do an Abe’s Oddysee remake in 2.5d or a new Abe title… Guess what we’re doing next?

A huge thank you to Stewart Gilray for taking the time out of his schedule to speak with me. Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath is available to download right now on the PlayStation Network.