Monday, May 02, 2005

Witty Lorne Lanning Title Here

Back in the '80s and early '90s, there was a genre of cartoon series that I refer to as the "Last Minute Savior" genre. In these shows, a group of plucky kids would go off and have adventures, and they would inevitably get into trouble and rely on their insanely super-powerful friend to save them. This friend would appear (having been called on whatever device the kids used), save the day, and then spend a few moments of his time chuckling about how stupid the fat kid in the group is. This genre included such fine cartoons as Godzilla, some seasons of the Super Friends, Captain Planet, etc., as well as such favorites as He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and Voltron. Each series featured a powerful, awesome superhero who would appear at the end and save the day by being awesome, just so the kids didn't have to.

Lorne Lanning always struck me as one of those types.

I attended a pre-Atari Infogrames racing school event at Laguna Seca raceway in California. The event drew tons of gaming journalists and developers who were working for Infogrames at the time (making such fine titles as Looney Tunes Racing, Looney Tunes Beach Volleyball, and Looney Tunes: Looney Tunes), because the folks at the event got to drive around tracks really fast. We drove Formula 0 cars, go-karts, and Dodge Vipers because Infogrames wanted to buy our reviews. Didn't work, but that's beside the point. The point is, I got Lorne Lanning on my team, and we won.

I'd met Lorne before then, and I remember being struck by two things: His Superman-villain name, and his Hollywood-awesome-but-geek-underlayer attitude. He's a big guy, standing tall and reminding one of an elder-statesman superhero alter-ego, even as he fell back into the squeaky voice he used to lend VO to Abe of Oddworld fame. At the event, he strapped on a helmet and turned into a speed demon, saving our team of fat journalist geeks at the last minute. Dude drove like a bat out of hell and exclaimed, "I drive faster than this on my motorcycle!"

Oddword: Stranger's Wrath is one of my favorite games I'm not really playing at the moment. It's a great game for innovation; you shoot stuff, but you have to hunt for your own living ammo, and the game's story is a bizarre cinematic jewel. I'm not playing it because I'm playing Guild Wars, and because it doesn't really satisfy the "Blowing shit up" impulse that I get so often after nine hours a day of picking through some other writer's text looking for errors no sane human would care about.

Now, Lorne Lanning is out of the biz. This post's title links to an interview in which he explains why. Essentially, he's being chased out by publishers and the way things work now, and I can go along with it. What EA did to Stranger's Wrath was a travesty; the game deserved to explode through pop culture, but instead it came out with a whimper and was a financial disappointment.

I'm not too worried about Lorne's future; Oddworld Inhabitants has always been able to produce amazing creative works with the tools they have lying around, and Lorne's a last-minute superhero. My concern is that the industry has chased out one more talented and excited creative force. The theme song for the creative side of the business lately seems to be "Another One Bites the Dust." How prophetic Freddie Mercury's words.

One more reason this business sucks.