Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Chronolillogy III: A Spaced Oddysee

(Part 3 in a series about my journey down the career path I am on and some of the stuff that happened along the way.)

Yeah...it's been a while since I have written anything in the Chronolillogy section, hasn't it? Well, that happens when your kid is diagnosed with a brain tumor and seizures, has surgery, hefty developmental delays and all that stuff...kind of takes you out of the moment, so to speak. Thus, most of the blogging I do is of an entirely different nature these days.

But occasionally I have drifted back to some of the other things this blog was originally created for...showing off some newly acquired toys and goodies, re-playing old Palisades and Creatus Maximus blogs, etc., and of course working on this very self-centered history of my career, which I call Chronolillogy.

I got my 'soft' start in the world of toys and collectibles via a freelance comic-book style drawing gig for The ReSaurus Company Inc. that I explained with much delight in the first installment of Chronolillogy. That got my toe in the door, and I kept my foot firmly planted there with some work on the Duke Nukem action figures, that I discussed in the second installment of Chronolillogy.

You might be thinking that this is the chapter in which I let you in on how I actually got a job with the company, but NOPE, you'd be wrong. Between these first two projects and that glorious event was a third and fourth freelance gig. The fourth freelance gig was designing some hand and finger puppets of characters from Warner Bros. classic cartoon universe of Looney Tunes, but since I sort of took that project over when I started working there officially, it went from freelance to non-freelance and I'll go over that later.

But for pure freelance, before I as an official 'employee', there was one other thing they asked me to do some drawings for while I was angling to get more work there. They needed some art created for a pitch kit they were putting together to show the owners of the video game series called Oddworld, in an attempt to get the license to make products featuring the Oddworld characters, starting with the game called Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee.

For those of you not in the know, here's a little tidbit about that first game from Wikipedia (still to date one of my most favorite games I have EVER played):

At the beginning of this game, Abe is a happy, ignorant worker at Rupture Farms, a meat-packing plant. Working late at Rupture Farms, Abe passes an advertisement billboard for the upcoming latest product in the Tasty Treats line of snacks, and eavesdrops the factory’s annual board meeting. Here, he learns that wildlife resources have become depleted, for which reason Abe's boss Molluck the Glukkon has decided to use the factory's Mudokon slaves as a ready source of meat. After this epiphany (reminiscent of the end of the film Soylent Green), Abe panics and escapes from his workplace. At the end of the game's introductory sequence, which is a retrospective voiced-over by Abe, Abe runs for his life. The Mudokons’ spiritual leader, the BigFace, appears to the unconscious Abe in a vision, revealing that the Mudokon race once lived freely with nature before they were enslaved by the Glukkons, and that their sacred animals were the very same ones being slaughtered and processed to manufacture 'Tasty Treats'.

Prophecies have foretold of a Mudokon saviour whose worth would be tested by a journey to relight holy flames that were extinguished by the Glukkons. Abe does this with the aid of his pet Elum and then receives mystic tattoos. Abe infiltrates Rupture Farms, killing its entire board of executives before being captured and taken to a holding cell, where he has enough time to pore over the last day before facing execution. Should the player save over a certain number of Mudokons, Abe's actions will have impressed the holy Mudokons, who rescue Abe and transport him to safety, where he receives a hero’s welcome from the Mudokons he rescued. Should the player not save a sufficent number, Abe will not be rescued and is executed by Molluck.

Sounds bleak doesn't it? But what an AWESOME game that was, and the characters that populated Oddworld are some of the coolest you will ever see. We all LOVED the designs of the stuff, and ReSaurus really wanted that license.

They pulled out all the stops to put together a mind-blowing pitch kit. First, they commissioned me to do a bunch of art for the kit, and I drew some shots of Abe and some of the creatures that populated the universe of Oddworld.

It didn't stop there, though. The guys that worked full time for the company created a TON of prototypes of some various products as part of the original kit. There was to be a latex mask of Molluck the Glukkon, along with a hand puppet of a creature called a Paramite. This is either Jay or Chris modeling those original prototypes.

The product line was also to include some other things, though I can't remember all that was supposed to be made. See the heads of Abe in the below photo? NO idea what Steve is working on there, but maybe it was some kind of holder of something, I dunno. The Abe head sculpt was pretty cool though.

And of course, even though the first series of action figures would have had some of the side characters like Mullock and an Elum and a Slig, it would also CERTAINLY have Abe as the centerpiece, and several prototypes of an Abe sculpture were cast in resin and fully painted. I would have LOVED to have ended up with one of those, but I never did.

Here's a couple of shots of Jay and Chris working on the figure.

I have these photos only because you gotta remember when this all took place. Digital cameras were REALLY expensive so we took all our product photographs and photographs we needed for production information with a standard camera and then drove it down to Cord Camera to have it developed. There would always be leftover film on a roll, and we needed the roll developed, so a 'Wall of Shame' started to develop where all these candid photographs would end up.

When the first waves of layoffs started, years later, I grabbed as many of the photos as I could get. In many ways the photos were more precious to me than any prototypes, but I grabbed my fair share of those too. Sadly, I have no actual photo OF the wall of shame. But trust me, it was there. It was fun. Those days, despite all the bullshit that went down between the warring factions, usually were.

You never saw any Abe's Oddysee action figures, did you? Nope. ReSaurus was never able to get the license, and strangely enough NO company has produced action figures of this video game franchise. Very peculiar. Rumor had it that the owners thought that product or merchandising would cheapen the brand of Oddworld. I don't think so. I think it would have enhanced it. I mean...c'mon, honestly, how many of you non-gamers ever even HEARD of Oddworld?

Not many, I'm sure. The game probably could have USED the exposure, and we would have loved making the stuff, which I'm sure is clear by the work we put into the pitch. But that's how things go in the business of making a pitch kit. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.


  1. Ok, that WAS a cool game. I don't think I ever finished it. Makes me want to fire up the old Playstation....

  2. (But the newest Assassin's Creed (2) is pretty awesome!

  3. There was a time in my life where I was actually really into video games and Oddworld was a favorite when it came out. I am mostly a kid/girl game lover. It started with all the SuperMarios when I was a kid. Then Castlevania was the next thing I really loved. Was obsessed with Sonic and Crash Bandicoot. Loved Oddworld. In college, I spent lots of time with my hubby's friends and always had male roomates. So I mastered Tekken and Battle Arena of Toshinden (sp?). I watched alot of sports games but just never could get the fun in playing a Sport with your thumbs. But then since the purchase of the PS3, I never had time to actually see what games are out now that would pique my curiousity. Still don't have time. But reminiscing on those days is fun.

    Until I just typed this, I did not realize how dorky I am.

  4. Richard:
    I haven't played any of the Assassin stuff. I am meaning to pick up Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 at some point, but lately it has just been Madden 2010, and even then sporadically. I miss the old Resident Evil games the most. HATE the way that series started going, so I don't play it anymore.

    That's GREAT!!! I love knowing that you have a geek side. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is one of my top ten games of all time (I smell a new blog topic...), in fact I loved it so much I downloaded it from X-Box Live and still play it occasionally. We tried to get the license to make toys of it, never happened, but I was the lead designer and product manager for both Sonic and Crash Bandicoot figures, two things I will eventually get to in this career retrospective. You'll dig those entries.


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