Exclusive interview with Sherry McKenna (Oddworld Inhabitants)

Sherry McKenna is one of the founders of Oddworld Inhabitants, the videogame studio in charge of the one-of-a-kind games of the Oddworld saga, Soulstorm being their most recent title.
Here’s an exclusive interview with her, where she tells us about her experience in the studio. Enjoy!

Please tell us about your role in the Oddworld series.

Although I run the company, or at least was CEO and running OW before we did distributed development, I really am and have always been a producer and run production.

How did Oddworld Inhabitants come to life?

Lorne and I were working at the efx company Rhythm & Hues at the time. One day Lorne told me the story of Abe. I loved it and said it would make great movies. He said, “No we’re going to make video games.” Initially, I had no interest in making video games, and I didn’t think we could raise the money. I told him “Sure, if you can raise the money, I am in.” I didn’t think it was possible…and, here we are now, 25 years later.  

Are you a gamer? What are some of your favorite videogames?

Nope I am not a gamer but I have spent my career in the entertainment industry. From co-founding Oddworld Inhabitants to working in the visual effects field where I served as a producer on films like Bill &Ted’s, and a production executive on films such as 2010: The Year We Make Contact and The Last Starfighter.

What are your sources of inspirations for creating new games?

Lorne Lanning, my partner, is the creator of our games so luckily I don’t have to worry about being inspired.

What do you think about the situation of women in the world of videogames development?

Well, I would say that if you told a guy that to win you must blow everything up and kill everyone… he’ll say ‘cool’.  If you say the same thing to a woman, she’ll say ‘why’. My point is, there are many underrepresented voices in games and it is time we encourage and foster more women in our industry. It is too male dominated. The games industry needs to resemble the world at large, and remember, there are more women than men.

Tell us about your favorite and least favorite titles you’ve worked on. 

They were all difficult and we ran into enormous problems with each release. These are labors of love. Very challenging. Very difficult to make. It feels great in the beginning when the idea starts. Lots of excitement, but the road is long and hard and by the time we release, we are tired.

How do you feel game development has evolved in general since the first Oddworld game released? What are some pros and cons of working on these titles when you guys started compared to nowadays?

I had always hoped that video games could have a positive impact. They can be a great story telling medium.  We purposely make games that we hope will have a positive impact with players. I wish all games conveyed information for the better of society, but they don’t, which makes our mission all the more vital.   

Could you tell us about the development cycle of Soulstorm and how the story for the title evolved?

Lorne always wanted to tell the story of Abe as a five parter. Soulstorm is part two. I am excited to have people experience it.   But because of the issues we had with the publishers in the past, we decided to finance the game ourselves. We also decided to do distributed development. It has been challenging and not sure that we would do it this way again. Lots of valuable lessons learned.

Speaking of which, when writing stories for different Oddworld titles, how do they change from pre-production to the final product?

The production process should remain the same as the original concept. Stay focused on the story you want to tell.

Could you share with us a funny story related to the development of any of the Oddworld Inhabitants titles?

Not to be a downer, but we had such huge challenges in Soulstorm that at this point I can’t think of anything even remotely amusing. The creative process is very challenging and draining. Ask me again in a year.

Have there been any titles you guys started making but never saw the light of day in the end? Tell us about them.

Lorne had a lot of other titles we had hoped would get made. He is very creative, but during the creative process, some of them turned into real projects and others were put on hold. It is the life span of the creative process.  

As a Spaniard, I need to ask this. The original Oddworld titles (Oddysee and Exoddus) became super popular in Spain because of the excellent full Spanish dub. It was sad to see that the dub was gone in New n Tasty, and it’s also gone in Soulstorm.  What’s the story behind the decision of dubbing these games? Would you guys consider again dubbing the games in languages other than English?

Basically and honestly since both New N Tasty and Soulstorm were self-financed, we simply could not afford it. 

The addition of female mudokons in Soulstorm was surprising, as we had always seen male ones only. Will we see female sligs or glukkons someday?

Now you know I can’t give that away 😉

Are there plans on using a complex Gamespeak system, such as in Exoddus, in the future?

We cannot discuss unannounced features or future plans.

Tell us what the plans with the current quintology are. Will we see a game featuring Munch, Stranger and all the main characters planned for the first quintology?

We are working that out. Personally, I’d love a sequel to both those games. Just saying…

Would you guys consider expanding the Oddworld universe to other platforms, namely comics, novels, tv shows, etc.?

I would love to see that happen. 

What does the future hold for Oddworld Inhabitants?

Another darn good question. There is a lot to work out and consider. The pandemic didn’t do us any favors. So, we really have to take stock of where we are and what we want our future to look like.