|26 Mar 01 GameStop.com Interview|
|Originally posted by GameStop.com at http://www.gamestop.com/theme/blackwhite/petermolyneux.txt. The original article is missing, this is a cached copy.|
|Questions About Black & White|
|1. What is the premise for Black & White?|
Black & White is a genre-breaking god game in which you must use your head, to rule the many tribes and to battle other gods, and your heart, to do the actions and behave in the way you think best.
2. What kind of game is Black & White?
It’s technically a god game with strategic elements, but really it’s defining a new sort of game altogether – one in which you choose what you want to do and how you want to do it.
3. From what view will gamers see the action?
There’s a fully rotatable and zoomable viewpoint (as you’d expect if you were a godly being) and you can see the action from about a foot away, or from space.
4. Did you build your own engine or use an existing one for this game?
Lionhead Studios built our own engine, tools, libraries, graphics and everything for this game. We started from nothing because we wanted to do something totally different and beyond anything currently around. Using our own software engine and tools was the best way to reach this goal.
5. Can players create their own creatures?
There are a total of 11 different Creatures, each have their own unique characteristics, in the game. Initially, you choose from three: Ape, Cow and Tiger. As you progress, you can choose and swap your Creature from a great many during the game, and all the knowledge/learning will get transferred to your new Creature.
You cannot turn any living thing in the game into a Creature. We liked that as an initial idea but found that it was impossible to make this work. For example, what if you wanted to make a fish or a bird into your Creature? Or what if you chose a human. We weren’t prepared to have people slapping humans around in the way that you can slap animals. Especially, if the humans were women or children.
6. How do you handle creature combat?
The Creature will use his intelligence and experience to fight, but you can control him at any stage, cueing up attacks or doing special moves. All fights take place in arenas that spring up just before the battle. Miracles can be used, and where you click, what you click on and how long you hold down the mouse buttons all have different effects.
7. What different tribes can worship your creature?
We have eight tribes in the game, and they can all worship you, the player. If they worship your Creature, in effect they are worshipping you, as you and your Creature are linked, and are really one and the same. Some tribes, of course, are more easily impressed than others.
8. Will different tribes offer different advantages and challenges?
Yes. As above, each tribe has different characteristics. And each individual person in the game has their own set of attributes that make them unique. To mention what the tribal characteristics are would be to give away some nice surprises, though!
9. Can players build any kind of base or structures?
Very much so. In order to play through the story, or just to gain power and influence, the player will have to encourage his or her people to grow their tribe in size and to expand. There are a great many buildings, which can be constructed, such as Temples, Crèches, Houses, Workshops, Civic buildings like Village Stores and many more.
10. Will games have to deal with resource collection and management? If so, what is the resource?
Your people will run their lives in the self-reliant way that many tribes would, but you can get involved, or let your Creature get involved as much or as little as you like. The main resources are wood and food, and if your people have these, and shelter, they will thrive.
11. Are the levels mission based? What kinds of objectives will gamers face?
There are five lands, and on these lands are Quests and Challenges. Quests are things, which the player must eventually do if he or she is to play through the storyline, which unfolds, and progress through the game. There is no time limit, though, and the player may ignore these for as long as they want. Challenges are things that the people, usually, pray to you to do. You don’t have to do any of these and you can still finish the game. And whether and how you solve the challenges depends on whether you’re a good or an evil person! The objectives range massively; from saving people from drowning to fireballing people who are worshipping false idols to helping some sailors build a huge ark. As I say, you can do the challenges IF you want, and you can do them HOW you want.
12. Can players choose to be good or evil? How will players complete missions differently depending on the path they have chosen?
Everything you do in Black & White will have an impact on your alignment, which measures how good or evil you are. Terrorising your people by throwing them around or worse will obviously be evil and helping them is good. Also, how you treat your Creature is another big factor. Each challenge and quest can also be done in several ways, and this will affect your alignment as well. For example, if someone prays to you to find their lost brother, you could do so, find him and kill him or kill the praying person and drop her body in front of the lost brother. That’s more evil than just killing one or either of the people. It’s not about destruction alone; it’s about anguish and suffering.
13. Does Black & White have a multi player mode? If so, how many gamers can play at one time?
Eight players can play Black & White in multiplayer mode, and they can either join together in teams or can play against each other. There’s also a Skirmish mode in which you can play against other gods and Creatures outside the main game.
14. What are some features of Black & White that will set it apart from other action games?
The fact that there is no icon bar and control panel. You do everything using the mouse (or keyboard if you prefer). The flexibility of the engine, so you can view anything from any point, the ability to play how you like, rather than just complete the game in one set way, the story, which again is affected by how you’re playing and which alignment you are, and the AI of the Creature and the people, which is the most sophisticated ever seen in any game. I could go on.
15. What is your favorite feature or moment in this game?
I love the Advisors and the way they become real characters as the game progresses, but my all-time favourite thing is the Creature. Your Creature can do ANYTHING you can in the game, and I spend a lot of time just teaching my ancient ape to do new things and to help the people in new ways. But everyone at Lionhead has a different favourite feature, and there’s so much in the game and I hesitate before saying one thing truly stands out.
16. How many different environments will players explore?
There are five lands, plus a training world you can visit any time to practice movement and other skills, and these change and morph depending on what you do and your alignment. There’s an enormous Temple you can go inside, too. It’s easy to overlook when you’re outside, interacting with the world, but the Temple interior is where you do much of your stat -checking and management, and it looks stunning.
17. How can players interact with their environment?
Players can do obvious things like throw stuff around or wreck or build houses, and can also wrench up trees or plant them, as well as cast Miracles which can burn, water, freeze or cause plagues. It’s limitless, really, what you can do.
18. Who is developing this game?
Lionhead Studios developed Black & White. They’re a hand-picked team of the best the UK has to offer, which, arguably, is the best the world has to offer. A project like this is of course a team effort, and everyone here has played a vital part in making this game something extremely special. I was lucky to work with a studio full of committed, hard-working, enthusiastic geniuses.
19. Does this game require or support 3D acceleration?
Yes. You need a 8Mb graphics card to run Black & White. There’s so much detail and the landscape contains so many elements that we couldn’t do it any other way.
20. What is the strangest creature you have created thus far?
I’d never call my old friend the ape strange, but one of the programmers here, Ollie Purkiss had an extremely evil polar bear which was 30 metres high and not only ate people but was happy just stomping them into the ground for pleasure. It was horrible to see.
21. What games are you currently playing?
Ha! I haven’t had time to play anything but Black & White for over a year now. I’m looking forward to stocking up on and spending time with the whole range of games, which have come out while we’ve been finishing this one.
22. What is your next project?
Lionhead has three satellites, Black & White Studios, who are handling everything Black & White from now on, including the versions for other platforms, Big Blue Box, who are busy on a separate project and Intrepid, who, again, have their own game in development. I’m going to have a good look at all these, just to see if they’re as impressive as I think they are, and then I’m going to think about how we can possibly top Black & White. Right now, I don’t think it’s possible, but when we start the next game, I’ll know that it will be better. Lionhead will never make the perfect game, but with every one we do, we’ll be edging that little big closer. Watch this space!
|Founded Bullfrog Productions Ltd. Creator of the first “God sim” game, Populous. Designer of other best-selling games: Powermonger, Magic Carpet, Theme Park and Dungeon Keeper.|
Peter Molyneux is one of the best-known names in the international world of computer games. In 1987 he formed Bullfrog Productions Ltd. to develop an idea he had for a new type of strategy game. His unique approach, in which the player is a sort of deity ruling over his minions, was (inevitably) copied by other designers and became known generically as a “god-sim”. Populous was an instant success and has since sold over 4 million copies, placing it amongst the top ten most successful computer games of all time.
Populous was followed up with Powermonger, Magic Carpet, Syndicate, Magic Carpet 2 and Theme Park. Each sold over 400,000 copies and Peter’s reputation as one of the leading computer game designers in the world was firmly established.
In 1995, Bullfrog was purchased by Californian leisure software giant Electronic Arts. The deal made Peter a wealthy man whilst maintaining his position as Managing Director of Bullfrog. However, he discovered that working within a large corporation involved spending more of his time in managerial meetings and less on game design and development. So Peter decided to resign his position. His new plan was to put together a team of like-minded enthusiast to develop games, and leave the distribution and marketing business to the corporate experts. The result is Lionhead.
Before leaving Bullfrog, Peter completed his most ambitious design project yet. Dungeon Keeper, released in July 1997, is a masterpiece of design. Packed with original features, the game received “highest ever” scores from several magazines and won awards even before it was released. It became Electronic Arts’ most successful release, selling over 500,000 units in its first month.
An articulate and eloquent speaker, Peter has given talks at the British Film Institute, the American Museum of the Moving Image, the Institute of Contemporary Arts and the Dortmund Museum of History and Culture. At one particular business symposium in Japan, Peter was the lead speaker, billed above another of the PC industry’s gurus, a certain Bill Gates of Microsoft.
At 41, Peter is, as one newspaper put it: “an eccentric character and is still obsessed with games.” In addition to its secret passages, his home has pinball, table football and pool machines. He spent several thousand pounds on a specially-designed boardgaming table with pop-up screens and drawers for the players. He also has a reputation as a party animal who loves arranging events. His lavish bash to celebrate the completion of Dungeon Keeper has taken on legendary status within the industry.