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What Is Black & White?
The Little People Black & White is a strategy game packed with the sort of unique features that gamers have come to expect from a Peter Molyneux title.

From a spired temple located in a remote corner of the game-world, you survey the surrounding 3D landscape. In technical terms, the game-world is constructed using Lionhead’s revolutionary new, fully scalable, rotating, environment-mapped landscape with an engine giving though-the-eye vision, bump mapping, light sourcing and reflections.

Dotted about the landscape are tribes of human-type creatures. From a perspective high above the clouds you can zoom in to watch these individuals going about their daily business. Just by observing them, you will find they live ‘natural’ lives with virtually every aspect of village life built in. Not only will the villagers plough, hunt and fish, but they will visit friends, play games, fall in love, get married. A full range of natural behaviours are designed into each tribe.

The tribes are an integral part of the game. There will be a large number of different tribe types, based on parallels from past and present history: Japanese, Tibetan, North American Indian, Greek and so forth. Each has its own particular purpose in the game. And within the game, the villagers will be particularly impressive. An incredibly large number of individuals might appear on-screen at any one time. The player starts by ‘impressing’ the villagers in an attempt to persuade them to worship you. Once they have become your loyal followers, they can be used to perform a vital function. By summoning them to your Temple, you can have them perform strange and elaborate worship rituals in your honour. And as they dance around the Temple worship site praising your name, they are generating ‘prayer power’; the essential ingredient for the miracles you will soon be able to create.

Miracles can be used however a god wishes, from pure good to pure evil and everything in between. The choice of which miracles you want to use is entirely yours to make. Your actions are monitored carefully throughout the game. If you tend towards evil (using destructive, fear-invoking miracles), your homelands will physically alter in accordance with this. Your Temple will become dark, angular and foreboding; the surrounding green fields will become black and charred. Your followers will worship you out of fear. But if you are kindly towards your subjects, feed and protecting them, your Temple will gradually come to resemble a fairytale palace, with the surrounding lands bright and colourful. And your loving followers will dutifully obey your every command.

Playing Black & White will be like taking a huge personality test. The results will reflect the sort of games player you actually are. And the way you choose to control your land is reflected in the game by a corresponding evolution of your own territory.

You are not alone in this game. At the start, whilst you expand your territory, a number of other gods are creating their own power base. Ultimately you will clash. In these battles, your weapons are your miracles.

When gods come into conflict, the game comes to life. Thunderclouds roll across the skies as lightning bolt attacks are directed at opponents’ villages. Thunderous blasts tear the world apart.

The way miracles are handled in Black & White is revolutionary.

  • Destructive miracles directed against you can be anticipated. You always have time to react and prepare your defences.
  • Lionhead have developed a new technology ‘Gesture Recognition’ technology which allows miracles to be created, practiced and perfected by mouse movement. To create a wall of fire, for example, you must sweep the mouse in a circle . From this gesture, Lionhead’s GR technology will determine how accurately the miracle was gestured and therefore its power.
  • Your worshippers are all-important in that they provide the ‘prayer power’ you need to for miracles. If necessary you can order your followers to pray more. The more frenzied the dancing and chanting, the more power they will provide for you. But if you push them too hard, they may die of exhaustion.
There is one type of miracle which does not rely on your followers. A miracle created by your creature. In Black & White, you have various roles. As a ruling overlord you must manage your tribes of followers as you see fit. As powerful gods you must practice and perfect your gesturing technique. There is also one other major area in the game which will demand your careful attention. You must take on the role of responsible parent.

Early on in the game you will receive a pet. Perhaps a cow, or an ape, or a lion. As the pet of a god, the creature goes through a special transformation. Like a child, it begins to grow. It grows. And grows. By the time it reaches adulthood, it is a gargantuan creature towering above the villagers, able to flatten a building with a single footstep. Exactly how it conducts itself as it strides across the countryside will depend on how you have raised it.

As you may choose to be a good or evil god, you may also raise your titanic pet similarly. This you must do in training sessions whilst the game progresses. As you might with a growing child, you must punish it when it does anything wrong and reward it when it acts correctly. The creature is hungry and stuffs its mouth full of villagers. If these are a rival god’s villagers you will probably reward it. If they are your own people, you will punish it. Gradually the creature will learn what it may and may not do. It desperately wants to please its master.

Another important aspect in the education of your growing creature is its ability to create miracles. Your creature will learn only those miracles you have taught it. In conflicts between gods, this is all-important. In the heat of battle, relying on your exhausted worshippers may not be possible. But your creature’s miracles come from its own internal reserves of power.

Black & White is a cross-genre game which involves resource management (in this case human resources), gesturing skills relying on dexterity and practice, battle strategy – and even parenting skills. It is also a role-playing adventure with an integrated storyline leading the player from land to land in pursuit of the ultimate goal. The whole game is played in real time and will accommodate multiplayer play over networks and the Internet. Another original feature is that your creatures are portable, from single player game to Internet game and back. Thus you may train your creature in the comfort of your own home before taking him off into an Internet game and back. We at Lionhead believe Black & White will set new standards in game design and play.

Black & White for the PC is published by Electronic Arts.
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