Black & White
You would have thought that three months after its release and one patch down the road, things would be pretty hot around the Black & White server. Alas, this isn't the case. There are currently only six multiplayer maps, so it's no surprise to discover our bustling online Eden has yet to fully flower.
Despite almost 400,000 registered 'Gods', eight-player matches (with up to four teams) and a credit-earning Clan system, evenings and weekends are about the only time you stand a chance of finding someone sensible to play. But be warned: using a 56K modem in a game containing four or more players is a lesson in lag you're unlikely to forget. Get yourself a cable modem or some other kind of broadband connection though, and you'll reap the rewards.
Can I Play With You?
The European server is also dominated by Germans who in no uncertain terms make it clear that playing with the English simply isn't going to happen - regardless of whether you want to play with them or against them. Apparently us Brits "don't take it seriously" and always "quit when we're losing", which is in total contrast to the Germans who take it far too seriously and don't know when to stop. Still, it could be worse - at least there are no Americans. Although to be honest, the US server is probably a lot more fun.
The Internet can be a tedious place to play B&W, a LAN on the other hand is perfect. With no lag, no Germans and exactly the same game modes as the Net, the whole B&W experience is faster, smoother and more enjoyable. You can even attempt a bit of creature fighting and pop off some heavy-duty miracles without fear of the animation grinding to a shuddering halt and the screen melting.
But regardless of whether you're playing on the Net or a LAN, the real lure of multiplayer B&W is admiring or mocking other people's creatures. It's also quite satisfying learning new 'moves' by watching the astounding array of constantly evolving tactics. Hopefully, the imminent arrival of new maps, patches and various other add-ons like the football matches will make this part of the game even stronger.
The trouble is, novelty gives way to reality. The relatively similar maps and unrelenting desires of your villagers eventually make Black & White quite heavy going. Devoted fans will probably be able to cope with its demanding gameplay, but fringe players seeking a quick online thrill will look elsewhere pretty quickly.
As with any living thing there are basic needs and instincts that help your creature survive. When its energy is depleted it cannot cast any more miracles. In order to charge it up you must rest and feed your creature.
However, if any other statistics such as hunger or tiredness reach maximum your creature will collapse. It then automatically returns to its pen to recuperate. If your creature has passed out from starvation you will almost certainly have to feed it straight away. If it collapses regularly it will shrink in size. Remember to also constantly exercise your creature by giving it rocks to carry. This keeps its strength up and is a bonus in battle.
Creatures automatically sleep when they are tired, however they don't always go to their pen to do so. Reward your creature for resting in its pen and punish it when it sleeps in the open. Also, only let a creature rest when it's more than 75 per cent tired, otherwise it becomes lazy. Encourage your creature to find a particular food source and stick to it. In most cases fish is the logical choice. Just wait until it eats and then stroke its belly to make it instinctively return. The great thing about getting it to eat fish is that it can also drink at the same time. Also remember that your creature can drink from streams and rivers in a dehydration emergency.
Your creature will vomit anything that's bad for him. Even so, always give him a quick slap for trying to eat things like trees, rocks and unripe crops.
We Know What You're Thinking...
Although your creature is undoubtedly intelligent its mind works in peculiar ways, so knowing what's going on in that strange brain can help immensely. Pay attention to its mood. Don't let a creature hang around villages if it's pissed off -that's asking for trouble. On the other hand, if the big old softy is feeling playful or wants to be generous the village is the perfect place to be.
Your creature is also surprisingly attentive - even when off the leash. It's always watching you - in every possible way; it watches what you pick up, what you do with it and whether you are violent or passive. Literally nothing escapes the notice of your creature - even when he's doing something else. Subsequently if your creature starts acting strange, it's probably because you inadvertently taught it to.
If a creature is unsure what to do with an object, it will toss it away, (this is very different to deliberately throwingsomething). Never punish your creature for this, even if the object does smash a house or kill a villager when it lands; it was a reflex action and was not evil. Wait instead until the creature learns how to use an object correctly and then reward him for it Likewise, be careful when punishing creatures for shitting. Slapping them for doing their business up against houses is fair enough, but you should actually reward them for crapping in forests. There's also a rumour that relieving themselves in fields fertilises crops and increases the rate of growth...
Interacting With Villagers
When a creature feels friendly towards villagers it is likely to turn them into breeders. While this has its benefits if your population is dwindling it can also be a nightmare if you have enough people already. If your creature is creating too many breeders lead it away from the village, otherwise overcrowding leads to all sorts of problems.
Villagers are eaten by your creature when it's feeling angry and hungry, give it a good slap for doing this as a hungry creature can devour a village in minutes, which is not good.
Every time your creature throws stuff it's usually for a helpful reason. But throwing stuff is basically evil, so if you want your creature to remain good slap him when he does lob something.
On the other hand if you throw wood or grain into the store, your creature eventually starts copying. With more and more practice he can throw stuff into the store from quite a distance - let it, as this is without doubt a good action. You can teach your creature to catch by throwing a beach ball at it when it's in a playful mood. With extensive training creatures can be taught to catch fireballs and hurl them back at an enemy. If it can do this there is not a lot that can stand in its way. The beach ball can also be used to teach your creature to kick things. Again, with enough practice it will even kick rocks at enemies. Unfortunately, it does tend to kick animals and villagers around too, so give it a good slap when that happens, unless it's playing football of course.
Remember, your creature is observant; it looks at what you've thrown, where you've thrown it and whether you return it to its original position.
After some time creatures leam to take care of themselves very well. If they have been set alight after being hit by a fireball or lightning bolt they extinguish themselves providing they know how to use the impressive water miracle. Likewise if they're badly damaged they cast the heal miracle on themselves. Basically, the more miracles a creature knows about the more it is likely to apply those miracles in a variety of situations.
Remember also that a creature impresses villagers simply by being near them. If you combine this proximity with actions that help the villagers your creature becomes an invaluable weapon in your quest to take over the land of Eden.
As a general rule, your creature instantly starts doing helpful things if you lead it into a village with the fluffy leash of compassion on. Although far from being a slave, creatures can work their way into the hearts of villagers, especially if it is constantly on hand to heal them and water their crops.
Feeding worshippers is one of the most important errands a creature can perform. Put the leash of learning on and double click on the food desire flag at the worship site to tether your creature to it. Every time the flag rises it should create a food miracle.
Teaching And Learning
There are basically three ways your creature can learn. The first method is to methodically show your creature what to do. Attach the leash of learning and perform the task you want it to learn. If it understands what you're doing it will point and look pleased. If you're teaching it to cast a miracle a light appears over its head with a percentage figure that shows how close It Is to perfecting that miracle.
Never reward your creature until it actually performs the task you are teaching it though. Another method is to let your creature find things out for itself. Unfortunately this method can be a bit dangerous, as creatures often pick up bad habits while you're not watching. It's also worth mentioning that when stroking or slapping your creature you have to be extremely precise, if you are too slow your slap/stroke could relate to a completely different action that happened moments before.
The final technique comes from watching other gods and creatures. If creatures become friends and hang out together they learn from each other, so only let your creature befriend similarly aligned beings.
For quite some time it's been a common misconception that Black & White has been hugely delayed. This is partly due to the fact that chief designer Peter Molyneux has been talking excitedly about the game since he started the project. In truth, Black & White has only been in development for about two years, and is aiming for a September release date. The foundation code is complete, with both the game engine and art work in place. The developer, Lionhead, is currently working on gameplay challenges as well as some hugely complex Al. If the final game lives up to the developer's ambition, and from what we've seen so far it looks like it will, then September can't come quickly enough.
Peter Molyneux introduces his current work-inprogress in the manner of a nervous striptease artist. "Promise you won't laugh," he pleads, half-joking. "Don't look at it and say 'is that all there is?' or I'll cry." Why the anxiety? Because at present, Black And White is a long, long way from completion. Indeed, on the day PC shimmered angelically through the doors at Lionhead HQ, the 3D engine was undergoing a facelift, so the working version on display looked a little like a sequence from the movie Tron, consisting largely of old-skool untextured wireframe graphics. And it kept crashing.
If this was any other software developer, you'd wonder what they were playing at. You'd make polite noises and find an excuse to leave - or, if you're a bit mad, fly into a rage and start overturning tables. But Molyneux and his team at Lionhead aren't just any old bunch of chancers. Many of them are ex-Bullfrog staff who in the past have worked alongside Peter on landmark games such as Populous, Syndicate, Theme Hospital, and most recently Dungeon Keeper, each title a work of idiosyncratic genius.
If you've been following The Lionhead Diaries we've been running for the last eight months, you'll have heard talk of Black And White. If you haven't, we're going to come round and hammer you. Either way, you still won't have the faintest idea what the game's actually about. Until now.
In essence, it's a real-time strategy game, although, like Dungeon Keeper, it's also a whole lot more than that. Initially, you could be forgiven for thinking it's similar to Populous... except it isn't. Here's the deal.
There's an island. A beautiful tropical island populated by peaceful tribes and benign creatures. Everybody's happy. It's The Brady Bunch Go Mediterranean. It's a Utopian paradise. And then you show up. You're a sorcerer, an unseen god-like entity hovers above the island and controls a 'base' down below. Being a sorcerer, you can perform tricks that would make David Copperfield look like... well, a hideous, talentless ranker. But these magical powers are dependent on the number of followers you have on the island.
There are two time-honoured means of persuading people: being nice or being nasty. It's all about yin and yang: hence the title Black And White ''Trite (although there are plenty of grey shades inbetween). The method you choose is up to you - but there's no picking sides. The engine itself study your actions and decide whether they're intrinsically good or evil, then alter the entire game mechanics accordingly.
The graphics, the spells, the difficulty level and the options available to you are all dictated by your style of play. It's intended to be a truly reactive game which will tailor itself to each individual player - something no one's managed to create as yet. If Lionhead pull it off, it's going to piss over everything else we've so far experienced.
Those are the basics, but there's a hell of a lot more than that - far more than we have space to mention here. Just another highlight, then: the game lets you breed creatures, Tamagotchi style, until they reach Godzilla proportions. They can be trained to do more or less anything -such as eating your opponent's followers rather titan your own. And you can also 'possess' them and stomp around in a first-person 3D view, creating King Kong-style havoc and fighting with other gargantuan beasts.
You may not be excited yet, but you should be. Rest assured we'll be tracking this one very closely and keeping you up to date with the latest developments. It's early days yet, but one thing's for sure: Black And White will either prove a heroic failure or be Game of the Year 1999. Success or failure. Good or bad. Hmm... there's that yin and yang thing again.
First the good news: Black & White is ready. The bad news, as if you hadn't already guessed, is that we won't be seeing it for a couple of months yet. This short delay is being caused by extensive play-testing and balancing, so we shouldn't complain really. Just imagine buying a copy of the game that's promising to be one of the best of the year, only to find that it's unfinished, bugged and unbalanced. Kind of puts it in perspective, doesn't it? So if you're thinking of complaining about the delay, DON'T. We guarantee that this one's going to be well worth the wait.
Processor: PC compatible,
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode