Coded blue.

Monday 28 May 2001


Pic of the day: Is it the sun? Is it a nuclear bomb? No: It is The Cow-god, coming to the rescue. From the long and brilliant intro animation for Black & White. (You can choose the name of your energy being, which lends itself to some weird humor.)

More B&W gaming

I've already mentioned my first impressions of Black & White in an earlier entry. The fad goes on. The learning curve for this game is not steep, but it is long. It bothers me only slightly that after a week of playing, I still see orange blobs and translucent quivering red barriers behind my eyes, sometimes even after a night's sleep. It is not so intense anymore, at least.

To be honest, I doubt this is a game that I will play again and again for years to come. The combination of stress and repetition is not boding well for that. Unless there come a lot of extra goodies, like new and intriguing maps and perhaps new miracles or tribes. I know some people are already making new maps. And there is the option of Internet play, which is certain to fascinate some people. Not me. I play very rarely games on the Internet, except the occasional Multi-User Dungeons (MUD) or similar. And then only when I find a server which is not too combat oriented.

Yes, the problem I foresee with playing B&W on the Net is that it becomes simply one big slaughterfest. Cooperative play is provided for, but my faith in human nature is such that I doubt it will happen often.


One of the main features of the game seems almost like a bug, but I think it may come in handy. It seems that to your creature, all games are in continuity. Including the "skirmish" (training) games. Despite the name, these are not all about battle. They are separate levels where you compete with 1-3 other energy beings for the hearts and minds of the villagers on a large island. You first have to build up your starting tribe, and convert other villages to believe in you, before you can confront the computer competitors.

This means you can pause the main game at any time, go to a skirmish world, and relax. Your creature may be scared and starved, but on the skirmish world you can fatten it up, comfort it and even teach it new skills. I went off early in the game and taught my creature how to create food, wood and water, among other things. This way, I can place it in a village and it will provide for the villagers while I mind other business.

Even more intriguing, I understand that the creature grows over time. It would seem that you could play lots of training games and return with a much larger and stronger creature. If it is also trained in all sorts of combat and magic, this would really help make the game possible to complete.


Another feature is clearly intentional, but quite upsetting. It looks to me as if human sacrifice severly tilts the balance of the game toward evil. There is just so much to win by doing it. A human sacrifice is by far the fastest way to get a heap of miracle energy. What is worse, you get energy according to how long the victim has left to live. So a healthy toddler is the ultimate snack, and allows you to do a lot of stuff for your people (or against the enemy).

There may be a hidden cost to it that I haven't discovered, since I have only made a few sacrifices for testing purposes. But at first glance, it seems to be all too useful. Not in the beginning, when you need every able hand to build scaffolds and homes, cut timber and work the fields. But after a while the forests are stripped bare, if not by you then by your opponent. A large part of the workforce sit around all life chilling out, only getting up now and then to eat some of your rapidly dwindling grain. This is where an evil player can make them pay their board by making them breeder disciples, then putting their little ones on the altar to provide miracle power. Each of the little runners translates into tons of wood and grain.

Personally I make by with the traditional method of letting them dance at the temple to make miracle power; but they still need grain. In an online game, the evil players will have a big edge; and it grows even worse when the areas of influence start to overlap. The evil player can then take your toddlers to feed his altar. Another reason why I don't think online play is going to be very interesting. And why I think the game's motto shouldn't be "Find out who you really are" but "Find out who Lionhead Studios really are".

Well, if you need help from a computer game to find out that good people can be evil if rewarded well enough, then ... Perhaps you should read up on German and Japanese history leading up to 1945 instead.

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