Friday, 1 November 2002

Black and White

Listening to:

Chopin, Ballade no. 4 in F minor, op. 52.

I’ve been playing quite a bit of the PC game Black and White of late. It’s a fascinating game. At an abstract level, it’s Yet Another God Game, where you have to lead the villages that worship you and come to dominate the Land. It’s rather hands-off, distinguishing it from the Real-Time Strategy genre. In fact, there’s no inter-village combat at all; instead you have to take over enemy and unaligned villages by impressing them with your divine powers. Enemy villages are those that already worship an enemy god, and of course that enemy god is trying to subvert your own villages. The game is also hands-off in that you don’t get much fine control over what the villagers do.

So far, rather dull. The big innovation is the presence of Creatures. Each god gets their own Creature, an embodied animal that grows to monstrous size and can stalk across the Land. Here’s where the hands-off philosophy really wins because the Creature is quite autonomous and develops its own personality in response to what it sees around it. It’s clear that a lot of work has been done on the Creature AI, and it really is satisfying to have one’s Creature do something unexpected yet appropriate. Creatures can learn from your example, and can cast the same miracles to affect the world as you can.

And now there is to be a sequel. This looks as if it could well be a big improvement. Having battles appeals to the armchair general in me, even if I don’t get to control much of the action directly, and what’s really appealing is being able to build walls... Ahhh. Peter Molyneux is clearly a man after my own heart; in this interview about the sequel he says I love [building walls] in RTSs.