Community Update: My kingdom for a city!
Everyone is going bananas over at Black&White Studios. Big milestones for the team are coming up and everyone is doing everything they can; programmers, scripters, artists, producers, designers and basically, well, everyone! It's more of a madhouse. So yes, now that I mention this game; Black and White 2, let's talk a bit more about it...
Apparently, it's always interesting to work on a sequel, seeing as you have to improve everything that was included in the first episode, add features and technology that's exceeding everything that was in the original title and to make things worse; everything has to be bigger, smoother and better! That's quite a prospect to live up to. The press coverage from GDC has really done well in my opinion; journalists seemed to understand and like the concept and while there was some criticism in the coverage (which is always appreciated by the community) I think overall there is a positive anticipation. Peter Molyneux' and Ron Millar's interview on Gamespot was a joy to behold and the one on Gamespy was my personal favorite.
I'm hoping that we'll see more of these video features in the future, even on the official website! We've all also seen (and heard) Peter make the claim that Black&White 2 will be the "greatest strategy game of all time". Madness! Absolute madness I tell you! However, I believe Lionhead's ambition to make games is to make them the greatest games out there. They aim to be innovative, they aim to create something new, and they aim to reach for the sky. I admire that - yes Lionhead might be paying me (a small wage) but I'm also a gamer who loves playing videogames and who loves new and refreshing games.
No matter how much there's been flamed about both Black and White and Fable; I do think most of us would agree that for a gamer both these games offered fresh, new and most of all: really enjoyable entertainment. If Lionhead sets out to do something, they will aim for it to be the greatest thing ever. I think everyone should have such a passion in whatever they do. If you don't, you're very likely to end up with mediocre products!
The only thing I felt was a bit neglected in the interviews was that Black&White 2 is a mixture of both a God Simulation Game AND a Real Time Strategy Game. The morphable gameplay which allows you to be either an evil or benevolent deity is working really well and makes it possible to shape the game to your preference. If you feel like spending hours with building up your city, worrying about the happiness of your people and how impressed they are, you have every opportunity to do this. Many times I've been building up a base in other games with buildings that are square boxes which you put down. It doesn't make the slightest difference how, where and when you build them. I detest it. That's so nineties. Or even eighties! This is the twenty first century people; we don't want to stick to those old, boring and mostly aggravating game mechanics. We want new stuff; we want to create a unique city which is up to us how it is designed. After all, you are God in Black&White 2.
Currently there are around sixty different buildings in the game - add to this the changing alignment of most of these architectural structures and the complexity of the models. Plus you can see how impressive your city is, how productive your industry is, how happy or wealthy your people are, the fertility of the land and all the many other elements the core design group of Black&White 2 have thought of. So it's fair to say that the city building aspect is a gem to behold. The clear winning conditions in this should also be obvious: build up a city that's so impressive and everyone in the world will only believe in you as a Godly Entity!
I'd say forget about other city building games; they're boring, they're old, they're nothing new. Yeah, it's a bold claim I'm making. Sure, I enjoyed those games ten years ago but today we're still doing the same stuff over and over again, in a different setting with a different name. But in the end it all comes down to one thing: it's mediocre and it's irrelevant in 2005.
I'd love to be able to play with ten thousand highly detailed units. Wow, that would be amazing having all that action on screen. I'm sure it's the same way the team thinks, heck, anyone, but I think as a gamer we have to be considerate. Five units would be a disaster, fifty would be silly, five hundred would be awesome and five thousand would just be incredible. How much they'll include eventually I don't know, but running it currently on a (very) high spec machine it is great to see so many men and women fighting each other. But we'll get more into warfare in a future update. This one was all about the city building, and you might have noticed I haven't talked about your villagers and how they react or live their lifes in your city... Not yet.