Black & White (video game)

Black & White (video game)

Infobox VG
title = Black and White

developer = Lionhead Studios
publisher = EA Games, Feral Interactive (Mac)
designer = Peter Molyneux
engine =
released = March 25, 2001
genre = Real-time strategy, God game
modes = Single player, multiplayer
ratings = ESRB: T (Teen)
ELSPA: 11+
PEGI: 12+
platforms = PC / Mac
media = CD
requirements = Windows 95/Mac OS 8.6, Pentium II 350MHz/G3 333MHz, 64MB RAM (96 on Mac), 8MB video RAM (4MB will suffice & "on board" will work, slow), 8X CD-ROM, 600MB (750 with Direct X & save)
input = Keyboard & mouse

"Black & White " is a computer game developed by Lionhead Studios and published by Electronic Arts and Feral Interactive. It is a god game released in 2001, which included elements of artificial life, strategy, and Versus fighting games. Its sequel is Black & White 2.

The player takes on the role of a god ruling over an island populated by various tribes. The player's control over the island is manifested in the Hand, an animated on-screen hand which can move or throw people and objects, tap houses to wake their occupants, cast miracles, and do many other things. Use of the keyboard and buttons in the game is purposely low; to add to the sense of realism, the (usually) mouse-controlled hand can perform every function in the game. In later patches, the Hand can also be controlled by an Essential Reality P5 Glove, a consumer-level virtual reality glove that is no longer for sale.

Generally speaking, the goal of a level is to gain control over every village on the island. This is accomplished through the performance of impressive acts that will cause the villagers to believe in the player. Villagers can be swayed by everything from helping them with day-to-day tasks to terrorising them with fireballs and lightning storms. Another important element of the gameplay is the player's Creature — a pet of sorts that can be trained to do almost anything, thanks to the game's complex AI, developed by Richard Evans. This Creature is trained by being placed on a leash while the player demonstrates the action the Creature is to learn using the Hand. With time and repetition, it can perform complex functions that will allow it to serve as the player's avatar in the world.

At the center of the player's empire is the Temple, the building at which tribesfolk worship and the Creature sleeps. To increase the verisimilitude, menus and statistics are replaced by specialized rooms in the temple. Each village under the player's control will construct a worship area in the temple, where magical or 'prayer' energy is accumulated that can be used for miracles.


The player begins the game as a newly created god, born from the prayers of a family whose son was attacked by sharks. After rescuing him, the grateful family leads the player to their village. There, the player goes through a brief tutorial and chooses a Creature. It is revealed that the player's path is determined by activating assorted scrolls: "Gold Story Scrolls" are essential elements to the progression of the game, and "Silver Reward Scrolls" offer side quests that, when completed, offer the player an assortment of benefits.

The player's happy existence among the villagers is shaken by the discovery of a massive Creature, who tells of a god known as Nemesis, his former master, who desires to destroy all other gods and reign supreme as the one true god. Nemesis becomes the principal antagonist in the game, though he is not confronted until the final level. In the meantime, the Creature Trainer offers to train a player and Creature in the ways of the gods, teaching about the casting of miracles and creature combat. When he speaks of the Creed -- a mysterious, divided energy source with the ability to destroy gods -- he is destroyed by Nemesis, who goes on to attack the player's village with lightning. A mysterious vortex opens; in desperation, the player collects what resources and followers he can and enters it.

The vortex transports the player into a second island. He is greeted by another god, Khazar, who sent the vortex to save the player. Khazar tells of how he is under attack by Lethys, a follower of Nemesis, and asks for the player's aid in exchange for the resources to rebuild the player's village. He follows to teach the player further points on village construction and miracle use. After a certain time has passed, Nemesis destroys Khazar, taking a piece of the Creed that Khazar had and leaving the player to cope with Lethys alone. When Lethys is seriously threatened, he kidnaps the player's creature, taking it through a vortex to another land. The player may choose to hastily follow Lethys or wait and amass extra resources to take with him; though the vortex will close quickly, it will open again after Lethys' temple is destroyed.

In the third land, it is revealed that the Creature is being held in stasis by three magical pillars, each powered by the prayers of a village. The player must take over all three villages to free the Creature. After this, Lethys gives the player a piece of the Creed and opens a vortex to a land where another can be found. He asks in return that he be left one village, a request that the player can allow or deny. If the player takes control of Lethys' final village, Lethys is destroyed forever (though either way he will not make a reappearance). The player then follows the vortex into a fourth island.

The fourth island is actually the first land, only cursed by Nemesis. Fireballs and lightning rain from the sky, which has been turned blood-red. To overcome this, the player must complete three separate quests to deactivate the curses. Finally, the second piece of the Creed can be obtained by aiding a cursed village (the inhabitants were turned into living skeletons). When the piece of the Creed is claimed, Nemesis appears, saying that the player and he are the only remaining gods and inviting the player to his realm. A vortex is opened, through which the player goes to the fifth and final island.

In the fifth island, Nemesis curses the player's Creature, causing him to slowly change alignments, shrink, and grow weaker. Three villages hold the keys to undoing these curses, though many more must be taken over to defeat Nemesis. When the final piece of the Creed is obtained, the player activates them to destroy Nemesis once and for all, leaving the player as the last remaining god in the world.



The gameplay is often helped along by two advisors to the player. They are the stereotypical conscience: one is a saintly, bearded old man seated on a cloud who refers to the player as "Leader", and the other a slightly tubby demon who calls the player "Boss". They offer conflicting advice on how to play the game; depending on which option the player chooses, his or her reputation as a good or evil deity is established (see below).

The Creature

"Black & White" has a unique feature that allows the player to control a creature that takes the form of a regular animal. These are (in order of availability):
*Brown Bear
*Polar Bear
*Crocodile (Only available in Creature Isle).
*Rhinoceros (Only available through hacking or in Creature Isle).
*Chicken (Only available in Creature Isle).
*Ogre (Not meant to be a playable creature and, as a result, causes a lot of bugs. Only usable through hacking).

Most of the creatures can be obtained from completing various Silver Reward Scrolls, although the quest that allows the player to obtain the wolf creature suffered from a scripting bug that prevented it from being completed until patch 1.1 was released.

This pet of the player's starts out relatively small, probably the size of a two story house, and later grows to be the size of a skyscraper. Each Creature has its strengths and weaknesses; for example, the Ape is very intelligent and learns things quickly, but lacks strength, whereas the Tiger is almost the opposite -- very strong, but not the fastest learner. As a god, the player can teach their creature to do simple tasks like keeping the village store full of food and wood; teach the creature to perform miracles; as well as teach the Creature a range of beneficial, benign, or violent acts: anything from what and when to eat to how to attack an enemy's villagers using trees as weapons. The Creature may also be taught fighting skills for one on one battles with other creatures, the Creature's attack and defence abilities can each be trained and improved.

The Creature is taught by using a slap/stroke system; if the Creature does something the player does not want it to do, the player can slap the creature. On the other hand, if the Creature does something the player approves of, the Creature can be stroked. The player's Creature will remember whether or not it was rewarded for an action, will not do things that it was slapped for, and will frequently do things when stroked for doing them.

Good and evil

The principle behind the game's name is the conflict between good and evil. Nearly every action (or lack thereof) will count towards the player's image in the people's eyes. As such, the player may be seen as a heart wrenchingly good god or an utterly evil one. The land and interface will shift according to the player's alignment. A good god will have a white marble temple, a shining white hand, and a peaceful village filled with light. Conversely, an evil god will have a charred, clawed hand, a black temple sprouting venomous red spikes, and thoroughly terrified villagers. The Creature also has an alignment (independent from its owner's) and will change its appearance accordingly: an evil wolf will sport glowing eyes and massive fangs and claws, whereas a good one will turn a startling shade of purple and glow gently.

Good players try to win over villages through constant help. Common tactics are to donate food and wood, construct buildings, protect the village from other gods, send missionaries, and use the Creature to entertain the villagers. However, villagers become bored with the same attempt to impress them being repeated. In other words if boulders flying overhead become too frequent, they will lose their effect. This forces the player to mix up the methods he uses to convert a village. One can use a balance of good and evil, trying to stay in the gray area. The game presents so many different ways to please a village, however, that the player is never forced to use evil or forced to use good.

Belief and influence

An important element in the gameplay is the "area of influence". Simply put, the player can only interact with the landscape around a village in which the inhabitants believe in the player as a god. The size of the village (its area, population, and amenities therein) determine how far this area of influence extends. Obviously, this can prove a problem when impressing (or coercing) other villages into believing in the player. This restriction can be circumvented in several ways. The first way is speed: depending on the distance from the player's area of influence, the player can interact with the land outside his or her influence for a short period of time. Second is the use of the Creature, who suffers from no such limitations. Third is throwing objects. An object, once thrown, is not restrained by the influence bubble; as such, a player with good aim can theoretically pelt his opponent's village with fireballs from clear across the island.


Miracles are spells that can benefit the player. Some miracles come in one-shot miracles, which come in bubbles. Dispensers create multiple one-shot miracles. Other miracles can be cast from worship sites. Worship sites can be powered by villagers worshiping, or sacrifices. Players can sacrifice trees, animals, and villagers. Spells that are charging will require more prayer power, and will show its progress by how fast the rings are flowing into the player's hands.

Miracles can also be upgraded through quests, or already available. Upgrades cost more worship prayer, but are much stronger. Fireballs are bigger and come in more numbers. Upgraded food dispenses more food. To upgrade, the player must make the gesture for the upgrade, similar to casting miracles without activating them from the worship site or town center. Upgraded miracles can be hidden in miracle bubbles, which is shown if the bubble has a ring in it.


Disciples play an important role in a player's progress. Villagers can be assigned to certain task created by the player or creature. These will change their daily schedule. For example, if a villager is assigned to be a farmer, they will farm, and perhaps pray at the town circle the rest of the day. Builders will sit around town until new projects have appeared. Disciples main usage is to allow the player work on gaining new towns, or work on another and have the town care for itself using this job system.

Nine types of Disciples are available, such as Farmer, Missionary or Craftsman: each one has a skill that is useful to the player.


Wonders can boost a player's influence, belief, and miracle powers, along with other things. Wonders are built after seven scaffolds have been combined. Each tribe has their own wonder, and it can be built in other towns. Some wonders' effects will double with more wonders. Each wonder is named after a contemporary or ancient polytheistic society.

*Japanese Wonder: Powers all healing miracles, decreases food desire, and increases birth chances. Also increases the duration of creature miracles.
*Egyptian Wonder: Powers teleports, flock of birds and most of the creature miracles, reduces damage to Creature.
*Greek Wonder: Powers the wolf miracle, increases ability to impress villages.
*Tibetan Wonder: Powers shields and the bird miracle, reduces cost to maintain shields.
*Norse Wonder: Powers wood, food, and water miracles, and increases food from farms and shoals.
*Celtic Wonder: Powers storm and forest miracles, and increases wood from trees.
*Indian Wonder: Powers lightning miracles, booms population, and increases villager walking speed.
*Aztec Wonder: Powers megablast and fireball, and increases effectiveness of worshipers.

Wonders require huge amounts of wood, but usually pay off to the player in another way. If the town is taken, the wonder will convert to the new owner. Most wonders do not benefit the Creature, the Egyptian and Japanese being the only ones that can. In addition, the size of the wonder is set when it is built and is decided by the village's influence and belief -- they range from being "merely" the size of larger homes to gargantuan constructs taking up as much buildable land as the player's Temple.


Weather is randomly generated unless the player sets the game to use the local weather (specified by zip code or post code). Possible weather conditions include storms, rain, and snow. Rain helps fields grow, while storms can harm villagers and buildings. Snow covers villagers and buildings and eventually disappears. A player has limited control over the weather, depending on the spells at his or her disposal; Gods may summon storms, rain, and lightning.

Reception and controversy

Critics initially awarded "Black & White" with high praise, averaging 90%, based on preliminary gameplay. [ [ Black & White (pc: 2001): Reviews ] ] [ [ Black & White Reviews ] ] After the game's release, players disagreed, and the game averaged scores under 75%. [ [ Game Rankings Voting Results ] ] [ [** User Comments for Black & White (PC Games) ] ] Some critics, after spending more time reviewing the game, altered their judgment: "Black & White" was selected by GameSpy as the most overrated game of all time [ [ - Gaming's Homepage ] ] and IGN mentioned the game in one of their podcasts discussing overrated games. [ [ IGN: IGN is AFK Podcast: Overrated Games ] ]


*E3 2000 Game Critics Awards: Best of Show, Best Original Game, Best PC Game, Best Strategy Game
*E3 1999 Game Critics Awards: Best Original Game
*BAFTA Interactive Entertainment Awards 2001 for Interactivity and Moving Images
*The Electronic Multimedia Awards. (EMMA) Gold Award Of Excellence
*ECTS 2001 for PC Game of the Year Power Unlimited Benelux,PC Game of the Year CD Action Eastern Europe,PC Game of the Year PC Games Germany,PC Game of the Year Italy,PC Game of the Year PC Hemma Scandinavia, PC Game of the Year Solo Spain
*PC World (US) for Best game of 2001
*ACADEMY OF INTERACTIVE ARTS AND SCIENCES, Nominated for six awards. It won Computer Game Of The Year and Innovation in Computer Gaming
*THE GAME DEVELOPERS CHOICE AWARDS (US) four awards. Excellence in Programming (won), Excellence in Game Design (nominated), Game Of The Year (nominated), Game Innovation Spotlight (won)
*Gamespy, Gamer's Choice Of The Year (Strategy)
*NY times, Reviewers choice of the year's best videogame.
*PC Gameplay UK, Game of 2001
*Cnet's top five games of the summer, #1.
*CGW, voted number one by readers of CGW.
*Tied highest PC game review score ever on [9.7/10] (With "Half Life 2" & "BioShock")


External links

* [ Official website]
* [ Planet Black & White] - from
* [ "Black & White"] on MobyGames

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