[In-House] Black & White 2 Developer Diary
Hello. Forgive me if I sound like I work on Black & White 2 (I do) but it isn't your everyday garden variety game about building up towns for resources and crazy stuff like that. One of its many interesting facets is the whole concept of building up cities. An impressive looking city is something to behold. Recreate something akin to the hanging gardens of Babylon and impress outlying villagers to come and join you through impressiveness, or build an estate of evil and turn your worshipper's dreams into living nightmares. Your choice.
"City building is fantastic. You get to be your own town-planner and create a metropolis – make your own hive of activity. You can decide to make the most picturesque city in the land or the ultimate fortress of war. Says Patrick Martin, one of the artists on BW2.
I've also worked on the layouts for the computer controlled cities. When creating a layout for a city you are always considering the cultural identity of each race you are designing for. The city needs to reflect the nature of its people whether they be good or evil, Norse, Japanese or Aztec. If they are good people they tend to have a lot of scenic embellishments and temples to pray in. They have granaries to process the grain and provide more food for the people. A good city is designed around nurturing its people and being an attractive place to live. The evil city however, is like the factory for a great war machine. Slums are created to house a swelling population, smelters produce more ore for weaponry and army barracks train up the troops ready for war. It's a bleak place to be."
So in a game where War could kick off at any given moment, or a 50ft enemy creature decides that actually, your lovely town center would be the perfect place to have a gargantuan poo, (don't go there... I've seen it and it's not pretty. Damn funny, though!) how are you going to defend against that? Walls, that's how.
Artist Pete Amachree has built the walls by hand. With blistered fingers he valiantly scribbled the following on a real wall; Graffiti style keeping true to form:
"I wanted the walls, and especially the gatehouse to be sculptural, splendid buildings, that would inspire fear and wonder in all who saw them. There is always the temptation to create something fantastical and bizarre, but not rooted in any reality the player can relate to. Thankfully, the cultures we drew inspiration from have very distinct, strong imagery so the buildings almost designed themselves. By working around the aesthetic constraints imposed by the culture's architecture, we have, in my view, created a more believable environment."
However beautiful a city looks, though, they need life – and that's where one of the game's programmers, Glen Watts, takes over and makes the little blighters come to life:
"One of our goals when putting together the city life simulation was to move away from the non-interactive 'box with a door' approach to buildings that you see in most titles. So for example, when a villager goes to work in the smelter you'll see him pumping the bellows and stoking the fires, and when he's down the pub of an evening he'll be knocking back the beers and queuing for the toilet.
We spent a lot of time giving the villagers a proper daily life, with their own job to do during the day, and time set aside to relax in the evenings. Pretty much every building you can place down will be used directly by the villagers in some way, so there's always something to watch.
All of which means that the city building aspect of Black and White 2 is a game in itself, see if you can build the perfect city in which everyone lives a long, healthy, happy life. But remember to build those walls."
All in all, cities are a major part of Black & White 2. From slums to grand villas, you'll have to weigh up the options of keeping the people happy, or make them live in misery. Personally, I've found a happy medium where everyone lives in harmony. Well, until my Ape came and plopped all over my Town Center. NASTY MONKEY!