Just after ECTS, we had the chance to visit Lionhead's offices near London and talk to Peter Molyneux about Black & White Next-Generation, the PlayStation 2 and Xbox version of his very successful PC god game. In contrast to the direct port of the game over to the PlayStation by Midas, Black & White Next-Generation is a complete reworking of the game so that it controls more naturally with a game controller. While his PC credentials extend back to classics such as Populous, Molyneux hasn't had a direct hand in designing console games before, but he has been very enthusiastic about moving in this direction. At Lionhead satellite studios Big Blue Box and Intrepid, there are also a couple of other console games in development: Project Ego and a game code-named BC.
Black & White Next-Generation takes place in the same land of Eden, has the same range of intelligent creatures for players to raise, and the same magical spells. However, the entire game is now played through the player's creature, from either a first- or third-person perspective. Instead of using a mouse cursor to interact with the world and give their creatures examples of how to behave, players control their creatures directly with the analog stick or D-pad in a first-person view. What the player does in this view will be imitated by the creature when the player switches to the third-person perspective for a more strategic view. From here, players will be able to watch their creatures act autonomously and encourage or discourage them from doing specific things. Players probably want to prevent their creatures from eating villagers so the villagers can grow food and worship players as gods. But players certainly aren't restricted from acting in evil ways.
A big part of the game involves fighting between creatures. The player's creature draws power from villagers who follow it around the world, giving it mana for spells through worship. Certainly, a creature followed by 10 villagers is at a disadvantage against one with 20, but while villagers are worshipping, they can't breed or grow food for longer-term goals, so players will need to find the right balance. There is a very simple control scheme for guiding the creatures around. Only two face buttons are used: one to tag villagers and objects and another to use them. The shoulder buttons scroll through a list of spells to use.
Black & White Next-Generation is in development for the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox. While Molyneux said he likes the GameCube hardware--especially the controller--he said it's unlikely the game will appear on that console because the Nintendo licensing structure makes it difficult to find a publisher for GameCube games.