"About six months ago, I came very close to typing DELETE *.* into my computer," says Peter Molyneux in a moment of uneasiness, sitting at his desk at Lionhead Studios in Guildford, England, south of London. It's nearly 1:00 in the morning, but the Lionhead office is humming with sounds of team members working hard to finish Black & White, a game that Molyneux freely admits is "the most important game in my career." If you don't believe him when he says it, it only takes one look at his face to see the game's importance illustrated by the dark circles under his eyes. "Every waking thought in my life is of Black & White," he explains. "For three years, it has been my entire life. Last night, I absolutely dreamed of the balance in Black & White," he says, only to add, "Really, it's true," as if to add emphasis to the fact that Black & White hasn't just been his job; it's been his life.
It's not just a way of life for Molyneux, but also for the 20-odd members of Lionhead's development staff who have been enrolled in Molyneux's vision to build a game that defies classification, rooted in the appealing idea of letting the player decide how to shape the world of Eden, be it good or bad. "Peter's the magic factor that has pulled us all through," says Alex Evans, a cello-playing Cambridge computer-science graduate who started working for Molyneux at age 16. As Evans sits at his computer and flies across the game's landscape, he says that everyone is elated that what started as a hazy two-page design document has turned into "a game that we are all very proud to be part of."
But pride today can sometimes only be the product of yesterday's anguish, and not surprisingly, the story of Black & White is one that mirrors the landscape of the game--filled with peaks and valleys and subject to both days when the sun is figuratively shining bright and others when dark clouds seem to brood over development. All told, three years of development at Lionhead has produced well over two million lines of code--all code that has to be debugged and tested before Black & White can arrive on store shelves.
"As we get closer and closer to finishing the game, it feels like a fragile vase," explains Molyneux. "Even the slightest touch might crack it, and with a game so huge and so open-ended, there's always a desire to touch it...and potentially shatter the vase." Luckily, by late February 2001, the team thinks the ever-so-fragile game might be finished. As the team members anxiously stand around a computer at Lionhead on a Friday morning, they watch what they hope will be the final version of the game compiling itself. The team sees three years of work flash before its eyes as the hard drive turns and the status bar grows from 0 to 100 percent. The only question is, Will this be it? Will Black & White go gold?
Coming soon, you'll hear about the hectic final hours of development when GameSpot's Geoff Keighley takes you Behind the Games at Lionhead Studios for the fascinating tale of Black & White's development. Discover what really went on inside the walls of Lionhead as the team recounts its memories of the past three years. You'll discover hidden secrets about the game's development--get ready to find out which feature almost never made it into the game--but most importantly, step inside the minds of Team Black & White to hear their stories about what went into creating one of the most anticipated PC games of all time.