Black and White

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"A land of innocence has no need for gods... until fate intervenes. When people pray, a god is always born. That god is You."

A Simulation Game released by Peter Molyneux's Lionhead Studios in 2001. Sequel released in 2005. Much like the rest of Molyneux's offerings, this game scored superbly with mainstream critics, sold well and left an awful lot of gamers cold when they got their hands on it. The core concept of the game has you taking on the role of a god, represented by a disembodied hand, ruling over various tribes on various islands. You can pick things up and move them around, and cast miracles by making gestures with the mouse. You also eventually acquire a Creature, a somewhat autonomous giant animal that can learn various tasks and spells from you.

But the really cool part about this game is that the environment changes depending on what sort of a god you are. A god who sends rainclouds to the fields and heals the sick and builds homes for the children will eventually rule a land suffused with light, where rainbows arc the sky and trains of sparkles follow the god's hand, and your Citadel, or temple headquarters, becomes a white Disney-esque tower of beauty and joy.

And it is so hard to be good.

If you're a god who decides to sic wolves on non-believing (that is, non-believing in you) villages, make your own subjects worship you until they die, and then feed the corpses to your Creature... the sky will start to grow dark and threatening, your hand will be followed by noxious smoke, and your temple will grow spikes and generally look really badass. Interestingly, you can train your Creature to either follow your morality example to the letter, or be your complete opposite. The Creature's appearance will change, too, with its behavior (for example, a horse trained to be good will become a super-sparkly unicorn, while an evil horse becomes dark-colored and monstrous-looking).

The sequel Black & White 2 added a significant wargame element where players could decide if they wanted to be defensive or offensive rulers, defending their cities from oncoming attacks or taking the invading armies head-on, in lieu of the usual god-game elements. The sequel also addressed many of the most vocal complaints about its predecessor, such as the unwieldy building interface.

Not to be confused with Pokémon Black and White or the Michael Jackson song "Black or White". There is also a Taiwanese series by the same name: the link is here.

Tropes used in Black and White include:
  • Anti-Hero: In the sequel, the player character, if you decide to be evil. This is because your main mission is to rescue humanity from a Religion of Evil (the Aztecs in the original, and an army of zombies summoned by an evil god in the expansion). This is compounded by the fact that any deviation from dyed in the wool pacifism is considered evil, to the point that even attacking enemy soldiers in defense gives you evil points. Which means that a player relying on military force to defeat evil will risk being branded as evil according the Karma Meter. This is averted in the first installment, as your enemy Nemesis is portrayed as being well intentioned (albeit violent and power hungry), if you choose to be evil yourself.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Done so very often in the sequel by your guides, who will slam themselves against the screen, stand on top of their own text-box and helpfully point out whatever things you need to pay attention to in their tutorials.
  • But Thou Must!: Used numerous times in the tutorial, of both games. "No, let's try rotating first."
  • Can Not Tell a Lie: Explicitly stated in the manual: each adviser will try to persuade you to take a good or evil path, but they'll never deceive you in order to do so.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Your people's belief in you decides your power and the size of your Citadel. You have to convert other villages to gain more influence, or make your main village so absurdly powerful that you can reach across the map.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard:
    • Though for the most part, the AI does play fair, barring scripted events, the one thing it absolutely cheats at is reaching past its influence. Each god has a sphere of influence determining how far they can reach. You can reach slightly further than that for a limited time, which is determined by how far away you try to reach. The computer can do this with precision no human could ever possibly match, across distances that are outright absurd (as in "can reach your temple across the map" absurd). The only thing that stops it from being a game breaker is the fact that the AI only ever does this to grab trees, but even that can be severely debilitating to your work.
    • In the sequel, you can do the Burning Tree Trick [1] to take out enemy Wonders before they are charged enough enough to fire off their destructive Epic Miracles. In the game's final land, however, the Volcano Miracle the Aztecs fire off, destroying most of your initial city is scripted, and the AI can fire it off even if the respective building is destroyed.
  • Cosmic Keystone: The Creed, which is the source/concentration/embodiment of divine power. It's split into parts which you must collect, so see also Gotta Catch Em All below.
  • Dummied Out:
    • An Easter Egg that causes phone booths to appear, but that don't do anything else.
    • It was possible to play the audio files for the first game independantly, which revealed quite a lot of bits that never wound up in the final version of the game. For example, some sort of fountain of youth mishap that caused all your worshippers to become kids, some bits about collecting types of Creeds that didn't exist, and so on.
  • Earn Your Good Alignment : As noted elsewhere, it's hard to be Good, and you'll have to work at it. It isn't impossible though.
    • Averted, again, in the sequel. Being good is by far the easiest (to the point where a self imposed challenge is to play as an evil god!
  • Easter Egg: In Black & White 2, a text file controls the names of your villagers. You can edit this [2], but by default, it's filled with Lionhead staff names.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: On the second Japanese land in the sequel, your opponent is a warmonger who scorns you for almost everything you do and states several times over he will do terrible things to your people. However, when building a Nursery he exclaims "We shall spare their young. We are not monsters after all."
  • Evil Is Easy:
    • To an extremely annoying degree. You'll be hard-pressed to win over a village just by being nice, and the game will (karmically) punish you for any evil act far more than you are rewarded for good. You can spend the entire first and second levels being as good as possible, and yet manage to get yourself in the low evil range by burning down a village (and not even entirely). Your subjects are terribly whiny and fickle, which means being good is more likely to alienate them than evil is. In short, evil is in almost every way more rewarding than good is. The only advantage good has over evil is that a good god can get truly terrifying range for their miracles by building up villages to massive proportions.
    • Evil was quick, but it was also wasteful. The "evil" methods, like destruction of buildings, poisoning villagers, human sacrifice, etc, wasted the resource in question, leading to you having to burn up the finite supply of wood and slow-building supply of food to rebuild what you trashed instead of reinvesting it in your power base. Taking the high road on the optional puzzles also yielded miracles that were terribly useful. The Dev Team must have had Yoda's quote in mind. The Dark Side is quicker, more obvious, and yields great results in the short term. It utterly sucks in the long term. A *lot* less so in the second game, which boiled down to "Good gods build huge impressive cities that make people want to come to them; evil gods go out and take over the towns with an army." Unfortunately, because of some... Undesirable placement of resources, a "good" player often had to not only have a huge metropolis, but one that was absolutely *sprawling*, with long highways featuring individual buildings here and there that just screamed "this is where the edge of my influence used to be" before getting to the next forest/mine. And never mind trying to keep yourself walled in... Oh you COULD, and just build up skyscrapers, which were pretty good for housing and sent your "impressive" meter through the roof (helping your goodly score). But "people don't like living in them", so the easiest way to build up good points MAKES YOU MORE EVIL TOO!
  • Evil Is Visceral: If you are an evil god and build a windmill for your people, the blades will be made of stretched flesh, complete with veins.
  • Fertile Feet: Your Creature's, if you train it to be nice.
  • Fisher King: The landscape in your territory changes depending on whether you're a good or bad god.
  • Forced Tutorial: The first 30 minutes of gameplay (and by extension the entire first island) are basically this: this is particularly annoying when starting a second game from scratch, until Lionhead released a patch to let players skip the tutorial on subsequent playthroughs. The second island is likewise about half tutorial/half actual gameplay.
  • A God Is You: The player.
  • The Gods Must Be Lazy: Unless they're either evil or antagonists. Lampshaded in the second game backstory (if you buy the university books) where it's told that the player god apparently took a sabbatical after defeating Nemesis, and humans took over the land while the player was gone. The missionaries were said to turn into drunks.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: Your ability to use miracles depends on the amount of worship you get from your villagers, which leads to Worshippers Need Food Badly.
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel: Your guides in the game, an old man who floats on a rainbow-spewing cloud and a wisecracking little demon. They use the same actor, strangely enough.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: In the first game, your consciences believe that this is what your Creature is doing to unlock the third Creed Fragment. Thankfully, it survives.
  • Hide Your Children: Averted. In fact, you can sacrifice them, which gives you more mana than adult sacrifices. And you can kill them in a variety of other ways for your amusement.
  • Human Sacrifice: Drop a villager onto your altar for Mana, evil points (see Karma Meter below), but curiously not blood.
  • Infant Immortality: Nope.
  • It Was with You All Along: At the end of the first game, you and your conscience are confused and afraid, since they have only two out of the three required Creeds in order to defeat Nemesis. Turns out the last Creed is in your own Creature.
  • Karma Meter: The world is your Karma Meter, and we mean that quite literally. The game offers numbers if you go menu diving, but the way the look of the entire game changes is a much more immediate indicator of your god's moral standing.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender:
    • You can only recruit men to your armies.
    • It's possible to repopulate very quickly with nothing but women and a few male disciple breeders.
  • Mordor: If you play as an evil god, the land within your area of influence turns black and barren with volcanic fissures and the sun seen from inside is dimmer. Moreso in Black & White 2 as you can (and usually will) surround your dark land with imposing walls and black gates that would make Sauron proud.
  • Obviously Evil: If you decide to be evil, it shows.
  • Pet Interface: Your Creature.
  • Revive Kills Zombie: In the Black & White 2 expansion, performing a life miracle on undead characters will kill them.
  • Satan Is Good (or Insane Troll Logic): If you become an evil deity, Nemesis is the embodiment of Good despite having killed all other Gods, cursed an island with disasters, and did things that don't seem that Good.
  • Save the Villain: Island 3, where the Island's antagonist begs for mercy.
  • Simulation Game
  • Spikes of Villainy: Your temple will grow them if you follow The Dark Side.
  • Stop Helping Me!: From the villagers: "Must have food!" "We must have homes." "We need more civic buildings!" "More food..." See also Most Annoying Sound in YMMV page. Also see the Angel and Demon running tutorial/advisor things, who will not... stop... talking. Made worse in that they tend to repeat their "help" every few seconds.
  • Themed Cursor: Your pointer is pretty much your own godly hand, which you can use to pick up and drop stuff, throw things (including people!), and even pet or slap.
  • There Can Be Only One: The villain Nemesis has spent some time killing off all the other gods so that he can wield supreme deital power.
  • Those Two Guys: The two sides of your conscience.
  • Title Drop: Seen in the early beginning of the game, when your advisers are telling you that they represent good and evil. Yin and yang. Black... and White.
  • Veganopia:
    • In Black & White 2, dropping animals into your food supply will score you evil points, which means that the people of a truly good town only eat grain.
    • Well, considering that you can't make shepherds, and the food stockpile is explicitly depicted as a giant pile of grain...
  • Video Game Caring Potential: Almost incredible as its opposite:
    • In the first game, with its ability to transport objects from previous lands, it's entirely possible to bring along Important-NPCs-Turned-Villagers from the first island all the way to the last one.
    • The first game lists more statistics than the second, and one of the things it says is that no matter how Evil you are, or how differently-aligned you and your Creature are, it always loves you and thinks you're Good.
    • In the second game, just realizing that (as a Good God) you're able to meet up with the allies of the people who tried to commit genocide, convince them to adopt your way of life, and ultimately side with you against their former Lords is heartwarming. As is seeing a massive crowd from a city gathering everything they've ever owned to make a long, dangerous trek to your city.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Incredible.
    • A few examples (second game): force people to live in cramped hovels, throw them into buildings, crush them with rocks, roast them with lightning, or a fireball, offer no luxuries and keep them absolutely miserable, sacrifice them for mana, sacrifice them in a torture pit for no real reason, litter the ground with corpses, causes people to openly mourn, have your creature actively eat your people for sustenance, use them as weapons, set them on fire, poo on them, attack their homes. A bit more severe is the fact you can display severed heads on spikes everywhere, intimidating your people to work harder, or you will kill them, make them worship a giant monument to cause large scale devastation, pick up 50 of them and throw them all off a cliff into the ocean, where they drown, force them into the army, where they will probably all die and generally make their life suck. All of this is actually pretty fun to do, but your villagers will beg for mercy for like 10 minutes.
  • Video Game Players Are Morons: If you're ever talking to someone who played the first game and was seriously let down by what was released compared to what they expected, there's solid odds that they will talk about how they couldn't make their Creature stop eating their own poo. While the game's Creature AI certainly wasn't all that it was cracked up to be, avoiding coprophagia was not very hard at all. Hell, the game would tell you HEY, YOUR CREATURE IS THINKING ABOUT EATING ITS POO, JUST SAYIN.
  • You Will Be Assimilated: Partially invoked in the first game, where dropping people into a specific village made them change their clothes to fit the village. Played perfectly straight in the second, however, where the immigrants will maintain their own clothes, but otherwise adopt the Greek civilization as their own... to the point where having their original civilization's buildings will cause serious unhappiness and makes you more evil!
  • Walking Wasteland: Your creature corrupts the ground if it is evil.
  1. Set a tree on fire, pick it up, then hold it over a building. Even in your hand, the game considers the tree a fire source, and will thus burn buildings.
  2. Don't delete lines, simply replace names!