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Interview with Creature Isle's Jonty Barnes
Interview by Erich Becker
March 19, 2002


Black & White had the greatest game AI of the past few years. The recent expansion, instead of continuing its God-versus-God action, put the spotlight on the AI creatures. What did it all mean? From the worship center/gentlemen’s club high atop ESCmag tower, senior reviewer Erich Becker cried out to the heavens and, lo, did receive an answer from Jonty Barnes, project leader for Creature Isle. Here are the answers — take ‘em as Gospel.


Why was the decision made to make the expansion focus primarily on the creatures of Black & White?

JB: While we recovered from the exhaustion of creating Black & White, we spoke extensively to the playing community, to try and grasp which aspects of the game most interested them. Generally we found they fell into one of two camps: playing with the Creature, or battling with Gods in the real-time strategy side of the gameplay. As a result, we set about creating two mini-sequels: Creature Isle and SuperGods. Once we started to flesh out the ideas for each, we got increased levels of feedback. The enthusiasm for Creature Isle from our fans and also from our beta testers soon dwarfed that for Super Gods. We therefore decided to focus on Creature Isle. We knew we were making something new and rewarding for the players of Black & White.

Why include a bowling game about divine entities and their good/evil creatures?

JB: Good question. In fact, the whole feel of Creature Isle is deliberately very different from the original. It's a land of peace, with no other gods to wreak destruction upon you. The inclusion of bowling would seem out of place in the original game, and in fact the evil advisor mocks the Creature Isle because he'd rather be out causing chaos. The reason bowling specifically is there is Steve Lawrie wrote it as a test to push the script language. People loved it, so along with the other mini-games it became part of Creature Isle.

Why are there no other gods on the island?

JB: Because we wanted to center the gameplay on your Creature. Also, it's very difficult to experiment and discover the benefits of the new AI when you have a violent god breathing down your neck! We also wanted to save the new God AI, and our SuperGods ideas for B&W2, which returns once more to moral choices and conflict. In other words, the philosophies of B&W.

Why was it decided to make an expansion for the first game, rather than devote all of those resources and manpower to creating the sequel that all the game's fans are craving for?

JB: The problem with game development is that it is all consuming. Even with the intention of creating a sequel in a year, to substantially improve Black & White as we and the public demand would take too long. With all the enthusiasm and excitement surrounding B&W we wanted to give the public a game that would help to satisfy its current cravings. Creature Isle did that in an add-on. It was based on existing technology so we could enhance the game within seven months and create something special with design input from the B&W community.

We would love to have started B&W2 in earnest at the same time, but it takes a great deal of work to start a new game from scratch, and we did not want to stretch our team and compromise the development of either Creature Isle or B&W 2.

Are any further expansion packs planned in the future?

JB: We have some designs, but whether or not they get incorporated into the design for B&W2, only time will tell. If Creature Isle is a huge success then we will look at creating another mini-sequel, but B&W2 is where all our efforts are aimed at the moment, and it's already taking shape and looking good.

Do you, or do you not, like the new package styling your product is released in (small boxes)?

JB: To be honest, I liked the look of the large boxes for games on the shelf in the shop, but as soon as I got them home they would fall apart or consume space in my games room that I just didn't want to waste. Seeing the end of them doesn't really upset me. Generally, they went into the loft or were thrown away. The DVD cases, however, fit nicely with films and games from other machines. I like them — for the moment. I used to think the same of CD cases, but now I've thrown them all away and put all my CDs onto my hard drive — playing them through a digital card. Eventually the PC or similar will be the box that provides films, games and music, and you won't have boxes lying around at all. I'm all for that.

So when can we expect Black & White 2?

JB: My word, there's a question! Do you know how much pressure the Internet community alone puts on us with their enthusiasm for release dates? They pressurized us more than anyone to release B&W. So let's say that B&W2 will be finished when we are satisfied it's ready. Lionhead prides itself on creating the best games it can, and I can tell you that Black & White 2 is already very cool. Rest assured that we will give out release informationwhen we can. But that won't be for a while.


Read the latest review and view screenshots of Black & White: Creature Isle here!

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