If you had the misfortune of playing Lionhead Studios' Black & White or its sequel Black & White 2 at night, you may remember a creepy Easter Egg where the god sim/real-time strategy game starts whispering your name out of nowhere.
For many players back in the day, it gave them the shock of their lives, with the unsuspecting victims (of Lionhead's twisted sense of humour) then going online to share their experience with others and make sure they weren't hearing things.
Black & White fans have wondered about the origins of this delightfully cruel joke for a while now, questioning who inside Lionhead was responsible for the gag. And recently, on Twitter, Sol Brennan, a senior technical character artist at Heart Machine, stepped up the search, putting out a request to the rest of the game dev community on the site for an answer. It didn't take long, then, for a number of former Lionhead employees to turn up in the replies with some more information about the origins of the spooky voice (thanks Babybahamut for the spot!).
According to the former Lionhead composer and sound designer Russ Shaw, it was Peter Molyneux's idea to add the Easter Egg into the first game. Shaw responded to the request on Twitter with the following:
"It was Peter's idea. I recorded 100 of the commonest names and we cross-checked against PC user names until we had a match. The whispered names were played at 1.00am. I still have all the original files."
Later in the thread, Shaw also confirmed that it was his voice used in the game, with the sound designer going through this list of common names and recording them himself.
Besides Shaw, another former employee to chime in to answer Brennan's question was Matthew Hanlon, who is a former gameplay & AI programmer at Lionhead. In his reply, he seemed to suggest that no new names were added for the sequel, claiming that:
"It was part of B&W that we just kept in B&W2, there were 100 names that were recorded I don't think we added any for 2. Because of putting a fake name in for B&W I never got it, got plenty of the deathhhh whisper though.”
The gag is a small yet fascinating piece of Lionhead history and speaks to the playful and slightly cheeky nature of the studio's games. The thread is well worth taking a closer look at too, if you have the time, with many older players chiming in with their experiences encountering the Easter Egg following its launch.