Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Creature A.I. of Black and White

Black and White is where my interest in A.I. in games started. (A little context) Black and White is a god game designed and created by Lionhead Studios under the directive of Peter Molyneaux. In Black and White you are a god born of the prayers of people, free to do whatever you please through the islands of the game.

In your journeys you are eventually given a creature. A tiny little thing, it behaves just like a child – curious yet inexperienced and frightened of the big bad world. Similar to a child you can teach it, it will then think and act based on what  was taught by you. Invest enough time and your creature can become your ultimate agent. It was a fascinating example of A.I. in games.

The Creature Cave

Black and White’s Artificial Intelligence was designed and implement by Richard Evans, and in my opinion it was the creature feature in particular that elevated the experience of certain aspects of the game. Employing sophisticated A.I techniques, it gave deeper meaning to your relationship with the creature, you felt responsible for it (well at least I did) having to train and look after it while it grew up.

Notable features related to the creature included:

  • Leashes – Which gave the player some behavioral control of the creature.
  • Creature Combat – Where creatures would fight autonomously when not commanded by the player.

A battle from Black and White: Creatures Isle. The Crocodile is controlled entirely by the game.

AiGameDev, who listed it as the most influential AI game, summed up the technical innovations as:

  • The gameplay is focused on the interaction with a large AI creature which can learn from examples, and takes reward and punishment.
  • The design integrates artificial life within the context of a strategy game.
  • The engine uses a solid AI architecture, rooted in cognitive science, known as belief-desire-intention (BDI).
  • Machine learning techniques such as decision trees and neural networks are used with great success.

If you are interested in learning more about the innards of Black and Whites creature A.I. then check out this great paper by James Wexler.

Two Great Books on Game Design

If you interested in learning more about game design, here are two great books you should definitely check out.

A Theory of Fun

Written by Raph Koster, A Theory of Fun Given was a great gift from a friend. It’s exactly what it says it is ‘A Theory’ about Fun. After reading it I’d describe it as actually quite light reading; a short and colorful book filled with plenty of pictures that’s well worth a read for those new to game design.


Art of Game Design a Book of Lenses

Written by Jesse Schell, The Art of Game Design is a comprehensive look into exactly that The Art of Game Design (it’s a good sign a book does what it says). I’m actually reading it at the moment, and so far it’s a joy particularly because of the authors writing style. The book is giving me an holistic look  into game design that’s changing my perception of how I look at everything surround games. Another book well worth your time.


Game Development Society

Game Development Society is an official society at the University of Edinburgh that I help found with two good friends of mine, Nick La Rooy and Richard Cassidy.

Sadly now that I’ve graduated from the University of Edinburgh I’m no longer part of the committee, but I’m happy to say its been left in very capable hands. If your interested in game development then I highly encourage you to get in touch with them through either their website or email (, as well as subscribe to their mailing list.

By the way they have an upcoming Game Jam sometime next week  (details are at the bottom of the page) so if your in Edinburgh around then go check it out!


Hi all,

First off, welcome to all our new members, great to have you with us. This is just a quick reminder of our first (and main) event this Semester, which I’m sure Scott or Paul mentioned at the Freshers’ Fair – our 1st Semester GameJam.

So, what is a GameJam? Basically, you spend a weekend rapidly producing a short game, based on a given theme (revealed on the day). All the games are then judged by the community with a prize for the winner! The event is open to students and non-students alike, regardless of skill level, and free for members or just £3 otherwise. Turn up in a team of up to four, or on your own and we will organise teams on the day. Programmers, artists, sound designers, writers etc. are all welcome (and appreciated!).

It will be in the The Pentland Room at the Pleasance Student Union on the 21st and 22nd of September, starting at 11:00 – that’s this weekend. We have the room booked till 23:00 on the Saturday, and it will reopen at 12:00 on the Sunday. The games will need to be complete and playable (on your machine only) by 21:00 on Sunday for the judging. You will need to bring your own PC, contact us if this is a problem. Once again there will be an exciting new theme, and a fabulous cash prize.

Regarding rules, you can use any language, framework or program you like, provided you are not simply completing an existing game. We encourage everyone to judge based on the game, not the tools used to make it. As an aside, we will also be there to help novices if they choose to use GameMaker. If this is you, we recommend doing the “Your First Game” tutorial here so you’re ready to go as soon as you arrive.

As usual, if you’ve any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask us.