Tag Archives: Black and White

Farewell Lionhead Studios

Heading home from Switzerlands snowy alps after my school ski trip I was exhausted. Our flight had finally reached London, and we had some time to kill before our onward journey. Some chose to sleep. I chose to shop for games.

On shelves crowded by the ordinary, Black & White glinted at me. Painted with wondrous scenes of mystical grandeur I was unable to resist its sirens call. I scoured my pockets, hoping I had enough left from my spending spree on grossly overpriced bobbles, and delectable Swiss confectioneries.

Little did I know buying Black & White was to be an investment of a lifetime.

Black & White turned out to be one of the best games I’ve ever played, and its not an ‘objective’ best I’m referring to. When I say best, it’s because of the joy, and experience in that time and place which can never be recreated; no matter how advanced the graphics or sophisticated the A.I.


Finishing Black & White, I eagerly anticipated its sequel, going so far as to reach out of my introverted childhood and send Lionhead Studios an email as news of Black & White 2 trickled across the net.

I wish I still had that mail; alas a lost memento.

I recall asking about features. Would there be creature armor? What would it be like? Would there be more types of wild animals? What would their behaviors be?

If I could meet the boy who sent Lionhead that email, I’d have chastised him for his priorities, and compelled him to seek forgiveness for his god awful writing. Yet, more importantly, I’d also have given him a smile and a pat on the back for his sporadic naive bravery.

Can you believe they replied to that little boy? An intern actually went round their office with his questions. They took the time to reply to an email asking ‘silly’ questions about ‘silly’ details. They sprinkled a little color into a child’s imagination.

A small gesture, I’ll always be grateful for.


Again it seems that time changes everything. Yet I’ve quietly kept wishing for more Black & White games. Now I guess I’ll put that wish away on my dusty shelf of dreams.

I’m not sad though, as I’ll exchange one wish for another. Now with your talent unleashed, perhaps I’ll again meet an incarnation of you?

Farewell Lionhead Studios.

Thanks for the good times.


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.