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.

black-and-white-creature
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.

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