Black & White is a computer game developed by Lionhead Studios and published by Electronic Arts and Feral Interactive. It is a god game released in 2001, which included elements of artificial life, strategy, and fighting games.
The player acts as a god and takes control over villages across several islands. Black & White features a unique gameplay element, a creature that the player can raise and teach. The game was highly anticipated and overall well received.
It was followed by an expansion, Black & White: Creature Isle, and a sequel, Black & White 2.
A port for the Sega Dreamcast was in development but got canceled due to the end of the system's production line.
The player takes on the role of a god ruling over an island populated by various tribes. The player's control over the island is manifested in the Hand, an animated on-screen hand which can move or throw people and objects, tap houses to wake their occupants, cast miracles, and do many other things. Use of the keyboard and buttons in the game is purposely low; to add to the sense of realism, the (usually) mouse-controlled hand can perform every function in the game. In later patches, the Hand can also be controlled by an Essential Reality P5 Glove, a consumer-level virtual reality glove that is no longer for sale.
Generally speaking, the goal of a level is to gain control over every village on the island. This is accomplished through the performance of impressive acts that will cause the villagers to believe in the player. Villagers can be swayed by everything from helping them with day-to-day tasks to terrorising them with fireballs and lightning storms. Another important element of the gameplay is the player's Creature — a pet of sorts that can be trained to do almost anything, thanks to the game's complex AI, developed by Richard Evans. This Creature is trained by being placed on a leash while the player demonstrates the action the Creature is to learn using the Hand. With time and repetition, it can perform complex functions that will allow it to serve as the player's avatar in the world.
The principle behind the game's name is the conflict between good and evil. Nearly every action (or lack thereof) will count towards the player's image in the people's eyes. As such, the player may be seen as a heart wrenchingly good god or an utterly evil one. The land and interface will shift according to the player's alignment. A good god will have a white marble temple, a shining white hand, and a peaceful village filled with light. Conversely, an evil god will have a charred, clawed hand, a black temple sprouting venomous red spikes, and thoroughly terrified villagers. Good players try to win over villages through constant help. Common tactics are to donate food and wood, construct buildings, protect the village from other gods, send missionaries, and use the Creature to entertain the villagers. However, villagers become bored with the same attempt to impress them being repeated. In other words if boulders flying overhead become too frequent, they will lose their effect. This forces the player to mix up the methods he uses to convert a village. One can use a balance of good and evil, trying to stay in the gray area. The game presents so many different ways to please a village, however, that the player is never forced to use evil or forced to use good.