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 Versus fighting games. Its sequel is Black & White 2.
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.
At the center of the player's empire is the Temple, the building at which tribesfolk worship and the Creature sleeps. To increase the verisimilitude, menus and statistics are replaced by specialized rooms in the temple. Each village under the player's control will construct a worship area in the temple, where magical or 'prayer' energy is accumulated that can be used for miracles.
The player's happy existence among the villagers is shaken by the discovery of a massive Creature, who tells of a god known as Nemesis, his former master, who desires to destroy all other gods and reign supreme as the one true god. Nemesis becomes the principal antagonist in the game, though he is not confronted until the final level. In the meantime, the Creature Trainer offers to train a player and Creature in the ways of the gods, teaching about the casting of miracles and creature combat. When he speaks of the Creed -- a mysterious, divided energy source with the ability to destroy gods -- he is destroyed by Nemesis, who goes on to attack the player's village with lightning. A mysterious vortex opens; in desperation, the player collects what resources and followers he can and enters it.
The vortex transports the player into a second island. He is greeted by another god, Khazar, who sent the vortex to save the player. Khazar tells of how he is under attack by Lethys, a follower of Nemesis, and asks for the player's aid in exchange for the resources to rebuild the player's village. He follows to teach the player further points on village construction and miracle use. After a certain time has passed, Nemesis destroys Khazar, taking a piece of the Creed that Khazar had and leaving the player to cope with Lethys alone. When Lethys is seriously threatened, he kidnaps the player's creature, taking it through a vortex to another land. The player may choose to hastily follow Lethys or wait and amass extra resources to take with him; though the vortex will close quickly, it will open again after Lethys' temple is destroyed.
In the third land, it is revealed that the Creature is being held in stasis by three magical pillars, each powered by the prayers of a village. The player must take over all three villages to free the Creature. After this, Lethys gives the player a piece of the Creed and opens a vortex to a land where another can be found. He asks in return that he be left one village, a request that the player can allow or deny. If the player takes control of Lethys' final village, Lethys is destroyed forever (though either way he will not make a reappearance). The player then follows the vortex into a fourth island.
The fourth island is actually the first land, only cursed by Nemesis. Fireballs and lightning rain from the sky, which has been turned blood-red. To overcome this, the player must complete three separate quests to deactivate the curses. Finally, the second piece of the Creed can be obtained by aiding a cursed village (the inhabitants were turned into living skeletons). When the piece of the Creed is claimed, Nemesis appears, saying that the player and he are the only remaining gods and inviting the player to his realm. A vortex is opened, through which the player goes to the fifth and final island.
In the fifth island, Nemesis curses the player's Creature, causing him to slowly change alignments, shrink, and grow weaker. Three villages hold the keys to undoing these curses, though many more must be taken over to defeat Nemesis. When the final piece of the Creed is obtained, the player activates them to destroy Nemesis once and for all, leaving the player as the last remaining god in the world.
Most of the creatures can be obtained from completing various Silver Reward Scrolls, although the quest that allows the player to obtain the wolf creature suffered from a scripting bug that prevented it from being completed until patch 1.1 was released.
This pet of the player's starts out relatively small, probably the size of a two story house, and later grows to be the size of a skyscraper. Each Creature has its strengths and weaknesses; for example, the Ape is very intelligent and learns things quickly, but lacks strength, whereas the Tiger is almost the opposite -- very strong, but not the fastest learner. As a god, the player can teach their creature to do simple tasks like keeping the village store full of food and wood; teach the creature to perform miracles; as well as teach the Creature a range of beneficial, benign, or violent acts: anything from what and when to eat to how to attack an enemy's villagers using trees as weapons. The Creature may also be taught fighting skills for one on one battles with other creatures, the Creature's attack and defence abilities can each be trained and improved.
The Creature is taught by using a slap/stroke system; if the Creature does something the player does not want it to do, the player can slap the creature. On the other hand, if the Creature does something the player approves of, the Creature can be stroked. The player's Creature will remember whether or not it was rewarded for an action, will not do things that it was slapped for, and will frequently do things when stroked for doing them.
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.
Miracles can also be upgraded through quests, or already available. Upgrades cost more worship prayer, but are much stronger. Fireballs are bigger and come in more numbers. Upgraded food dispenses more food. To upgrade, the player must make the gesture for the upgrade, similar to casting miracles without activating them from the worship site or town center. Upgraded miracles can be hidden in miracle bubbles, which is shown if the bubble has a ring in it.
Wonders require huge amounts of wood, but usually pay off to the player in another way. If the town is taken, the wonder will convert to the new owner. Most wonders do not benefit the Creature, the Egyptian and Japanese being the only ones that can. In addition, the size of the wonder is set when it is built and is decided by the village's influence and belief -- they range from being "merely" the size of larger homes to gargantuan constructs taking up as much buildable land as the player's Temple.