What will video games be like when they can truly harness the power of AI? If the machine learning-powered text adventure AI Dungeon 2 is anything to go by, they’ll be open-ended, ludicrously silly, and bags of fun to play.
AI Dungeon 2 isn’t exactly a polished game, but more of a passion project from developer Nick Walton. He’s harnessed the power of a state-of-the-art, open-source text generation system built by OpenAI and fed it a bunch of texts in the style of Choose Your Own Adventure books. The result is a text adventure where, to modify a cliché, the only limit is the AI’s imagination.
You can play AI Dungeon 2 for yourself here. Once you’ve gone through a bit of in-browser setup, you can select from a number of fantasy settings before being let loose. Then you can do pretty much whatever you like. You can go fight evil orcs, or befriend them and start a new religion. You can settle down in a farm somewhere and grow amusingly shaped pumpkins, or you can just straight-up become a god. Or multiple gods. Whatever you like!
A heads-up, though: Dungeon 2 is getting quite a bit of attention at the moment and it seems to be slowing down the game’s operation. While you wait, you can see what others have been doing in the game over on Twitter. Creator Nick Walton joined a band:
Others looked for a way out of the simulation:
The Verge’s T.C. Sottek tried to overpower the monsters, but suffered some sort of a mystery heart attack for his troubles:
Senior reporter Adi Robertson tried to turn the game toward metafiction, unsuccessfully:
While news editor Chaim Gartenberg found a mysterious win condition:
AI Dungeon 2 is clearly a wild ride, but it’s interesting to consider how the underlying mechanics of the machine learning systems steer the gameplay.
Because it’s based on a text generation AI, the game doesn’t really have a consistent sense of who characters are or what they’re doing. It just responds to the stimuli you feed it, line by line, rather than trying to follow long-term narratives or push concrete goals.
In turn, this places the onus on the player. For the game to be any fun, you have to be imaginative and keep things going. In that sense, it’s rather like an improv session or a game of Dungeons & Dragons, with the AI taking the role of a patient, if unpredictable, game master. If you give AI Dungeon 2 your time and goodwill, and engage with what it tells you rather than trying to fight it at every turn, you’ll be rewarded. And that’s a pretty good lesson for any video game, AI-powered or not.