Interactive Fiction: Story-Wrestling with AI Dungeon

Someone on Mastodon shared out that a new interactive fiction game app – AI Dungeon — was free for a limited time (still is, as far as I know, for now), so I took the plunge and tried it out. It’s quite fascinating, as the AI software brain spins an elaborate story from your text-based responses, questions, actions. There were some basic themes built into the game but I decided to test out a more open-ended option and set my story of a musician/spy into motion.

Here was the initial story set-up I set into motion:

You are a traveling musician who has been sent to spy on a neighboring kingdom. The road you travel brings you through many small villages. You meet many other musicians, and maybe more than a few spies. What do you do?

As I understand it, after a bit of research and computation, the AI brain sends story narrative back based on its interpretation of my actions within the game. Hints in the game suggest that more complex the user language/words are, the more the AI will learn and adapt to the story.

Interestingly, there were definitely times when I could feel the AI tugging my story into its known corners — I ended up in a cave a few times — as opposed to truly letting my activities guide the story forward on its own path. The AI writing itself was remarkable coherent, for the most part, although sometimes, when it either provided dialogue or used mine, things got a bit convoluted in the context of who was speaking.

The developer site explains (and deeper technical explanation here):

AIDungeon2 is a first of its kind AI generated text adventure. Using a 1.5B parameter machine learning model called GPT-2 AIDungeon2 generates the story and results of your actions as you play in this virtual world.
Unlike virtually every other game in existence, you are not limited by the imagination of the developer in what you can do. Any thing you can express in language can be your action and the AI dungeon master will decide how the world responds to your actions.

It took me some time to find a rhythm of my own, to stay true to my sense of character (actually, I’m still doing that as I keep playing) — I’d have them (me?) pull out a guitar or saxophone or harmonica, now and then, and use music to discover mystery — and not let the AI be the one in charge of the story. It was a bit of story-wrestling, in a fun way.

At this moment (as I write this blog post), this is what happened after I played my saxophone:

You play the saxophone, which causes the water around you to ripple slightly. Suddenly, a bright light shines through the hole in the rocks. You look out into darkness and see a tall figure emerge from the cave entrance. It’s face is covered with black hair and its skin is pale white.

After a few mornings of “playing the story,” I still had not gotten too far into where my character was actually going and trying to do (other than spy), and why they were going there, although I had met my fair share of interesting characters (again, some seemed to have been yanked from some other game world into my own) and entered some intriguing rooms. I broke mirrors, used keys, sent messages via guitar string, ran from one person and found another person, took a horse for a ride, and more — all with text-based storytelling, guided by AI database.

I’d love to see where AI Dungeon goes. It’s still being developed and the brothers behind the company hope to fund their project through Patreon. I can’t afford the $5 month, their lowest tier (I wish there were something even lower, but I feel like a cheapskate even suggesting that), but if there’s a way to keep playing and supporting a version, I’ll do it.

You can read my story from a link generated by the app (you don’t seem to need the app to read the story, which is helpful).

Peace (playing it),
Kevin

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