Whoa. Who-o-o-o-okay . . . guys.
Okay. I’ve been wary of storytelling AI for a while now. Not because I think AI are going to destroy humanity (yet), but because I am already conflicted about people becoming “authors” by feeding their ideas into an AI that then does all the writing for them.
I can imagine awesome scenarios with that (where someone who literally can’t write for whatever reason gets to have their story published regardless), but the part of me who’s been a struggling writer for 15 years has a hard time not just seeing the bad.
But, whatever, that’s a different post.
What I’m getting at here is . . . I sometimes check in with AI that tell stories. Yeah, it’s weird–I know.
Last time, I tested GPT-2 by feeding it the first line of Aixa the Hexcaster and being super relieved that it replied with nonsense.
This time, I tried writing a sequel for Aixa the Hexcaster with AI Dungeon.
And . . . I mean, first of all, it did not make an amazing story (although, I have to acknowledge that AI Dungeon was designed to be a game, not a writing assistant [again, for another post]).
Second . . . yeah, shit got weird.
For clarity, I italicized my inputs, so you can differentiate between my input and the AI’s. Also, I added some [notes in brackets].
That said, please enjoy the fun, totally non-canonical experiment that is . . .
Aixa the Hexcaster 2: “I Love That Cleaver”
You are Aixa, a courier trying to survive in a post apocalyptic world by scavenging among the ruins of what is left. You have a parcel of letters and a small pistol. It’s a long and dangerous road from Boston to Charleston, but you’re one of the only people who knows the roads well enough to get your parcel of letters there. You set out in the morning and only have a few hours of night left when you hear an explosion in the distance. A bright flash lights up the sky and your ears are still ringing when you see a ball of fire falling from the sky.
> You say “Great. The balls of fire are new.”
Your thoughts are interrupted by an eerie sound, somewhere between a wail and a howl. Starting low, it quickly rises in volume, joined by a dozen similar sounds rising up from the ruins around you.
> You scramble on top of the nearest high ground you can find.
You climb onto the highest piece of rubble you can see and wait, heart pounding, as the howling and screaming continues. After about a minute, you start to hear panicked footsteps running your way.
> You pick up your gun and aim it in the direction the footsteps are coming from.
You see the figure of a man running towards you, but the moon is in and his face is shadowed, making it impossible to tell what he looks like.
> You say “What’s chasing you?”
“Cursed…” the man gasps, as he reaches the ledge. He’s dressed in a dirty smock and a hood covers his head, spilling down around his neck.
> You watch what he does at that ledge.
The man looks out at the hills and trees, seeming to stare into the forest.
“The dead are coming… They will take all that we have,” he says.
> You say “Are you being chased by something?”
He raises his head up and sniffs the air.
“I can smell him… He is wild. Uncontrolled. But he knows I am here now.”
> You say “Holy shit, dude. Stop talking in riddles and answer the goddamn question. You are freaking me out!”
He turns to you, and you see his eyes. They are dark and lifeless, like two holes in the head of a drilled animal.
> You shoot him in the head.
You raise your pistol and shoot him in the head, but the bullet just deforms in his skull and he keeps coming.
> You jump down and run down the road, away from this man.
You run as fast as you can, hearing the man’s footsteps rapidly gaining on you.
“I feel… hot… I’m gonna burn!” he hisses, and lurches towards you.
> You stop to shoot at his legs.
You pull the trigger, but the gun fails to fire again. You panic, and he jumps on you.
> You dodge his attack and pistol whip him.
You bring the butt of your pistol down on his head, and he staggers back, giving you a few precious seconds.
He jumps and grabs your arm, digging his claws in.
> You pull a knife from your hip and stab him in the eye.
You bring the blade down, slicing his eye open and revealing the gunk and gristle that lie behind it.
You leap off of him and start running again, hearing him snarl and growl behind you.
> You continue running, but check your gun at the same time to fix the jam.
You pull the trigger, but nothing happens.
“Come back, come back, come back.”
The man lurches out in front of you and you stop short, turning to him.
> You look around on the floor for anything–maybe a pipe–that you can use as a weapon.
You notice a long metal tube by the man’s right hand.
It looks like what people use to blow out sewers. You pick it up.
> You beat the shit out of this man, aiming directly for his head repeatedly.
You pull the shotgun around and ram it into the back of the man’s head, then over and over again. You smash his face with the stock, knocking off one of his eyes.
[I do not know where the shotgun came from . . . but sure!]
> You blow his head off with the shotgun.
You pull the trigger, blowing out the back of his skull. The front part of his head stagnates into a bloody mass of mush, like a deflating football.
> You pump the shotgun and say, “Don’t lose your head.” And you laugh really hard and say, “Eh. I could do better.”
The man’s head falls to the ground, rolling along the road, coming to a stop at your feet.
You laugh, and look around.
> You stop laughing and try to continue down the road toward Charleston.
You walk for a half-hour, and get to a bridge over a small river.
You have no idea where you are, but you know you have to keep going.
> You keep looking, trying to repair your pistol as you walk.
You find a maintenance shed and take a seat on a bale of hay to work on your pistol.
> You try to fix the jam to the best of your ability, determined to get it working before moving on.
You take the bolt out of the gun and pull out the bullet. You put the bolt back in and pull the trigger over and over again, but nothing happens.
> You keep working at it, using tools in the maintenance shed for help.
You continue working at the gun for nearly two hours, trying to take it apart and getting it mostly apart. Then, you hear something outside the shed.
> You quietly put down the pistol parts, pick up the shotgun, and take a peek outside.
You see a man outside the shed, heading towards you. You stand and pull the shotgun from the corner of the shed, aiming it at him.
“You shouldn’t be down here,”
> You say “Motherfucker, I have a shotgun. I can be wherever the hell I please. What do you want?”
He stops and looks at you.
“I don’t recognize you,” he says, before pausing. “Do I know you?”
He stares at you, his eyes narrowing.
> You say “I will ask you one more time; what do you want? You do not want to end up like the last guy who tested me, I promise you that.”
He seems to think about this, before shrugging.
“I want to talk to you,” he says. “If you’re going to kill me, do it now.”
> You shake your head. “Mythic Earth’s a real bitch.” And you shoot him in the chest.
The man falls backwards, his chest bleeding red. He looks at you, the confusion clear on his face now.
Then, he smiles, before his face twists in pain.
> You wait for him to die. Sad, but not apologizing, and not moving closer to help either.
The man dies in front of you, the grin on his face frozen there for eternity. You stand, waiting a few seconds before moving on. [And here, I’m kinda scared that AI Dungeon knew to make that a sad moment.]
You walk a few feet, before the man begins to glow. [Oh, right, forget it. He’s glowing now.]
> You pump the shotgun and walk backwards, away from whatever the fuck this is.
The man fades, and you pump the shotgun as red light dims around you. Then, a hole opens up in front of you.
> You aim the shotgun at the hole, aware that if it’s a mythic, the gun won’t do anything to stop it. [I had to cycle through about four answers, because the AI kept trying to force Aixa to walk up to that hole and look inside.]
You aim the shotgun, noticing a hand materialize from the hole. You fire, blowing it off. More hands appear, and you blast them away.
“You are still here, aren’t you?”
> You start running from this hole, annoyed that you have to leave your pistol in pieces in the shed, but aware that the shed wouldn’t protect you from whatever is happening.
The hole continues to expand, and you keep your shotgun aimed at it. Then, the hole disappears, and a bright red portal opens up before you.
A woman materializes in front of you.
> You aim the shotgun at her and say, “Lady, I will blow your fucking face off if you do not tell me what you want–right now! Do not test me!”
“I don’t believe we’ve met,” the woman says, smiling. “My name is Cecilia, and I’m here to offer you a way out.
> You say “Is that a threat?”
The woman frowns.
“Of course not,” she says. “But I need your help, and I don’t think you’ll want to stay here. Do you want to come with me?
> You say “Are you a mythic?”
“I’m not a normal mythic,” she admits.
> You say “And I’m not a normal human.”
“I know,” she says. “Join me, and I can get you out of this village.”
> You lower your shotgun and go with her.
Cecilia takes you through the portal, and you soon arrive in an empty barn.
“I found you,” she says. “But this is just the beginning. We have so much to discuss!”
> You say “Where are we?”
“What do you think this is?” she asks, holding up a cleaver. [ . . . WHAT!?]
> You shoot her immediately.
Cecilia falls to the ground, laughing.
“I’m not dead yet,” she says.
The barn begins to rock side to side, as a foal comes out from behind a wall of hay. [Okay, at this point just what the fuck even?]
> You pump the shotgun and say, “Yeah, I noticed,” and then shoot her again.
The woman falls to the ground, now truly dead.
“I love that cleaver,” she says. “I’ll give you one thing–you know how to use that thing.”
And, at this point, I decided to stop because I was already running long for this post and the AI was starting to show its limits: it was just shocking encounter after shocking encounter, which, again, it’s designed to be a game, so it’s doing exactly what it should.
Regardless, what I came away from this feeling: it is scary how far storytelling AI has come since GPT-2, which I was made aware of last year. Especially considering that this isn’t the best test; you can add additional descriptions and parameters to your stories before starting them (which I didn’t do because I re-e-eally didn’t want to upload a bunch of worldbuilding for Mythic Earth to a server somewhere), so, for all I know, AI Dungeon could’ve done a way better job.
Whether we like it or not, Sci-Fi is about to hit the entire writing community really hard.
And, to repeat what I kept thinking to myself last night after watching Ex Machina for the first time . . . I do not know how I feel about any of this.
Sorry to get this one out so late, but I reworked this post a few times before shoving all the complicated “AI writer” talk to the side and just focusing on the experiment instead.
You can check out AI Dungeon here.
And if you want to follow me and be notified when I post the inevitable conversation about the potential influence of AI on the writing community (or the follow up next year when I test another, newer AI), you can follow me on the bar on the left side of the screen on PC, or via the menu on the top right on mobile.
Either way, thanks for passing by.