AI game creation just took an interesting step in a new direction with a new application putting the emerging technology’s power into the hands of end users rather than dev teams.
Kongregate’s AI Adventure Creator is released today, enabling easy interactive storytelling and empowering users of all skill levels to craft immersive 80’s style adventure games through cutting edge AI with a mobile app on the way.
AI Adventure Creator uses a user-friendly web browser interface, featuring 3D animated Spellstone characters, intricate puzzles, skill-based challenges, and dynamic combat scenarios. All of this, plus the power for users to create new experiences within just a matter of hours.
In addition the platform also facilitates seamless publication and sharing, allowing creators to share their creations to a global audience, fostering a dynamic player to player environment and user ratings where the most highlighted acclaimed adventure creators can be rewarded.
To find out more, we spoke with Kongregate’s Bryan Salt who set up and runs the ‘K’ squad, a focused team that creates fast prototypes for market testing and new cutting edge ideas.
Pocketgamer.biz: What exactly is the AI Adventure Creator?
Bryan Salt: It’s a very simple to use web browser-based editor that allows anyone to create 80s style adventure games using the latest AI tools.
Who is it aimed at?
Anyone with an idea! We built it with the aim that a 10 year old could build a professional quality adventure game in less than a few hours. Our bigger goal is to make AI accessible to everyone and to empower the widest base of creators to be able to create experiences for their own audience.
YouTube, and later, other platforms spawned a creator community for video content. We want to do the same, giving a platform for amateur game creators to express themselves and target their own audience with the experiences they want to build.
How long did it take to build?
We have a very small three person team in Kongregate called the K Squad that produces experimental prototypes in a matter of weeks. By making these small projects low-cost, we were able to test out some crazy ideas and see what the community likes without the risk of a big-budget project.
This fast, lean methodology approach was a huge advantage in building an AI project as advances and changes are happening every day. We built the adventure creator in around 10 weeks, but even in that short time, we had to change our approach several times during the development.
Where did the concept originate from, what was the inspiration?
AI is still in its early days of practical use in games, so we wanted to keep it simple. One of the earliest and simplest genres of games were graphical adventures back in the 80s. They were text and image-based with a branching tree of progressions. Whilst simple, we can still see good examples of this today. I am a huge fan of the Professor Layton series, which is essentially an 80’s graphical adventure with puzzles. So, from the outset, we set ourselves the goal that our users can create something of the quality of the Layton series.
There is no AI inside our app. The app merely interfaces the user with external AI companies that produce content.
How does AI Adventure Creator work?
There is no AI inside our app. The app merely interfaces the user with external AI companies that produce content; we then link the game configuration they build in our app to the cloud-based content they created on these external sites. The game the user designs in our app is a sub 75k text file that points to the URLs of the data they created elsewhere. We, of course, neither own the AI nor the content it creates.
Why use AI in a game editor?
My first games job was with Incentive software in the early 90s, which is credited with the first editors made for creating multiple games in their Freescape series. Since then, I’ve been involved in game editors in some way, sometimes professional tools, but by far, my favourite is creating editors that anyone can use.
I think everyone loves being able to create as much as play if they can. A lot of game companies today are focusing their efforts on using AI for cost savings, but I am very interested in using it to empower a wider set of creators. I truly believe that the easier it is for people to try out different approaches and ideas the more diverse and interesting experiences we will begin to see.
The games industry often has cycles where we need to take a low-risk approach to development, which can sometimes stifle out-of-the-box ideas. I strongly believe that if we use AI wisely, we can create a more diverse and healthy future that sees a broader range of people able to create and try out crazy new ideas in a vibrant, creator-based economy.
Your editor uses external AI tools. Is it costly for a user to create an adventure with them?
AI tools have the potential to reduce the cost of content creation for traditional developers, but we wanted to go further and reduce that cost to absolute zero for users of our editor. This was a challenge as some aspects of third party AI tools could be considered expensive for an average person creating a complex game. Image generation, for example, could be costly and time-consuming if you have more than 100 images you need to create. To mitigate this, we created an approach called AI Curating, where we auto generate thousands of images using AI tools that are carefully curated to fit the typical types of image a user might want to use.
Any user can build all or most of their adventure game with these curated images, which have zero cost and are nearly instantaneous to integrate into their game. However, to also give maximum creativity to the users, we also give direct access to image prompt generation of any bizarre idea they may have. So, both systems work in harmony to give the user the power and freedom to build how they want.
There are currently three billion plus people playing games, but only a relative handful of people building them.
How do you see AI altering the landscape for games developers?
My joy and goal is clearly in empowering a new group of people to make games. There are currently three billion plus people playing games, but only a relative handful of people building them, and as we all know, we are often building very similar cookie-cutter experiences for a broad demographic.
When I started out as an artist in the game industry, 99% of my fellow developers were very young, male and all programmers. My experience over the many years has been that enabling technologies vastly increases the number and diversity of people able to work in the games industry. My expectation is that we will see an explosion of new jobs and that a very large new creator economy will emerge alongside the traditional industry with a really diverse group of individuals building meaningful experiences for their specific audience.
With AI allowing you to create anything, How did you keep the consistent look of your Spellstone adventure universe?
We use an approach we call AI Shepherding to maintain a consistent style of the content that the AI creates. A lot of people experimenting with AI image generation directly will have found it time-consuming or frustrating to get the image they wanted the first time, so what we did was researched and tested many ways of framing the user’s AI prompts to give consistent results within our Spellstone Adventure world. It’s pretty good, but we still have a lot of work to do here and we are currently experimenting with our own training models to further improve our control of image generation in our own style.
What’s your favourite aspect of the editor?
The most fun I have in building an adventure with the editor is setting up your own Chatbot for the characters in your adventure. During the development, we saw lots of people releasing chatbot tools, but we had already made our own with which you answer five simple questions, and it sets up your character. It’s insanely simple to do but the results are really funny and engaging. With features like this, I found that the creation of the game is as much, if not more, fun than playing the games. I’m excited to see the mix we get between creators and players and I’m really hoping people enjoy both.
What are your plans for mobile?
The prototype editor is out on the Kongregate web portal now. The users of the editor can create and instantly publish their own adventure game with it; all the image files the users of the editor currently create are held in the cloud and can be accessed externally.
Our design intention was that if it proved popular, then these user-created games would also be available on a mobile app and other platforms in the near future. The games the editor creates are held as very small text files that point to the server locations of the content the user created, so it’s technically very easy to publish and distribute via an app or player, a sort of YouTube for game content.