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Inventor of AI Game Hidden Door Affirms: AI Carries No Inherent Evil, Its Benefits Remain the Heart of Our Debate



Attempts to integrate generative AI into existing video games have been amusing but haven’t felt like a glimpse into the future. However, one company, Hidden Door, has been developing an AI game engine since 2020 that shows promise. The engine, called a “story engine,” narrates cooperative RPG campaigns set in popular fictional worlds licensed from authors. I previously met with Hidden Door’s CEO, Hilary Mason, at GDC in March, and for today’s PC Gaming Show, we interviewed her again at Hidden Door’s office in New York. The video above is an extended version of the interview that was shown during the show. In the interview, Mason explains how Hidden Door’s AI system works and how the company aims to address emerging concerns over AI ethics by ensuring that the technology benefits the right people.

Before delving into the ethical questions, it’s helpful to understand what Hidden Door is and how it operates. In a previous article, I provided a more detailed explanation, but here’s a summary: Hidden Door’s storytelling is based on “tropes,” which are common scenarios in certain genres, such as a bar brawl. The custom story engine combines these tropes dynamically to generate what makes the most sense in the story at any given moment. The AI narrator can adhere to the rules of licensed fictional worlds, including who can die, fall in love, or the nature of magic. It can also mimic an author’s writing style.

Players input their desired actions for their custom characters and choose from a selection of suggested actions. The system employs wordplay to provide ideas to players. For example, typing “punch” might offer the option to punch someone or “feel punchy” or even search for fruit punch. One way the engine creates the illusion of storytelling is by incorporating past events into the narrative. For instance, if a player offended someone in the previous story, the story engine might introduce that person as an enemy in the current story.

Like tabletop RPG campaigns, the story in Hidden Door never has to end. The AI engine can continuously generate content, and the characters and world persist over time. However, players can win or lose individual scenarios by achieving good or bad outcomes. While death is a possibility, failing is often presented as a humorous experience.

Personally, my initial reaction is to test the limits of the system or attempt to break it. The more human-like a machine learning system behaves, the more I have the urge to challenge it to reveal its true nature as a machine. But once the novelty of poking at Hidden Door’s boundaries wears off, will it still be enjoyable? If it is, I can envision it becoming popular. For example, I would be interested in playing an endless cooperative RPG set in the Star Trek: TNG universe with my friends. Let’s face it—many D&D campaigns fizzle out because no one wants to be the Dungeon Master anymore. It’s a lot of work.

According to Mason, Hidden Door is not intended to replace tabletop roleplaying but rather offers a different way to experience it. It eliminates the need for a friend who can invest significant time and removes the requirement to purchase books or learn complex rule systems. Hidden Door has a lightweight ruleset and relies on a language-based interface, allowing players to jump in and play whenever they want. It also permits solo play.

However, despite the company’s assurance that the story engine is not intended to replace human creativity, it’s inevitable that a segment of the target audience will feel uneasy engaging with generative AI due to various ethical concerns associated with AI systems. Mason acknowledges the importance of addressing these concerns, including the ethical sourcing of data, avoiding biases, and ensuring a safe player experience with proper mechanisms for reporting issues.

At Hidden Door, they have been conscientious about this aspect for a long time. They strive for transparency, use ethically-sourced data, and consider the player’s safety and representation within the stories that are told. Mason believes that AI itself is not inherently evil, but the ongoing debate centers on who benefits from it. Hidden Door’s goal is to ensure that writers and creators are the ones who ultimately benefit from the technology. They collaborate with writers to provide them with access to AI technology that enhances their work, allowing them to share their creations with fans and receive greater compensation for their efforts. Mason mentions that Hidden Door is already working with authors and creators from various media to develop adventure settings based on their worlds. However, Hidden Door’s first game world will be based on the public domain story, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, published in 1900.

Hidden Door is set to launch this winter and will be free to play. Those interested in an early preview can sign up for updates on the Hidden Door website.

Leah Sirama
Leah Sirama
Leah Sirama, a lifelong enthusiast of Artificial Intelligence, has been exploring technology and the digital realm since childhood. Known for his creative thinking, he's dedicated to improving AI experiences for all, making him a respected figure in the field. His passion, curiosity, and creativity drive advancements in the AI world.
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