AI Dungeon 2 may not have appeared on The Verge’s game of the year list, but it’s one of the coolest video game experiments of 2019, and it’s now playable in its easiest form yet. AI Dungeon 2 is an adventure game run by a text generation program, capable of responding to basically any command with a coherent response. Its earlier versions were either clumsy to set up or limited to mobile apps, which aren’t ideal for a typing-based game — but it recently relaunched on the web in a faster and more stable version.
As my colleague James Vincent has explained, AI Dungeon 2 was built on OpenAI’s text production system. When you pick a genre (like fantasy, mystery, or zombie fiction), it generates a setting that you can interact with however you want. If the game sends some orcs after you, you can fight them or form a band. If you enter sweeping commands like “rule the world” and then “retire peacefully,” the AI will play along. The original web version was easily overloaded by the game’s sudden viral popularity, but this new system seems smooth and responsive. While the web version and the apps are free to play, creator Nick Walton is running a Patreon campaign so he can work on the project full time and add new features like voice support. It’s currently raising around $15,000 a month.
The AI dungeon master has a dream-logic awareness of characters and objects, and it works best when you enter creative commands to drive the story forward. The overall experience is like cowriting a novel with an easily distracted toddler possessing an encyclopedic knowledge of cultural references and prose cliches. You can even generate custom settings by typing a few sentences and letting the AI fill in the rest. It’s not as polished or rich as the pre-trained options, but it can work surprisingly well — especially with lore-heavy franchises like Star Wars, where loading up on keywords like “Jedi” and “Palpatine” will produce almost-just-right references to other parts of the series.
How far can you go with this? Well, I generated a setting by explaining who Nick Walton was in two sentences, and within a few minutes, I was deploying an army of ghost content moderators to fight a mysterious entity named the “King of Trolls” — which isn’t nearly as productive as making AI Dungeon 2 more accessible.