Alright, here’s a bit of actual play for you.
I don’t want to ramble on too much because if you try playing, you going to have a different experience and it’s probably pointless to dwell on all the various adventures I’ve had and started sketching out these days.
A few days ago, my friend introduced me to a project to create a text-based adventure (Interactive Fiction) using Chat GPT. It was set in a fantasy world, kind of like D&D. Characters were making their way through a dungeon, stuff was happening… but it all felt flat and meaningless and we realized we had to try to develop some mechanics to make the battles interesting, at least.
But there was a lot of potential and as soon as we try another setting, taking inspiration from the movie “The Thing” things started getting more intriguing.
As for me, I’m not really into action in games… what I look for is immersion. I prefers games that prioritize storytelling and character development over action sequences. Consequently, I have chosen to focus on a game similar to “Monsterhearts” which is known for its emphasis on the narrative, relationships and emotional depth…
…and I discovered a whole new world when I fed a promising prompt to the Alpha version of GPT-4! Suddenly, the depth of the text messages took on a much greater dimension, with descriptions that were rich and full of detail.
As seen in the screenshot above, I utilized the special game command “i” which prompts GPT to list all the items that the protagonist is carrying, a throwback to the old IF games. Chat GPT often offers a smartphone or a diary, without it being specified by the initial prompt. These are useful resources to examine because they always open new avenues: an unknown person trying to contact you, a friend inviting you to a beach party… I also started to write messages in which I performed more than one action…
Here in the exemple my protagonist Alex says, “I don’t feel like studying, I look at the photo (an old photo gathering dust on the desk) and ‘i’.”
And I was struck by the fact that GPT addresses Alex by saying, “It happens to everyone to feel overwhelmed by study, Alex…” It’s a simple thing, indeed, but something like this hadn’t happened before and for some strange reason, it immediately gave me a sense of immersion in the story.
I was excited, but it didn’t take long to realize that things were not going well…
GPT kept stepping on my toes by overlapping my authority and narrating actions and decisions that were up to me, the player.
Sometimes it was just a matter of flavor, but other times it became too intrusive.
For example, here I respond to Luca’s message… but GPT gets carried away by adding something like “you check yourself in the mirror to make sure everything is okay, then you pack your things in your backpack and go out”… but I hadn’t told to GPT I wanted go out!
Moreover, GPT addresses the player with its last sentence, “Sorry, I anticipated your action. Do you want to get ready to leave or is there something else you’d like to do before meeting Luca?”…
NO, that’s not right at all!
And it gets even worse when I invite Luca for a walk and while we’re talking, GPT abruptly ends the scene, having my character Alex walk away and return to his room…
At this point, I had decided to give up and focus on something else… It was too complicated to explain to GPT what ‘Authority’ and ‘Agency’ are… GPT-3 seemed to have a sense of who Ron Edwards is, but I had no idea how to direct it to use his concepts…
Yet, I explained the problem to my friend who dedicated himself to developing the Prompt, I don’t know in what way… probably with some simple sentence he managed to contain the situation. Anyway, with the next upgrade of the Prompt, the problem no longer presented itself.
And just like magic, what I was doing turned into a real game! Just as real as the various journaling games I’ve tried in recent times…
So… Another adventure… this time it’s a guy named Alex who contacts me, someone. I don’t know him well, but he sent me a message that showed he was worried and his desire to meet…
I set up a meeting at a venue, but when I arrive at the club, he’s not there yet (!!!) Well, this is a good opportunity for my character!
In a proactive manner, I introduce a new NPC… I head towards the stage and ask GPT if I see Dakota in the crowd… and there’s Dakota:
*"You dive into the river of sounds and lights, letting the music sweep you away with its unstoppable current. Each note is a wave crashing against the shore of your thoughts, each beat a call to let go. Your movements follow the rhythm, the dance becomes an ancestral rite that awakens every fiber of your being. *
*Dakota, with hair as black as ebony and a contagious smile that seems to shine even in the half-light, is not yet in sight. But it doesn’t matter, because for now, it’s enough to be carried away by the music, the movement, the energy that envelops you like a second skin. *
Your eyes scan the crowd as you move, searching for that familiar face, the accomplice to your darkest secrets. And then, in the shadow of a corner, you see her: Dakota, leaning casually against the wall, her eyes capturing the light like two precious gems. What do you want to do now?”
You might have already noticed… I’ve tried playing in various ways, both by giving brief commands of what I want to achieve like “ Take the smartphone… Talk to John…” and by playfully weaving more detailed sentences, which I think is the fun part. I always try to maintain a proactive style, adding fuel to the fire and introducing elements that I’m curious to see developed… I try to be coherent and logical with what’s presented to me and not look for ways to break the game… kind of like playing a normal solo session of a journaling game.
Anyway, another prompt update. Another adventure… here I met Elisa.
Some cool things happened despite my grammatical errors while writing my text…
I don’t know the girl… On her t-shirt is the name of some obscure band. Alright, let’s try to be smooth and improvise an approach.
“I try to read the band’s name on her t-shirt and as I get closer, trying not to seem the usual clumsy and awkward, I say ‘Cool… haven’t listened to them in a while… but they are… um, good!’”
The great thing is that Elisa is sharper than me. She tests me: “The girl raises an eyebrow, an amused smile touches her lips. ‘Really? They’re quite niche. Not everyone knows ‘The Midnight Howlers’. Which song of theirs do you like the most?”’
This is really awesome! I think it is a good bounce.
And another great thing is that I was lucky enough for GPT to mention the name of the band. It is not so obvious, GPT could have said something like [Band Name] as it did in previous versions of the prompt. But what’s also cool is that “The Midnight Howlers” actually exists, they play country. I checked them out on YouTube.
Something similar happened to me in “The Thing,” probably because of how the basic Prompt is written. GPT comes up with the names of characters that actually appear in the movie. It pulled up Dr. Cooper and Fuchs, the biologist… okay, you might say that’s not a big deal… but it’s all very neat and enjoyable while playing.
One last feature I’d like to mention is the Special Game Command “w,” which prompts GPT to describe a plot twist, an unexpected development that aligns with the story’s plot and backstory. This is a neat little function I’ve implemented because in some versions of the prompt, the game felt too static. But this feature turned out to be quite engaging, and we’ve kept it in subsequent versions. Give it a try if you get the chance to my game. It can lead to scenarios like bullies kicking lockers or a cloaked and hooded figure watching you from the crowd, yelling strange words.