It is possible for artificial intelligence to create a video game. Contrary to popular opinion and hopes for humanity, an AI came up with the basic design for a video game called Candy Shop Slaughter.
The game has all of the elements needed for success in the competitive mobile game industry. OnlineRoulette.com commissioned the project, which was created by Fractl, a South Florida growth marketing agency.
Games are thriving despite the pandemic and video game jobs are growing in spite of the competition from automation. Video games are a creative art, and it’s hard to believe that a machine can come up with the kind of creativity needed to make such a work. But we shouldn’t be too complacent about human ingenuity against the continuous improvement of AI.
That was part of the point of the project, said Kristin Tynski, cofounder of Fractl, in an interview with GamesBeat. The art for the game was created by Fractl’s artists. GPT-3 generated the text. With other AI projects, like JetPlay’s Ludo, AI is used to generate everything from the game art to the game characters and gameplay. It’s no longer the case that only humans can create games.
Joe Mercurio, creative strategy lead at Fractl, said in an interview with GamesBeat that he developed the idea and development of the project, and Tynski worked on the AI outputs. Their company is an agency that works on growth campaigns for companies.
“A year or two ago, we received access to Open AI technology, GPT-2, and then we got access to GPT-3,” said Mercurio. “We started fooling around with that. Kristin actually developed a full website that had a bunch of blog content that was completely AI-generated. We were just inspired to set up a bunch of different ideas. And for Online Roulette, we decided to explore a video game.”
Fractl’s creative team has always been interested in generative AI, and it saw GPT-2 and GPT-3 as a big advancement, Tynski said.
The agency created the game to see if people were interested in characters and gameplay created by the OpenAI program known as GPT-3, a text generator. Fractl used GPT-3 to create a hero character, bosses to battle, and friends to meet along the way in both story and arcade modes in Candy Shop Slaughter.
With the characters and gameplay created by GPT-3, OnlineRoulette then surveyed 1,000 gamers to find out if they would be willing to play it, how original they found the various aspects of the game, and whether they’d be willing to pay for it.
AI-developed story and arcade modes
Using the OpenAI text generator GTP-3, Fractl created a story, arcade, and multiplayer mode for the fictional video game.
In the synopsis, the AI created the main character Freddy Skittle and his best friend Ted. In story mode, the game utilizes a karma system where players can accumulate experience points for all of the good actions they make along the way and lose experience points when they make poor choices. The more they progress, players can unlock additional characters with different strengths that appear in the game’s universe who can aid in the boss battles players will encounter.
In arcade mode, Candy Shop Slaughter turns into a classic 3D fighting game, where blood and guts are transformed into candy and treats and players can experience plenty of food puns and jokes along the way. Players start by creating characters from a template and have the opportunity to unlock new costumes and weapons as they play.
AI-created video game characters
The AI also imagined 12 unique characters, bosses, and companions players could encounter in Candy Shop Slaughter.
The main protagonist Freddy Skittle throws knives and uses a retractable pocketknife in close combat. Bosses to fight in various levels include Pie Cake, who throws spiked pie slices in battle; Honey Bun, who evolves into a massive honey monster; and M&M’s Candy, the final boss who utilizes sweet soda bottles and candy worms in battle.
“GPT-3’s capabilities are pretty astounding. And it demonstrates a pretty fundamental shift and in what generative AI is capable of,” Tynski said. “We’ve had a ton of fun doing this project and testing out the creative abilities of GPT-3 within the context of a specific idea.”
Will game developers lose their jobs to AI? Probably not real soon.
“AI is going to take a lot of jobs. And I think it’s going to transform all the other jobs,” said Tynski. “I think you’re always going to have to have a human that’s part of the creative process because I think other humans care who created it. What’s super cool about these technologies is they’ve democratized creativity in an amazing way. I think as a creator you can find something mutually beneficial in this technology.”
She added, “There are and will be a lot more companies that are basically packaging GPT-3 outputs of specific game styles or types, or use cases, and then they use and using that to create some sort of service.”
Seventy-seven percent of gamers indicated they would play Candy Shop Slaughter, and 65% of gamers would be willing to pay for the game.
When asked about its uniqueness, just 10% of gamers found it unoriginal or very unoriginal, while 54% said Candy Shop Slaughter was original, and 20% of gamers deemed it very original.
The most impressive part of Candy Shop Slaughter was the characters, which 67% of gamers ranked as high quality. Following the characters, more than half of gamers considered the overall game (58%), the storyline (55%), and the game title (53%) to be high quality.
Fifty-seven percent of gamers indicated Candy Shop Slaughter sounded more like a mobile game, while 43% believed it would be a console game. With the descriptions of gameplay in mind, 73% also said the story mode of the game sounded more appealing, compared to just 28% who felt more intrigued by the arcade mode.
With the descriptions and details of 12 different characters, 48% of gamers felt Freddy Skittle (the main character) sounded the most fun to play, followed by Cookie Sandwich (33%), Pie Cake (30%), and Honey Bun (30%).
Respondents were not informed that the video game, storylines, and characters were AI-generated.
“It wasn’t like we cherry-picked the results here,” Tynski said. “There were lots of other ones that we generally ended up generating later that were similarly good. It pulls from well-known tropes. It is pretty difficult for humans to differentiate the text that was generated by AI.”
OnlineRoulette.com got responses from 1,000 players. The survey was designed with the intent of having them rate the storylines and characters presented to them.
“As an agency, we see AI becoming a much more integrated piece of content generation and part of the creative process,” Tynski said. “I think we’re just starting to scratch the surface. And this is also at the same time is advancing very, very rapidly. So we just want to continue to explore what’s possible and, and help our clients to create cool things by integrating these new technologies.”
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