ChatGPT is probably something you've heard a lot about in the last few weeks. From news stories about how it could be a tipping point for AI, to students using it to write their homework, to South Park lampooning it to companies like Ubisoft jumping on AI tools like ChatGPT to help write small pieces of dialogue in their games.
ChatGPT, the AI text generator, makes me both intrigued and uncomfortable. Intrigued because it is a very interesting piece of technology. Uncomfortable with how this could 'kill' so many writing jobs. After all, Ubisoft could use the tool to help alleviate work and pressure from the writers by helping them come up with all those 'barks', bits and pieces for random dialogue background NPC's shout, but we know that if they could use it to replace workers, they will. So will all other big companies. It's what they've done in the factories with automatization, in customer service and so forth and I don't see them suddenly stopping.
Steering away from the 'doom and gloom', there's enough of that in this world already, let's get to the main point of this piece. As a spur-off of the moment, I set up an experiment in which I asked ChatGPT to help me write the story for a game: in this case 'Octopath Traveler 3'. To learn more about the tool, to test its limit and because I think it could make a very interesting article.
Let's dive in.
How did I get to this While I am still uncomfortable with ChatGPT, my curiosity did get the better of me. I started to experiment with it. With Octopath Traveler on the brain thanks to the still-fresh Octopath Traveler 2, I asked ChatGPT to come up with 8 travellers following the Octopath naming convention. Well, after asking if it knew what Octopath Traveller was. I wanted to know if it was familiar with the game, to begin with. As you can see from its response below, it was, though it was unfamiliar with its sequel. Oh well. That it has a knowledge cut-off is interesting though.
To help it, and myself, I fed it a link to Octopath Traveller II. To give it more data to work with. Interstingly, even after I fed it this information, it failed to fully understand everything in the article and I said about it. It erroneously stated that the game wasn't out yet, even after I corrected it. Put a pin in that; we'll circle back to it later.
After this, I asked it to come up with 8 new travelers. It did and it gave birth to, drum-roll please, Olivia the merchant, Charles the archaeologist, Tabitha the bard, Oscar the scholar, Patrick the warrior, Amanda the chef, Thalia the necromancer and Harrison the thief.
As you can read, ChatGPT did a pretty good job. It recognized the naming convention, the first letter of each name spells out 'Octopath' and the 50/50 gender split. Where it strayed from the path are the classes. Only 3 are actual Octopath classes, the Merchant, Warrior and Thief. The rest are all new. I pointed this fact out to it, but decided to just leave it be. That the classes of Octopath Traveler II are the exact same as the first (with only minor adjustments in skills and such) is dissapointed to me. Something I wanted to change to begin with.
The rest of the process.
Now, if I recite my entire chat of ChatGPT here we'll be here a while. So, now that I've covered the start, let's summarize the rest.
I ended up structuring, after deciding to write this post and digging my teeth into the project, to split up the creative process into steps.
1. Work out the world.
2. Work out the basics of the characters, who they are and what sets them off on their journey.
3. Write the overarching narrative and some character connections.
4. Tackle any gameplay changes we'd make, but keep it brief. More to see how well ChatGPT understands this aspect of the creative process. I can already asnwer that question for you know: it bascially listed off a list of very basic improvements, like better graphics, and adressed critisicm the original game received like more voice acting.
That said, I didn't come up with this system from the beginning. Yes, I wanted to work out the characters and such before attempting to see how ChatGPT would handle gameplay but didn't intend to do the world first. I had read that the developer over at Team Asano did always start with working out the world before the characters but, since I had already started, I didn't feel like backtracking. I only put the characters and their stories on hold when the following exchange occurred:
The world and the overall narrative
As you can read, because I didn't set up the world, ChatGPT came up with a story set in the modern world. It's this interaction that made me switch to the approach I talked about above. The world we came up with is 'Elyndor', a rather standard D&D fantasy world but with two features we dove into. A royal family and the ruins of an ancient civilization spread all across its lands. Those are the two elements we decided to build the interconnecting story.
This story of Elyndor revolves around a dangerous game of power and magic. In a land ruled by a royal family plagued by infighting, and ruins of an ancient civilization with powerful and dark magic scattered across the land. Members of the royal family try to seize power using, or perhaps being used by, this dark magic. Meanwhile, other groups will try to take advantage of this ever-growing power struggle for their own purpose. A simple narrative setup but one with a lot of potentials. In my mind, at least. Each traveller's story would come together when they realize they are either connected to the royal family, the dark magic or one of those smaller groups I mentioned.
This part didn't evolve much ChatGPT. It came up with the name but all other aspects were of my own making. The only thing it did was proofread it and then write a concise description of it all. In that, it was a nice tool.
The characters and their connections
Writing the characters, coming up with who they were and what their journey is all about, was a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. It's the point in which I switched from giving it promptly and seeing where it would lead to actively steering the operation. Doing a lot of the imagining and the writing itself and only using ChatGPT to give suggestions, proofread and help me put it all in a writing style more akin to the official Octopath descriptions.
The problem here all came down to ChatGPT being unable to handle this more complex process. What I wanted to know is how well it could keep track of the ever-growing list of information. Turns out, it's very poorly at that. When I asked it to summarize what we had come up with up to that point, names, ages and how they looked, it got things all wrong multiple times. From small stuff like switching names to coming up with entirely new characters on the spot. It was at that moment that I knew I couldn't use the program to keep track of all of this. That I had to do it myself, sadly.
I'm not going to dive into every single one of them, but I will dive into 2 of them, for different reasons. Charles the archaeologist and Thalia the necromancer. Charles is basically Indiana Jones. I asked it to help me find a personality and look for Charles after I settled on him being an archaeologist and what it gave me back was Indiana Jones, hat and whip and all. I had to really push against ChatGPT whenever Charles came up to pull the character away from Indiana Jones and make him his own man.
This highlights a problem with ChatGPT and AI in general, creativity. When prompted by an archaeologist, it grabbed pop-culture favourite and most popular archaeologist and just did that again. That lack of creativity is something I think is actually a good thing. If ChatGPT was creative then, well, where would people even be for?
On the flip side, the program can sometimes come up with things that, perhaps not creative, are something you haven't thought up yourself. That Thalia would be a necromancer isn't something I considered, but when ChatGPT came up with it so many possibilities popped into my brain that I just had to make it so!
When it came to connecting the characters, I worked with stuff I found logical, like Thalia losing her sister when they were young in one of the ruins Charles will be visiting in his story. I only asked ChatGPT to proofread it and help me keep track of all the connections. It wasn't very good at that. When I gave it the entire list of connections and asked to see if we had 'closed the circle' if you would it just couldn't get things right. Switched names around, made up new characters etc.
|My interaction with ChatGPT where it came up with Edmund, a young farmer, out of the blue. Also note that it made Thalia a knight instead of a necromancer for some reason.|
Lastly, I wanted to put the character descriptions we came up with in the same style as those you see when first selecting your character when you open the game. “Your name is Olberic, and you are a warrior. You were once a brave knight etc. etc.” The results were mixed. The program managed to write 2 of them when I started to notice that it didn't just copy the style of the writing, but also the context. I fed it Therion's descriptions and in both cases, it weaved in the theft of an important item.
I resorted to feeding it all the descriptions so it would, hopefully, learn the style and not get hung up about the contents. I was wrong. It just didn't understand what I wanted, giving me multiple descriptions of one character, none in the style I wanted, and the like. After about half an hour of this, I just gave up. It just doesn't seem to understand different writing styles/formats.
Observations and thoughts
With that, the entire list of stuff I wanted to do is done. Having worked with ChatGPT on this project, this hypothetical 'Octopath Traveler III', I've come to the conclusion that it's an imperfect tool that can be fun to toy around with but cannot be used as a concrete tool to source out parts of the creative process too. Not for this purpose. Not at this stage.
Even as a simple assistant its capabilities aren't good enough to fill that job sufficiently. It was helpful to bounce ideas off, to help make up names for stuff since I know I'm terrible at that, and to do some proofreading but that's really about it. To help keep track of stuff, to come up with more than just the basics, it's vastly insufficient. It had a tendency to forget things, even the stuff itself came up with and even made up entirely new stuff while convinced it wasn´t. It lacks imagination and fails to understand anything but the small stuff.
What I think ChatGPT is good for right now, is as a proofreader and a program to give small and thankless jobs, like rewriting a bunch of small phrases for background like Ubisoft intends to do. Still fear this could lead to AI replacing workers but, assuming they do it smartly so it actually helps take some load off the employees, it can help them focus on other stuff.
Will I keep using ChatGPT? I don't think so. I have used it to help me write SEO texts for some posts, and asked it to proofread some stuff (this article included). I even wrote a new, better, conclusion for my Horizon Forbidden West review using its suggestions. However, I didn't even think about ChatGPT while writing my last post until I went back to this one. That tells you all you need to know.