More than a Legend: How Artificial Intelligence is Being Used to Enhance Some of our Favorite IPs

by Lo Terry on November 17, 2023
  • In the vast and ancient lands of the Hyborian Age, where steel meets sorcery, and legends are forged in the fires of battle, there emerges a new force, as mysterious and powerful as the riddles of the Stygian sorcerers. 

    This force, known as AI, has ventured into my world, merging the tales of old with the wonders of the new age. Many have questioned its place beside a warrior such as the legendary Conan the Barbarian.

    But today, we shall hear from the very shaman who dared to weave this magic, Lo Terry of Heroic Signatures. 

    Prepare yourself, for you are about to embark on a journey where the past meets the future, and the line between man, machine, and myth becomes but a whisper in the wind.

    Conan The Barbarian More than a Legend: How Artificial Intelligence is Being Used to Enhance Some of our Favorite IPs

    Conan is a storied character with a rich legacy. How did you approach integrating AI into such a revered universe without diluting its essence?

    I mean, in a way,  I guess diving into Conan’s world with AI was kinda like trying to get a vinyl to play on Spotify. 

    Because, in the end, we had to trust the massive amount of training data within ChatGPT, the large language model (LLM) we conducted our game through, had a solid grasp of Conan’s universe. 

    And let me tell you, at a point that just involves a lot of trying to use the bot to foster my own curiosity of the world and just fact checking anything and everything I could. I mean, at a point, our team and I did a deep dive, lore-checking like madmen, to ensure that the AI’s knowledge was on point. Then, our team verified everything to make sure it was all in line with Robert E. Howard’s world. 

    And, in the end, the vastness of ChatGPT was honestly a boon. 

    Because Conan, as iconic as he is, exists within a much broader context of cultural narratives, which the AI is aware of as it draws from Conan’s specific lore. 

    This richness, this contextual awareness, made it feel like, if anything, we were breathing even more of Conan’s essence into the story in a way that the player could actually meaningfully engage with.

    The world of Conan is vast, with a myriad of characters, cultures, and landscapes. How did you ensure that the AI didn’t just generate generic fantasy content but stayed true to the unique flavor of the Hyborian Age?

    So, first off, I had to go kinda nuts and just learn Conan as much as I could. I’m talking comics, video games, the movies – even lurking in Conan’s subreddits. It was all about getting a pulse on what fans truly vibe with when it comes to Conan. You know: What do they expect? What do they love? What makes them go, ‘Thank God this is that way’?

    But, you know, still, knowing the world is one thing, but translating that through an AI still takes a huge amount of work. And, in my world, that was just straight prompt engineering. To do this right, I had to be super specific with the AI and be sure there was very little ambiguity on how NPCs would or wouldn’t act in the tavern. It was like setting the ground rules and then trusting the AI to play within those boundaries. 

    By giving it these solid anchors, based on my deep dive into the Conan universe, it helped ensure that the generated interactions felt authentic to the world of Conan and the specific setting within the Exile Lands. You know it was a ton of work, but honestly just reading some of the ways players got really weird with it all? Oh man, that just makes it all way more worth it than anything I could’ve come up with honestly.

    There’s a lot of debate about AI and creativity. Some argue that AI can’t truly ‘create’ in the same way humans do. What’s your take on this, especially after working so closely with an AI to craft a narrative experience?

    Well, as a copywriter by trade, my entire craft relies on me having a pretty solid command of narrative in order to get someone to do something. Now, introduce AI into the mix – this thing that has such a large wealth of information to draw from when creating outputs – and it’s very easy to see why some people fear it as this sort of harbinger of creative obsolescence. But I think that’s kind of baloney, honestly. 

    AI is a tool – straight up. It is not, and can never be considered, a true replacement for truly human creativity. Think of it like a new kind of brush for a palette – not The Artist 2.0. 

    And I don’t think I’m far off here. Throughout history, every new tool has extended the reach of human creativity and transformed how we express and consume stories. Large language models and large multimodal models are only going to be an addition to this lineage. It’s a partner in creation that allows us to draw from an even greater database than our own brains to draw new combinations, new ideas, new possibilities.

    So, for example, let’s use  ‘Taverns of Treachery,’ I didn’t just step back and hit enter on a spacebar and boom – there’s a creative product. No, first and foremost: I had to have a full creative vision to start with so that I could guide and dictate its output to ensure every twist and turn was infused with the essence of Conan. 

    So, does AI create? Yes, it can certainly help me create. But the soul of the story, the warmth of a narrative that actually makes people want to keep reading (or playing)—that is still inseparable from the human’s touch. 

    Given that players can shape their own stories within Tavern of Treachery, how do you balance their agency with ensuring the narratives remain true to the spirit of Conan?

    I mean, man…. Ha ha ha. 

    This is like asking how you get the perfect amount of dip on your chip every time. Like sometimes you miss! Ha ha ha… no, but for real, it’s a challenge. 

    Because, on one hand, we want players to feel like they’re the captains of their own ship. On the other, we’ve got this rich, iconic world of Conan that we want to honor at all times.

    So, you have to set up boundaries and treat it like a true sandBOX. You can build whatever you want inside and go absolutely BANANAS with the sand, but there are still those corners to keep the sand in. In the same way, we crafted scenarios and responses that let players have their fun, make their choices, but always fitting that vibe of the Hyborian Age.

    In a way, it’s a bit like being a dungeon master or a game master. Like you’ve got your story arc and your world’s rules, but players will be players, and they’ll always surprise you. 

    The trick is to just have a solid enough foundation that you can actually guide or nudge them when they stray too far, but always prioritize letting them have in-world, epic moments that are genuinely theirs. 

    Even if they’re completely buckwild.

    Conan The Barbarian More than a Legend: How Artificial Intelligence is Being Used to Enhance Some of our Favorite IPs

    For those skeptical about AI’s role in creative processes, what’s one moment from ‘Taverns of Treachery’ you’d show them to change their minds?

    Oh man, you’re gonna love this one! So, there was this one time I was testing the game, right? And I thought, ‘Hey, let’s see how far I can push this.’ So, I decided to… wait for it… twerk at Conan. Yeah, you heard that right. I wanted to see if the AI would even recognize what I was doing and, more importantly, how it would react.

    The AI described the scene in hilarious detail, talking about how I was shaking my booty in Conan’s direction and the mixed reactions of the tavern-goers. Some were laughing, some were shocked, and others were just downright confused. But the real kicker? Conan’s reaction. He got so mad at the blatant disrespect that he straight-up killed me in the game. I was floored!

    That moment was a game-changer for me. It showed me that the AI wasn’t just following a script; it was dynamically responding to player actions, no matter how outlandish, and keeping true to the characters’ personalities. If that doesn’t showcase the potential of AI in creative storytelling, I don’t know what will. It’s like the game is alive, and it’s building the story with you, not just for you. And if that’s not the future of interactive storytelling, I don’t know what is!

    What do you believe are the long-term implications of using AI in storytelling for IPs as iconic as Conan?

    Oh, snap! We’re diving on in! Ha ha ha… okay, so like… I think using AI is going to just help fans get more immersed in the characters and stories they already love. Like imagine reading the latest official Conan comic book and then being able to explore every ending – AI technically can help us do that (though you wouldn’t get the satisfaction of having that be canon).

    Long-term? I think it’s gonna revolutionize how we interact with these iconic worlds. Instead of just being passive consumers, fans are going to become active participants. They can live out their own adventures, make choices, and see the consequences. It’s like fan fiction on steroids, but always keeping true to the essence of the original IP.

    But let’s set the record straight: AI might elevate the characters or stories we love, but it’s not going to be used as the sole genesis of them. Like Heroic Signatures is not going to let AI script their comics or pen their novels – those are the realms where I know their human storytellers reign supreme. After all, their creativity is the lifeblood of what makes those tales special in the first place.

    So, in the end, I see AI as this super cool tool that can help us explore these universes in ways we never thought possible. But it’s always gonna need that human touch, that deep respect for the original material, to make sure we’re enhancing the legacy – not tarnishing it.

    In the echoing halls of time, where legends are carved and tales are spun, the might of Conan stands unyielding. Yet, even the fiercest warrior acknowledges the master blacksmith who forges his blade. Heroic Signatures, the architects of this new age of storytelling, have melded ancient lore with the pulse of AI, crafting an epic that transcends eras. 

    But who are these visionaries that dared to tread where none had ventured? What fires burn in their souls, driving them to reshape the very fabric of narrative? 

    The chronicle of their ambition, their challenges, and their dreams lies just beyond this page. 

    Dive deeper, O seeker of tales, and uncover the saga behind the saga. The next chapter of Heroic Signatures beckons!

  • Lo Terry

    In his effort to help Heroic Signatures tell legendary stories, Lo Terry does a lot. Sometimes, that means spearheading an innovative, AI-driven tavern adventure. In others it means writing words in the voice of a mischievous merchant for people to chuckle at. It's a fun time.

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