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Endless Adventures came out of stealth today at the GamesBeat Summit 2023 event where CEO Jordan Weisman talked about the intersection of gaming, AI and user-generated content.
Weisman announced Adventure Forge, a powerful toolset aimed at empowering game masters, storytellers, authors, and artists to create their own narrative-rich video games, with no coding required. It uses AI in a couple of places now with the goal of enabling non-programmer creators to be more productive on their own in creating games.
The platform is the brainchild of Weisman, a serial gaming entrepreneur known for narrative-driven franchises such as BattleTech, MechWarrior, Shadowrun, and Crimson Skies. His previous entrepreneurial efforts included Virtual World Entertainment, acquired by the Disney family, FASA Interactive, acquired by Microsoft, Wizkids, acquired by Topps Inc, and Harebrained Schemes.
How it started
In 2018, Paradox Entertainment acquired Harebrained Schemes for $7.5 million. Weisman left the company and took a detour out of games to work on augmented reality technology for Walmart. After that, he considered retirement from the business of games where he has 40 years of experience.
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But as a side project, he used some of his own money to fund a new project that focused on AI and game-building tools. Eventually, the work started paying off and he started Bellevue, Washington-based Endless Adventures, Weisman said in an interview with GamesBeat. Weisman formally incorporated the company two years ago.
“Our mission is to discover and promote the next generation of game designers and storytellers across a wide range of game genres, Weisman said. Our first offering, Adventure Forge, is focused on narrative games, from text-based choose-your-own path to visual novels, and all the way up to isometric RPGs like the Shadowrun Returns series we developed at Harebrained Schemes.”
“It was long before the new AI chatter,” he said. “I started working on it. And we just had a small project with couple of engineers and myself, working on things for a number of years, until we kind of worked out all the paradigms for how to get rid of coding. We wanted to have a true no-code system.”
“We developed an innovative approach of using highly contextual drop-down menus that are like Mad Libs,” he added. “You create all the logical sentences you want and the conditional statements and the outcomes through these drop-down menus. There are a bunch of other paradigms in terms of how you organize large narrative projects and find the content you want.”
The core idea
The core of the idea was invest in engineering so that game designers could create something with no code. Too often, the game developers have create a document for their designs, send it over to engineering, wait for them to execute it, and then see how well it works.
“That loop is very slow,” Weisman said. “I wanted to empower players and writers and artists and designers and game masters out there to go and make their own games and stories. We didn’t start with an AI focus. And I wouldn’t even at this point call it an AI-focused tool by any means. We’re just using AI in a couple places to augment the designer, give them little advantages to help speed them along.”
Weisman said, “It’s primarily about empowering their creativity and human creativity. You want to be able to do this without having to have engineers on your team. We empower our players with a no-code authoring system. They can create little game AIs for their characters, which are really important. That’s in the kind of the traditional sense of game AI, where you’re developing your non-player characters and their behaviors.”
The AI also helps with designs where you’re writing text, such as describing your universe and describing characters and scenes. If you want, you have the AI help you come up with some scratch dialogue or scratch descriptions.
“Behind the scenes, we’re doing a very sophisticated set of prompt generation based upon the previous things you’ve written,” Weisman said. “As you get further and further into the writing of your game, you’re getting more highly contextual suggestions from the AI. The creator can decide whether to use those suggestions or not.
On another front, Endless Adventures is working with Scenario.gg, a generative AI company, in generating isometric game assets for the universes that Endless Adventures is publishing.
“The model is trained exclusively on our own art, and creating isometric assets in the right perspective,” Weisman said. “It’s a bit tricky. And we’ve generated thousands of assets for our players to work with. But we’re sure that our players’ and our designers’ creativity are going to come up with things that we haven’t made for them. So we wanted to give them a potential where they could use generative AI to generate new things for their games.”
For instance, Endless Adventures hasn’t created an ice cream stand for a game. But the player creator may want to build one. And so they’ll tap the AI for that and generate one that will be based on all of Endless Adventures’ art so that the ice cream stand is going to look completely appropriate when placed in the context of all the other thousands of art assets that Endless Adventures has created.
The company has 22 employees and it is closing a $1.5 million in a SAFE round at the moment.
What comes next
Endless Adventures will start inviting game players, tabletop game masters, authors, and artists to create their adventures later this year. Interested players can sign up at their website to receive more information as it becomes available.
“As a lifelong game designer and storyteller, I believe games are a human-driven creative endeavor, and over my career, I have seen how tools and techniques have empowered designers like me to bring their visions to life,” Weisman said. “Adventure Forge is designed to do just that with its fast, easy-to-use, no-code authoring system, enormous design depth and flexibility, and thoughtful integration of optional designer-facing AI writing assistance and isometric asset generation. I believe that it will power a new wave of innovation in narrative game design and storytelling quality.”
Jordan participated in the “Power to the People” fireside chat at the GamesBeat Summit 2023 this week with a session that explored how the latest developments in no-code authoring and AI will change the user-generated content (UGC) landscape in gaming. He spoke with Emmanuel de Maistre, CEO of Scenario.gg.
Endless Adventures’ Adventure Forge empowers designers, writers, and artists to create narratively rich video games and interactive fiction with its “no-code” authoring platform. The platform aims to democratize narrative game creation and experiences by empowering creators with easy-to-use tools to design and share their own video games and stories with the community.
Weisman eventually thinks the company will have a marketplace for artists who will be creating artwork for game designers who are creating games in the Endless Adventures system. It will be isometric art, with a certain kind of art style.
While there is a lot of opportunity for user-generated content in this system, Weisman believes the first product will focus on narrative games. These can include anything from text adventures to visual interactive novels like Choices or Episode. It will also enable anime-based interactive visual novels and isometric role-playing games.
“I love that art form,” Weisman said. “I love when people tell their stories. As I look back at my career, which is kind of split between board games and video games, the joy of the tabletop is that in those circumstances, the games I created set the table. And then the players created the stories. That’s what I see us doing here. We’re trying to set the table and empower people to create their own.”
No need to retire?
So why was this more interesting than retirement for Weisman?
“I just feel passionately about the importance of narrative games, and the impact it has on players,” Weisman said. All the different types of gaming formats have their own benefits and their own drawbacks, but I think one of the major benefits of narrative games is it’s one of the few that can really expose you to new cultures, new characters, new worlds, and new thoughts, and help change even the way you think. And I feel strongly that we would all benefit from more diverse voices telling stories. And we’d all benefit from more innovation in the space. The hope is that Adventure Forge will empower both of those things.”
As for looking back on the last 40 years, Weisman said, “The impact that gaming has had on our culture, in all the positive ways, and unfortunately, in some negative ways, is just astounding. It’s very exciting how many people play games and how diverse audiences are that play games. Every demographic and psychographic plays games, and that’s super exciting. As an entertainment format, it’s more exciting than ever to be involved in it. As a business, it’s also pretty daunting to be involved. But that’s not that different than it’s always been. I think generative AI is going to change a lot of industries and I think the game industry is really right up there in front.”
But he still thinks humans are better at creativity, and the role of AI will be to help humans with it.
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Author: Dean Takahashi