RPG Evolution: Hasbro's AI Plans

We can make some educated guesses about Hasbro's AI plans thanks to a recent interview with CEO Chris Cocks.

We can make some educated guesses about Hasbro's AI plans thanks to a recent interview with CEO Chris Cocks.

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Picture courtesy of Pixabay.

Not surprisingly, Large Language Model (LLM) Artifical Intelligence (AI) is on every business' plans, and Hasbro is no different. The question is how the company plans to use it ethically in light of several missteps in which Wizards of the Coast, the Hasbro division overseeing Dungeons & Dragons, failed to disclose that AI was involved in certain pieces of art. The ongoing controversies were enough to make WOTC update its AI policy.

An AI Product Every Two to Three Months​

That hasn't stopped former CEO of WOTC and current CEO of Hasbro Chris Cocks from expounding on his plans for AI:
...we’re trying to do a new AI product experiment once every two to three months. That’s tending to be more game-focused for us, a little more gamified. We’re trying to keep it toward older audiences, to make sure all the content is appropriate...You’ll see more of how we’re thinking about how we can integrate AI, how we can integrate digital with physical gaming over time...I think most major entertainment and IP holders are at least thinking about it.
What Cocks is talking about is how LLM AIs are sourced. The LLM controversies revolve around, among other things, that the AIs are trained on content without the owners' permission. In other words, although LLMs are often trained on publicly available content, the users sharing that content never imagined a robot would be hoovering up their dialogue to create money for someone else. The throughline to art is a bit easier to detect (as the above controversies show, harder to prove); but when it comes to text, like Reddit, user-generated content is invaluable. These AI are only as valuable as the content they have at their disposal to train on. This is why Poe.com and other customizable AI, trained on your own content, can be so useful to Dungeon Masters who want a true assistant that can sort through decades of homebrew content in seconds. I'll discuss using Poe.com in a future article.

Respecting Creators, Works of Art, and Ownership​

Cocks is keenly aware of AI's controversies, with the Open Game License and issues with AI-generated art:
We certainly weren’t at our best during some points on the Open Game License. But I think we learned pretty fast. We got back to first principles pretty quickly ... The key there is the responsible use of it. We have an even higher bar we need to hit because we serve audiences of all ages. We go from preschoolers on up to adulthood. I don’t think we can be very cavalier in how we think about AI...That said, it’s exciting. There’s a lot of potential for delighting audiences. We need to make sure that we do it in a way that respects the creators we work with, respects their works of art, respects their ownership of those works, and also creates a fun and safe environment for kids who might use it.
And now we come to it. So how would WOTC and Hasbro use AI that respects creators, their work, ownership and is fun to use?

How Might WOTC Use AI for D&D?​

Cocks give us some hints in his answers:
The 20-plus years that the Open Game License has been in existence for something like D&D, I think that gives us a lot of experience to navigate what will emerge with AI, and just generally the development of user-based content platforms, whether it’s Roblox or Minecraft or what Epic has up their sleeves.
The Open Game License (OGL), by its very nature, is meant to be used in much the same way LLMs try to use the entirety of the Internet. What was likely a thorn in the side of lawyers may well seem like an opportunity now. Unlike the Internet though, the OGL has a framework for sharing -- even if it wasn't envisioned by the creators as sharing with a machine. More to the point, everyone using the Open Game License is potentially adding to LLM content; databases of OGL content in wiki format are just more fodder for LLMs to learn. WOTC could certainly leverage that content to train an AI on Dungeons & Dragons just as much as anyone else if they so chose; however, a large company using OGL content to fuel their AI doesn't seem like it's respecting their creators and their ownership.

So it's possible WOTC may not use OGL content at all to train its AI. They don't need it -- there's plenty of content the company can leverage from its own vaults:
The advantage we have ... This is cutting-edge technology, and Hasbro is a 100-year-old company, which you don’t usually think is ... a threat ... But when you talk about the richness of the lore and the depth of the brands–D&D has 50 years of content that we can mine. Literally thousands of adventures that we’ve created, probably tens of millions of words we own and can leverage. Magic: The Gathering has been around for 35 years, more than 15,000 cards we can use in something like that. Peppa Pig has been around for 20 years and has hundreds of thousands of hours of published content we can leverage. Transformers, I’ve been watching Transformers TV shows since I was a kid in Cincinnati in the early ‘80s. We can leverage all of that to be able to build very interesting and compelling use cases for AI that can bring our characters to life. We can build tools that aid in content creation for users or create really interesting gamified scenarios around them.
The specific reference to 35 years of Magic: the Gathering content "that we can leverage" has been done before by WOTC's predecessor, when TSR created the Spellfire card game. TSR churned out Spellfire in response to Magic: The Gathering (before WOTC took over D&D). It relied heavily on (at the time) TSR's 20 years of art archives. One can easily imagine AI generating this type of game with art WOTC owns in a very short period of time.

But Cocks is thinking bigger than that for Dungeons & Dragons. He explains how he uses AI with D&D specifically:
I use AI in building out my D&D campaigns. I play D&D three or four times a month with my friends. I’m horrible at art. I don’t commercialize anything I do. It doesn’t have anything to do with work. But what I’m able to accomplish with the Bing image creator, or talking to ChatGPT, it really delights my middle-aged friends when I do a Roll20 campaign or a D&D Beyond campaign and I put some PowerPoints together on a TV and call it an interactive map.
In the future, WOTC could easily change their contracts to explicitly state that any art they commission may be used to train a future AI (if they don't already). For content they already own -- and WOTC owns decades of art created for Magic: The Gathering -- they may already be within their rights to do this.

Add all this up, and companies like Hasbro are all looking at the archives of information -- be it text, graphics, or examples of play -- as a competitive advantage to train their AIs in a way their rivals can't.

The Inevitable​

In short, it's not a question if WOTC and Hasbro are going to use AI, just when. And by all indications, that future will involve databases of content that are either clearly open source or owned by Hasbro, with LLMs that will then do the heavy lifting on the creative side of gaming that was once filled by other gamers. For Dungeons & Dragons in particular, the challenge in getting a game started has always been finding a Dungeon Master, a tough role for any gamer to fill, and the lynchpin of every successful D&D campaign. With D&D Beyond now firmly in WOTC's grasp, they could easily provide an AI platform on that service, using the data it learns from thousands of players there to refine its algorithms and teach it to be a better DM. Give it enough time, and it may well be an a resource for players who want a DM but can't find one.

We can't know for sure what WOTC or Hasbro has planned. But Cocks makes it clear AI is part of Hasbro’s future:
While there are definitely areas of concern that we have to be watchful for, and there are definitely elements to the chess game that we have to think about before we move, it’s a really cool technology that has a lot of playfulness associated with it. If we can figure out how to harness it the right way, it’ll end up being a boon for users.
In three to five years, we might have officially sanctioned AI Dungeon Masters. Doesn't seem realistic? Unofficial versions are already here.
 

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Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca

Vaalingrade

Legend
More like a tough year, I predict by the end of 2024 you are not going to be able to throw a stick without hitting something AI. It is popping up everywhere whether we like it or not.
I mean it's already made Google, YouTube and Amazon almost unusable.

The number of thinks I was being presented as bookends this weekend that were actually plush toys or knives is truly a testament to the power of this technology.
 

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Hussar

Legend
The part where he said WotC owns millions of words explains why Paizo walked away from the OGL, wrote their own license (ORC), and completely retooled Pathfinder 2e via the Remaster project. I still expect WotC to summon lawyers to challenge Paizo and other companies publishing a tabletop RPG if they are not kicking bucks to WotC like its the Mafia. WotC won't win that, but they might push some of the smaller outfits into supporting the "not a new edition that sure looks like a new edition" rules.
Can someone translate this for me? I think I missed something. 'cos bwuh?
 



Nylanfs

Adventurer
The part where he said WotC owns millions of words explains why Paizo walked away from the OGL, wrote their own license (ORC), and completely retooled Pathfinder 2e via the Remaster project. I still expect WotC to summon lawyers to challenge Paizo and other companies publishing a tabletop RPG if they are not kicking bucks to WotC like its the Mafia. WotC won't win that, but they might push some of the smaller outfits into supporting the "not a new edition that sure looks like a new edition" rules.
That's now how it works, that's not how any of this works.
 



Jacob Vardy

Explorer

MrGrenadine

Explorer
To those of you in the know about how AI actually functions —

If WotC creates an AI program to scrape every previously written adventure and then create something new from it, wouldn’t the new adventure just be a pastiche of those thousands of pages? Even with the added instruction to “create something completely new” wouldn’t we find character names, situations, encounters, descriptions or other text that would be at least very similar to what’s already been written?

Kind of like how artists have found parts of their work in AI created art?
 

Oofta

Legend
To those of you in the know about how AI actually functions —

If WotC creates an AI program to scrape every previously written adventure and then create something new from it, wouldn’t the new adventure just be a pastiche of those thousands of pages? Even with the added instruction to “create something completely new” wouldn’t we find character names, situations, encounters, descriptions or other text that would be at least very similar to what’s already been written?

Kind of like how artists have found parts of their work in AI created art?

Yes. The thing is, I don't think they will use it to create whole adventures. It will be used as an aid to DMs, perhaps to authors. But LLMs are not really creative, they're just very good at recognizing patterns and the sequence in which words were placed before. So it seems like they're creating something but they really aren't.

Could still be useful in many ways of course, although given the nature of D&D I'm not convinced it could ever come close to writing an entire module or anything like it.
 

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