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

overgeeked

B/X Known World
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?
Exactly. The “new” would be built solely on whatever it was fed. If all it’s fed is TSR / WotC owned modules, it will regurgitate and remix those modules. The product might be “new and novel” in the sense of us not seeing those particular elements mixed together before, but it’s not going to suddenly add things that were not in the originals.
 

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Hussar

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?
But, given the huge number of variables, it would likely be as "new" as something a writer would write. Considering how many adventures are essentially the same sort of thing over and over again, it's not like adventures are new and unique every time.

Think of the last ten modules you've read. How many can you say are truly unique? About the only really unique thing I've seen in the past while was having one of the NPC's monologue boxed text at the beginning of scenes (Rats of Waterdeep). But the adventures themselves? There are more similarities than differences between modules.
 

Jacob Vardy

Explorer
We need Jehanne Butler and we need her now.
"Thou shall not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind"

Although i believe the first prophet was Samuel Butler, with Erewhon.

The bit Frank Herbert got right is it was not a tyranny of thinking machines but that powerful people used the thinking machines to subjugate the rest of humanity. Likewise, the problem is not LLM becoming Skynet but that capitalists are trying to use LLM to reduce costs by stripping the wages and conditions of labour. If a capitalist sacks a writer and rehires them as a piece-work LLM prompt technician the capitalist can increase their profit. The problem isn't the technology, it is who controls the technology, and that it is being used to impoverish the rest of us. It's been this way since the spinning jenny. Which is why we need Captain Swing, Ned Ludd, and Jehanne Butler.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
"Thou shall not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind"

Although i believe the first prophet was Samuel Butler, with Erewhon.

The bit Frank Herbert got right is it was not a tyranny of thinking machines but that powerful people used the thinking machines to subjugate the rest of humanity. Likewise, the problem is not LLM becoming Skynet but that capitalists are trying to use LLM to reduce costs by stripping the wages and conditions of labour. If a capitalist sacks a writer and rehires them as a piece-work LLM prompt technician the capitalist can increase their profit. The problem isn't the technology, it is who controls the technology, and that it is being used to impoverish the rest of us. It's been this way since the spinning jenny. Which is why we need Captain Swing, Ned Ludd, and Jehanne Butler.
Further, the problem isn’t limited to one profession or industry, it’s affecting multiple professions and industries simultaneously and it’s spreading rapidly. So the idea that Uber will go under and the drivers can just easily find another job is nonsense. We’re going to see wave after wave of layoffs.

I’m still waiting for someone to explain who’s going to be able to buy all these goods when most people are out of work.
 

Nylanfs

Adventurer
"Thou shall not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind"

Although i believe the first prophet was Samuel Butler, with Erewhon.

The bit Frank Herbert got right is it was not a tyranny of thinking machines but that powerful people used the thinking machines to subjugate the rest of humanity. Likewise, the problem is not LLM becoming Skynet but that capitalists are trying to use LLM to reduce costs by stripping the wages and conditions of labour. If a capitalist sacks a writer and rehires them as a piece-work LLM prompt technician the capitalist can increase their profit. The problem isn't the technology, it is who controls the technology, and that it is being used to impoverish the rest of us. It's been this way since the spinning jenny. Which is why we need Captain Swing, Ned Ludd, and Jehanne Butler.
Right, it's the people that are the problem. Lets exterminate them! ;D
 

Jacob Vardy

Explorer
Right, it's the people that are the problem. Lets exterminate them! ;D
That's a weird interpretation. The problem is the system. A capitalist political economy requires that capitalists maximise profits, those that don't cease to be capitalists. Capitalists who fail to naughty word over workers with LLM will be bankrupted and become yet another worker being naughty word over.
 


UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
That's a weird interpretation. The problem is the system. A capitalist political economy requires that capitalists maximise profits, those that don't cease to be capitalists. Capitalists who fail to naughty word over workers with LLM will be bankrupted and become yet another worker being naughty word over.
This appears to me, to be the political economic equivalent of "optimizing the fun out of a game".
Bear with me a moment while I follow the thought experiment.
So, the capitalist maximize profits by automation, lets us say that they reach a point that eighty percent of the workforce are now unemployed. Let's pretend that all this goes quietly, and people accept their fate. That means that some large proportion of the consumer market has now also disappeared. Those former workers that had good jobs and incomes.
So, they stop spending. We now have an economy that is vastly over capacity. It can produce much more goods than there are buyers to purchase. A vast shrinkage in demand.
Then you get the great shutdown and those capitalists that had invested in the wrong factories/enterprises no longer own useful capital and become non consumers which leads to more reduction in demand.
It is not AI that scares me but some rich old dude, faced with the consequences of his short termism and having bet on the wrong horses deciding to pull the trigger, while he still has money in the bank and can buy triggers to pull.
 


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