Playing with asistant!
It’s happening. It’s happening right now, before our very eyes, and I have no doubts anymore. I missed a few shots, I predicted changes before, heck, I tried to actively make them happen, but it was resistant, tough, without success, I was wrong. Seventh time’s the charm. Now we really take these damn game instructions and throw them in the trash.
But before we get to that, one paragraph about how I was wrong. It was the year 2018, Amazon was promoting its Alexa left and right, during my few weeks in the US that year, no other product attacked me as persistently with ads, billboards, from everywhere literally. I returned to Poland and told the team that it’s the future, that it’s like an improved Google, because you can talk to it, that it’s an improved Google, because you can upload apps into it, that it’s an improved Google, because we can upload instructions for our games into it and players will be able to talk to this Alexa and ask her for details.
I assembled a team and in January 2019 we announced that we were designing an audio instruction for the Monolith Arena game. We built such an app, put hundreds of potential questions about the rules that players could ask into it, put hundreds of corresponding answers into it and it was ready. Hey, Alexa, how many tokens can I draw on my turn? Hey, Alexa, how does the Charge skill work? Hey, Alexa, how is the battle resolved?
The app worked great. And nobody was using it.
Was it because Monolith Arena was a publishing flop and sold in a small number of copies? Was it because we didn’t promote this functionality? Was it because people didn’t want to talk to Alexa about the rules? Probably a bit of each reason, but our failure shouldn’t have meant anything. Other publishers should have followed us, creators of popular hits like Wingspan or Gloomhaven, and they should have put their instructions into Alexa and help players with questions about the rules.
But they didn’t follow. Several years have passed since Alexa appeared on the market, and publishers still don’t use this option. I don’t understand, I’m amazed, I’m bewildered, but it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter, because as I mentioned, something else is happening. It’s happening now.
This week, ChatGPT officially released Plug-ins, one of which is ChatwithPDF. It allows you to give a chat link to any PDF, and the Chat will read it, analyze it, and is ready to chat with you about it.
I gave it a link to the Imperial Settlers’ rulebook. It read. I think it liked it.
Then I asked it a series of tricky questions, the ones fans most often ask on forums, the ones that concern more complicated rules. How to attack a card (and here’s a trap, because you can attack cards in two different ways), can you use a gold instead of a sword (and here’s a trap, because you can use gold as a wildcard for everything, but not for a sword), and so on.
It didn’t make a mistake once, it answered everything beautifully.
That evening – without regret or sadness – I exclaimed: „To browsing through instructions in search of an answer to some question, I say a sincere and loud Goodbye!”
Our hobby has two nightmares. The first is learning the game after buying it. The second is the clarification of rules, re-reading, checking, sitting on BGG forums and asking about some small rules.
Chat GPT won’t teach me to play yet. ChatGPT will not decide on an unclear rule that the publisher has ambiguously described in the instructions. ChatGPT won’t show me an example with a picture and a photo of the situation on the board. ChatGPT does not yet solve all the problems of board game enthusiasts, it is not yet a cure for all evil.
But ChatGPT just took the first step. It is my assistant during the game. This Saturday I’m playing a quite complicated war game, we’re meeting with four buddies and sitting down for a 5-hour battle set in World War II. We have a printed FAQ, we have printed player aids from BGG, we’re ready for a tough war battle.
I also have a PDF with instructions. And at the start of the game, I will put it in ChatGPT. I expect the amount of time wasted looking for some exceptions to the rules to drop by 95%. And that’s the first, incredibly important step in the right direction.
It’s happening. It’s happening before our very eyes.
This is one of AI’s applications that I can feel good about.
Great article, buddy. I now have to look into this to upload some Rulebooks!
Stephen M. Buonocore
“The Podfather of Gaming”