The AI Dungeon Steam release doesn't seem to be going as smoothly as developer Latitude probably hoped it would. The game launched on Valve's platform a few days ago, but users aren't happy with its pricing structure and content, and comments have been deleted and threads locked on the game's Steam forums..
What's going on with the AI Dungeon Steam release?
Last Thursday, text-based RPG story generator AI Dungeon launched on Steam (ignore the release date listed on the Steam page). The game has been available for free on mobile platforms and browsers for some time, but you'll need to hand over $30 if you want the Steam version (although it's currently available at a 20% discount). Fans immediately took to the Steam community discussion page and Reddit to voice their displeasure. Players are suggesting that $30 is too high given that paying that amount only gives you access to the game's Griffin AI model, which fans seem to think is of low quality.
Playing AI Dungeon on mobile allows you access to the Griffin model for free, but you'll need to watch an ad every 10 actions you take. You can also pay to get access to more advanced AI language models to generate better stories. This is also technically possible on the Steam release, although not through Steam; you'll have to buy access to better models via the official Latitude site or the mobile apps, then link your account to the Steam version if you want to take advantage of that feature. However, it's not possible to play AI Dungeon using the Griffin model for free if you want to play on Steam; you'll need to pay the one-time fee because Valve doesn't allow ad-supported free-to-play games on its platform. This is what's causing fans to complain about the game's quality on Steam; they're suggesting the Steam version is inferior to the mobile version because you're paying $30 for something you get on mobile for free (albeit supported with ads).
So how has Latitude responded to the AI Dungeon Steam backlash?
To put it simply, fans also aren't happy with the way Latitude is responding to the AI Dungeon Steam backlash. Reddit users are pointing out that vast swathes of threads are being locked on the Steam community forums, with Latitude seemingly locking any thread that points out the game's high price or lack of content. For its part, Latitude says it was locking threads containing "blatantly false" information, but that it's no longer doing this and that moderation of the Steam forums should be "open now". In fairness to the studio, a quick look at the Steam forums shows that there are lots of threads criticizing the developer for AI Dungeon's price point, and they still appear to be open at time of writing.
There's another dimension to this, though; fans aren't just criticizing Latitude for its, erm, attitude towards pricing and content. Some are bringing up a controversy involving Latitude and original AI provider OpenAI, whereby it turned out that Latitude moderators were reading users' private stories in order to scan for "inappropriate content". In essence, Latitude employed an artificial intelligence to automatically scan stories for inappropriate stuff, and then human moderators would read the things flagged by the AI in order to check they were legitimate flags. Supposedly, this was a protocol for which OpenAI was largely responsible, and Latitude says it's not doing this anymore. The studio isn't helping its case by taking what seems to be a rather defensive tone with fans, claiming that anyone who "understands what's being offered" in AI Dungeon "gets" that it's a great deal and that anyone who knows "what really went down" with OpenAI responds with "surprise and empathy" when they learn the truth. Hmm.
Latitude says its pricing point is fair because users are gaining unlimited access to the AI, and that it's learned from its relationship with OpenAI and won't make the same mistakes in the future. It remains to be seen whether that's true or not, but one thing's for sure: players aren't happy with the pricing model for AI Dungeon. Community backlash can be powerful; outfits like the UK Games Expo and studios like Team17 can attest to that, although theirs are very different controversies indeed. Stay tuned to TechRaptor for more on this.