Playing Infinite Craft Is Like Peering Into an A.I.’s Brain

Fuse “Water” and “Water” to get a “Lake.” Add “Fire” to “Mountain” to create “Volcano.” Combine “Titanic” and “Poison Ivy” to form something called “Poisonous Titanic.”

In the browser-based video game Infinite Craft, players merge blocks of text to discover the entire universe from scratch, with results that are all governed by artificial intelligence. Playing is like peering into an A.I.’s brain, a role-play of what life would look like if regulated by a large language model.

Many of Infinite Craft’s recipes make practical sense, but the A.I. also comes up with wild results: Players have uncovered “Bubble Butt Wizard,” “Farming Simulator 2013: Furry Shades of Grey” and an open-mic comedy night at a brewery in Toronto.

“Making a game with A.I. is at a weird place,” said Neal Agarwal, Infinite Craft’s solo developer. “It has moments of brilliance but also sometimes it’s like talking to a 5-year-old.”

The video game industry is among those reckoning with the power of impressively fast and realistic A.I. generators. Many designers and players have expressed concern that artificial intelligence will replace artists and spawn a slurry of cheap and lackluster products. Studios are looking for ways to manage rising costs, with Blizzard Entertainment training a proprietary image generator on visual assets from World of Warcraft and Overwatch.

Infinite Craft is the rare game using buzzy A.I. tools that does not feel like it is leveraging the technology as a cheat code. Agarwal said he thought A.I. was best deployed for games meant to unfurl infinitely, and not as a way to replace people doing genuine artistic work.

“I could imagine future sandbox games that couldn’t have been made by programmers,” he said.

The main technology behind Infinite Craft is Meta’s large language model Llama 2. Whenever users try a new combination of terms, known as a much sought-after “first discovery,” Llama 2 computes a fresh answer. Agarwal set up layers of prompts and a filter in hopes that the A.I. generator’s solutions would not be incoherent or offensive.

The generator does not always adhere to science or logic — “Peanut” plus “Mountain” equals “Mt. Everest” — but its absurdity adds to the allure. The Pandora’s box of freaky creations includes “Osama Bin Donuts,” “Super Mario Shrekopanos” and “Transfamily Guy.”

“The A.I. is wonky, so sometimes the obvious thing when you combine two things together won’t happen,” said Ashton Fullmer, 20, a YouTuber who has clocked more than 30 hours on the game. “It’ll create the most off-brand, weird thing. It sparks curiosity.”

Playing Infinite Craft can feel like you’re God writing a stream-of-consciousness modernist poem. Agarwal, 26, said his design was inspired by games like Little Alchemy and Doodle God that also involve combining elements to unlock more. While those games were limited by a set library of resources, Infinite Craft can generate entries forever.

More than 300 million crafts are being made every day, according to Agarwal. The game, which was released on Jan. 31 with little publicity and no guidelines on how to play, has attracted a variety of fans, including influencers who typically play titles like Lethal Company and Fortnite, and casual players obsessed with text-based games like Wordle.

Noah Croddy, a YouTuber better known as Sophist, compared Infinite Craft to other easy-to-play games like Flappy Bird and 2048.

“The promise of infinite possibilities makes people want to keep combining things to see if it’s truly as infinite as it says on the tin,” Croddy, 26, said. “It’s also a giant puzzle game to get a certain thing.”

While Infinite Craft, like Lego or Minecraft, has no set gameplay, players have invented a funfair’s worth of amusing mini-games.

When the Twitch streamer Will Neff hosted an Infinite Craft tournament with influencers like Hasan Piker, Ludwig Ahgren and Valkyrae, they challenged one another to reach a randomized block-creation the fastest (like “Finding Nemo”) and create all the colors in the rainbow. Other YouTubers have recorded themselves paradoxically attempting to speed run the endless game. There are Discord communities trying to find the recipes needed to create all of a certain fandom’s characters.

“It’s very fun to go through trial and error,” said Fullmer, who has crafted every character from the Super Smash Bros. universe.

It is this vast malleability that has made the game exciting for so many, like it is a communal project being constructed in real time. A public spreadsheet contains more than 10,000 lines of recipes for everything from movie titles to “Bill Nye the Meth Guy.”

One Discord community has discovered enough Japanese characters that it can play the entire game in another language.

“That’s the cool thing about A.I. games,” Agarwal said. “I can set the basic rules but I don’t know how far you can take it.”

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