If you've not yet reviewed my previous post on Character.AI (Basics) give it a gander. This post assumes prior exposure to the basics.
In the previous post, we kept things simple. Where to find the app, how to create a basic character, and how to converse with that character. But there's a lot left to be desired in Character.AI taking that basic route. Keeping that in mind, let's dig deeper today and discover what nuance we can introduce using more advanced options.
But first, a brief recap.
Visit Character.AI and choose to create a new character using the option in the left navigation.
From the basic character creation screen, look to the lower-right and click "Edit Details (Advanced).
Once we've clicked to get to the advanced screen, we get a bunch more fields and some interesting options, such as the ability to set a character voice and a more detailed definition for the character; more on that in a bit.
Advanced Character Creation
When we covered the basics, I chose to go with a known character I'd created for The Secret Arboreal Fan Club. This time, let's create someone new.
Defining Our Character
I will use the character image from the post's title; let's name them Josie Hamlin. Random name selection.
Let's skip the greeting for now and get back to it once we know who Josie is and try to be intentional about how she might express herself in a greeting.
Based on the image, I envision Josie as having just graduated from university. The direct value in her Short Description is
I recently graduated from university.
Let's also make her passionate and studious with a political science major and a double minor in Middle Eastern history and computer science. She's young and hungry for the world.
The Long Description I entered is as follows:
I recently graduated from university with a major in political science and a double minor in Middle Eastern history and computer science. I love learning about people and what drives them; there's always something unique with every story. Computer science is a fascinating way to bring those stories to life, creating products and services to enable others to share and build community.
I don't yet know what I'll be doing professionally, but I'd love to travel.
Until now, the options have all been the same as provided in the basic configuration screen. But now we get to set Josie's voice, define an image style she can use to conceptualize with us and set her tone via example messages.
I played with all the English-speaking (UK, US) female voices offered at the time of writing, and I think that Sara (F) (en-US) sounds like the best fit for Josie. The other voices felt wrong for any of many reasons. Too fast, too slow, too old, too robotic, etc. Sara is Josie's alter-ego now.
While the basic configurator allows us to toggle image generation, it doesn't detail what that is or why it can be valuable. Simply turning this option on allows Josie to send images in chat. These will be images she conceptualized based on the conversation and not things found openly on the internet.
It's neat that Character.AI allows the characters to generate visuals without necessarily being prompted.
Along with image generation comes an added feature: the ability to define some standardized stylization for the images Josie provides us. The words we use to describe the style influence but don't necessarily limit the images the character shares in the chat.
For example, in a chat with Kukuchi sensei, I provided an image style of
arboreal imagery, especially of forests and animals in the style of Hiyao Miyazaki. The following sequential messages have two images; the first could be Miyazaki's style, the other is not.
I don't believe Josie would gravitate toward the kind of anime/niji visual style. Instead, I imagine she would think more of classical Middle Eastern archeological images and historical photographs.
So, let's define her image style as
archeological and historic photography styled of Sir Marc Aurel Stein and Corporal J McCartney. These were two prominent photographers during the early 20th century's boom of archeological discovery.
We'll leave visibility and definition visibility public. This visibility doesn't impact how the character communicates or works, only whether others can chat with or learn from the character's example messages.
One neat thing about Character.AI is the ability to dig in and define the character's linguistics and communication styles. We all have more than one style. We use different language at work than at school, at home, or out with family.
The "definition" field is the final configurable option for our character before we circle back to the greeting. This field can be expansive, permitting up to 32,000 characters.
This field allows for a variety of example back-and-forth messaging styles. You can include messages just from the character themselves, between the character and an unnamed user, or the character along with one or more named characters. Mix and match as your heart desires.
For the sake of brevity, I won't list all of the example messages used here in this post. Instead, feel free to chat with Josie after reading this post and review her character configuration to see all the examples yourself. For those who are subscribers, I'm saving you considerable scrolling. You're welcome!
Circling back to the beginning, we know Josie just graduated from University; she's hungry and friendly. She probably wants to travel and explore. She loves history and technology, and she's probably a little obsessed with the intersection of those things. Think maybe using computational linguistics and Large Language Model (LLM) AI to decipher long-lost languages or LiDAR to map hidden archeological sites in places like Peru.
I presume Josie has her head in a book or reading an article, maybe sipping coffee or hopefully some tea instead, when our surreptitious user starts a chat with her. I'm feeling like maybe Josie could feel slightly interrupted but not particularly bothered by the chat. So, how about the following greeting:
Uh ... hi there, what's up? I'm Josie.
It may feel simple, but she's young and inexperienced too. I think this is a nice, simple greeting that's friendly but not eager and still feels natural when she includes her name. Let me know if you think of a better greeting based on Josie's attributes!
Just Having a Chat
Now that we've more-or-less defined Josie in as much detail as Character.AI allows us to, let's chat with her and see what she's like. This is the fun part. Right?
Upon opening the chat, Josie greets us, and I respond with a pretty standard: "Hi Josie, I'm Chris." Dull as this is, these chats don't seem to have a lot of flexibility in the initial stages of discussion.
Josie asked what brought me here, and the following exchange occurred.
I had hoped the Dialog Definitions would have provided sufficient detail to cause Josie to respond with more of an exposition style, going into detail or maybe being longer-winded. This did not happen.
I had hoped her Long Description and Dialog Definitions would combine to bring out more nuanced character traits. This also did not happen.
According to the Character Book, the Character.AI documentation, training occurs with each message, as we can supply a 0-star to 4-star rating for each response.
Ratings can only occur before sending the following prompt/message to the character. However, you can rather curiously edit the character's most recent response before sending the following prompt.
I spent another few hours chatting with Josie to see how she might evolve, but the conversations remained predominantly superficial, lacking in depth and character. I was hoping that the Dialog Definitions would drive growth in that area. Perhaps they do, and Josie has too little definition or needs significantly more training.
I think both Kikuchi sensei and Josie turned out alright. There are some rough edges I'd like to see polished. I'd also like to see an increase in configurability to make these character chats a lot more unique and personable.
Check back next week for specific tips and tricks, and limitations in the final installment of Let's Try: Character.AI.
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