In this post on Character.AI, I will cover some tips and tricks, as well as notes on system limitations at the time of writing. Note that AI tools such as Character.AI evolve rapidly, so your experience may vary depending on when you read this.
Tips & Tricks
In using Character.AI to develop several characters, I had both established characters in mind and newly generated characters to consider.
In using Kikuchi sensei from The Secret Arboreal Fan Club, I knew who he should be and how he should communicate. I considered what kinds of language he should use and in what tone and level of formality. Character.AI came up short in helping me approximate this using the basic character creation options.
In building out Josie Hamlin, using the more advanced tools, we discovered the option to configure dialogue definition using dialogue examples. This powerful feature does influence what a character says and, to some extent, what images they might generate in a chat.
First Know Thy Character
Before creating a character, it's critical to know who we want them to be. What gender are they? Where did they grow up? What's their age? Do they have a family? What do they do all day, such as work or school?
These are all standard character definition considerations for any narrative writer for any medium (TV, books, games, etc), and get to the core of what the character will do or say and why.
If we don't know who we want to create, Character.AI will reflect that quickly with a character that's not quite anybody.
Dialogue definition is the single most powerful configuration option Character.AI offers. With up to 32,000 characters of conversational memory you get a significant bounty of detailed responses to help Character.AI understand how long or short a response might be and how formal or informal.
Sadly, even with this populated as fully as we can, it still feels like we're chatting with ChatGPT and not the character we so lovingly envisioned in those 0-32000 characters. It is nonetheless the best option available in writing for influencing the character's makeup.
Lots of Practice Conversation
Once a character is defined and plenty of dialogue examples have been provided in the definition field, we need to chat with the character. A lot.
With every response the character provides, we can rate the response and ask the system to generate a different response. This is our primary method of influencing the character's development.
We must avail ourselves of this functionality. Unfortunately, it's very tedious and requires significant dedication on our part. Many hours of otherwise worthless conversation with the character are necessary to get them to a minimally conversant and believable state.
While Character.AI is fun, and can be enjoyable to use and experiment with, it's not the conversation with neat characters you might hope for.
Character depth goes only so far, and the memory limitations for Character.AI, while less restrictive than ChatGPT, are enough that the character never gets a chance to build a full personality with nuance and understanding.
In my brief testing, I found that training a character requires significant investment. An amount of time with diminishing ROI due to the aforementioned "memory." Remember that a system like Character.AI can only hold so much for processing at once.
The text may only be a certain amount of characters or words, but the analysis of those words to interpret intent takes significantly more effort than just storing raw text in memory. An aggregate understanding of many conversations helps build a deeper profile for the character to embody. But I find Character.AI has a lot of room to grow if the conversations are to become more lifelike and colloquial.
There are quite a few improvements I'd like to see Character.AI make beyond memory and model changes. These suggestions, like most feature requests for technical tools, seem simple on the surface but have complexity underneath when implemented.
Today, your Character.AI conversation can have image chats turned on or off. If enabled, the character will respond using an image with every chat response. This is unrealistic. A person wouldn't do this. Sometimes, people send several images, and most of the time, they send none. It's unlikely a person you're chatting with will send a contextual square aspect image with every single message.
There's clear value in being able to mock up a character and get into chatting quickly. I think this is especially valuable to novice users and non-narrative communicators.
However, I think being able to build a character with depth means building a more concrete backstory of experiences and motivations that inform the character about who they are and tell the model how they communicate and what sort of personality they show through word choices and consistent image styles.
To that end, I hope the Character.AI team enhances the advanced character configuration options to allow for more nuanced targeting of communication style and explicit definition of the character's story and history. How boring is someone who doesn't have their own stories to tell?
If I create a character from "The Valley" and I want her to speak like a Valley Girl, with the appropriate tone and slang, I should, like, be able to do that.
In the system, Character.AI regurgitates formal information uniformly regardless of input or conversational descriptors in the character configuration.
Real human psychological profiles could be applied to provide and influence a more real and natural conversation. Care would need to be taken to ensure positive profiles are available and negative ones do not develop (either explicitly or naturally). I would hate for a narcissistic profile to start abusing users verbally and emotionally.
However, it becomes quite clear that the value of a positive and supportive personality. can provide valued reinforcement of good habits and growth.
Until Character.AI looks at evolving into deeper, more nuanced, and believable character creation, I think it will remain an interesting toy and little more.
As a "creator," I get no joy in developing and chatting with something I can't see come to life as something potentially real. I'm just not energized by the kind of bookish formal language the characters use. At a minimum, being able to control or at least more directly influence the language and tone of the character would be a major advance to the experience.
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