back to article Microsoft's TextWorld gives AI a Zork-like challenge

How do you train AI agents in language and understanding? Easy – drop them into a Zork-alike dungeon and let then find their own way out. While the rest of the Microsoft world squeaked with excitement about new hardware and free collaboration tools, the boffins at Redmond’s Montreal Research Lab have looked to history as way …

  1. Anonymous South African Coward Bronze badge

    And Jinxter's on its way...

    Enjoy The Pawn and The Guild of Thieves in the meantime.

  2. onefang





    I, for one, welcome our new text based AI overlords.

    take the piss

    take coat

  3. Spoonsinger


    playing text adventures so you don't have too. (Just remember that they will remember that you made them do it).

  4. Cem Ayin


    I wonder how their AI would perform against a really sophisticated piece of IF, say "Curses!" by Graham Nelson or anything in that league. Or give Infocom's "Hitchhiker"-Game a try. Will the AI ever make it through the screening door...?

  5. Teiwaz

    Huge Teeth

    I used to play about with a text adventure construction kit (don't recall it's actual name) on my first PC - the only way beasties would kill you with was one 'huge teeth' description, which I kept forgetting, A spy epic I wrote for it was a little freaky with beautiful spy ladies coming at you with knives/guns but at the last minute, taking you out instead with a huge set of sharp teeth.

    Any AI being forced to play that and against all odds, becoming self aware is going to need therapy.

  6. Waseem Alkurdi

    TextWorld. Although Linux is often a turn-based, text-based adventure all by itself

    We definitely need AI that could beat that game of system administration and sleepless nights called Linux.

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      If it ever learns to quit vi then we know we're in trouble.

      1. onefang

        "If it ever learns to quit vi then we know we're in trouble."

        When you consider that the only thing I know about how to use vi is how to quit it, using "killall -TERM vi"* from another terminal, if AI learns the killall command, we are indeed in deep shit.

        * "killall -KILL vi" if I'm particularly annoyed at the time. And yes, I am aware of ":q" I think it is, but killall works for most other things as well.

  7. Teiwaz


    Text based, I get, i fondly remember (well, small flashes in between the long cold-sweat nightmares of fruitless and mostly unrewarded frustration) but turn-based always puts me in mind of the only slightly less frustrating Civilisation, Colonisation or UFO and their ilk from the early to mid-nineties.

  8. Crisp

    It is dark

    You are likely to be eaten by a Grue.

    1. John Gamble

      Re: It is dark

      I always think that when going down into the basement.

  9. Dan 55 Silver badge


    TextWorld itself takes a knowledgebase of actions, themes and predicates, the number of rooms and objects, and a winning condition, and churns out a game using the Inform 7.

    This seems to me to be cheating, like Montezuma's Revenge.

    1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

      Re: Cheating...

      If I understand correctly; TextWorld is primarily the game assembling and interaction handler, not the game solving part.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Cheating...

        If the AI were any good you could plug it into any text adventure (maybe not Corruption, perhaps something from the other end of the decade).

        As it is, it seems the deck has been loaded because care has been taken to generate the descriptions and parser with known or easily learnable words.

  10. 2Nick3

    Ah Zork...

    Learned to type to play it faster. Learned basic flowcharting to make better maps. Learned better curses to direct them at the developers.

    When we see an AI that can beat Zork I I'll start to get worried.

    1. David Aston

      Re: Ah Zork...

      Zork I was easy - Zork III: The Dungeon Master nearly did for me....!

      Ah those were the days....

  11. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

    You wait...

    ...Thorin sits on a rock and starts singing about gold.

    1. David 132 Silver badge

      Re: You wait...

      Meanwhile, I have a thing in my dressing-gown pocket which my aunt gave me that I don't know what it is.

      Oh, sorry, wrong adventure.

      1. Frumious Bandersnatch

        Re: You wait...

        Yes, no matter how many times you have tried to get rid of it ...

        On the plus side, there's still the buffered analgesic (just remember to 'wear gown' first)

  12. Alister

    It looks like WordStar to me...

  13. IGnatius T Foobar ✅


    Is anyone else more intrigued by the fact that they appear to be developing this whole thing on Linux?

  14. This post has been deleted by its author

  15. holdere

    If they really wanted self-awareness...

    Why not put the AI into Infocom's A Mind Forever Voyaging?

  16. Deltics

    The real test, surely...

    ... would be to set an AI the test of getting this thing up and running in the first place, like our plucky correspondent. i.e. In the face of incomplete and inaccurate instructions can an AI actually achieve an outcome it has been given in the form of a verbal or written instruction ?

    The answer of course is "Don't be ridiculous."

    With that in mind, I here-by declare the end of supposedly tech-literate journalists throwing the term "AI" around as if it is either meaningful or relevant to any current technological endeavour.

    Thank you.

    1. onefang

      Re: The real test, surely...

      'journalists throwing the term "AI" around'

      Depends on what the "I" stands for. There's a good case for Idiot / Idiocy / etc. Other nouns are available, I just can't think of any funny ones right now.

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