ElectricNoir is launching Dark Mode, an AI-generated horror anthology that is a kind of visual novel or game.
The game uses generative AI technology to help generate some of its horror scenarios, and it uses a Scriptic platform to create a series of twisted tales in an interactive horror anthology.
Nihal Tharoor, CEO of London-based ElectricNoir, said in an interview with GamesBeat that everything you see and hear in the game has been generated by AI.
“They’re nightmares beyond human imagination,” Tharoor said. “Scriptic is a platform for what we call phone-first interactive entertainment. These are interactive dramas, told through the world of our smartphones and apps. And we have a lot of conviction that this live-action interactive format can become the first truly mass-adopted interactive medium.”
For instance, in one episode called The Dreamer, your oldest friend is texting the player from inside a nightmare. Your advice will decide whether she wakes up or becomes stuck there forever.
Scriptic’s writers began this story in collaboration with DALL-E 2 by OpenAI. This created a collaborative back-and-forth between the human writers and the machine, as they worked together to create an expansive dream world full of original horrors.
“We were using tools like DALL-E to drive efficiencies in our long-form content production. And actually, we’ve been collaborating with them more and more to the point where actually we set ourselves a goal to create a whole series on our platform Scriptic, where we use generative AI as a total solution for the media production, but not impacting the quality of the content at all,” Tharoor said. “And that’s really what our AI-generated horror anthology Dark Mode is.”
For the visuals, the writers again were inspired by the imaginative creations of DALL·E 2, as it outputted an unexpected hollow-eyed mannequin for the prompt: “A selfie with a person with no skin.” They then used Murf.AI to create a phone call with the inhuman creature. The writers were able to find the voice “Rachel” who sounded uncannily not-quite-human. Using Murf.AI’s library of expressions (whispering, angry, friendly etc.) they created something truly unsettling.
There are rivals out there like Flavourworks, which also focuses on live-action interactive cinema. But Tharoor believes his platform has more interactivity built into it. And using a phone “can really tap into a broad audience,” Tharoor said.
“We’re not creating an interactive cinematic experience. We’re creating a whole new interactive live-action medium, using the phone, that we call that phone first interactive,” Tharoor said. “We think this particular medium is well placed to exploit generative AI tools because the phone-first medium blends text, imagery and audio in a seamless way. That’s native to mobile. So we can exploit ChatGPT for text messages, and we can explore it directly for the images. And coming over WhatsApp, we can exploit synthetic audio for phone calls and voice memos. So it’s really perfect for generative AI tools. And we really think dark mode really validates that this medium can really deliver really high-quality experiences using this technology.”
The company got started in 2018 and it has about 20 people who come from a variety of industries. They started experimenting with various AI tools early.
ElectricNoir raised $2.5 million from Vgames and Moonfire Ventures (with participation from gaming veterans David Helgason, Kevin Lin, Robert Lucca and Anton Gauffin) in February 2022 with the mission of using phones to turn Netflix watchers into “accidental gamers.”
It created a series of mobile games dubbed Dead Man’s Phone and it was nominated for a BAFTA Awards for mobile game of the year. The game puts you in the shoes of a Scotland Yard homicide detective, investigating murders by scouring the phones of victims.
Tharoor’s passion is about using an emerging narrative format to attract new audiences to gaming. The idea was to blend existing storytelling formats — books, audio, video, and interactive gaming — into one seamless medium that is native to mobile. The power consumers in this emerging space are young women, he said. And it’s for gamers and non-gamers alike. Some 80% of current fans are “true crime” lovers.
Tharoor sees the company’s UGC platform as a North Star for its narrative ambitions.
“You can’t expect your average creator to go out and film actors and find locations. But if they have these tools to create TV media experiences at their fingertips, then you really unleash their creativity,” Tharoor said. “You can see huge adoption of creators in this medium. And so I think that what’s really the most exciting component for us. The real game changers is when creators on our platform can make their own stories using these tools.”
Tharoor likes that the phone is so accessible and that using it for narrative fiction is so intuitive. He also believes that using generative AI makes it infinitely scalable for consumers who voraciously consume content. And it’s immersive.
“You feel like the lead character in a Netflix drama,” Tharoor said.
In the long term, the company plans to enter the creator economy and open up its creator tools to
production houses and passionate storytellers worldwide.
“One of the challenges around that we’re not using animated experiences but real media,” Tharoor said. “Traditionally, it would be very hard for creators to build content where they have to go out and film with actors. That’s why, from the very beginning, we really bet on generative AI as the way we unlock user-generated content in our platform.”
The company can show the way with its own professional writing, mixed with AI. And then it can point the way for users to follow.
“It’s incredibly intuitive for everyone,” he said.
ElectricNoir is starting to raise a round of funding.
“We’ve got incredible tech leadership and tech expertise in our company,” he said. “We’ve got incredible content, but I think the most value in our company is in our story engine, our tech stack and our tool set. We know we can deliver on this UGC vision as well, because all the cool architecture is already in place.”