Have you heard of the Jam Man of Silent Hill: Ascension? You’re about to. In the third episode of what started out as a potentially interesting experiment and has quickly snowballed into a complete disaster, Karl Johansen (a Norwegian farmer) runs into the Jam Man.
I’m just going to let this clip shared by VoidBurger on Twitter play out (you can also watch the full episode here. The Jam Man materialises at around 24:33).
Old: “It’s bread”New: “I like to make jams” pic.twitter.com/GzVTdKrqIzNovember 25, 2023
Silent Hill: Ascension has some stilted dialogue, but this is a particularly egregious example. One which had the morbidly curious wondering if the whole thing was AI-generated: “This random NPC pops in, declares he’s berry hunting, says he’s seen weird shit and does not expound on it, provides no information, leaves for more berries. Goodbye forever, BerryMan,” writes VoidBurger in a follow-up quote Tweet with over 13,000 likes.
The character’s actual name is “Forager”, or CrimsonRain722. If you’re wondering why a Silent Hill character has numbers next to their name, that’s because Forager/Jam Man/Berry Man is a cameo, a side-character players can spend “tickets” on. This gets their name plastered next to them, and uses their customisable avatar as a model. Here’s another fun example courtesy of AnonyMooseXIV on Twitter.
Nothing gets me in the mood for horror like seeing a Twitch-style username and a subtitle telling me exactly what the thing I’m looking at is, during a weird close-up of someone’s bland Silent Hill mii. Very immersive. Anyway, Genvid’s CEO, Jacob Navrok, has said that Jam Man is not the product of a deep learning algorithm, as per a statement on his Twitter.
“Every word in Ascension was written by real people … across our 100,000+ words, zero are authored by LLMs or AI, and all are from dedicated work of a talented team,” says Navrok. I’m sort of willing to believe him, only because I think we’re all getting a touch too comfortable with pointing at things that are downright bad and saying ‘Ah, this must be AI-generated!’
But something is absolutely going wrong with Silent Hill: Ascension’s scripting in general. One hefty tick in the ‘AI shlock’ column is how Jam Man says: “Now that you mention it, I have seen some strange things out in these woods. You?” Before immediately veering back into his latest hyperfixation, rowan berries.
I figure a couple of things could’ve happened here. One, this scene was originally longer, but it was cut for time. From a production standpoint, a lot of mistakes have been made, but in the editing booth this is absolutely the right move. If you need to snip something, Jam Man’s waffling dialogue to justify the price of a cameo should be the first thing on the cutting room floor.
This could also just be a case of poor direction given to the voice actor. That “You?” could have intentionally been something like ‘I have seen strange things in these woods, like you.’ Which would make sense. A Norwegian farmer in the woods with a gun is pretty strange. Maybe the Forager was just getting defensive, he was just trying to make his Jams.
Jam Man also mentions a “patch” of rowan berries. Rowan berries grow on trees, and while you could describe a group of trees as a patch if you thought real hard about it, it’s not really the correct language, especially if berries are your passion. This wouldn’t be the first time a writer’s fumbled phrasing or not done the research, so under any other circumstance it’d be a non-event.
My point being, there are a thousand different things that could go wrong before AI gets involved. The suspicion is warranted, though, considering how vocal Navrok has been about exploring AI in the past. He goes into this in a separate post: The team tested AI-directed scenes, but “they don’t have a proper sense of timing for TV”, they tested using AI for chase scenes, but “they would just get stuck too often.”
“We previously used AI to try to do chat moderation, but this failed,” which is why text chat is currently disabled, by the way. It was a trainwreck. “We are using AI to detect offensive names for account registration. This is working to an extent. Still not perfect, but better than previous solutions … We are actively working on a new chat moderation solution, though just your standard models available for license.”
Again, you are free to apply pinches of salt as much as you’d like. I for one am happy to take Navrok at his word, though that’s not to say a rogue writer couldn’t be using LLMs on the sly. Still, sometimes a thing just isn’t that good. Even if everyone’s trying their damndest to make it so. One thing’s for certain: I will never forget Jam Man. His jams will always have a place in my heart.