June 28, 2022

A Retrospective on Ads

We’re Making Changes Based on Your Feedback

Successful product teams often do retrospectives—an exercise where teams meet together to review their work and identify what went well, and where improvements can be made. Retrospectives help the team to continue the good things they are doing and learn from mistakes.

We’d like to share a retrospective on our recent ad release with you. We want to apologize for the mistakes and share our plans to improve future releases.

Things we'll do better

Our community has been understandably frustrated with the way we released ads. We knew there would be some negative response to ads, as we had similar reactions when we launched energy. However, player frustration wasn’t only about the ads. We launched with too many bugs, our communication was unclear, and we removed legacy features too soon. We’re sorry we let this happen, and we’re working to make it right. Here’s how we’re going to do better.

More Testing, Fewer Bugs

What you told us: The ad launch had too many bugs and issues.

Ads are notoriously difficult to implement. While we anticipated there’d be some issues after launching, the number of critical issues our players experienced was unacceptable. Some players were getting ads after every action (which was NEVER what we wanted), or were completely unable to play on their combination of browser and adblocker because we hadn’t tested enough variations. We also didn’t have an easy way to revert the experience for players experiencing issues.

How we’re changing: New features will be released to Beta, which any player (free or subscriber) can opt into in order to try new features and report issues. If Beta is unstable, players will be able to go back to the general release by disabling Beta features. We’ll make changes and fix issues until Beta is ready, then update the general release version. Large or high-risk features will roll out to players incrementally, which will allow more space for feedback and discovery of potential issues. We’re also developing more robust testing processes and checklists for launches.

Transparent & Clear Communication

What you told us: The ad solution we implemented wasn’t what players thought they were voting for. It wasn’t clear how ads would be implemented, or why.

We got feedback about energy and ads from thousands of players. The feedback came from surveys, product feedback, support tickets, testing groups, user testing, and email. However, in many of these places our proposed solution was vague or unclear. For example, on our feature request page, the language of that request said, “use ads to increase energy”. This was player-submitted language, but it understandably influenced what people thought they were voting for. In other places we talked about ads but didn’t mention whether we were considering banner ads, pop ups, or interstitial ads. In the planning stages we weren’t sure what ad types would be implemented, but as we got further into the development process we should have updated our communications to reflect our new direction. We realize that some people would have changed their feedback if we had been clearer about the solution we were considering.

Changes we’ve already made: We are already communicating more frequently and on more channels. We’ve published a number of blog entries, social posts, and email campaigns. Multiple members of the executive team are participating more frequently with our community on Reddit, Discord, and livestreams.

How we’re changing (further): Get ready for detail, because we’re sharing more than ever. We’ve already started sharing some product metrics, which is something we’ve shied away from in the past. Our product livestreams will feature more details of current work, let us gather feedback from the community on new designs / concepts, and give us a chance to discuss what we’re learning. We’re also working on a blog post detailing everything that happened with filters in 2021.

Better transition of legacy features

What you told us: Do a better job migrating legacy features when updating

We’re anxious to make AI Dungeon better and, at times, that’s led us to be too quick to remove and change features without sufficient communication or solid transition plans. Recently, for example, when refactoring the User Profile we removed the ability to purchase avatars with Scales. That meant when we removed energy to make way for ads, we removed the last place scales could be spent. Additionally, a significant performance issue forced us to remove Follower/Following counts from the Profile page, a very important metric for our players, due to a performance issue requiring significant developer time to fix—all of which we should have communicated more clearly. In sum, while everyone expects the product to change, evolve, and improve, the Latitude Team can and should do better to clearly communicate our intent and our transition plans to make these changes more smoothly.

How we’re changing: Although we may continue to remove legacy features, we’ll communicate those intentions and have clearer transition plans. We will be bringing back or transitioning some features that we removed. You can read about the plans for scales below. If things break, we may not have a transition plan ready, but will better communicate what is happening and why.

A Gift from Latitude

We know that these changes have been frustrating for players. We want to give something back to the community to show our appreciation for taking this journey with us. Effective immediately, AI Dungeon 2D is available for ALL users—free and subscribed. At launch, it’ll be available to users with Beta features enabled, and will be rolled out to everyone soon.

With AI Dungeon 2D, AI generated images will be used to illustrate the events of your story. It’s a fun way to bring your adventures to life with visuals. You can enable AI Dungeon 2D in your game Settings.

Upcoming Product Changes

Store Up Actions Using Ads

Players have consistently brought up that the thing they missed most about energy was the ability to save a pool of energy and use it for an uninterrupted session of AI adventuring. In fact, one of the most common suggestions we’ve heard is to use ads to recharge energy.

We’re making several changes to allow players to store up actions. Some of these changes are available now in Beta. Other changes will roll out over the next few weeks. Here’s some highlights of what is coming:

  • We’re adding a “Manage Actions” window that is accessed by clicking the video icon at the top of the play screen.
  • From the “Manage Actions” window, you’ll be able to see how many actions you have. You can choose to watch an ad to get more actions or, if you have Scales, you can redeem them for more actions. (If you don’t have any scales this option will not be available). Redeeming scales for actions is coming soon.
  • Players can watch ads repeatedly to store up actions. Some ad networks and regions limit how many ads can be shown back-to-back. We may have to limit ad watching in some cases, but we’re planning to use multiple ad networks and, potentially, custom ads to avoid this.
  • Our goal is to let players store an unlimited number of actions, but there will be some limits when we launch. We’ll remove those over time if/when possible.
  • The Daily Reward will allow you to earn extra ad-free actions.

There are some parts of this solution we already know we need to test and get feedback on. For instance:

  • Would players prefer a flat rate of actions per ad watch? Or would they prefer a variable reward system that offers them a chance at getting more actions?
  • How many actions should we offer a player per ad? We may test different amounts in the coming weeks.
  • Could some ads be worth more than others? For instance, could watching a 30 second ad be worth more actions than a 10 second ad?
  • Will our ad providers require us to rate-limit ad watching? Is there a limit to how many ads a person can see in a row or in a specific time-frame?
  • What should we do for geographic regions where ads are not as available? Can we create Latitude ads that fill the space in the absence of ads from our partners?

Bringing Back Legacy Payment Plans & Options

In addition to the feedback on ads, many people also shared frustrations with our current subscription plans and payment options.

Why AI Dungeon Plans were removed: Many of our players have noticed that we’re currently offering Voyage plans exclusively. We retired the limited AI Dungeon subscriptions for a couple reasons. Our Voyage plans were simpler to support, as they all went through a single payment provider (Stripe). We also believed having one, single plan to choose from would actually be simpler for players, since we’ve had difficulty helping players understand the difference between the different AI Dungeon tiers.

Why mobile payments were removed: We also removed mobile payment options, which have always been more difficult to support. Apple and Google’s systems don’t allow us to process cancellations or refunds for customers. They also collect large royalty payments from our customers, and add an extra layer of complexity to our experience. We tested sending mobile users to Voyage to pay for subscriptions, and in that test, users were subscribing at the same rate as mobile subscriptions. We concluded it didn’t make sense to pay extra money for a mobile payment system that didn’t perform better, and didn’t allow us to support our players the way we’d like to.

We’re bringing AI Dungeon plans and mobile payments back: We’ve received clear feedback that the various payment options were missed. So, we’re going to offer AI Dungeon plans again. We will also bring back mobile payment options. More details about the new plans, and what’s changing, will be available soon.

More exciting changes

We’re not just improving ads, reintroducing AI Dungeon plans, returning mobile payments, and bringing back using Scales for actions—we’re also excited to share more features coming to AI Dungeon.

First, comments are back. We removed comments last year because of challenges with moderation. We now have a solution in place that will help us keep comments safe. This is available now as a Beta feature.

Next, we’re improving the Model Settings interface. You’ll soon be able to make model changes in the play screen without having to leave your story.

Finally, we are planning to introduce Custom Fine Tunes for subscribers. We’ve already experimented with Fine Tunes that emulate the writing of famous authors, or are tuned to specific fictional universes. Eventually, subscribers will also be able to create fine tunes themselves, and even share them with others in the community. Show us how it’s done!


  1. Why can’t we just go back to energy?

    Energy was implemented to limit extreme usage of AI, and was just as unpopular as ads when we launched it. But energy didn’t cover the costs of free players. Supporting free play on AI Dungeon costs around half a million dollars a year in compute power. AI is expensive.

    This is why our commitment to a free experience in AI Dungeon is unique. Offering free AI compute is a quick way to lose a lot of money. We want to be able to provide players an option to create with AI for free, and ads help us do that sustainably—or, at least, help cover some of the costs.

    Nearly every platform we use online that’s free also uses ads. Youtube, Google, Twitter, TikTok, and free-to-play games, all use ads to support their free services and platforms. TV channels have had commercials almost since TV started broadcasting. Pay for a movie, and they have you watch ads in the theater before the movie starts. Ads are the clearest way for businesses to support free use of platforms, or augment other revenue streams.

  2. Why aren’t you using banner ads?

    Because of the high costs of supporting free AI play, banner ads are not a useful option. Banner ads generate 50-100 times LESS revenue than video ads.

  3. Why would you make players watch ads?

    No one likes ads, and we’re no different. It’s a big reason we’d waited so long to implement them. But ad revenue lets companies provide things for free that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. If we didn’t implement ads, we likely would have had to follow other AI apps which offer extremely limited or no free-play options.
  4. Is everyone leaving AI Dungeon?

    No. While we know of a few individuals who said they were done over the shift to ads, our active usage is actually up since we announced ads and we’ve had to increase the number of our Griffin servers. We’ve actually had some people come back to AI Dungeon, specifically citing they prefer ads over energy.

  5. Can we have AI Dungeon only plans back?

    Yes. See the info above. 🙂

Moving Forward

Again, we apologize. We want to, and can, do better. We wouldn’t be here without the support of millions of players who have ridden this roller coaster with us.

We’re looking forward to completing the changes and fixes outlined above. Thank you for caring enough to give the feedback we needed to make the right adjustments.

Take care, and enjoy your next adventure!

—The Latitude Team