AI Powered NPCs are coming and they’re amazing.

I love video games! I have a stack of consoles at home and many of my best memories are from playing games. Currently, I’ve been spending most time playing Rainbow 6 Siege, Call of Duty, Simcity and of course Civilization. I’ve been gaming since the 1980s but the one area that hasn’t changed much is the game characters. They act in pre-determined ways just like in films or books. If you play a game over & over again, you will see the same behavior from a character every time just with different circumstances. That is until now… Recently, OpenAI launched an open source system called GPT-3 that has got me very excited.

Currently what happens in video games is that NPC are written by game designers in much the way films are created, via storyboarding.    Game devs write out a main storyline for all the charcters then separately create narrative conversation based on decision trees.    So when you walk up to an NPC they have a set conversation already preset.

The problem with this approach is that the more conversational NPCs you have the more stories start to repeat, and the game world becomes stiflingly confined with a robotic feel.    It’s like when you’re trapped in a room with your boss and co-workers but there’s no door, window or even vent to escape through if things get desperate.

This is a fairly basic version of how things work right now.  The problem with this approach is that it’s very easy for the game to get stale and boring when the narrative conversation isn’t too impressive. Also, RPGs are filled with characters that don’t speak or react at all even if they’ve heard you because they’re not supposed to be in the main storyline. You can run up to them 100 times and never say anything in particular and they’d just reply with something like “How can I help ya?”

Now imagine going up to that same NPC and they suddenly can respond to you based on any prompt you give them.   You can ask them about the weather, what they are selling, how to get to xyz, or even about their childhood.   All possible within the framework on the game developers storyboard.  

On another tangent, what if someone could take all those responses (and more) and handcraft a story around all of it. A story where your choices actually matter and can alter the direction of the story depending on what you choose to do in the game.   The possibilities are endless with this type of AI technology at their command. And it will make for some unforgettable gaming experiences (hopefully).

 

 

AI has already been shown to be quite capable of helping with the customer journey. From ecommerce to self-service, AI is already playing a role in everything that we do. Some companies have even begun to replace live chat agents with AI powered chatbots.   That’s a pretty big deal.  We’ve taken the one and only interaction with a company and automating it.   

Now imagine that in the gaming world.   While your in the game your AI powered NPC or even assistant can help you navigate the in-game world.  Imagine Cortona from Halo being a real bot.   Imagine chatting with random people in Cyberpunk 2077. Imagine a sandbox game where every player is accompanied by a virtual helper. An AI bot, that keeps track of your inventory, your objectives and helps you find things. It’s like your little helper, in game.

Chatting with bots in game could revolutionize the e-sports scene. Players will be able to speak to their team mates while playing. It can also be used for tips and advice.  Imagine a WoW bot who you can play with or query on your strategy in raid.   Bots will revolutionize online casinos as well. Imagine you’re playing blackjack and want to know some basic strategy. You’ll be able to query a virtual dealer and make small talk.   

All and all this is making for a great gaming experience.  I personally cannot wait to see more applications of these technologies.   

What do you think about the soon to be invasion of AI in all your favorite video games?

 



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