Is AI the future of NPCs?

Bloom, a non-player character with a face like a potato and a black beanie on his ears, wanted to know my strategies and how I performed in combat. “I follow the map and punch hard,” I replied into the microphone. The text of our conversation flashed across the bottom of my screen. The NPC thinks I’m bragging. His AI-driven voice sounds robotic but not harsh as he continues to ramble on about our place in the resistance and how we need to fight back.

What Bloom didn’t tell me, at least not directly, was that he was a “new NPC”—a generative artificial intelligence creation from French video game publisher Ubisoft designed to allow players to have conversations with characters. Bloom is still in his R&D days, but his creation represents one of many ways game companies are looking to integrate machine learning into their products.

I had the opportunity to speak with Bloom at last week’s Game Developers Conference, where the industry’s artificial intelligence craze is in full swing. In addition to Ubisoft’s demo, there were panel discussions on topics ranging from robot basketball players to “transformative applications” of next-generation artificial intelligence. But the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) has also discussed deepfakes and the impact artificial intelligence could have on the careers of game makers. Ahead of the event, a poll conducted by GDC organizers found that 49% of developers surveyed were using generative AI at their companies; however, four out of five developers surveyed said they were concerned about the ethics of doing so.

During these discussions, the idea of ​​using artificial intelligence for NPCs surfaced. In addition to Ubisoft’s demo, Nvidia – the company behind many of the GPUs powering the AI ​​revolution – has unveiled a suite of tools that will enable “developers to build digital humans capable of AI-driven natural language interaction.”The company demonstrated the tools by releasing a video secret agreementa technology demo it produced with artificial intelligence character company Inworld.

Ubisoft showed off its neo NPC also uses Nvidia technology in three ways. First, I talked to Bloom in order to fulfill some of the game’s goals: getting close to Bloom, learning about the megacorporations that rule the world, learning about the resistance, and more. Bloom was easy to ask questions of, and he was generally good-natured. Ubisoft senior data scientist Mélanie López Malet told me that it was designed to be easy to control, even though other NPCs they created were more aloof, if not outright aggressive. She explained that the team decided to add objectives to his interactions because during the company’s early testing, they found that players could be a little… shy.

“Some people have a little bit of social anxiety,” Mallett said. They don’t want to disturb NPCs who look busy, or they’ll be surprised by characters who look angry. They don’t always know what to say. “[Players] It’s like, ‘It’s like I’m at a party with no one I know, oh my god,'” Mallette said. But she thinks that’s a good thing: It means NPCs are inspiring people to use their social instincts. Players are also more likely to open up and communicate personally when engaging in text conversations. “There are some things you can’t say, you know? “Mallett said.

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