Published: January 25, 2024

Photo by Alexey Savchenko via Unsplash

How AI Will Make Video Games More Real

By Movieguide® Contributor

As AI technology advances, tech company Convai is looking to apply artificial intelligence to video games to make them more interactive and lifelike.

“What we are doing is giving these NPCs (non-playable characters) a mind,” Purnendu Mukherjee, founder and CEO of Convai, told Fast Company. “So much so that they’re able to have a natural conversation with us. You can talk to them about anything. Not only can you do a voice-to-voice conversation, they show emotion. They have the right facial expressions. And in a 3D environment, the next level of cognition is they can perceive the environment and interact with it.”

Though staples of gaming, NPCs have typically been unremarkable, serving as vehicles for plotlines or simply acting as cannon fodder for the player. With their movements and speaking lines predetermined by the game’s developers, even the most carefully crafted NPCs become uninteresting over time.

Convai, however, hopes AI can resolve this problem as it enables minor characters to hold unique, interesting conversations with the player. Games that utilize their technology will send players’ conversations to Convai’s AI service via the cloud, receiving a response to relay back to the player after a short delay. Though this pause may hinder some of the immersion, the company hopes that the technology’s other features will compensate.

“[The NPCs] will stay in character,” Mukherjee said. “They will not break character. If you’re interacting with a professor or medieval merchant and start talking about something outside of that world, they will say, ‘What are you talking about? I have no idea what that is.’”

As AI is integrated into NPCs, however, Julian Togelius, an associate professor of computer science and engineering at New York University, pointed out “that AI-driven characters may be unpredictable, which poses a concern.”

However, Mukherjee noted, “Developers have the complete freedom to say how far their [characters] can go from their backstory and how restrictive they want to keep them.”

Beyond NPCs in video games, Mukherjee believes his company’s technology will also have real-world applications through concierge services, such as providing info at airports or hotels.

“[The real-world companies] are being more conservative about announcing this. This will probably be another two or three years,” Mukherjee said. “We have a bunch of partners, but it’s not our information to share.”

Nvidia recently announced a similar technology that will also make video games more immersive.

“NVIDIA ACE (Avatar Cloud Engine) is a suite of technologies that helps developers bring digital avatars to life using generative AI. With ACE, generic non-playable characters (NPCs) can be turned into dynamic, interactive characters capable of striking up a conversation, or providing game knowledge to aid players in their quests,” GeForce reported.

Movieguide® previously reported:

As generative AI is set to impact many professions, the technology will bring major changes to the video game industry by removing menial tasks and making games more immersive.

Most modern video games include non-playable characters, known as NPCs, to add a level of interaction to the game. Game developers program these characters’ movements and dialogue.

“When we think about those NPCs, they look a bit weird,” Alexis Rolland, development director of La Forge China, a branch of Ubisoft’s research and development unit, told CNN. “You can tell there is something off about what you’re seeing or hearing.”

However, Generative AI has the potential to shake this up. Earlier this year, La Forge launched its Ghostwriter tool, which has the ability to generate new text every time a player talks to an NPC and generate body gestures based on the new text.

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