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Thursday, June 13, 2024

AI and Video Games

AI: Revolutionising the Video Game Future, and Past

Video games have always been a wonderful indicator of technological advancement, especially in terms of graphics. The first video games I played were on cassettes that took 30 minutes to load and had music, graphics, and other features that were far inferior to those of contemporary PC and console games.

By taking small steps forward, gaming has grown from its humble beginnings to be much bigger than Hollywood. Three-dimensional worlds have replaced pre-rendered backdrops (which are essentially like running around on a painting), improved TV resolutions have complemented graphical improvements, text-dialogue has become fully voiced, and other improvements.

Gaming Strategies
In the most recent generation of strategy games, which have begun to be made available on consoles, there is an unusual combination of pre-established factions and leaders, artificial factions, and what might be referred to as flexible factions (think of the historical political figures and groups in Crusader Kings III).

A party that directly opposes a player’s consistently effective tactic might be created in the game using machine learning. This might be just one more of the many adjustable options available in strategy games, even if it would make long-term success with the same plan much more difficult.

A more radical change would be to change the game’s default difficulty level, which frequently only results in the non-player factions receiving exaggerated income from research, gold, food, or other resources. I think Civ VI and Stellaris both employ that strategy.

Instead of simply giving a player’s opponents 200% revenue or something like, the difficulty slider may (in my opinion) become fairer by leveraging AI to enable factions to make smarter plays.

For instance, I can defeat Stellaris on the hardest difficulty, but my strategy usually involves a slow burn of quick but ineffective early expansion and then maximizing output in the mid- and late-game to annihilate violent opposition while using diplomacy to stroke egos and win the allegiance of friendlier empires.

If an AI noticed it, it would make the correct inference that an early rush—having prioritized ships above outposts for expansion—and possibly forging alliances with others to do so—would hit me in a glaringly vulnerable spot.

The bandit archers could shoot at the player character to keep them on their toes while the melee bandits chase the NPC to save their boss in other games where a player uses a standard fighting style (perhaps a Skyrim mage with an NPC companion stun-locking a high tier bandit with dual cast destruction spells while the companion goes to town). Or, on a more fundamental level, when you fight the first bandit in a camp, they call for assistance or flee to try to awaken everyone else, making it impossible for you to take them out one at a time. (To be fair, the latter is feasible even without AI but could be one way that the technology modifies NPC behaviour).

New Generation of NPCs is created through Text Generation and Voice Synthesis.

Minor non-player characters in video games frequently have just one or two lines of conversation, hence the term NPC is occasionally used to criticize someone with a formulaic or basic viewpoint. Major NPCs have additional responses, although these are still pre-written with variation from player dialogue selections and, occasionally, contextual possibilities from character creation or player activities in-game.

AI has the power to completely change this. NPCs might stop having completely predictable dialogue and start acting more naturally in response to what the player has said or done. It will be fascinating to watch how much the creators restrict this and how much they let it run wild.

Bad News for Voice Actors

Voice actors are going to have a very difficult time with this because even companies that choose to use human voice actors rather than AI voice synthesis will still require an AI voice (even if it is cloned from a human actor) in order to speak the lines because they are created on the fly rather than predetermined. NPCs must have written dialogue rather than naturally occurring* or contextually generated dialogue when using human voices in the traditional style. This may still be the case for some games that place a greater emphasis on gameplay than on a narrative or an open environment.

*I realize this is an amusing way to describe artificial intelligence, but it seems to work.

Potential for Revitalising Past Games

It’s not novel for old games to be updated with new graphics and other technology while maintaining its core appeal (and earning money from nostalgia), but AI might give this process a completely fresh viewpoint. The other alterations are mainly aesthetic, to put it briefly. Many games that are played again only receive a digital coat of paint. Even more dramatically altered games, like the first chapter of the Final Fantasy VII remake, mostly stick to the world, characters, and plot of the original.

A recent Skyrim mod offers an early preview of how this would function. Since I don’t belong to the PC master race and instead am a console peasant, I can only speak from what I observed in an ESO video on YouTube. But what I witnessed was incredibly remarkable and somewhat eerie.

ESO was speaking to Herika (the AI companion), whose Skyrim stuff is really well-liked. There was only a 3-5 second wait before she reacted, reacting naturally rather than merely reciting a few rehearsed phrases with context-appropriate and well-delivered remarks.

Fans of Skyrim, of which there are still many who played the game on the infamous date of 11/11/11, will be aware that Serana was by far the best (and, ironically, one of the few who could not be married). The majority of companions were superficial, while a few (like Mjoll the Lioness) had a little more to them. Herika easily outperforms them all by a wide margin. Even though AI is still in its infancy, the mix of text production and voice synthesis is quite well done. Several important NPCs, like as Jarl Barlgruuf, General Tullius, and Ulfric Stormcloak, could have this. The game becomes far more fluid, surprising, and realistic all of a sudden.

Though it’s feasible that having only one AI buddy is the most reliable and effective course of action. We’ve seen how an AI simulation in military situations led to the AI attacking its own side when its commands were changed. Similar to this, an excessive number of AI characters could cause totally unexpected and fatal issues.

However, Herika’s reactions to ESO’s antics demonstrate enormous potential, and even modern AI mods can completely revitalize classic games.

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