An in-progress mod for The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim shows how AI can be used to make background characters seem more alive.
When it comes to the future of video games, one thing that, up until a few months ago, seemed very far away was the idea of non-playable characters being able to react in realistic and unscripted ways – as if they were real people.
Currently, these kinds of characters only have a limited amount of dialogue and responses they can give to your actions. However, some modders have decided that the next evolutionary step for non-playable characters is through artificial intelligence.
At least a few major developers are likely already tinkering with the tech, but one fan of The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim has demonstrated how AI can be used to generate dialogue and voice acting on the fly, with a new mod.
The mod is specifically for the VR version of the game and makes use of popular AI tool ChatGPT, as well as text-to-speech tool xVASynth and speech-to-text tool Whisper.
It’s still a work in progress, but it essentially involves ChatGPT role-playing as the various non-playable characters, making use of their individual backstories.
As such, by using the other tools, you can theoretically ask them questions and they’ll respond appropriately. In an example shown in the video below, the player asks a character if they know any campfire tales and they respond with a tale from their backstory.
The mod’s creator, known as Art_from_the_Machine on Reddit, explains that they’ve set up a basic memory system that allows characters to remember previous conversations with the player. The demonstration video also shows characters reacting to the time of day and items that the player is holding.
It’s a conceptually impressive idea, though the AI generated voicework means every conversation sounds stilted and emotionless. Sometimes, since the AI struggles with inflections, it sounds like the words blur together, thus making it difficult to tell what they’re saying.
Presumably, there’d also still be limitations as to what you can say to generate an actual response. Even Square Enix’s AI tech demo, The Portopia Serial Murder Case, can’t recognise most inputs, a fact which has resulted in a lot of negative Steam reviews and vicious mockery from players.
Even so, this mod very much shows the possibility of using AI for game development and has left other Redditors impressed.
‘Imagine playing an open world roleplaying game where you can ask the non-playable characters any questions you have and they don’t have to stick to pre-programmed prompts. Insanely cool,’ says AnalogRobber.
‘Now imagine if the world, the characters and their appearance, their voice, and story is all AI generated. It’s going to be an endless world,’ posits Kafshak.
Others also express interest in this sort of tech being used for The Elder Scrolls 6, which Bethesda has still yet to announce a launch window for.
This technology, however, has already proven unpopular with some who work within the industry. Voice actors, for example, feel their livelihoods are threatened if companies are willing to use a machine that they don’t have to pay for voicework.
Ubisoft has also already created an AI tool for writing background dialogue, although it stresses that it’s to be used for assisting writers, not to replace them.
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