VR

The exciting new developments in the world of gaming

By William Davis

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Dec 21, 2023

Reading time: 7 min

Integrating more sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) into gaming has opened up novel and thrilling possibilities. Understanding the current landscape of AI in video games and comprehending the significance of these advancements is crucial. 

But what exactly is AI’s role in gaming today, and why is it a game-changer?

AI and gaming – What you need to know

AI in gaming refers to programming that enables specific characters, such as non-playable characters (NPCs) and enemies, to behave in a manner that simulates human-controlled actions or autonomous decision-making. The primary objective is to enhance the immersive quality of games, providing players with an experience akin to interacting with characters possessing a lifelike quality.

A classic example of early AI can be found in the iconic game Pac-Man. The four differently colored ghosts relentlessly pursue Pac-Man, seemingly ambushing the player. Each ghost follows a distinct set of rules, creating an illusion of independent decision-making and imbuing the characters with a sense of life.

But how did they do that? All ghosts are programmed to be aware of the location of Pacman, but each of them acts differently. The first ghost has to wander, the second one to follow Pacman, the third one to follow him, the fourth one is set to make random moves, and to act only if another ghost is almost catching Pacman, and the last one has to follow Pacman when he is far away, but when he is close – he has to go to another location.

All of the ghosts are different; this makes them humanized, and this is what AI does.

The importance of artificial intelligence

AI is a pervasive element in virtually all games, contributing significantly to the immersive experience. The overarching goal is to create lifelike characters within the game environment, even in fantastical settings. As AI evolves, it introduces new dimensions to player interaction and experience.

Consider games like “Middle Earth: Shadow of War,” which employs the nemesis system. This innovative system endows enemy orcs with diverse personalities, traits, and behaviors. Orcs encountered in the game can join, betray, or act as spies. The system elevates gameplay by creating dynamic, personalized interactions, where defeating a challenging orc may result in enduring consequences, adding layers of intensity.

But what makes it even more unique is that thanks to the nemesis, if you kill a hardcore orc capitan, you will get yourself an enemy that will come back for you in a moment in the future. This technology has one main goal – to let players interact with NPC. Same goes for you – if an orc enemy kills your best ally, you will feel it personal, right? And this is what makes the game much more intense.

However, the current AI landscape is built on pre-programmed instructions, limiting the scope of character reactions and emotions. The question arises: How will AI evolve in the realm of gaming?

Development of AI in the gaming industry

Throughout the history of video games, artificial intelligence (AI) has predominantly focused on two key areas: pathfinding and finite state machines. Pathfinding, crucial in games ranging from classic 8-bit retro styles to expansive open-world RPGs, dictates the movement of AI-controlled non-playable characters (NPCs), preventing issues like characters walking through walls or getting stuck. Simultaneously, finite state machines enable AI to adapt its behavior based on specific conditions, as exemplified by enemy soldiers in the Metal Gear Solid series, transitioning between states like “Chase” and “Patrol.”

While these concepts might seem basic, they form the foundation of most AI programming. In titles like The Sims, where AI characters respond to hunger by seeking food and tiredness by going to bed, it mirrors real decision-making processes. However, the evolution of AI extends beyond these rudimentary ideas, with advancements allowing developers to provide NPCs with a multitude of states and behaviors, distinguishing contemporary games like Skyrim from classics like Pac-Man.

Presently, the same AI technology used in developing self-driving cars and facial recognition holds the potential to revolutionize AI in gaming. The conventional role of pathfinding may undergo a paradigm shift, evolving from merely instructing AI where it can go to enabling the creation of entire, realistic landscapes in real-time, with instantaneous calculations of traversable and impassable areas.

This transformative potential prompts speculation about the storytelling possibilities in video games if NPCs could exhibit genuine emotions, possessing personalities, memories, dreams, ambitions, and intelligence akin to that of humans. The quest to infuse AI with authentic emotions has long intrigued data scientists, with recent strides in experimental AI at the Expressive Intelligence Studio bringing us closer to witnessing these advancements in actual game environments.

In essence, the fundamental principles of AI encapsulated in pathfinding and states, stand on the brink of a profound transformation.

Advantages and disadvantages

AI has both pros and cons, just as anything in this world. But what are these? Let us uncover the main ones which you should consider…

AI: Advantages

  • Faster Development Cycles: Evolving AI may expedite game development by shouldering more responsibilities, leading to procedurally generated worlds and advanced NPC behaviors.
  • Immersive Personalized Experiences: Realistic emotions in NPCs could reshape player interactions, fostering genuine connections with characters.
  • Efficient Game Development: AI’s ability to generate game elements based on photographs could streamline the creation of large open-world games.

AI: Disadvantages

  • Reduced Developer Control: Advanced AI may diminish developer control over carefully crafted game worlds, potentially sacrificing creativity for efficiency.
  • Potential for Clunkier Games: AI programming glitches could result in suboptimal gaming experiences reminiscent of issues faced by titles like Aliens: Colonial Marines.
  • Impact on Game Industry Jobs: As AI handles more programming tasks, there’s a potential impact on the employment landscape for game creators.

AI technology and game development 

The team behind Casinos Not On GamStop UK predicts that AI’s involvement in game development is poised to expand, with experiments in deep learning allowing AI to memorize and mimic experiences using images or text. This technology, currently applied to generating art and mimicking human writing, could revolutionize game development. AI is now even used to generate amazing works similar to those done by Picasso, or emails that look like a person wrote them.

Facial recognition and deep fake technology are also emerging as potential game-changers. While in their early stages, these technologies can produce realistic 3D models, suggesting possibilities for efficiently creating game elements. Just imagine this huge technology being used for something bigger, such as developing a building. 

The ultimate vision involves AI independently generating entire games, customizing experiences based on player habits, likes, and interactions. While the prospect is exciting, it introduces challenges related to the potential loss of developer control, ethical concerns, and impact on the gaming industry job market.

The future

While AI technology undergoes constant experimentation and improvement, the gaming industry remains cautious. Robotics and software engineers, rather than game developers, predominantly drive AI advancements in gaming due to the inherent risks.

At the moment, all developers control what they create. However – if they leave the whole process in the hands of AI, this may lead to a change in the whole industry, in what we are used to seeing. 

The transition to AI-dominated game development is inevitable, but the timeline remains uncertain. Major studios, with concerns about relinquishing control and unforeseen glitches, may be hesitant. However, ambitious indie developers are likely to lead the charge, pushing the boundaries of AI in gaming within the next few years.

Is AI going to make gaming too difficult?

In adherence to an age-old adage – “be careful what you wish for” – a cautionary note surfaces as we delve into the integration of more advanced AI into our gaming experiences. The prospect of heightened AI capabilities poses potential challenges, raising pertinent questions about the fine line between innovation and unintended consequences.

Consider a scenario where enemy AI possesses an in-depth understanding of the player’s strategies, leading to an unbeatable adversary. This, in turn, risks diminishing the enjoyment derived from a game, reminiscent of the insurmountable challenges posed by chess-playing programs that have stumped human players.

Extending this concern to an AI-controlled video game, there emerges the possibility of an environment that feels inherently unfair and fractured. Should non-playable characters (NPCs) acquire genuine human-like personalities and intelligence, the gaming experience might become overwhelming, necessitating a delicate balance between real-world and virtual social responsibilities.

A crucial aspect of this discourse revolves around our relentless pursuit of realism in video games. The fundamental question arises – does a game become more enjoyable or potentially irksome when AI meticulously reacts to every decision made by the player? Envisioning a Grand Theft Auto game where NPCs respond realistically to chaotic actions, in contrast to the current satirical or crass responses, prompts contemplation on the desirability of such a shift.

Further complicating matters is the exploration of power dynamics within video games. If AI ushers in an era where committing a single crime could result in years of real-time imprisonment, the fantasy element integral to gaming might be compromised. Similarly, the prospect of in-game characters bullying players for donning whimsical costumes raises ethical considerations.

The economic dimension introduces uncertainties related to the cost of technology powering these advanced AI systems. As these technologies potentially become industry standards, there looms a concern regarding the accessibility of such advancements to indie developers. Will AAA games drift further away from the realm of possibility for smaller developers, or will advanced AI foster inclusivity and level the playing field?

Amid these ponderings, it’s essential to acknowledge these challenges as hurdles rather than insurmountable barriers capable of irreparably damaging the gaming landscape. Drawing parallels to the evolution of virtual reality (VR), which had a shaky start with the Nintendo Virtual Boy, offers reassurance. The realm of gaming is resilient, and learning from any missteps or failed experiments with advanced AI will undoubtedly pave the way for more entertaining and refined gaming experiences in the future.

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