AI video game characters seem as soulless as you'd expect

Think of your favorite video game character. Picture them in your head, remember their stories and the actors' performances that make them stick with you long after you put down the console. Maybe you're thinking of Astarion from Baldur's Gate 3whose actor Neil Newbon recently won an award Best Performance Award at the 2023 Game Awards. Or maybe your mind went to your favorite iteration Link from Legend of Zelda The franchise, which has stayed with you over the years with each new game in the series, despite never speaking.

Remember, everything you love about that character was created by a team of writers, artists, and actors who combined their immense talents to bring that hero, villain, or companion to life. Nvidia, the company responsible for many of the graphics cards in high-end PCs, has announced an AI-powered NPC generator called Omniverse Avatar Cloud Engine alongside AI technology company Convai. last year. It tries to emulate the same writing, acting, and animation that all these talented people created to make these characters impactful. However, there is a key difference: it's bad.

the edge posted a transcript of a conversation between the site's senior editor, Sean Hollister, and two NPCs from a playable demo at CES 2024. The demo is for Nvidia and Confy The displays allowed the user to speak to the characters using their voices, with the AI ​​characters reacting to what was said in real time. One character was named Jane, and she was supposed to be an employee at a ramen restaurant, and the other was Nova, a patron sitting at the bar. Hollister points out that the technology still has a long way to go, saying that the “voices, facial expressions, and body language” weren't all up to par with what crafts can capture, but they nonetheless came out of the demo looking like technology seen in video games. “inevitable”. In theory, this would allow developers to create game characters without having to write scripts and record performances. The AI ​​will simply generate responses to everything players say. It comes on the heels of growing concern over voice actors following SAG-AFTRA's deal with tech company Replica Studios that allows it to create exact copies of voice actors with artificial intelligence. Much to the dismay of those whose votes are at stake.

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As Hollister described in his article, Jane and Nova are “effectively AI-powered chatbots.” Neither character seems to have much to think about outside the walls of the ramen shop. They can envision the cyberpunk city they're supposed to live in by mentioning robberies, corporate corruption, and other petty crimes, but most of this sounds like they're pulling from a word bank. There's nothing here resembling prose, emotion, or anything else that makes a character likable or human-like. The AI ​​promises the kind of endless procedural possibility that could, in theory, make a character feel more alive and interactive than a regular NPC, but if there's no actual scripted dialogue, it's just an algorithm trying to trick us To believe the world. It's real.

It seems like a lot of work went into making the simulation look real. Convai Chief Product Officer Nyla Worker explained to the edge That each NPC has some background programming intended to give them a central ethos, including a personality description, knowledge bank, and personality traits such as whether they are extroverted or introverted. So these AI NPCs basically have a digital character sheet that they draw from so they don't get disconnected from their role. But again, this is just an AI that has been trained to emulate a specific archetype so that it can disguise itself as a person. The characters you love made the impact they did because someone created them, not because an algorithm put them in front of you to tell a created backstory. The writers, animators, and actors give them a sense of realism, as if they have actual identities and their own hopes and dreams.

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All this follows Thousands of layoffs in the video game industry in just the first 19 days of 2024. This kind of harsh treatment of workers and their workers is only allowed to continue as executives refuse to take pay cuts and look to technologies like Nvidia's to continue pumping out video games without having to pay people to make them.

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