From software that powered Pac-Man ghosts to algorithms that can generate entire in-game universes, artificial intelligence in gaming isn’t something new. However, as AI is evolving, game developers are increasingly leveraging its power. The gaming industry of today relies on AI to save costs and upgrade the in-game experience.
AI for Saving Labor Costs
In the early 1980s, PCG (procedural content generation) became a critical component of game development. PCG refers mostly to automated technologies, but also some other methods for creating game content such as characters, vehicles, stories, maps, rules, levels, etc.
As game developers and artists are both expensive and in high demand, gaming companies are exploring ways to save their labor-costs in game design. Over the last couple of decades, development costs in the gaming industry have skyrocketed.
It can take hundreds of people to develop a successful commercial game, and it can take them years to complete it. To gain an edge over their competitors in this arena, more and more video game companies are turning to cutting-edge AI.
As AI is capable of learning patterns from vast volumes of data as well as handling audio and visual data, it is quite well fitted in PCG problems. Gaming companies are using AI to create content faster and cheaper as well as free their artists and developers from time-consuming tasks. Not only does AI allow gaming companies to cut costs, but it also allows artists and developers to focus on more creative tasks. So, we can expect to get better games faster and at more affordable prices.
Content Generation for Characters
Whether we are talking about characters who can be controlled by a player, or non-player characters (NPCs)—no modern video game can exist without characters.
When creating characters, game designers need to take a lot into account, so the process is pretty time-consuming. Designing a 2D Donkey Kong for an arcade game is easy, but what about generating a human-like 3D character for an RPG (role-playing game)?
There has been a lot of research on how AI can help with the generation of characters’ motions, voices, and facial expressions—many of which have delivered great results.
For instance, the independent game studio Remedy Entertainment partnered up with NVIDIA’s researchers to develop an automated real-time, audio-driven deep learning algorithm for creating 3D facial animations. Developers can use this technique for VR avatars, low-cost localization, in-game dialogue, and telepresence.
Researchers from Method Studios and the University of Edinburgh are focusing on motion simulation. By feeding motion capture clips that show various kinds of movement to a machine learning system, they programmed it to correspondingly generate animations based on the instructions of a user.
So, when a player says, “go over there,” the AI system generates an animation that corresponds to the action of the character the user is controlling. For instance, the animation will go from running to jumping over a smaller obstacle.
The algorithm itself produces smooth movements when switching from one animation type to another, so the developers don’t need to create a custom animation for when the character transitions from running to jumping.
Developers can also use such technologies to focus on the general properties of the visual output that can affect the overall appearance of a game scene, such as saturation, brightness, lighting, and pixel shaders.
Chatbots and Virtual Assistants in Gaming
It was only a matter of time when virtual assistants and conversational AI chatbots would make their way into the gaming industry.
To meet high expectations for immediate customer service, gaming companies have started to use chatbots for in-game chat support. These bots allow gaming companies to exponentially speed up resolution time and lower support costs. Thanks to AI chatbots, gamers don’t have to step out of the game or wait for the customer support phone lines to open in order to get some assistance.
Customer service automation allows gamers to resolve issues quickly and then get back to engaging with the contents of the game. Not only does this reduce the influx of tickets, but players don’t need to exit the game to find help on third-party sites or apps.
In-game AI chatbots help ensure that in-the-moment experience for players. More and more developers are using chatbots to keep people in the game, playing more.
Some use cases for AI chatbots include:
- Report hacked accounts: If a player thinks that their account has been hacked, a gaming AI chatbot can conduct security checks, gather data from the player, update passwords, and pull up account activity.
- Assist with unlocking features: Chatbots can assist players with unlocking features like skins, coins, or badges.
- Help players find their way around the game: In-game chatbots can answer players’ questions like: Where is this button? Where can I find this item? How can I get there?
- Account Assistance: Some gaming chatbots can automatically resolve requests for updating membership plans, restoring accounts, resetting passwords, and log-in assistance.
Game developers are also utilizing voice assistants. Essentially, a voice-assistant can be used as a game console.
For instance, Amazon’s Alexa Skills Kit allows developers to create voice-enabled games for Alexa. This has led a few entertainment companies to partner up with Amazon to develop voice-first games for Alexa. These games allow players to control in-game actions with their voices. Pikachu Talk, Sponge Bob Challenge, and Trivial Pursuit are some of the more notable products of these collaborations.
Artificial intelligence has become widely used in the gaming industry. Game developers are at the forefront of the AI revolution. The characteristics of game development and video games make them a perfect playground for experimenting with AI.