Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been used in video games as far back as the 1950s, in games such as Nim. More recently, however, tools like ChatGPT have given rise to the age of “Generative AI.” With more advanced technologies, like machine learning and deep learning, generative AI is set to revolutionize the gaming industry, leading to highly immersive, personalized, and realistic gaming experiences. Let’s explore some of the remarkable use cases of AI in games.
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1. Hyper-Realistic Worlds and NPCs
The importance of realism in video games can’t be overstated. The worlds your characters inhabit and interactions with non-playable characters (NPCs) require believability in the face of surreal, fictional settings. Red Dead Redemption 2’s (RDR2) gorgeous world and highly advanced AI-driven NPCs took 1,600 people working for over eight years. However, generative AI could shave years off development cycles like this.
Studios could train models on actors’ voices and generate lines of dialogue in a fraction of the time. Generative AI also gives game developers the tools to create virtually limitless worlds populated with never-before-seen environments and lifelike characters, unlocking infinite replayability for players. They can go beyond diverse interactions and environments to create worlds and inhabitants that transform and adapt on the fly based on the player’s actions.
2. Dynamic Storytelling
Realistic game environments and NPCs are not enough to create a truly memorable gaming experience: you need a narrative that adapts to your actions and immerses you in the story. Luckily, this is exactly what generative AI promises to do.
Non-linear storytelling is not a new thing in video games. Games like Cyberpunk 2077, Mass Effect 3, and Detroit: Become Human had branching storylines and multiple endings. However, every narrative conclusion was scripted and entirely written by the developers.
With the power of generative AI, games can soon have completely unscripted narrative moments and even full-fledged endings unique to every player. By analyzing the player’s patterns and choices, the game’s AI can adapt to deliver a highly personalized story, while fully complying with the tone and overall structure of the game.
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3. Level, Mission, and Side Quest Creation
With generative AI, gaming companies can tap into a whole new source of content generation. In fact, creating game levels, missions, and side quests can become even more exciting.
World-building games like Roblox and Minecraft have released AI environment creation tools for both developers and gamers, to enable them to generate whole new levels and environments from scratch. However, as AI continues to evolve, games could create unique missions or levels based on a user’s skills, game progress, or unique character attributes.
4. Music Generation
Game development involves multi-million dollar production cycles with cinematography, gameplay, art design, music, and many other forms of content creation. However, gaming companies could compose original music much more innovatively in the coming years.
OpenAI (the company behind ChatGPT) has another AI-powered content generation tool called Jukebox that can compose original scores for video games based on user prompts. Furthermore, some AI tools could eventually be able to scan other data about a video game, like the setting or characters, and generate music that aligns with the styles and moods game developers have created.
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5. Real-Time Image Enhancement
With advancements in game engines and graphics hardware, photoreal visuals are practically commonplace. AI in games can further improve graphical fidelity, achieving unprecedented real-time image enhancement. Upscaling techs like NVIDIA’s DLSS and AMD’s FSR has already done wonders for real-time upscaling in video games like Cyberpunk 2077, Microsoft Flight Simulator, and Hogwarts Legacy. By intelligently analyzing and predicting the next frame of the scene, today’s graphics cards can boost framerates while maintaining graphics quality.
This enhancement will only improve, as NVIDIA’s massive investment in AI computing breaks new barriers in AI-powered image enhancement. AMD and Intel will follow suit, as AI quickly captures nearly every game development and rendering facet.
6. Game Development and Testing
AI in games isn’t limited to uncovering new avenues of creativity and immersion. It can also help game developers better manage tedious and time-consuming tasks, like bug detection and playtesting. These jobs represent a huge percentage of the years-long game development cycles and can be automated and fast-tracked with the help of existing and emerging AI technologies.
Ubisoft experimented with AI to automate playtesting in Watch Dogs: Legion. Predictive analysis can further assist developers in uncovering game-breaking issues that could arise in the future. Caught well in time, they could patch these before they have time to develop into severe problems.
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7. Cheat Detection and Game Balancing
Cheating has been an unwanted but unavoidable aspect of gaming forever. Current cheat-detection methods can detect only well-known cheating software, rendering the vast portion of cheating activity to proceed unchecked. However, this is yet another area where AI could help the gaming industry.
Advanced AI can use machine learning algorithms to analyze vast amounts of player data and gameplay patterns to identify abnormal behavior. AI can detect subtle changes in player behavior, spotting patterns that human moderators could miss. This process can be constantly refined and updated to stay ahead of new cheating techniques, making it a powerful deterrent against potential cheaters. Riot Games has successfully employed AI to detect cheating in League of Legends.
Another essential part of online multiplayer games is balancing. Skill-based matchmaking is crucial to a challenging yet enjoyable gameplay experience. While most matchmaking models use simple parameters, like win-loss ratio or player level, advanced AI algorithms can use reaction time, accuracy, and objective completion metrics to create more sophisticated and balanced matches.
Potential Disadvantages of AI in Games
As revolutionary and exciting generative AI is for the future of the gaming industry, there are some concerns and potential drawbacks that we need to be aware of.
First, the widespread use of AI in video games may create experiences that start to look and feel similar, despite the opposite intent. Content generated from AI models uses existing datasets to create new dialogues, environments, music, and more. There’s a possibility that this will lead to a sort of homogenization of content, even in wildly different game genres.
Secondly, using AI in game development creates some ethical questions about whether it’s right to take jobs away from voice actors, coders, graphic designers, and more. The industry needs to brainstorm to find ways to use AI as an ally and not a replacement for human creativity and ingenuity.
Finally, AI-generated content raises originality and intellectual property (IP) concerns. As generative AI models use existing assets by real artists to create new content, there’s a reasonable question as to the originality of the generated art. While these questions are not exclusive to the gaming industry, they must be addressed before AI can be fully integrated into the game development cycles.
AI in Games for Heightened Immersion
Gaming is an integral part of our lives and one of the most significant forms of entertainment. The use of AI in games is nothing new, but with generative AI, game developers can potentially surpass the current standards for realism, intelligence, and graphical quality in video games. With generative AI in gaming set to be valued at over $ billion, we’re set to enter a new era of gaming, where AI can be a powerful tool to assist developers in creating unparalleled experiences.
At the same time, addressing the quality, copyright, and ethical concerns over AI-generated content is imperative. For AI to become mainstream, industry stakeholders need to exercise prudence so that the few drawbacks of AI don’t overshadow the immense benefits it has in store for the gaming industry.
Image credit: Unsplash
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