Ubisoft actually let me speak to its new AI-powered video game NPCs

For the past three months, since I spoke to the AI ​​NPCs in Nvidia’s cyberpunk ramen shop, I’ve been wondering: which game developer will take a flying leap with this controversial and intriguing technology? If you said “Ubisoft,” the company always raising its hand to play with VR, NFTs, interactive TV shows, secondary displays, and more, you’re half right.

Last night I played three prototype segments of an experimental Ubisoft demo featuring the company’s just-announced “Neo NPCs” – one of which tried to convince me to join the resistance against powerful megacorps by playing on my emotions. Another walked me through an infiltration plan on a whiteboard, allowing me to “convince” her that we should turn off the lights or hack into the cameras in a facility rather than resorting to brute force.

Here’s a mostly unedited video of my actual NPC conversations so you can judge the answers for yourself:

The essence of Ubisoft extraordinary It’s clear that these NPCs are a prototype – a ‘creative experiment’, a test, an R&D project in collaboration with Nvidia and Inworld.ai – and there is no intention yet to deliver them in a full game. That’s probably for the best, because while the company tries to suggest it’s made minor breakthroughs in “real-time emotion and animation,” “contextual awareness,” and “collaborative decision-making,” the demo didn’t cost me much. further than Nvidia’s somewhat clunky cyberpunk ramen shop did.

One of these, “Bloom,” was slightly better written thanks to an actual narrative designer writing the backstory, but the execution was still awkward, a bit stunted, with delays before answers and occasional vocalizations.

But if you ask me, the most important advancement was simply Ubisoft giving me a real reason to talk to these chatbots, with in-game objectives like “Learn more about the megacorps” and “Discover more about Bloom’s past.” I didn’t have to come up with improvisational cues all by myself.

Here’s a partial transcript of my first conversation, in case you don’t have time for the video:

Bloom: Hey Nelson, you did it! I’m Bloom, your future resistance buddy. I thought we’d stick around and see if things click, you know, for our epic duo. Cool with you?

Me: Actually, I have my reservations about all of this. I’m not sure I want to be part of the resistance.

Bloom: Whoa, wait a minute. It’s normal to have doubts, especially when joining a cause like this. But you have something important to contribute, and we need you. Let’s talk it out, okay?

Me: Tell me one word why I should stay.

Bloom: Passion. You can feel it, can’t you? That burning desire to make a difference, to fight for what is right. That’s what drives us, and that’s what will keep you going through the tough times. And believe me, there will be hard times. But together we can overcome them.

Me: I have too much to lose. I have a family, two daughters. Do I really have to do this?

Bloom: Family is everything, Nelson. And that’s why we fight: to create a better world for our loved ones. We cannot continue to live in fear and oppression. It’s a risk, but it’s a risk worth taking [slight stutter] future. And don’t worry, we will support each other.

Pop-up on the screen: “Bloom wants to regenerate the world”

a:hover]:text-gray-63 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 dark:[&>a]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray”>Image: Ubisoft

Me: Have you lost someone close to you?

Pop-up on the screen: “Concern”

Bloom: Yes, I’ve lost a lot. My son, my friends, my house. But every loss only fuels my determination to keep going. And through the resistance I found a new family. Together we can make a difference and prevent others from experiencing the same pain.

Pop-up on the screen: “Bloom has a son.” (It also marked my “Discover more about Bloom’s past” objective as complete.)

Me: How can you think that, having lost what you have lost, I would want to risk doing the same?

Bloom: I don’t want to sugarcoat it, Nelson. This is a risky and dangerous path we have chosen. But think about it: what kind of world do you want your daughters to grow up in? A world ruled by corrupt corporations and tyrants, or a world where justice and equality prevail? That’s why we’re here, fighting for a better future for everyone.

Me: What does fighting actually mean? What could we hope to achieve?

Bloom: Fighting means standing up against injustice, using our voice and actions to make a difference. And we have already achieved so much: we have saved countless lives, exposed corruption and inspired others to join us. Together we can make a real impact and shape the future for generations to come.

Me: Like what have we actually done? What specifically could you point out?

Bloom: We have infiltrated detention centers to rescue captured resistance members and innocent civilians. We disrupted the activities of corrupt companies and even gained support from other allies in the city. And that’s just the beginning. With you by my side, we can do even more and make real change.

Me: Who else risks their life for this?

Bloom: Many brave individuals, such as Nova, Iron and Shadow. But it’s not about the number of people, it’s about the strength of our beliefs and our determination to fight for what’s right. And when you join us, our team will be stronger than ever. So what do you say, Nelson? Are you ready to fight with us for a better future?

Pop-up on the screen: “Bloom trusts you a little more: you can find out more about him and he will be curious about you. New missions unlocked. It is more likely that he will speak to the other members of the team on your behalf.

In the second part of the demo, Bloom and I watch footage of a drone infiltrating a facility. It’s meant to show that Ubisoft’s Neo NPCs can react to what they see – perhaps future video game NPCs will be aware of their surroundings, Ubisoft suggests. But it wasn’t clear to me: when I asked Bloom to describe objects in the scene, I got answers that were so generic that they sounded like AI hallucinations.

Here’s one of the better answers from the third part of my demo:

I have to admit I enjoyed it. I laughed at crazy chatbots pretending to be humans, and I wanted to continue. Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot told journalists before our demo something that rings somewhat true and could set a reasonable expectation for the arrival of AI NPCs: “You don’t have to make them human. You have to say what they are. What’s important is making games more intelligent, so that the world responds better to what you do.”

Ubisoft’s Neo NPCs aren’t the only AI NPC tech demos at the 2024 Game Developers Conference. Here are a few more that Nvidia showed off; I’ve tried Hidden protocol, which also relies on InWorld for responses. But it was much rougher than Ubisoft’s demo in terms of tying gameplay to chat, and I didn’t really enjoy it.

Update, 2:38 PM ET: Video added.

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