Videogame AI has room to grow

We have pretty dang good graphics in our blockbuster games. But when are we going to get a game where we can have a natural conversation with a non-player character? Emily Short, who wrote the text-based dialogue game Galatea, is interested in exploring the problem of NPC dialogue. She’s helping develop another game called Cotillion with more interactions.

Complex characters interact with each other while pursuing their own motivations, and the game narrates the subsequent entanglements via text, with paragraphs of description and dialogue generated in realtime, and subject to your manipulation.

The University of California in Santa Cruz’s Expressive Intelligence Studio (EIS) looks at similar problems with their game Prom Week.  

Prom Week has a very sophisticated model of what it means to be social,” explains Mike Treanor, a PhD student, and one of the designers behind the game. “Actions aren’t arbitrary, they make up a theory of social interaction, and to play Prom Week is to poke at that theory and try to understand it. Every interaction is taken in order to change the world state with someone else: I just complimented you to make you like me a little more. And that is the interaction in Prom Week – you choose which social exchanges characters make with one another.”

It will be a while before videogames show up that combine all the available technology, but the potential for a game with the expressive faces of Heavy Rain and the sophisticated social networks of Prom Week exists. Let’s hope it has procedurally-generated music as well.