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Can AI Make Video Games?

AI has grown at a rate that many didn’t think possible a few years ago. It is being incorporated into almost every facet of society, from medicine to video games and cyber security.

In regards to video games, this is where we see incredible growth and development. Whether you like playing online slots or the brand new Call of Duty, you have experienced AI in games, and this is how AI is revolutionizing the gaming industry.

AI Can Build Levels

One area where AI is starting to shine is in the level generation field. Before, AI was used as part of a level, but developers are now able to use AI to create entire Super Mario-style video game levels.

The way it is done is incredible. Researchers force the computer to watch hours of video of players playing Super Mario, Mega Man, and other side-scrolling games. After “watching” these videos, the computer can map objects and how the characters react to these objects, then create graphs and data.

Once this tracking has been done, the game continues to watch gameplay. While watching, it is now able to process the rules of the game. This means it can identify when to run, jump, stop, hit something, the pacing of the level, and even the difficulty to some degree. 

The AI can combine all the information gathered from watching and rewatching footage and develop a relatively loose idea of how the game operates and how to complete a level.

The AI is then tasked with completing a level of a game that it has been watching, and it now has all the information it needs to generate a game. In short, AI can watch gameplay, perform the moves, and combine the two to make their own level.

Procedurally Generated Worlds

Procedurally generated worlds are something that AI has been the king of for a few years now. In short, a procedurally generated world is an AI-created world that can go on indefinitely. These worlds can be “deleted” as the player leaves them, and new ones are created as they enter them.

An example of this process is in the game No Man’s Sky, where the world you can explore is infinite. Developers didn’t create every one of these worlds but instead created elements and then let AI put these elements together to create the worlds.

This allows developers to make enormous, infinite worlds in a fraction of the time. Developers are able to make games that are substantially bigger but still include the most minor details. More importantly, these worlds are all different; they aren’t just copied versions

Upgraded NPCs

NPCs, or non-playable characters, have been an integral part of games since the dawn of video games. They help you, they fight you, they offer information you may need, or they just walk around looking busy.

AI is being used to “upgrade” NPCs. AI can change how they talk and react depending on how you play the game or what you do when you are around them, meaning their experience will change almost every time you encounter them.

NPC Behavior

NPCS reacting to you positively or negatively is nothing new. Even the older Grand Theft Auto games had NPC citizens hit you if you hit them, run away if you pulled out your weapon, or get angry if you bumped into their car.

This is limited, though, with the same reactions being attached to particular actions. AI can change this in a more unique and specific way. If you destroy someone’s property, they can show anger towards you or behave in a certain way.

Shadow of Mordor has something called the Nemesis System. If you defeat a particular enemy, they will remember you, grow angrier towards you, and fight harder and dirtier next time you come across them.

This sounds simple, but what is happening is amazing. NPCs can remember you and then change their behavior depending on the last interaction you had with them. This allows NPCs to think for themselves almost and change the game.

NPC Dialogue

NPC dialogue can be changed in the same way as NPC behavior. Instead of having set dialogue options, the conversation can change and adapt depending on where you are in the game if you are more passive or violent.

This can extend further to the NPC lying to you and deliberately misleading you because you attacked a family member or destroyed something they owned earlier. This can change the experience every single time you replay the game.

Will AI Replace Developers?

Developers have made it clear that AI isn’t here to take their jobs, but instead, can be used to help them create more extensive and more detailed games. Everything that has been discussed above would need to be coded in, which would take years for one game.

AI can create the bigger aspects of the game, the world, the NPCs, creatures, or monsters that you come across. This gives developers more time to work on the main aspects of the game and almost automate the rest.

Making video games like God of War, Assassin’s Creed, even ones that you think are “smaller” like Legend of Zelda, all take months, even years, to finish. AI can and does speed up this process, and it allows developers to make bigger and better games in much less time.

Future of the Technology

The future of AI in gaming is exciting. It is at a point where it can create entire worlds on its own; the future will see AI being used to automate more processes and give developers the time to focus on the details and main storyline of a game.

This combination of worlds that are bigger than we have ever seen before and stories and characters more detailed and better will give us games that we have never experienced before. This isn’t even in the distant future; it is happening right now.

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