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Increasingly, advanced NPCs are becoming a primary focus for modern games. Players want dynamic characters that adapt and evolve alongside the choices made in the gameplay. Fundamentally, players need to feel that the NPCs are believable. Games offering static NPCs that repeat the same scripts over and over can irritate and frustrate gamers.
Advanced NPCs will enable players to form meaningful emotional connections with their favorite characters, something which will considerably increase the appeal. For instance, players might go out of their way to save a favorite NPC against an enemy. The NPCs will also have the autonomy to decide whether or not to assist players based on their free will choices and their interpretation of player activities.
Better NPCs equates to increased immersion, believability, and enjoyment from the perspective of the gamer. A case might easily be made that the quality of a game will soon be determined mainly on the quality of its NPCs. Traditionally, NPCs would have a few lines of static dialogue to work from. And these games - Fallout 76, Red Dead Redemption 2, Skyrim, The Walking Dead, etc - were very successful.
In open world settings (Skyrim, Red Dead Redemption, etc) gamers will often spend the majority of their time fulfilling side quests with NPCs as opposed to completing the main quest. Engaging with NPCs is rewarding - characters have engaging stories to tell.
On a more primordial level, people like to build relationships with their “allies”, and to emerge victorious against their “enemies”. Many games reflect this as it enhances the gameplay. Yet advanced NPCs takes this to the next level, where the NPCs truly become non-generic, personalized friends and enemies that evolve and adapt.
Players will create even more of an emotional connection, depending on the quality of the NPC. This is important because stuy after study has reiterated the importance of emotional context as the main determinant of human behaviour.
Advanced NPCs would have made the previously mentioned games much more immersive and dynamic. Plus, being built in a Web3 framework, production costs would be great reduced. At around $500 million, Red Dead Redemption 2 was one of the most expensive games ever developed.
At the moment, NPCs have a basic framework where they have a fixed set of skills and a limited amount of dialogue. They are not really autonomous and cannot evolve by themselves. They might constitute third parties such as vendors, citizens, guards, etc, that only have information on a small section of events. It’s often a narrow option to choose statement A, B, or C, with a series of preprogramnmed responses for each statement.
Moreover, current NPCs do not have memories, goals, expectations, or emotional responses. Their input is minimal, often to repeat certain information to you so you can move to the next stage of the game.
Dialogue is limited and so are the gestures, facial expressions, and bodily positioning. They often walk around in circles. One of the most commonly reported frustration from gamers is repeat dialogue from current NPCs and not remembering previous interactions.
Advanced NPCs are completely different. Different machine learning models (MLM) will power these advanced AI to mimic compex social interactions between humans. We have already seen a rudimentary version of generative AI models, based on fixed datasets, through OpenAIs ChatGPT. As the databases get more powerful and interconnected, the sophistication of the AI could be incredible.
The sophistication will include cutting-edge natural language, text-to-speech, machine vision, and emotional processing models that allow advanced AI NPCs to engage in complex, dynamic conversations. It will also ensure that AI NPCs will have situational awareness and the ability to take context into account - they will say and do different things depending on group dynamics (the preferences and tendencies of other people in the group, for instance).
Advanced NPCs will be able to take part in complex text and voice communications. They can have their own sense of humour, wit, quicks and idioms. Potentially, they might have their own genetic lineage, dreams, aspirations, religion, culture, and much more, to make them as life like as possible, within a game setting. All these infuences can effect how they interact with others.
Just like in real life, NPCs might remember if you stole their possessions or insulted their friends, families or beliefs. They will also remember if you helped them or treated them well. In other words, they will act like natural, emotional humans instead of static, repetitive robots.
This has a gigantic appeal for the players, on multiple levels. Because the NPCs are advanced not only in the sense that they help users on their quests. They have their own goals and do their own quests. You might meet an NPC early in a game that goes off on his/her own journey, and reconnent with them down the line, where they have made individuals choices, just as you have.
The game dynamics will have completely changed as somebody who was your friend might now be an enemy. It also means that the game is less linear in terms of how it develops - the boss you were supposed to fight might have had a change of heart based on interaction with another NPC.
This provides a multitide of possibilities in how the game proceeds, though in most games some amount of linear functionality will be maintained.
The most requested traits for Advanced NPCs include interactive dialogue, a sense of humor, interactivity, remembering the player, commentary on in-game events, a realistic voice, and dynamic emotions.
In particular, RPG and Sandbox gamers are particularly annoyed by the repetitive dialogue of current RPCs. Action Adventure, Open World, and RPGs are the genres where players are most eager to see advanced NPCs.
The ability to personalize and customize an NPC is also a favorite among gamers. With advanced AI NPCs, game publishers could offer the ability to choose the personality, culture, behaviour, preferences, etc, of the NPC. So the gaming experience could be entirely customizable. Gamers would have the ability not only to mod their own characters, but to customize characters in the game and see how they develop autonomously.
The final step is in monetization via an NFT marketplace. This means that the time spend building a relationship with an NFC is not wasted, and gamers have a financial incentive tied to their time, energy, and attention. After a player has built an emotional connection with an NPC and spend time developing it, he or she will want to trade it or receive financial rewards.