With “Neo NPC,” Ubisoft offers a glimpse into future video games powered by generative AI

With “Neo NPC,” Ubisoft offers a glimpse into future video games powered by generative AI

Exclusive – This is the model that Le Figaro It was able to be tested, allowing you to freely exchange verbally with the game's characters. The group is working to increase internal experiments on this technology.

We can sneak into the house using a ladder to get through this window. But maybe you have another idea ? » Controller in hand and headset microphone on ears, it's the player's turn to propose a plan of action to succeed in the mission. But instead of making his choice by clicking on a list of ideas displayed on the screen, he must literally speak. It's too dangerous, I give up »We dare. Don't worry, we will do everything to protect you »responds quickly, verbally, and our virtual ally appears on the screen.

This human-AI improvisation session is one of three experiences powered by generative AI for Neo NPCs (“New NPCs”), a prototype designed by a team from Ubisoft Paris bringing together engineers and screenwriters. This is the first concrete example of the potential use of this technology in video games, which Figaro It was revealed at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

“We have been working on AI for years. But when we saw, during 2022, the acceleration of generative AI, we chose to study how best to integrate it into our games to improve our creative processes and, above all, offer players something new and interesting. »L. explains Figaro Guillemette Picard, Director of Production Technology at Ubisoft.

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Strategic topic

In-house trials have been launched from 2022 in various themes. The Paris team, made up of about two dozen employees, has been working for nearly two years on designing more natural exchanges between the player and the fictional characters who populate their adventure. The Neo NPC is one of his prototypes. It's a strategic enough topic for us to put together a team with this level of ambition. »She continues.

If Ubisoft has its own research lab, La Forge, it has collaborated with third parties for this project. Generative AI is developing so rapidly that it seemed obvious to us that we were looking for external technologies to mix with our own. », confirms Guillemet-Picard. So the group turned to Nvidia and its AI software Audio2Face, which automatically runs a character's facial animation from an audio file. Another partner, American InWorld AI, whose linguistic model (LLM) is the backbone of Neo NPC. We communicated with them every day to improve the model. »“, explains narrative director Virginie Moser. This proximity to InWorld made it possible to design characters with greater depth » More than what online services like Character.AI offer, adds Guillemette Picard.

In this mission, the player must empathize with the character by leading the conversation as he wants.

“A lot of work” for the narrative team

To achieve this, There was a lot of upstream work and iterations » From the narrative team, Virginie Moser explains. Never before have we delved so deeply into the profiles of the characters, who act like stand-up actors. We must ensure that their answers will be coherent by feeding the model with data about their personality, history, opinions, and way of speaking and obtaining a natural result. Therefore, it is necessary to work with dialogue writers and narrative experts. » The team also put in place safeguards so that the characters would not be derailed if the player tried to provoke them.

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Neo NPC was tested throughout its creation with about a hundred players, as well as Ubisoft employees. We do not underestimate the sensitivity of using generative AI, which is a complex topic. Our approach is to investigate the interests of the player and our creators », confirms Guillemet-Picard. During these tests, Virginie Moser was able to observe Half of the players have sympathized with the sad character, and are afraid of hurting him by investigating him to discover her secret. The other half just wanted to complete the task. »

These innovations will take time to reach tomorrow's games. But this learning is necessary due to the very rapid development of language models »The technical director continues. The group is particularly eyeing the miniaturization of LLMs, which will operate from gaming machines rather than data centers, significantly reducing the cost of this technology. I am convinced that the only question is when all this will happen. »

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