Ubisoft debuts AI NPC prototypes at GDC, and it went about as well as you’d expect

Which is to say goofily


Ubisoft looks to be once more chasing the latest buzzword-scented tech trend. After the studio tried and failed to make NFTs work, it’s now attempting to hop on the AI bandwagon by debuting new AI NPC prototypes at this year’s GDC, and it’s pretty much arrived to gamers and developers with the similar sort of wet thud.

This project, dubbed NEO NPC, is the effort of an R&D team at Ubisoft Paris in partnership with Nvidia’s Audio2Face application and Inworld’s large language model, with the aim of creating reactive NPCs that have personalities, backstory, and conversation styles created by a writer while responses and reactions to player input draw from LLM tech to create “characters not programs” that are “authentic.” The blog also spills a lot of ink about challenges like fighting ingrained bias in the LLM and ensuring NPCs stick to stated objectives despite players trying to drive things off course.

Despite all of that, the images in the blog and shared from the GDC floor don’t appear to be doing claims of authenticity any favors, as a prototype NPC named Bloom offers his hope that time spent with the player can confirm “a compatible vibe” and excitedly points out that “hack can proceed” after a laptop’s discovery is very specifically outlined, while another NPC named Iron helpfully thinks that knocking out a guard is the right path for a stealth mission. Many people have lanced the whole project, or otherwise call out the needlessness of reactive NPCs.

Ubisoft devs are promising to “take stock of industry feedback, and gather their learnings to date on what the technology means for them and their players in the future” while demoing the tech at GDC, but the studio is also very keen to gas up these NPCs on the show floor at the same time. “Smarter NPCs like our NEO NPCs have the potential to become a breakthrough addition to the traditional NPCs we see in games today,” project director Xavier Manzanares is quoted as saying. “They provide the ability to create even more immersive worlds and emergent stories.”

sources: Ubisoft site and Twitter (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) via Rock Paper Shotgun, GamesIndustry.biz
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