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Ubisoft unveiled the NEO NPC at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco. According to the Assassin’s Creed maker, the new AI will eliminate the current limited NPC responses that are “gated within a dialogue tree of pre-determined answers”.

Ubisoft Unveils NEO NPC Generative AI Prototype That Will Power NPCs Of The Future

NEO NPC was developed by the Ubisoft Paris R&D team in collaboration with NVIDIA’s Audio2Face application and Inworld’s Large Language Model (LLM). It uses GenAI to expand the limits of how a player can react with an NPC “without breaking the authenticity of the situation they are in, or the character of the NPC itself”.

According to the company’s senior vice president of production and technology Guillemette Picard, the goal of all generative AI projects at Ubisoft is to bring value to the players. Consequently, that drives human creativity behind the scenes.

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“The way we worked on this project, is always with our players and our developers in mind,” Picard said. “With the player in mind, we know that developers and their creativity must still drive our projects. Generative AI is only of value if it has value for them.”

Ubisoft genAI prototype emphasizes human-created characters

Ubisoft Unveils NEO NPC Generative AI Prototype That Will Power NPCs Of The Future

While there is a rising concern about AI replacing humans, Ubisoft has emphasized that the NPCs are not created by machines but by humans who write their backstories, shape the character, and their conversation style, and continue to tweak the dialogue when the LLM starts to improvise the dialogue.

At the center of the research is narrative director Virginie Mosser who has spent over a year and a half creating characters for the NEO NPC project. Mosser builds characters’ backstory, their hopes, dreams, and the experiences that shape their personality. This information is used to train the model.

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Data scientist Mélanie Lopez Malet uses a combination of 3D environment and textual instructions, player input analysis, and a guardrail system to train the NEO NPC to behave like Mosser’s original character.

According to Malet, a language model is a big box of concepts and statistics that creates words that can coincide based on the common co-existence of certain words. Therefore, by conditioning the statistics within the model to head in a certain direction based on the personality, backstory, and dialogue style in line with the thoughts of a writer, the model begins to understand what you anticipate.

“The model’s task becomes: I must impersonate this character,’” Malet said. “It is really important to us that it behaves like the character Virginie created. So, while we’re talking to it, we ask ourselves: ‘is this Lisa? Would Lisa say this?’ and if the answer is no, we need to go back and find out what happened within the model to make it stray from the vision Virginie had.”

Malet also has other guardrails in place including filters that catch toxicity and inappropriate inputs from the player. For example, when the player displays any sign of toxicity, the NPC will stop being collaborative.

“We have made a distinction between the player antagonizing the NPC and insulting them, so we can properly scope what is toxic,” Malet said.

NEO NPCs don’t still have free will

Ubisoft Unveils NEO NPC Generative AI Prototype That Will Power NPCs Of The Future

The question that some may be asking at this point is whether this means that NPCs will be given free will in games in the future. Well, the simple answer is NO. NPCs will still be NPCs with story arcs.

“It’s important to us to reiterate that these characters do not have free will,” Mosser said. “They are there to play a role in a story. They have a narrative arc.”

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It was said that Project NEO NPC is only a prototype and the team still has a long way to go before the project can be implemented in games. However, the ultimate goal is to make it a flexible tool that will be as useful in smaller Ubisoft projects as it could be for AAA.

“You don’t need to be a AAA developer to onboard this technology and present your players with a new experience,” Picard said. “There are a ton of gameplay possibilities with NEO NPCs.”

The news was published by Ubisoft on Tuesday, March 19, 2024.


Emecheta Christian

Emecheta Christian is an avid gamer with over 5 years in the industry. He is also a poet. It is therefore not surprising that his post sometimes read like poetry.

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