Dragon Age writer David Gaider has shared his thoughts on the “lackluster” and “soulless” nature of procedurally generated AI dialogue, while also predicting failure for developers who can’t forsee the technology’s current limitations.
“Ah, yes. The dream of procedural content generation,” tweeted Gaider in reference to a new Guardian article discussing the potential applications of AI scriptwriting in future video games. “Even BioWare went through several iterations of this: ‘what if we didn’t need every conversation to be bespoke?’ Unlimited playtime with dialogue being procedurally created alongside procedural quests!”
The Guardian article focused in part on a game demo called Smallville, which used an artificial intelligence (AI) called ChatGPT to generate conversations amongst a population of 25 NPCs as the characters went about their simulated lives in a sandbox world.
Joon Sung Park, one of the authors of the research, believes that smaller indie developers could start adopting AI like ChatGPT in their development process in as little as a year and a half, with wider uptake of the tech possible in around five years time. As it stands, integrating AI into a video game in any significant way is a costly prospect, which is fraught with potential problems.
Ah, yes. The dream of procedural content generation. Even BioWare went through several iterations of this: “what if we didn’t need every conversation to be bespoke?” Unlimited playtime with dialogue being procedurally created alongside procedural quests! https://t.co/iTLAFgRDUk
— David Gaider (@davidgaider) May 29, 2023
However, during a lengthy Twitter thread, Gaider remained sceptical of the short term application of AI in games. While describing his own experiences of working with the tech, the veteran developer noted that his team at BioWare “collectively believed” multiple times that procedurally generated AI conversation and content could work. However, according to Gaider, each time this was attempted the end results were found to be “lackluster” and “soulless”.
He went on to note that future developers might well come to the conclusion that AI tools can generate decent situation specific content if fed the right input, but it is not a sentiment that he himself shares. “The issue wasn’t the lines,” Gaider explained.. “It was that procedural content generation of quests results in something shaped like a quest. It has the beats you need for one, sure, but the end result is no better than your typical ‘bring me 20 beetle heads’ MMO quest.”
Gaider proceeded to say that developers who convince themselves that A.I. is capable of generating deep, bespoke narratives, as opposed to what he describes as “superficial content that covers the bases but goes no further”, are liable to fall short.
“I say such an A.I. will do exactly as we did: it’ll create something *shaped* like a narrative, constructed out of stored pieces it has ready… because that’s what it does,” tweeted Gaider. “That is, however, not going to stop a lot of dev teams from thinking it can do more. And they will fail.”
He also believes that the lure of procedurally-generated AI content will be too powerful to resist for teams working on certain genres. “The fact these dev teams will fail doesn’t mean they won’t TRY,” predicted Gaider. “Expect to see it. It’s too enticing for them not to, especially in MMO’s and similar where they feel players aren’t there for deep narrative anyhow. A lot of effort is going to be wasted on this.”
Some leading figures in the entertainment industry and select game developers have already signaled their interest in utilizing AI, with Disney CEO Bob Iger going so far as to say that the technology’s implementation could be “disruptive”. Earlier this year Ubisoft introduced a new AI script writing tool called Ghostwriter, ostensibly with the goal of helping human writers create more believable lines — also known as barks — for its NPCs.
However, as noted in the Guardian piece, numerous others have voiced their unwillingness to incorporate AI writing into their games, citing artistic objections and worries over issues like accidental plagiarism, alongside the simple fact that some, like Gaider, simply find the end result to be disappointing.
Anthony is a freelance contributor covering science and video gaming news for IGN. He has over eight years experience of covering breaking developments in multiple scientific fields and absolutely no time for your shenanigans. Follow him on Twitter @BeardConGamer