It's like ChatGPT, but for the innkeeper, who's about to send you on an epic side quest.

Hello, Wary Traveler

Generally speaking, non-playable characters (NPCs) in video games are stuck repeating the same prerecorded lines over and over, shattering the illusion of an immersive world.

But what if we injected some AI into them, making in-game conversations a lot more rewarding and immersive? Think of it as ChatGPT, but for the innkeeper, who's about to send you on an epic side quest.

To realize that vision, tech giant Microsoft's Xbox division has partnered with an outfit called Inworld AI, a Silicon Valley-based company working on AI-powered NPCs, potentially paving the way to much smarter gaming companions.

While we've seen modders use AI to make NPCs come up with entirely new dialogue in games like Skyrim for months now, the multiyear partnership signals that the industry is getting serious about the idea.

AI Going Method

Inworld AI, which claims to be the "leading Character Engine for games and interactive experiences," recently closed its latest round of funding, bringing its valuation to over half a billion dollars.

The latest partnership brings the technology one step closer to being integrated into upcoming Xbox games.

"Together, we aim to deliver an accessible, responsibly designed multi-platform AI toolset to assist and empower creators in dialogue, story, and quest design," said Haiyan Zhang, general manager of Gaming AI Xbox, in a statement. "As with all creator tools at Xbox, our goal is to deliver state-of-the-art AI for game developers of any size, anywhere in the world, and on every platform where players want to play."

But as The Verge points out, having an AI both come up with responses and speak them out loud back to the user hasn't been without controversy.

Just last week, video game developer Embark Studios landed in hot water for revealing that it was using the voices of human actors to train AI voices in its multiplayer shooter The Finals.

It's also a hot-button topic that's been deeply intertwined in the ongoing SAG-AFTRA union strike, with performers calling for protections from having their voices or likenesses used to train an AI.

Controversy or not, though, the future of video games will likely leverage AI to make games more immersive. Case in point, a redditor recently discovered code, suggesting the long-awaited sequel to the best-selling Grand Theft Auto V will make use of AI for its NPCs.

More on AI NPCs: ChatGPT Mod Allows NPCs in Skyrim to Make Up New Dialogue

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