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Generative AI is coming to video games with a new tool from Ubisoft to help writers create dialogue for non-playable characters (NPCs).

Ubisoft, known for hit games like the Assassin’s Creed series, Watch Dogs and Far Cry, has revealed that it is using an AI tool called “Ghostwriter” to create dialog for non-playable characters (NPCs) in its games.

These are characters that populate the video game but aren’t part of the central narrative. Other Hogwarts students in the Harry Potter video games or passersby on the street in the sprawling landscapes of Grand Theft Auto V. The tool, developed in-house, is currently being tested as of April 2023.

Easing the Burden on Scriptwriters

The goal is to make NPCs more engaging and lifelike while reducing the workload for writers. Ubisoft emphasizes that Ghostwriter is not meant to replace writers, but to assist them in creating what are known as barks.

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A bark is a phrase or sound made by NPCs during triggered events, such as if you start a dialogue with them or intentionally punch them. The idea is this allows authors to concentrate on the broader narrative.

Ghostwriter will not be used to create dialog or storylines that are central to the plot. Instead, it is regarded as a productivity tool to help free up time for writers to focus on the elements of the game that matter.

Ghostwriter’s Learning Process

The Ghostwriter process begins with scriptwriters defining a character and the desired interaction or utterance. The AI tool then generates variations for the writers to choose from and modify as needed.

Using pairwise comparison for evaluation and improvement, Ghostwriter offers two choices for each generated variation, with the writer selecting the preferred option. Over time, as the AI tool accumulates thousands of author choices, it becomes increasingly accurate and effective.

Data concerns

Interestingly, Ghostwriter is not built on ChatGPT or GPT-4, and Ben Swanson, a research scientist at Ubisoft, advised game developers not to use these pre-existing deep language learning models, but to build their own.

Recommendation

He cites the pitfalls of relying on third-party companies with little transparency about the data they use to train their models. He also worries about the legal gray area of using dialog based on other data and potential lawsuits down the line.

Addressing Criticism

Following Ubisoft’s announcement, some game developers criticized the company on social media, urging it to invest in human writers. Other writers suggested that editing ghostwritten NPC dialog would take longer than writing their own.

Ubisoft responded via tweet, emphasizing that Ghostwriter was developed together with writers and is designed to generate additional variations for short NPC lines. In short, writers should use it to create first drafts of NPC dialog, not just copy and paste the final product.

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Summary
  • Ubisoft introduces "Ghostwriter", an AI tool for automating NPC dialogs.
  • The goal is to make NPCs more engaging and lifelike, thus reducing the workload for writers.
  • Critics call for investment in human writers, though Ubisoft emphasizes its collaborative approach to AI.
Sources
Journalist and published fiction author Harry is leveraging AI tools to bring his stories to life in new ways. He is currently working on making the first entirely AI generated movies from his novels and has a serialised story newsletter illustrated by Midjourney.
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