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The challenge of AI in dialogue

This comes from an IGDA (International Game Developer’s Association) article by Mathew Sakey. He is discussing how dialogue in games tends to be a real drag. The reason it caught my eye is because of the implications (if not outright pleading) that better AI is potentially a solution. Here is an excerpt from the article:

Part of it is that we are still roleplaying with circuit boards, and technology means it’s going to be that way for a while. When the day arrives that we’re actually roleplaying with the game AI, and not a pre-scripted database of reactions… well, that day we can just do away with other people altogether and it’ll be great. But right now – and despite the never-lived-up-to claims of some developers, including a couple mentioned here – game AI advancements seem irritatingly focused not on character and world reaction to player behavior, but on combat skills, so it’s going to be a while before The Elder Scrolls MCMLXXV responds in a genuinely dynamic way to our remarks and activities.

Motion controls, voice recognition and reputation systems are all moving game worlds in a direction where we’re not playing, we are participating; where
we are not in the game, but of the game. It is the difference between roleplaying with humans and doing so with a circuit board – human conversation dynamically changes based on thousands of subtle cues computers simply cannot track. As the technology and software evolve, we’ll naturally see ever-more organic dialogue opportunities in games, provided developers take them.

I believe that this is a fascinating field – but one for which I have no concrete answers. Even setting aside the issue of whether gamers would want to muddle through dialogue (which is also discussed in the article), it is challenging from a strictly technical and academic standpoint. The game Facade tackled this issue (pretty much from a strictly technical and academic standpoint). I saw a GDC presentation on it back in 2004 and have seen it discussed, but I can’t claim to have played it. Maybe that should be a stop on my sojourn through this great unknown landscape that is the future of game AI.

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8 Responses to “The challenge of AI in dialogue”

  1. Noah W-F says:

    I talk about this a little in Expressive Processing — the book manuscript I’m currently posting for open peer review on Grand Text Auto (where my blog co-authors include the two main Facade designers/developers). The next EP chapter talks about the famous Eliza effect, and later in the book I get into talking about Facade’s approach in some detail. I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts as the project moves forward.

  2. Dave Mark says:

    I will try to look into the book and the site. Thanks for stopping by!

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