Nvidia took the time at Computex to show us the future of non-playable characters (NPCs) in video games — using AI to make them have natural, unpredictable conversations with you. It’s called the “Omniverse Avatar Cloud Engine” (or ACE), and it’s equal parts fascinating and also kind of terrifying.
With the ability to improvise dialogue on the fly and even create non-verbal facial expressions that react to what you say, Nvidia’s smarts are focused on killing off repetitive NPC dialogue trees, like the adoring fan from Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Don't get me wrong, the initial offer to shine my boots and rub my back was great for the ego, but after 30 hours of hearing the same offer I was ready to push nails into my ear drums.
How does it work?
Nvidia gave us the answer to this problem in the form of an Avatar Cloud Engine (ACE), which uses an AI model foundry service to power natural language interactions.
Put simply, what you’re getting here is a ChatGPT-esque conversation with an AI, which uses a predictive text model to help NPCs say relevant, sensical responses to your character’s inputs — be it through a dialogue tree or your own voice, like in this demo.
It provides an exciting potential for being able to improvise conversations with NPCs, and give you the chance to maybe try and extract more information by starting to get to know these characters. The possibilities are bafflingly endless.
Of course, there are going to be problems. One such fear is almost Rule 34-esque in nature — if you give an NPC intelligence, someone is probably going to try and have sex with it. Hopefully Nvidia has some controls in place for that!
And there’s the more obvious looming spectre of AI coming for jobs. This sounds like a direct blow on paper, but hear me out for a second.
The Avatar Cloud Engine could be viewed as AI coming directly for developers’ jobs. However, the flip side, the demands of game development have gotten so unwieldy that something like this could be a necessity when it comes to helping developers — rather than directly replacing them.
I mean, you can see the various difficult launches of late with titles such as RedFall or The Last of Us Part I for PC. All of them getting off to rocky starts because video games are gargantuan projects, so some artificial assistance may help with the pains of developer crunch.
AI is already assisting artists with effects, so why not train it to fill in some conversational gaps for NPCs?
Stay in the know with Laptop Mag
Get our in-depth reviews, helpful tips, great deals, and the biggest news stories delivered to your inbox.
Jason brings a decade of tech and gaming journalism experience to his role as a writer at Laptop Mag. He takes a particular interest in writing articles and creating videos about laptops, headphones and games. He has previously written for Kotaku, Stuff and BBC Science Focus. In his spare time, you'll find Jason looking for good dogs to pet or thinking about eating pizza if he isn't already.