Inworld AI, a developer platform for advanced NPC behaviour and dialogue, has released the findings of its “Gamer Attitudes to NPCs” report.
The report surveyed over 1,000 gamers across the US aged between 16-50 and found high levels of excitement regarding the potential of AI in video games. There was an overwhelming consensus that recent advancements in the space of AI could change the face of gaming and bring in a new era of immersion and NPC interactions. These characters could have individual personalities and the ability to converse unscripted voice-to-voice with the help of tools such as ChatGPT-like language models and multimodal behaviour and perception systems.
We are already seeing AI capabilities being integrated into the world of video games. Companies such as Kinetix are using AI to help create 3D animation emotes, which games such as Fortnite use frequently. We have also seen games where AI is helping to cut costs, speed up the creative process and even feature directly within the games core concept, ElectricNoir has a series of interactive drama games that utilises the power of AI.
Players attitude to NPCs
Findings within the Inworld report showed that a huge 84% of gamers agreed that current NPCs make a positive difference to gameplay. However, over half, 52% stated that they disliked repetitive NPC dialogue. Most players, 76%, want to see NPCs gain better situational awareness and 78% would spend more time playing games with advanced AI NPCs. Of those surveyed, 81% also stated they would be willing to pay more for a game that featured advanced AI NPCs.
Although such a high number of players state that NPCs are crucial to gameplay, NPCs are often functioning in similar ways across various games even within different genres. While NPC AI has come a long way, with the ability to detect, track and converse with the player we are yet to see a way for these personalities to truly come to life and respond to players unscripted.
The report highlighted the importance of narrative and storylines for the majority of players. We are seeing more often that the narrative of a game can be just as, if not more important than core gameplay mechanics. Meaningful interactions with NPCs are heavily sought after with only 9% of players dismissing or avoiding NPCs during gameplay. Almost half, 40% claimed they would talk to as many NPCs as possible to unlock more story content. Nearly all participants, 91% interacted with NPCs on some level and 78% said they would play a game more if it had intelligent NPCs.
Co-founder and CPO at inworld AI, Kylan Gibbs said, “Humans are storytellers. We’re drawn to narratives that help us to make sense of the world around us. The same thing is true in the gaming world – the more immersive and believable a story is, the more we want to stay inside it. So it’s really no surprise that so many gamers want to unlock deeper stories through these NPC interactions.”
The typical NPC characteristics that were most disliked by players were repetitive dialogue, walking in circles, and the inability to adapt to changes in the game. Other traits such as awkward movements or a lack of variation also contributed to player disconnect from NPCs. Despite some frustrations at NPCs, only 5% of gamers stated that NPCs were pointless.
Gibbs noted that “Gamers care deeply about NPCs. They have a huge impact on gameplay but gamers are frustrated with the fact that they haven’t evolved. With advanced AI NPCs, there’s an opportunity for games to give players more of the immersive and realistic interactions with NPCs that gamers want.”
The majority, 60% of players stated they would like to see more interactive dialogue from NPCs and a sense of humour. The report also noted that 79% of respondents said they were excited by the promise of AI NPCs, with 88% believing they would make a game more immersive. Almost all, 99% of players believe that the inclusion of advanced AI NPCs would positively impact gameplay.
Head of partnerships at Inworld AI, Florin Radu commented that “Advances in AI have real potential to bring NPCs to life and revolutionise the way gamers interact with them. It’s little surprise that gamers are excited by the possibility of having a unique experience with NPCs every time they play – and it’s precisely this excitement that we think will result in many more developers including advanced AI NPCs in their games in the near future.”