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A new Nvidia tech demo features real-time AI characters that react to player decisions

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Nvidia has unveiled a new tech demo showing off AI video game characters with speech and animation powered by the Nvidia Avatar Cloud Engine (ACE) as part of GDC 2024 and GTC 2024. 

Created in collaboration with the AI gaming startup Inworld AI, the playable demo is built in Unreal Engine 5. It features Nvidia ACE technology combined with the Inworld Engine in order to allow developers to implement realistically animated AI-driven NPC characters that dynamically react to player decisions. 

Titled Covert Protocol, the demo sees you step into the role of a private detective and engage various characters in conversation in order to uncover information and progress through objectives.

You can see some short clips of the demo for yourself in a recently released explainer video that also shows a few interesting glimpses at the software development kit (SDK) behind the scenes. This includes a screen featuring some written character details, where the developer has explained what a specific character knows in-universe, outlined some of their backstory, and filled out some information regarding their current mood and personality. 

All of this information then informs how the character will interact with players in the game. Inworld AI CEO Kylan Gibbs says that “the combination of Nvidia Ace microservices and the Inworld Engine enables developers to create digital characters that can drive dynamic narratives, opening new possibilities for how gamers can decipher, deduce, and play.”

Analysis: Do players actually want AI?

While the concept of NPC characters that can react to your actions might sound tempting on paper, it does raise the question of whether players actually want generative AI technology in their games. The sprawling role-playing game (RPG) Baldur’s Gate 3 was one of the biggest hits of last year, in no small part due to its meticulously crafted narrative and detailed characters.

Although Covert Protocol is undeniably impressive from a purely technological standpoint, it’s hard to imagine that character dialogue generated by AI would be able to hold a candle to something that has been carefully constructed by a team of skilled writers. The dialogue shown off so far also seems quite basic and mainly involves characters sat around in static rooms. 

Whether such technology can actually be implemented into the complex world of a fully-fledged game has yet to be seen, but Inworld says that it will be releasing the source code for Covert Protocol at an unspecified point in the near future in order to allow developers to learn from its code and implement similar systems in their own creations. 

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