Inworld AI, a developer platform for advanced NPC behavior and dialogue, today released the findings of its new report ‘Gamer Attitudes to NPCs.’ In the first study of its kind, the report surveyed over 1,000 gamers in the US aged 16-50 and found high levels of excitement about the potential of AI in video games. Specifically, there was an overwhelming consensus that recent advancements in AI could change the face of gaming and usher in a new era of immersion and interaction with NPCs (non-playable characters) with individual personalities and the ability to converse unscripted voice-to-voice with the help of ChatGPT-like language models and multimodal behavior and perception systems.
The report found that:
- 84% of gamers agree that current NPCs make a positive difference to gameplay
- Over half (52%) dislike repetitive NPC dialogue
- 76% want to see NPCs with better situational awareness
- 78% would spend more time playing games with advanced AI NPCs
- 81% would be willing to pay more for a game with advanced AI NPCs
A long time (not) coming
NPCs have been a part of video gaming from as far back as the 1970s. Despite significant technological advancements in motion capture, graphics rendering, animation, and modeling, the technology that powers the behavior of NPCs has remained stagnant. In other words, NPCs have not developed personalities of their own or the ability to respond to players unscripted. This is despite the fact that the report found that 84% of players today believe NPCs are a crucial addition to gameplay, with an important role in building immersive stories and worlds.
Meaningful interaction promotes excitement and loyalty…
The report highlighted the importance of narratives and storylines to the majority of players. Meaningful interactions with NPCs were heavily sought after, with only 9% of players dismissing or avoiding NPCs during gameplay altogether. A large minority (40%) even admitted to talking to as many NPCs as possible to unlock more story content. Equally, 91% interacted with NPCs on some level and 78% said they would spend more time playing a game with ‘intelligent’ NPCs.
Kylan Gibbs, Co-Founder and CPO Inworld AI 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.”
…and poor quality promotes frustration and derision
While trolling is most prevalent among younger gamers (39% of 16-24 year olds troll NPCs), across all age groups, it was apparent that gamers willingly and regularly watch NPCs doing ‘stupid’ things – particularly when the characters were two-dimensional and poor quality. The typical NPC characteristics that were most disliked by players were: repetitive dialogue, walking in circles, and inability to adapt to changes in games (disliked by 52%, 33% and 30% of players respectively.) Other traits such as awkward movements and lack of variation also contributed to their disconnect from NPCs.
A missed opportunity for artificial intelligence
Despite these frustrations however, only a tiny minority (5%) view current NPCs as pointless. “Gamers care deeply about NPCs,” continued Kylan. “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.”
A large majority (76%) want better situational awareness from NPCs, and 60% would like to see more interactive dialogue and a sense of humor. Understanding these requirements and being able to cater to them proved to be an appealing concept for almost all gamers surveyed. The report 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. This is in tandem with 99% believing the inclusion of advanced AI NPCs would positively impact gameplay, and 81% willing to pay for the experience.
Florin Radu, Head of Partnerships, concluded: “Advances in AI have real potential to bring NPCs to life and revolutionize the way gamers interact with them. At Inworld, we’re leveraging this technology to make NPCs smarter and more interactive, so as to enrich game narratives and make gameplay more immersive. 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.”