Artificial Intelligence - What Are Non-Player Characters And Emergent Gameplay?


Emergent gameplay occurs when a player in a video game encounters complicated scenarios as a result of their interactions with other players in the game.

Players may fully immerse themselves in an intricate and realistic game environment and feel the consequences of their choices in today's video games.

Players may personalize and build their character and tale.

Players take on the role of a cyborg in a dystopian metropolis in the Deus Ex series (2000), for example, one of the first emergent game play systems.

They may change the physical appearance of their character as well as their skill sets, missions, and affiliations.

Players may choose between militarized adaptations that allow for more aggressive play and stealthier options.

The plot and experience are altered by the choices made on how to customize and play, resulting in unique challenges and results for each player.

When players interact with other characters or items, emergent gameplay guarantees that the game environment reacts.

Because of many options, the tale unfolds in surprising ways as the gaming world changes.

Specific outcomes are not predetermined by the designer, and emergent gameplay can even take advantage of game flaws to generate actions in the game world, which some consider to be a form of emergence.

Artificial intelligence has become more popular among game creators in order to have the game environment respond to player actions in a timely manner.

Artificial intelligence aids the behavior of video characters and their interactions via the use of algorithms, basic rule-based forms that help in generating the game environment in sophisticated ways.

"Game AI" refers to the usage of artificial intelligence in games.

The most common use of AI algorithms is to construct the form of a non-player character (NPC), which are characters in the game world with whom the player interacts but does not control.

In its most basic form, AI will use pre-scripted actions for the characters, who will then concentrate on reacting to certain events.

Pre-scripted character behaviors performed by AI are fairly rudimentary, and NPCs are meant to respond to certain "case" events.

The NPC will evaluate its current situation before responding in a range determined by the AI algorithm.

Pac-Man is a good early and basic illustration of this (1980).

Pac-Man is controlled by the player through a labyrinth while being pursued by a variety of ghosts, who are the game's non-player characters.

Players could only interact with ghosts (NPCs) by moving about; ghosts had limited replies and their own AI-programmed pre-scripted movement.

The AI planned reaction would occur if the ghost ran into a wall.

It would then roll an AI-created die that would determine whether or not the NPC would turn toward or away from the direction of the player.

If the NPC decided to go after the player, the AI pre-scripted pro gram would then detect the player’s location and turn the ghost toward them.

If the NPC decided not to go after the player, it would turn in an opposite or a random direction.

This NPC interaction is very simple and limited; however, this was an early step in AI providing emergent gameplay.

Contemporary games provide a variety of options available and a much larger set of possible interactions for the player.

Players in contemporary role-playing games (RPGs) are given an incredibly high number of potential options, as exemplified by Fallout 3 (2008) and its sequels.

Fallout is a role-playing game, where the player takes on the role of a survivor in a post-apocalyptic America.

The story narrative gives the player a goal with no direction; as a result, the player is given the freedom to play as they see fit.

The player can punch every NPC, or they can talk to them instead.

In addition to this variety of actions by the player, there are also a variety of NPCs controlled through AI.

Some of the NPCs are key NPCs, which means they have their own unique scripted dialogue and responses.

This provides them with a personality and provides a complexity through the use of AI that makes the game environment feel more real.

When talking to key NPCs, the player is given options for what to say, and the Key NPCs will have their own unique responses.

This differs from the background character NPCs, as the key NPCs are supposed to respond in such a way that it would emulate interaction with a real personality.

These are still pre-scripted responses to the player, but the NPC responses are emergent based on the possible combination of the interaction.

As the player makes decisions, the NPC will examine this decision and decide how to respond in accordance to its script.

The NPCs that the players help or hurt and the resulting interactions shape the game world.

Game AI can emulate personalities and present emergent gameplay in a narrative setting; however, AI is also involved in challenging the player in difficulty settings.

A variety of pre-scripted AI can still be used to create difficulty.

Pre scripted AI are often made to make suboptimal decisions for enemy NPCs in games where players fight.

This helps make the game easier and also makes the NPCs seem more human.

Suboptimal pre-scripted decisions make the enemy NPCs easier to handle.

Optimal decisions however make the opponents far more difficult to handle.

This can be seen in contemporary games like Tom Clancy’s The Division (2016), where players fight multiple NPCs.

The enemy NPCs range from angry rioters to fully trained paramilitary units.

The rioter NPCs offer an easier challenge as they are not trained in combat and make suboptimal decisions while fighting the player.

The military trained NPCs are designed to have more optimal decision-making AI capabilities in order to increase the difficulty for the player fighting them.

Emergent gameplay has evolved to its full potential through use of adaptive AI.

Similar to prescript AI, the character examines a variety of variables and plans about an action.

However, unlike the prescript AI that follows direct decisions, the adaptive AI character will make their own decisions.

This can be done through computer-controlled learning.

AI-created NPCs follow rules of interactions with the players.

As players go through the game, the player interactions are analyzed, and some AI judgments become more weighted than others.

This is done in order to provide distinct player experiences.

Various player behaviors are actively examined, and modifications are made by the AI when designing future challenges.

The purpose of the adaptive AI is to challenge the players to a degree that the game is fun while not being too easy or too challenging.

Difficulty may still be changed if players seek a different challenge.

This may be observed in the Left 4 Dead game (2008) series’ AI Director.

Players navigate through a level, killing zombies and gathering resources in order to live.

The AI Director chooses which zombies to spawn, where they will spawn, and what supplies will be spawned.

The choice to spawn them is not made at random; rather, it is based on how well the players performed throughout the level.

The AI Director makes its own decisions about how to respond; as a result, the AI Director adapts to the level's player success.

The AI Director gives less resources and spawns more adversaries as the difficulty level rises.

Changes in emergent gameplay are influenced by advancements in simulation and game world design.

As virtual reality technology develops, new technologies will continue to help in this progress.

Virtual reality games provide an even more immersive gaming experience.

Players may use their own hands and eyes to interact with the environment.

Computers are growing more powerful, allowing for more realistic pictures and animations to be rendered.

Adaptive AI demonstrates the capability of really autonomous decision-making, resulting in a truly participatory gaming experience.

Game makers are continuing to build more immersive environments as AI improves to provide more lifelike behavior.

These cutting-edge technology and new AI will elevate emergent gameplay to new heights.

The importance of artificial intelligence in videogames has emerged as a crucial part of the industry for developing realistic and engrossing gaming.

Jai Krishna Ponnappan

You may also want to read more about Artificial Intelligence here.

See also: 

Brooks, Rodney; Distributed and Swarm Intelligence; General and Narrow AI.

Further Reading:

Brooks, Rodney. 1986. “A Robust Layered Control System for a Mobile Robot.” IEEE Journal of Robotics and Automation 2, no. 1 (March): 14–23.

Brooks, Rodney. 1990. “Elephants Don’t Play Chess.” Robotics and Autonomous Systems6, no. 1–2 (June): 3–15.

Brooks, Rodney. 1991. “Intelligence Without Representation.” Artificial Intelligence Journal 47: 139–60.

Dennett, Daniel C. 1997. “Cog as a Thought Experiment.” Robotics and Autonomous Systems 20: 251–56.

Gallagher, Shaun. 2005. How the Body Shapes the Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pfeifer, Rolf, and Josh Bongard. 2007. How the Body Shapes the Way We Think: A New View of Intelligence. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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