Ubisoft unveils NEO NPC, GenAI project allowing players to have "authentic" conversations with in-game characters

Ubisoft has unveiled its new GenAI project called NEO NPC at GDC 2024. It is designed to allow players to have real-time conversations with in-game characters with no pre-written lines.

Ubisoft debuts NEO NPC prototype for creating "authentic" conversations with in-game characters

  • As detailed in a blog post, the NEO NPC project has been in the works for a while by a small R&D team at Ubisoft in collaboration with Nvidia’s Audio2Face technology (used to match facial animation with voiceover) and Inworld’s LLM.
  • Ubisoft VP of Production Technology Guillemette Picard noted that “with the player in mind, we know that developers and their creativity must still drive our projects.”
  • The company emphasized that NPCs are created by real writers, not AI, to shape their character, backstory, and traits.
  • Although the model is trained to improvise dialogue, it has its own limits and can always be tweaked by developers. So its main task is more about impersonating the specific character created by a real writer rather than producing boring, out-of-context answers.
  • Ubisoft also has a lot of filters to prevent toxicity and inappropriate inputs from players. “It’s important to us to reiterate that these characters do not have free will,” narrative director Virginie Mosser said. “They are there to play a role in a story. They have a narrative arc.”
  • “Authenticity” is the word that the company uses a lot when speaking about NEO NPC, saying that the project should help create “real” conversations based on the work of professional writers and actors.
  • Right now, NEO NPC is a prototype, so Ubisoft has no plans to implement it into its pipeline in the near future. The company noted that its end goal is to “keep it as a flexible tool, as useful for smaller Ubisoft projects as it could be for AAA.”

The Verge’s Sean Hollister had a chance to try NEO NPC (there is also a video with actual conversation), writing that while some characters were better written thanks to the work of real narrative designers, “delivery was still awkward, a little stunted, with lag before replies and occasional vocal stutters.”

Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot also told journalists that genAI is just a new technology that could help game developers create new experiences. So the company is now testing and experimenting with it to try out new stuff.

“When the Xbox capacity came, we were able to create Splinter Cell… You can always do new things you wanted to do because the technology is at the level that allow you to create those experiences,” Guillemot said. “But it doesn’t work all the time. Sometimes you are too early.”

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