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Thursday, March 07, 2019

How artificial intelligence will revolutionize the way video games are developed and played | Gaming - The Verge

The advances of modern AI research could bring unprecedented benefits to game development, according to Nick Statt, San Francisco-based reporter at The Verge.

Video games of the future will build themselves

If you asked video game fans what an idealized, not-yet-possible piece of interactive entertainment might look like in 10 or even 20 years from now, they might describe something eerily similar to the software featured in Orson Scott Card’s sci-fi classic Ender’s Game. In his novel, Card imagined a military-grade simulation anchored by an advanced, inscrutable artificial intelligence.

The Mind Game, as it’s called, is designed primarily to gauge the psychological state of young recruits, and it often presents its players with impossible situations to test their mental fortitude in the face of inescapable defeat. Yet the game is also endlessly procedural, generating environments and situations on the fly, and allows players to perform any action in a virtual world that they could in the real one. Going even further, it responds to the emotional and psychological state of its players, adapting and responding to human behavior and evolving over time. At one point, The Mind Game even draws upon a player’s memories to generate entire game worlds tailored to Ender’s past. 

Putting aside the more morbid military applications of Card’s fantasy game (and the fact that the software ultimately develops sentience), The Mind Game is a solid starting point for a conversation about the future of video games and artificial intelligence. Why are games, and the AI used to both aid in creating them and drive the actions of virtual characters, not even remotely this sophisticated? And what tools or technologies do developers still require to reach this hypothetical fusion of AI and simulated reality?

These are questions researchers and game designers are just now starting to tackle as recent advances in the field of AI begin to move from experimental labs and into playable products and usable development tools. Until now, the kind of self-learning AI — namely the deep learning subset of the broader machine learning revolution — that’s led to advances in self-driving cars, computer vision, and natural language processing hasn’t really bled over into commercial game development. That’s despite the fact that some of these advancements in AI are thanks in part to software that’s improved itself through the act of playing video games, such as DeepMind’s unbeatable AlphaGo program and OpenAI’s Dota 2 bot that’s now capable of beating pro-level players...

Now, there’s a stark difference between the kind of AI you might interact with in a commercial video game and the kind of AI that is designed to play a game at superhuman levels. For instance, the most basic chess-playing application can handily beat a human being at the classic board game, just as IBM’s DeepBlue system bested Russian grandmaster Garry Kasparov back in 1997. And that type of AI research has only accelerated in recent years.

At Google-owned lab DeepMind, Facebook’s AI research division, and other AI outfits around the world, researchers are hard at work teaching software how to play ever-more sophisticated video games. That includes everything from the Chinese board game Go to classic Atari games to titles as advanced as Valve’s Dota 2, a competitive five-versus-five strategy contest that dominates the world’s professional gaming circuits.The goal of most AI research involving games is to benchmark the software’s sophistication

The goal there is not to develop AI that will create more interesting, dynamic, and realistic game experiences; AI researchers are largely using games as a way to benchmark the intelligence level of a piece of software and because virtual worlds, with strict rule and reward systems, are a particularly useful environment to train software in. 
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Source: The Verge and The Verge Channel (YouTube)