Gamers are all too familiar with AI companions. NPC that have a mind of their own. An extremely dim-witted and lifeless mind that more often than not get into the way than actually helping. It really takes you out of the immersion of a game when AI bugs out. But things are about to change.
Artificial Intelligence technology and machine learning has evolved at an incredible pace in the last few years. Many different AI's have shown their capabilities in beating humans at playing chess and GO, composing music, driving cars, working at law firms, diagnose patience, and many more. Although we still have a long way to go before Skynet takes over the world, their influence will be seen in many different aspects of human life, including gaming.
The obvious area where AI technology will influence gaming is giving NPC’s a believable mind. With better AI implementation, you will see AI that study the way players act and play games, adjusting itself to keep a constant level of challenge to players. This might do-away completely with difficulty levels, as the in-game AI adjust itself the more you play the game.
Already EA is teaching an AI how to play Battlefield 1, Google’s DeepMind was taught how to play StarCraft 2, and many other Ai experiments have been done through the past few years. The learnings that developers can get from these experiments will lead to much more believable and lifelike NPCs in single player games, and more competitive bots in multiplayer games. It’s only a matter of time before a developer adds the ability of highly trained and dynamically adjustable bots to fill up multiplayer lobbies, giving much needed life to multiplayer games that may be struggling with filling servers.
The effect of AI technology will not only be on the in-game NPCs however. Ubisoft is currently developing and utilizing an AI called Commit Assistant. This AI will help identify bugs and issues in the code as the game is being developed, hopefully decreasing the number of bugs seen in games. Valve is training an AI to detect and combat cheaters in games such as Counter-Strike, many e-sport teams are turning to AI and machine learning to help coach their team, and many other examples.
What does all this mean for the average gamer? Firstly, games will be made with less bugs in a shorter amount of time. Games will be much better tested by AI bots playing the game just as well as normal humans. Games will have smarter and more lifelike NPCs. Multiplayer lobbies will always be filled with players either human or bots of an equal skill level.
Our future with AI has only just begun, and that future holds many good benefits for us gamers.