With progress in generative AI heralding new potential for multiple industries, a new report from Inworld.AI finds that the majority of gamers crave more personality from NPCs in video games
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.”
Gamer Attitudes to NPCs 2023 can be downloaded here https://inworld.ai/whitepapers/future-of-npcs
Notes to editors:
A survey of 1,002 US gamers aged 16-50 was conducted during the months of October and November 2022 by Bryter Research on behalf of Inworld AI, using an online questionnaire. Participants were randomly selected from a panel of online gamers. The study aimed to examine gaming behavior and attitudes to NPCs within the given age range.
Qualitative data examples:
“I think they’re an important part of world-building. I always make an effort to talk to every NPC I can. They can offer tips, give side quests, have items for sale, can be entertaining, and help present the lore of a game or series.” – Female, 28 years old
“I like that you can really interact and get real-time responses to your questions and interactions. This would really add depth and richness to games.” – Female, 38 years old
“I love playing RPGs and MMORPGs, but prefer player-versus-environment to player-versus-player and enjoy interacting with NPCs more than random players. Advanced AI NPCs would definitely make me more emotionally attached to RPGs and would make them more enjoyable!” – Female, 50 years old
“As a hobbyist game dev, I like the concept of advanced AI NPCs a lot. The interactive elements of this are pretty amazing, and this could completely change how NPCs are created. Open Worlds/ MMOs and even Roguelikes would greatly benefit from this.” – Male, 37 years old
“I like that the dialogue is not scripted. Advanced AI NPCs are more like real characters and react to the world around them. I would love to be able to interact with an AI version of Lamar from GTA 5. I think he would have some hilarious and witty responses to whatever questions I asked.” – Male, 24 years old
“NPCs can either make or break a game by adding or detracting from the game’s immersion and believability. When I play, I literally insert myself into my character’s world and make decisions based on what my character would think about situations, places, and the people they meet–including NPCs.” – Non-binary, 23 years old
“Fallout 4 is a great game but the dialog options for companion characters were terrible and repetitive.” – Male, 44 years old
“Animal Crossing lacks diverse dialog options and leaves the game boring and dull with each character archetype.” – Male, 22 years old
“I like to take their money and chase them. Usually they run and I catch up to them and beat them up and take their money. This adds to the fun of Grand Theft Auto.” – Male, 27 years old
About Inworld AI
Inworld is a developer platform for adding advanced NPC behavior and dialogue to games and real-time experiences. We use over 20 AI models to create lifelike, engaging, and expressive characters that mimic the dynamic nature of human interaction.
Inworld is run by a team of experts and pioneers in the fields of conversational AI, generative models, and the gaming and entertainment industry. Inworld’s founders previously launched API.AI, renamed Dialogflow after being acquired by Google. Inworld’s Chief Creative Officer, Academy Award-winner John Gaeta, also brings decades of experience from the gaming and entertainment industry through his work on the Matrix movies, his role in founding Lucasfilm’s Immersive Entertainment Division, and as Executive Creative Producer on Epic Games’ The Matrix Awakens.
Inworld’s team of engineers, designers, inventors, creatives, scientists, and technologists are building the tech that will revolutionize NPCs.