Right at the beginning of this discussion in our Linkedin group, a number of group members asked what "AI" means. The European character designer who had asked the question said, "it means "Artificial Intelligence". Sorry, I wasn't thinking about all the members for whom English is a second language. The abbreviations are of course different in all of those languages".
In response to the question a Motion Graphic/3D Contractor said that to him an AI character felt less like a product and more like something designed to provoke a response.
He also said that it should be noted that when we talk about the use of AI in characters, we are talking about game characters. He thought that game characters were quite different from other characters. While non game related characters usually follow a linear storyline, game characters are designed to work within a game environment, and may or may not contribute to the narrative. Even when the most important character in a game dies, for example, the game can still continue.
An IP Developer responded by saying that when you experience AI in a game character, especially in a highly active game with clearly set action parameters, AI can work well, simply because of the limitations. Take away the limitations, though, and real-time interaction becomes a real two way conversation. At that point our current concept of what a character is and how it works, in terms of engaging an audience, may have to change.
He went on to say that behavioural sciences might have a role to play in such a scenario, because the way engagement works would need to be developed all over again. After all, linear narratives and even real-time interaction in games are highly limited. After thousands of years of narrative development, over 500 years of printing technology, and over a hundred years of moving image technology we know a thing or two about creating engaging characters for such media formats. But real-time interaction and especially goal-less real-time exchanges are quite a different ball game.
The character designer who had asked the original question, added that another issue would be actual Artificial Intelligence, as in programs that are capable of actual learning. Characters, he said, could end up with genuine character arcs, or to put it more simply, they might undergo real character changes.
In such a scenario it would become very difficult, if not impossible, to control a character as a product. An interactive character that changes for everyone who engages with it, becomes an individual, or rather a series of identical looking indivuals, rather than the set characters we know today. This would probably trigger a profound change of view in us, and he added that such characters might end up being thought of as digital friends or companions, instead of how we see them now.
At that point, the Motion Graphic/3D Contractor said that as far as he knows, there are no AI driven characters that are capable of interacting with anyone outside of their game of origin at this point in time.
In response, the character designer then posted this link, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPIbGnBQcJY and added that It is precisely in situations when characters such as "Milo" of "Project Natal" are not directly tied to a game, as we understand games today, that the original question becomes important. "Milo", he said, was a character that was simply designed to interact with people the way people interact with each other.
But what do you think? Will the current advances in AI change the way we think about characters? Why not join our discussion... here.