Nvidia’s AI-generated NPC dialogue kind of sucks

"How do you do, fellow humans?"

Nvidia AI NPC

Much discussion has been had surrounding the use of AI in writing, particularly with the rise of ChatGPT.

In gaming, specifically, publishers have — rather controversially — been mulling over how to leverage AI to help write the massive scripts that are often required for projects. Nvidia, for its part, has thrown its hat into the ring with a brief tech demo that uses generative AI to have virtual non-player characters (NPCs) interact with you. To do so, it’s teamed up with partner Convai and used its Riva, NeMo and Audio2Face technologies.

The demo, set in a cyberpunk ramen diner, sees the player taking on a quest from the shop’s owner, Jin. Immediately, it’s clear how stunningly photorealistic everything is — almost to a fault as if it is indeed fake. Adding to that uncanny valley feeling, though, is how the NPC actually responds to the player.

For example, when the player asks how Jin’s been doing, he says “Unfortunately not so good” and goes on to explain that “I am worried about the crime around here. It’s gotten bad lately. My ramen shop got caught in the crossfire.”

When the player asks how can he help, Jin says “If you want to do something about this, I have heard rumors that the powerful crime lord Kumon Aoki is causing all kinds of chaos in the city. He may be the root of this violence.” For additional info, he notes that “I have heard he hangs out in the underground fight clubs on the city’s east side.”

Clearly, it’s all a bit… off. As we’ve seen with much of the AI-generated text floating around as of late, Jin’s responses are functionally sound; there’s nothing inherently wrong with them in terms of structure or grammar. However, they’re undeniably robotic, not offering any sort of personality or charm that you’d hope to get from an NPC. Even in a less narrative-heavy game like The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, part of the fun of sidequests involves engaging with colourful and lively NPCs, like the endearingly committed and hard-working Addison.

So far, tech like Nvidia’s hasn’t exactly presented a good case for how this is the future over carefully crafted, hand-written dialogue. It remains to be seen how Nvidia would build off this technology, but for now, it’s certainly more visually impressive if anything else.

Image credit: Nvidia