Smart contracts and Web3 interfaces have created a new genre of play-to-earn (or nonfungible token) video games. Many of these games experienced dramatic changes in player numbers and transaction volumes during the crypto bull market of 2021 and the subsequent crash of 2022.
Cointelegraph spoke with a Web3 gaming executive, who said that despite the volatility, new innovations in artificial intelligence will make the genre more enjoyable than ever before.
Alex Connelly is chief technology officer for Immutable. He is the developer of the Gods Unchained trading card game and Immutable X NFT platforms. Cointelegraph spoke with him about OpenAI, an AI-focused American research facility that develops AI applications that can help with a range of tasks. Software will be able to open new opportunities for Web3 games. Developers will have the ability to create more art, more challenging encounters, and better narration which will make it more engaging and rich for players.
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Connelly indicated that art is what his team is most interested in for OpenAI applications. Video game artists used to have to create multiple versions for the same image in the past. You might need different sizes for different images, or different versions that emphasize different parts of an image. Sometimes this led to inefficiency. OpenAI software allows artists to create new versions of their artworks by letting AI do the work. This frees them up to spend more time creating original art.
Challenging players… but not too much
Connolly indicated that OpenAI has potential to make gaming more enjoyable beyond its immediate benefit. One subject that the team has been discussing is the creation of AI that can dynamically adjust to players’ skill levels, creating encounters that are just difficult enough to be fun, without becoming overwhelming. Connelly explained:
“I think we are really excited about the potential for this technology to create more meaningful counter-play for opponents, so one challenging thing in things like trading card games or things like RPGs is building an AI that is the right degree of difficulty for and is tailored somewhat to the needs of the players. I think we think we can create really deep and immersive, ongoing learning curves for players that sort of match up to where they’re at in the games.”
“I think that’s a really important thing for making sure that you don’t have something that’s so easy that no one plays against it or so hard that it’s just not fun to play against, finding that nice curve and making that player customized. That’s an awesome use of this technology,” he added.
Video game developers have attempted to develop AI programs for computer opponents that provide the right difficulty level for players. OpenAI is a better strategy than the ones used by developers in the past, says the Immutable executive.
“I think a lot of what’s been built previously in games has been what I call ‘manually written’ AIs where the opponent in the game is basing their decisions on a bunch of programmed rules that a programmer has introduced there.”
Connelly continued, “You’re having to tell it what to do, as opposed to just saying ‘Hey, we’re an AI that plays the game. Is it supposed to win every time? Are you aiming for it to win around 50% of all the time? Is it to win about 50% of the time against this player?’ […] The middle of the model has a lot of black box and fuzziness. […] with this new technology putting people in a position to actually create more customized experiences for games.”
Connelly said that this new technology will not only make creating AIs for computer-controlled opponents easier; it will also lead to a “more tailored, personalized content, full single-player experience.”
ChatGPT or GPT3 storytelling
Chat Generative Pretrained Transformer (also known as ChatGPT) is the newest piece of OpenAI software. It has been used already to create trading bots and blogs, as well as crypto songs.
Connelly answered a question regarding whether Immutable plans to use ChatGPT for its games. It is still very new. He did however mention that Immutable has used GPT-3 in the past to test out ways to create an AI Narrator that tells stories based upon the play of a card game.
“We think there are very cool storytelling opportunities with this technology. One example of this is if you are playing cards and get GPT-3 to make it into a story. […] A story that connects the input to a game can’t be written by anyone. It would just be impossible when we’re talking about millions of games here, right?”
He expressed optimism but warned that there have been some problems with the story narrator concept. Initial tests have resulted in “spam” narration that distracts from the game instead of adding to it, so the team is still trying to figure out how to put the right amount of narration into a card game.
“We did this thing that sounded cool. However, they get confused when they actually play. [players] Or, it doesn’t resonate with them. The balance is still being struck between how to make sure this doesn’t create spam content and how to keep it from creating more. That’s where NFTs (and gaming) come in. There are potential uses for reducing spam production or introducing costs so people can still have access to the internet. […] richer experiences,” he stated.
Web3 game developers embracing OpenAI
Connelly said that it’s not only Immutable that is looking to use this technology to improve games. OpenAI is also becoming more attractive to partner developers, who have been releasing items on Immutable X.
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He believes that Web3 studios are more enthusiastic about these new technologies than other studios. Although all game studios want to use OpenAI to improve their games, he says large studios face an “innovator’s dilemma” that makes it more costly for them to take the risks of implementing OpenAI features. Web3 and NFT will continue to lead with these technologies, he says.