The creation of smart contracts and Web3 interfaces has led to an entirely new play-to-earn or nonfungible token (NFT) genre of video games. But during the 2021 crypto bull market and subsequent crash of 2022, many of the games in this niche went through incredible ups and downs in terms of player count and transaction volume.
Despite this volatility, one Web3 gaming executive who spoke to Cointelegraph says that new innovations in artificial intelligence (AI) will make the genre better than it has ever been.
Alex Connelly is the chief technology officer of Immutable, developer of the Gods Unchained digital collectible trading card game and Immutable X NFT platform. He told Cointelegraph that OpenAI, an AI-focused American research laboratory dedicated to developing friendly AI applications that can assist with a variety of tasks, software will allow new possibilities for Web3 games, letting developers create better art, more challenging encounters and superior narration, leading to a more immersive and rich experience for players.
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Connelly said that the area his team is looking at the most for OpenAI applications is art. In the past, video game artists often had to create multiple versions of the same images. For example, there often needed to be multiple sizes of the same images or slightly different versions that emphasized different parts of a piece of art. This sometimes led to a lack of efficiency. But with OpenAI software, artists are now able to experiment with letting AI create different versions of a piece of art, freeing up the artists to spend more time creating original work.
Challenging players… but not too much
Beyond the immediate benefit of creating better art, Connolly said that there were other areas where OpenAI may improve gaming further into the future. 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 stated:
“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.
Of course, video game developers have always attempted to make AI programs for computer opponents that would provide the right difficulty for players. But the Immutable exec says that OpenAI provides a better approach when compared to the strategies used by developers in the past:
“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. The goal of the AI is, is it to win all the time? Is it to win about 50% of the time? Is it to win about 50% of the time against this player?’ [...] There's a lot of fuzziness and black box in the middle of that model, [...] 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 and GPT3 storytelling
One of the newest pieces of OpenAI software is Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer, also known as ChatGPT, which has already been used to create trading bots, blogs and even crypto songs.
In response to a question about whether Immutable is planning to use ChatGPT in its games, Connelly said that the team is only in the very early stages of considering it, given that it is so new. However, he did say that the team has been using a previous incarnation, GPT-3, to experiment with ways to create an AI narrator that will tell stories based on the plays that occur within a card game, as he explained:
“We think there are very cool storytelling opportunities with this technology. We've explored ideas such as, let's say, you're in a card game and you're playing cards getting GPT-3 to stitch that together into a story. […] No human could ever go along and write down a story that ties together the input for a whole game. It would just be impossible when we're talking about millions of games here, right?”
Despite this optimism, he warned that the team has run into some kinks when trying to implement this story narrator idea. 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. But, when we actually play, it confuses them [players] or it doesn't resonate directly with them. We're still finding the right balance between, how do we make sure that if we do this, it doesn't just create a lot of spam content? I think that's one thing where NFTs and gaming, there are some potential uses for reducing the amount of spam that gets produced or in introducing some costs there so that people are still able to have [...] 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. He also sees partner developers that are releasing items on Immutable X becoming increasingly interested in experimenting with OpenAI.
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In his opinion, Web3 studios tend to be the most enthusiastic about using these new technologies when compared to 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. For that reason, he expects that Web3 and NFT games will lead the way with these technologies in the future.