The popularity of open-world games has grown over the last few years. Much of this is due to their immersive worlds, which tend to be so vast that players could spend hours just walking around enjoying the slightest details. Some of these include games such as The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Elden Ring, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and many others. But, with a massive and immersive world, comes the need for non-playable characters, or NPCs, who are a valuable aspect of open-world games and this is where Ghostwriter comes in.
For many who are outside of the gaming industry, the chatter is just that, background noise that helps your mind believe it’s in another world. But those bits of random dialogue, which are said when a player passes, or “barks” have to be individually written by staff working on each gaming project. And with video games becoming more complex, think Cyberpunk 2077, and even more immersive, creating the chatter needed in the background can become quite time-consuming.
In a single game, this could mean hundreds, if not thousands of barks per game. That’s labor that could be used elsewhere to address bugs or reduce what’s called crunch time. So to address this issue, Ubisoft, the maker of popular open-world gaming series like Assassin’s Creed and Watch Dogs, has developed a machine learning tool called Ghostwriter. Ghostwriter is designed to generate first drafts of barks, saving game writers time and allowing them to focus on other aspects of game development.
The way it works is simple. Narrative writers input the character and type of interaction they are looking to create within Ghostwriter. From what’s given to the machine learning tool, it then produces variations, each with two slightly different options, for writers to review. As the writers make edits to the drafts, the Ghostwriter will update the results. This will ideally produce more tailored options moving forward.
Ubisoft touts Ghostwriter as an “AI” tool, but like many similar tools, the question is how to get people to actually use it. According to Ben Swanson, the R&D scientist at Ubisoft who created Ghostwriter, the biggest challenge now is integrating the tool into production. To better facilitate this, the production team created Ernestine, a back-end tool that facilitates anyone to create new machine learning models in Ghostwriter.
Ubisoft isn’t the first studio looking to artificial intelligence to both assist labor and improve immersion within a game. Last year, Activision-Blizzard filed a patent for a machine learning tool that would generate music for a player based on the environment they were in, their playstyle, and their storyline. With the tool, like with Ubisoft, they’re hoping to improve player immersion and experience overall.
If you’re curious about Ghostwriter, check out the video below from Ubisoft’s official YouTube channel: