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AI in Gaming: Smarter and Intelligent Gaming Experience

With an estimate to hit the CAGR of 12% by 2025, the gaming industry is growing significantly. According to the reports, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Virtual Reality (VR) are an integral part of the global gaming industry. Moreover, it is assumed that almost $4.5 billion were spent by immersive gaming (a game with a real-like world) players in 2020 alone.

Though gaming is one such industry where AI set its footsteps a long time ago, let’s understand what is the role of AI in gaming.

What is AI in Gaming?

Since AI inculcates human intelligence into machines, making them function like humans and carry out actions like humans have changed the gaming industry drastically. With the application of artificial intelligence in gaming, now players encounter a realistic gaming experience on a virtual platform and showcase their skills to their full potential against an AI-based worthy opponent. For example, Mortal Kombat is a duo fighting game where the AI-based opponent learns your fighting skills and defends itself by foreseeing them beforehand, giving you a much more challenging environment to play in, underlining why AI is used in games.

However, AI in the gaming industry had existed even before the gaming industry gained its recognition. It was in the 1950s when the MiniMax algorithm was used to develop the chess game; it was the first example of how artificial intelligence is used in gaming. This algorithm worked on choosing the best possible move based on the contemporary board setting. ‘Donkey Kong’ was another example that used AI to enhance players’ difficulty levels.

Nevertheless, the use of AI in the gaming industry was still underdeveloped back then since the opponents repeated the same mistakes and were incapable of self-learning the gamer’s tactics. But things changed when AI gaming examples like GTA, Need for speed, etc., gave a new dimension to the gaming world. Today, with more advanced features and attributes, artificial intelligence in gaming has completely revolutionized the gaming experience.

Advantages of AI in Gaming

Here are a few advantages of AI in gaming:

Stimulates interest

Gaming is a pervasive recreational activity and a getaway from stressful and hectic life. After all, playing games helps in creating a sense of satisfaction and achievement. However, now the AI-based opponents are trained with a variety of styles and techniques, giving you a tough fight. 

As a result, you start getting involved in strategy building and brainstorming new tactics to defeat the opponent, who is way too powerful for predictive and straightforward gameplay styles. Moreover, it gives a realistic approach to the game. Hence, artificial intelligence in the gaming industry is giving an open and challenging platform for enthusiastic gamers to play at their full potential, therefore, stimulating emotions.

Developing smarter games

A new range of smarter games across a variety of genres is giving rise with the help of Artificial Intelligence. AI-based Voice Intelligence is one of the significant uses of artificial intelligence in game development. Also, AI can assist in planning and building a strong framework of gameplay. 

An excellent example of this would be, using the reinforcement learning technique of AI to make the game characters self-learn and function as per the designed surroundings. For instance, in ‘Assassin’s Creed’, the enemies self-learn the gamers attacking and defending strategies and attack back strategically when you as a player would be vulnerable or prone to damage.

More realistic games

The advancement of artificial intelligence and gaming has led to gameplays having interactive 3D visualizations and merging games with Augmented and Virtual Realities. 

It gives a realistic feeling, especially when games follow the laws of physics. Moreover, such gameplay is not only visually appealing, but they also give the gamers a feeling of living in a parallel world where they have the freedom to do what they want.

For example, ‘Grand Theft Auto’ is a widely popular game where the user experiences living in a whole new virtual city where you can roam, drive luxurious cars, go shopping, etc.

Ways to Implement AI in Games

Decision Trees

Decision Trees are the primary AI methods for designing games. These supervised learning models are used to predict and classify outcomes. They predict the outcome of the desired action done by the user by following simple decision-making rules based on the data that it gets, unlike the Narrative-based games that use DTs to proceed with one among their various alternative narratives depending on the actions of the gamer. 

With AI, it is easy to interpret results from Decision Trees (DTs) and display them with interactive visualizations. In AI-based gaming, for example, the game ‘Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order’ uses DTs to display hints of the past and future outcomes of the protagonist, given the specific circumstances you are in. So, you can now make a reasonable choice among the available options and direct the gameplay’s narrative in the way you want.

Neural Networks

Neural Networks can model a reality-based world and create complex gaming scenarios. Moreover, they cover up the limitations of basic AI techniques, self-learn, and adapt to the constantly changing gaming environments. 

The Neural Network algorithm interprets data in two ways. They are either manually trained through vast data and then launched in the game or learned in real-time during the gameplay through the live generated data. The latter helps in improving the gaming agents even while the game is played. They also help in controlling Non-Playable Characters (NPCs) and gaming environments.

Reinforcement Learning

This Machine Learning method functions based on trial and error. The model is trained by letting itself act on certain scenarios and self-learning based on good or bad outcomes from those actions. Then, the algorithm remembers the bad results and finds a way to avoid them in further steps.

This technique is quite beneficial in designing Non-Playable Characters (NPCs) and enhancing their decision-making skills when they are put in new environments. Games are the primary targets for testing reinforcement training because this technique has been in practice for a long time. Many computer players use  AlphaGo, which is a popular reinforcement training algorithm. However, this technique cannot be a stand-alone for high-end games. Hence, AlphaGo plays a supporting role in many AI techniques, such as Deep Learning.

Genetic Algorithm

It is an advanced-level technique that is based on the theory of natural evolution. Just like the rule of natural selection, this algorithm chooses the most suitable candidates to advance them to the next level. This technique is used in tasks that require accuracy and hence is known for generating exceptional outcomes in multicriteria scenarios. 

GAs was earlier used in board games to perform the best moves for the gamer opponent. The widely used application of GAs is to learn the most repetitive but efficient tactics used by gamers and defend themselves against such tactics. Eventually, this makes the gameplay more challenging and realistic, as it covers many loopholes that the players will no longer be able to exploit through repeated steps that guarantee victory in games. Hence, GAs help in extending the gameplay and making it more unpredictable and long-lasting.

AI and Gaming Development

Image Enhancement

Image Enhancement simply means transforming 3D visualizations and graphics into photorealistic images. For example, locations in the popular Grand Theft Auto is one such use of AI in gaming. The AI engineers deployed in the Deep Learning system use the trained neural network algorithm, and they transform a mere synthetic image of places like LA and California into a realistic depiction. 

Also, AI upscaling enhances the games’ graphics and makes them more playable. It is the process where a low-resolution image is converted into a similar-looking image but with many pixels. 

Procedural Content Generation (PCG)

These refer to a variety of AI-based methods that give rise to vast open-world environments, unique levels, and many other gaming elements. This is challenging and a promising advancement in the application of AI in gaming. Many popular games are based on open-world gameplay. ‘Need for Speed’ is one such game belonging to the ‘racing’ genre, which uses this technique to generate new race tracks, safe houses, garages, etc.

Players have the freedom to explore and discover new landscapes. Development and design of such games require a lot of time and resources if done manually. However, the applications of AI in gaming itself build new and unique scenarios depending on the game’s status. ‘Subway Surfers’ game is also a rather good example of how AI has changed the gaming world and created more challenging environments as the user progresses through it.

Interactive Narratives

AI has even proved itself to have a creative mind as it is also used for generating new stories and narratives. Such games are pretty unique where the narrative of the game lies in the hands of the gamer. They can impact the storyline through their choices, words, or actions. 

Natural Language Processing is one such AI technique that is used to analyze text and give rise to new scenarios based on past learned storylines. For example, the game ‘AI Dungeon 2’ works on an open-source text generator that OpenAI develops. The source of the training data for this game is through many adventure books.

Making Non-Playable Characters (NPCs) smarter

Most of the games use pre-programmed NPCs, which play the role of opponents. Now, AI is being used to bring authenticity and intelligence to such NPCs. It also helps NPCs respond to specific scenarios and conditions in games in unique ways. This will make them more unpredictable, challenging, and enjoyable opponents. 

Also, generating AI-based NPCs will save the time and resources of coding and developing pre-programmed NPCs. For example, in the game ‘Grand Theft Auto’, the NPCs fight back when you trouble them, or some even call up the cops to arrest you.

Future of AI in Gaming

AI plays an influential role in boosting the craze and taking the gaming industry by storm. Currently, there are complex AI techniques that are assisting in conducting in-depth analysis and outcome predictions for a game, along with the decision-making processes. Moreover, recent games have already programmed gameplay storylines that are enacted based on the user’s decision.  However, in the future, AI will be able to create its own game storyline based on how you direct your choices and answer your characters.

The primary motive of AI was to enhance users’ gaming experience by giving unique interactive interfaces. However, given how AI is evolving, it won’t come as a surprise if the Speech recognition feature is incorporated into gaming. Users then will be able to speech inputs, and the character could interpret it and react accordingly. Not just that, AI can also bring certain advancements in the future where you can entirely be a part of the virtual world that is happening in the game. You could interact with the gaming characters and gaming elements at a one-on-one level. In other words, you might also be able to feel the sensations occurring in the game.

Therefore, it isn’t difficult to understand how artificial intelligence has and will influence future video games. Not just that, AI is now used for offering customized solutions to business problems. 

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