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Add AI NPCs to your 2024 game jam games

Inworld Team
December 07, 2023
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This is Part 3 of our three part series helping devs prepare for 2024 game jams. Read Part 1, which looks at the best 2024 game jam events, and Part 2, which helps you brainstorm for game jam ideas. 

Looking for something that will make your 2024 game jam project stand out? How about challenging yourself or your team to learn and implement cool new tech? 

Leveraging AI NPCs in game jams might just be the thing you need to make your game jam submission earn the respect and admiration of voters or judges. Indie games and mods with AI NPCs are everywhere right now. Maybe you played the Skyrim or the Bannerlord AI NPC mods that got so much buzz over the last year. Or maybe you saw NetEase’s Cygnus Enterprises presentation at Devcom and got excited about the possibilities of implementing the tech. 

With Xbox’s announcement in November of its co-development partnership with Inworld to create AI tools to power NPCs, you’re about to see a lot more AI NPCs in game worlds you love. But how can you implement the technology into your games in innovative ways? And how can you use AI NPCs to create truly novel game concepts, mechanics, and game narratives? Game jams are a great opportunity to experiment! 

This post is your ultimate guide to maximizing your implementation of AI NPCs in your 2024 game jams. We’ll help you come up with ideas for how to incorporate them into your game before diving into the nitty-gritty of integrating AI NPCs into game jam projects (the good news is it’s easy and fast!).

What can you do with AI NPCs in game jams?

Integrating generative AI-powered NPCs into game jam projects can transform genres, deliver innovative mechanics, and generate fresh storytelling possibilities – all within the short timeframe you’re allotted in the jam. 

Revolutionize a genre

Use AI NPCs to upend conventions in a specific genre – or take it to the next level.  

  • In a fantasy RPG, you could introduce AI NPCs who have evolving personalities and their own goals, shifting how players need to approach interacting with NPCs and alliance building.
  • In a survival horror game, AI NPCs could dynamically adapt to a player's fear level as determined by their interactions, creating a truly personalized horror experience. The AI could adjust the intensity of scares and alter the storyline, providing an unprecedented level of unpredictability.

Use AI NPCs as a game mechanic

Implement AI-generated characters as a pivotal gameplay element. 

  • Use the relationships players build with AI NPCs as a game mechanic. Gaining an NPC’s trust could trigger a clue or quest – or get them to join you against an impending zombie invasion. With Inworld’s Relationships feature this would be easy to implement. 
  • Implement voice commands for in-game actions. For example, allow players to tell their companion NPCs to help fight off bad guys or gather resources. 

Integrate into core game loops

Weave AI NPCs into the game's core loops, altering progression or narrative based on NPC interactions. 

  • Create dynamic quest givers that choose to give quests based on the player’s interests, progress, or choices. 
  • Consider an adventure game where AI NPCs evolve in response to player choices, impacting the storyline and world state dynamically.

Use AI NPCs to create a twist on the game jam theme

You don’t want your game jam submission to be too similar to the other projects. Get creative and deploy AI NPCs in a way that interprets the game jam's theme in a truly surprising fashion. 

  • If the game jam theme is ‘Time,’ for example, you might decide to add in AI NPCs of famous figures in history who play a dual role of helping the player in the game – and teaching them about history. 
  • If the theme is ‘Space Exploration,’ you could create humorous alien AI NPCs with unpredictable behaviors or personalities that subvert our traditional conception of aliens.

Create a funny character

No one has time to write comprehensive dialogue trees filled with witty repartee or biting one-liners during a game jam. AI NPCs can help you create quirky and entertaining characters that bring humor to the game. One great example of this is The Almighty Ruler, an easter egg character added to Origins who sees robot ghosts. 

  • Create an AI NPC that parodies well-known stereotypes about game characters. This NPC could lampoon common gaming tropes, adding refreshing humor to your game jam entry. 
  • Craft AI NPCs that deliver dialogue that’s unexpected, absurd, or nonsensical. Characters might respond in bizarre ways to player interactions, creating an unexpected and amusing experience. 

Preparing for your game jam using AI NPCs

If you’re considering using AI NPCs in your game jams, you’ll want to prepare in advance so that you won’t be implementing them for the first time when you have only 48 hours to create a game and the clock’s ticking down. 

Play games that feature AI NPCs

A significant part of great game development is market research. You’ll want to test out a few games with AI NPCs in them to see how others have deployed the tech. That will potentially spark ideas around how you could incorporate them into your game jam project. Here are some games to try out: 

  • Origins: Origins is a technical demo created by Oscar-winner John Gaeta (The Matrix) where players investigate an explosion that occurred in a robot laboratory by questioning AI NPCs. 
  • Cygnus Enterprises: An Action RPG Shooter game with base management gameplay elements, the sarcastic companion character PEA is powered by Inworld’s Character Engine. PEA acts on voice commands, warns you of upcoming risks, and can answer any question you have about the game world.
  • Wol: Want to build an augmented reality generative AI game as your game jam project? Wol is a cute owl that can transform your space into a redwood forest. He’s ready to teach you about the forest and its ecosystem. 
  • Skyrim mod: Popular modder Bloc created a mod that transforms Skyrim NPCs into AI NPCs you can talk to voice-to-voice.  
  • Mount & Blade 2 - Bannerlord mod: Bloc also created an AI NPC mod for Mount & Blade 2. The mod allows players to have unscripted conversations with any NPC in the game world.

Read up on how others have used AI NPCs in games

Playing a game with AI NPCs is one key way to do research – but learning from other developers who have implemented them is also important. 

  • Niantic and Liquid City: Learn how they created Wol in augmented reality with AI NPCs.
  • NetEase’s Team Miaozi: Learn how they implemented AI NPCs into Cygnus Enterprises.
  • Vaudeville: Learn how AI NPCs helped get a small indie studio $300,000 in free publicity,
  • MageCosmos: Learn how one social sim was about to increase playtime by 5% with AI NPCs. 

Play with the tech beforehand

Before your game jam starts, you should spend time playing around in Inworld Studio creating characters and implementing them in your favorite game engine via our SDKs.  

Tips for designing AI NPCs for your game jams

Designing great AI characters doesn’t have to take a lot of time – but there is a bit of an art to doing it well. Here are our top tips for how to create great AI NPCs for your game jam project. 

Tip 1: Watch our Character Creation Bootcamp

Tip 2: Read our Docs for our Studio

Our Studio Docs are filled with great tips for each part of the character creation process to ensure you create characters exactly as you envision them. We also have a Frequently Asked Questions section with tips for how to create characters for very specific use cases. 

Tip 3: Check out of Character Spotlights

To help our users, we shared what we inputted into our Studio fields to create some of our favorite characters. 

Tip 4: Auto-generate a character and then tweak the description

You can save precious game jam time by writing a brief character description and choosing the auto-generate option in Inworld’s Studio. It will fill out our character description fields for you – then you can tweak what’s in the fields to customize the character exactly as you want. 

Tip 5: Test the character 

AI NPCs often need to be tweaked a bit to ensure that they give the answers you want them to and they have the personality you expected them to have. Use the Chat feature in Studio to test your character and then make changes to your character description until you’re happy with the responses you’re getting! 

Implementing AI NPCs in your game jam project

Implementing AI NPCs into your project is so easy one game studio had their intern do it. We have a number of resources to help you integrate AI NPCs into your game – and troubleshoot for any problems you encounter. 

Tip 1: Watch the Tutorial relevant to you

The best way to get started with AI NPCs, is to watch a tutorial showing you how to integrate them. Here are some tutorials you might want to check out!  

Unity

Web

Eighth Wall

Tip 2: Get help from our docs

If you prefer to read rather than watch – or if you have additional questions – check out our Docs to learn more about our different integrations and SDKs. 

Tip 3: Ask for help in Discord

Are you stumped or need help troubleshooting? Your best bet is to join our Discord and ask for help. Members of the Inworld team and community will be able to help you overcome whatever challenge you’re experiencing – so you can deliver your game jam project on time! 

Ready to implement AI NPCs in your game? 

If you want to implement AI NPCs in your 2024 game jam project, get started learning about and implementing AI NPCs today! Sign up for Inworld’s Studio, read our Docs, or join our Discord.

Also, be sure to check out Part 1 of our 2024 game jam series that features a calendar of the best 2024 game jam events and Part 2 which covers how to come up with the best game jam ideas.

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