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News, Thinking

Mobile Games are the Future, but could the Future of Mobile Games Could Be Story-Driven Games with AI Characters?

Spirit AI’s Character Engine v0.6 adds support for mobile, which means that we make it easier to create mobile games featuring dynamic, powerful, AI-driven NPCs, or even apps featuring responsive and naturalistic digital assistants. What does this mean for the future of mobile games and apps?

Article by Mitu Khandaker | January 18, 2018

“Mobile gaming is about to get even bigger”, according to Sky News today, reporting that smartphone and tablet gaming is expected to account for half the money generated by the world’s video game industry within 2 years.

There are plenty of reasons cited for this growth, and certainly, the ability to pick up and play over short bursts of time is one of those. A particularly interesting iteration of this kind of play are those games which mirror the other kind of interaction we have with phones in this way — texting with people.

One of my personal favourite games of last year was the amazing Bury Me, My Love — which cites as an inspiration one of my other favourite games of this type, Lifeline.

Bury Me, My Love is a beautiful, haunting story told through text messages between husband and wife Majd and Nour. The characters and their dynamic was, for anyone who has ever texted with a loved one while they’re away, uncomfortably relatable at times.

Screenshot from Bury Me, My Love (2017)

The player chooses how Majd responds to Nour through limited input options, and she will respond accordingly, when she can, as she leaves to try to journey from Syria to Europe. Of course, these limited input options are there to characterize Majd and give us a sense of who he is and what he is thinking; if we were able to type absolutely anything in this context, we wouldn’t quite have a sense of stepping into someone else’s’ shoes and learning their motivations. We are, as in many games, half ourselves, and half the character that we are embodying.

What is also particularly compelling about Bury Me, My Love — just like Lifeline — is the way in which the story plays out over pseudo-real-time. You have a short burst of back-and-forth with Nour, then she doesn’t respond for a while, until you — the real you — is busy doing something else, then you get a notification. It perfectly inhabits the relationship we already have to notifications, and to our phones.

As mobile games continues to flourish and are embraced by even wider audiences, this format is one that also has the potential to flourish.

It will be exciting to see games like this — and other, very different games and apps, which are still nevertheless all about deep, meaningful relationships and conversations with characters. To that, end this is why our Spirit Character Engine and SDK for Unity now supports creating Android builds, with iOS soon to follow.

We hope this will support developers who want to build games in which players are able to type naturally to characters as if they are texting them — and receive unique, dynamic responses back, with a rich understanding of context and meaning.

text me

Alternatively, using our dynamic menus feature, players could also choose from a range of input options generated on the fly. We can imagine other games much like Bury Me, My Love, where we have a strong sense of the characters we’re talking to, but also, of the character we are inhibiting, by offering dynamic menu input which is still limited based on the context the character is currently in, and what they are thinking. Think about Majd talking to an expressive AI version of Nour, and where the range of what you (he) can respond with is even more richly context-dependent.

Using the Authoring Tool, create the narrative space and knowledge base for characters to improvise upon.

At Spirit, many of us are definitely fans of story-driven mobile games with deep characters and would love to see more of them. The mobile games market continues to grow exponentially, and so we hope these kinds of games will too.

Spirit AI’s Character Engine is an Authoring Tool and an SDK, which can be installed to easily to create digital characters. This technology can also be used beyond games, of course — with the ability to act within a narrative agenda, and work according to previous interactions, Character Engine goes beyond the usual digital assistants. To find out more about Character Engine on mobile, please get in touch with us!

Our Conversation Sandbox testing environment, running on an Android device.

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