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Skyrim Mod Utilizes AI to Make NPCs More Autonomous

by Jennifer Locke

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Much of Skyrim’s longevity is owed to its mod-heavy community. From the more ordinary like graphical enhancements and unofficial patches to the wackier mods that turn Alduin into Thomas the Tank Engine, Skyrim continues to provide countless hours of enjoyment thanks to dedicated modders. Recently, one new mod aims to make its NPCs more autonomous and dynamic.

Computer science researchers at North Carolina State University and Universidade de Lisboa have created a new tool for Skyrim that uses social behavior models to make NPCs more reactive and adaptable to player behavior. The tool, called CIF-CK, is an artificial intelligence architecture program that allows for more variability in the gameplay.

“Most games now rely on scripts to govern NPC behavior,” said Arnav Jhala, an associate professor of computer science at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the work. “In other words, there are decision trees that dictate an NPC’s response to whatever the player is doing. That’s fairly limiting, and means that any two players that make the same decisions will have the same interactions with NPCs. We want to move beyond that, to a more immersive gaming experience. And Skyrim was the game we started with.”

The mod is currently available on the Steam Comminuty website under the name “Social NPCs” to see how well it performed when used by players. With over 7,000 subscribers, the response has been positive so far. Jhala hopes that this demonstrates tools like CIF-CK can be implemented on a large scale, and the team would like to work with gaming companies in the future to incorporate a similar approach into their development processes.

In other modding news, a mod adding Bruma to Skyrim was finally released last month as part of an effort to bring the various provinces of Tamriel to the beloved RPG.

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