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How Is AI Disrupting the Online Gaming Industry?

Online gaming
Published on Dec 13, 2020

Online gaming is gaining ground exponentially with the proliferation of technology. The global online gaming industry is thriving despite the economic disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Some remarkable transformations have taken place in the gaming industry in the last two decades. The introduction of games such as PlayStation VR by Sony and Fortnight by Epic Games has led to the creation of a virtual space for people to socialize, bringing virtual reality in high definition to our living rooms.  

Social distancing norms have prompted individuals across the world to engage with new forms of entertainment. Online video gaming has been the perfect distraction for people looking for social interaction in the lockdown period, resulting in massive growth in playing time and sales.  

AI in gaming industry 

Artificial intelligence has been an integral part of the gaming industry since decades. Game developers have used this advanced technology in numerous ways such as using ‘pathfinding’, to find a way from one point to the other. The basic logic behind video games has been the same since video games came into the picture; now there are several modern ways the gaming industry uses AI.  

Artificial intelligence (AI) in games isn’t a recent innovation. In 1949, Claude Shannon, a cryptographer, had the impressive idea to create a one-player chess game (with computer on the other side). In 1992, Wolfenstein 3D was made public, which worked on the FSM (Finite State Machine) algorithm. In this algorithm, every possible situation was pre-programmed into the bot.   

These days, online games come packed with multiple AI processes and in-built programmes. The gaming software is programmed in such a way that it pretends to be human while simultaneously creating a virtual world without any human intervention. The prime motive of utilizing artificial intelligence in gaming is to provide a realistic gaming experience to people battling against each other in a virtual space. An example of such hyper-realistic game is Red Dead Redemption 2 by Rockstar, which allows players to engage with other non-playable characters in multiple ways, producing different reactions according to the situation.  

The gaming industry is increasingly blending with experiences from the real-world such as Disney World, movies and online media such as The Lego Movie, or merchandise such as Crazy Birds etc. The monetization opportunities are immense and will continue to grow with the addition of smart and immersive games powered by AI. 

AI revolutionizing online gaming 

In order to recreate the situations of reality in the gaming world, AI algorithms must be fed with chunks of big data. Most online video games such as shooting games, racing car games, or strategy games have multiple components that are AI-powered. For example – enemy bots or other characters in the game. Additionally, AI in games increases a player’s interest and keeps him/her hooked to the game for a longer period.  

Game development and artificial intelligence are growing through each other in several ways. Other than bringing life to online video games, AI is also being used in games to study its own pattern to improve the algorithm. This is helping AI to develop further. Although augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality are emerging technologies in the gaming industry, AI is playing an equally significant role in making the games smarter and more interactive – being realistic as much as possible. 

Advancement in technology 

In the last two years, the pace of adoption of emerging technologies such as machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) etc. has accelerated. Just like other industries, the gaming industry has also been on the forefront to espouse these technologies to improve games. This tectonic shift has enabled the games to create their own environment and mechanics where AI is responsible for personalising scenarios and throwing spontaneous challenges for the players. With AI in picture, there is no need for pre-scripted plots.  

With huge improvements in the technology (cloud, ultra-powerful graphics cards, rendering algorithms, VR/headsets, processors), artificial intelligence now has a strong ground to build itself upon. Here are 5 ways in which AI is changing the landscape of online gaming 

Online games are smarter than ever 

In addition to scripting, several gaming AIs and heuristic algorithms are developed which control non-playable characters. These characters learn from the actions of the player and modify their behaviour accordingly. Future games are expected to have robust systems that can understand in-game sounds, speech and noise and react to it accordingly. To achieve this, pattern recognition and reinforcement learning must be incorporated so that characters can self-learn and evolve behaviour accordingly. Few modern AI techniques can be seen in commercial games such as F.E.A.R, The Sims, Façade, Spore, Black & White.  

Games are becoming more realistic 

The incorporation of virtual and augmented reality along with AI in gaming has contributed significantly to the growth of 3D visualization techniques. Game developers are increasingly turning towards artificial intelligence to resolve the challenges being faced in reality resemblance and enhancement of the overall look of the games. Games in the future will have the capability to analyse the situation and choose the most ideal alternative in real-time. This indeed seems too good to be true as no-one had envisioned this becoming a reality a decade ago. 

Enhancement of gaming experience 

Visually appealing games coupled with high-quality graphics provide an enhanced gaming experience. These days, gaming enthusiasts give serious attention to the type of graphics used in a game as well as the minor details that contribute to the whole look of the game. To ensure that the game feels immersive and realistic, gaming developers concentrate highly while working on the graphics and visual appearance. Real-time customization of scenarios through artificial intelligence, when combined with great gaming experience, keeps the players glued to the game.  

Increase in mobile gaming 

According to a report by Statista, in 2020, smartphone devices generated $63.6 billion in global revenue. Industry experts predicted that this year individuals across the world would spend approximately 670 billion hours (TechZone360) collectively, playing games on their mobile devices. That is a significant jump as compared to 2019, where people spent around 558 billion hours playing games on their mobile phones (TechZone360). The capability of the mobile phones to process these highly interactive games is also increasing and now people do not have to just depend on gaming consoles for an immersive gaming experience.  AI developers are using advanced algorithms and machine learning frameworks such Google’s TensorFlow Lite and Facebook’s Caffe2 to program these online games for mobile. 

Read more: 40% surge in the time spent on online games on mobile devices – the future of Online Gaming

Transformation in developer skills 

While the basics of game development is known to the developers, it is also crucial that they constantly keep skilling up on AI techniques and brainstorm on ways to make games smarter, immersive, and realistic. These intelligent games are a result of the strong technical skills and creativity the game developers possess. Due to the proliferation of technology, there is increased awareness about the high-demand skills of the future. People are now, more than ever interested in sharpening their skills to change the way we know online gaming.  

Summing up 

The gaming industry is one of the most in-demand industries today. Gone are the days when people looked at games just as a source of entertainment. Now, people take gaming seriously. The gaming community is growing day by day along with the modern gaming technology, powered by AI, evolving games continuously. There is an obvious increase in the demand for more immersive, interactive, smart, and intelligent games. The rate at which artificial intelligence is evolving, is providing innumerable opportunities to the game developers to display their talent. According to Associate Professor at New York University’s department of computer science and engineering, Julian Togelius, there would be a significant shift in the way we think about games when intelligent software systems would be in full control. This technology will help curate tailored experiences that would be both dynamic and evergreen.