As games become more and more advanced, players have had to step up their game in order to keep up with new technologies, and now Activision seems to be making new technology to keep up with players. According to a new patent filed by Activision, along with an older one from 2014, they seem to be working on using player data in order to create NPCs and bots for players to fight against in multiplayer games.
The details of the new patent, titled "System and Method for Transparently Styling Non-Player Characters in a Multiplayer Video Game", state that the current technology is an extension of an earlier piece of software that was first filed on December 16th. 2014. So it seems as though Activision has been working on this for some time, which makes a lot of sense considering how long advanced AI software takes to fine tune.
The way that these NPCs are going to be created is what is setting off alarms. By using player information, including play styles, preferred maps and weapons, and even player skill levels the software in the patent will be able to create NPCs that play more like humans of all skill levels from casual to pro esports players and less like standard AI controlled bots. Although, it's how names and background information will be generated that sparks the most concern with players, due to the way that the patent claims this new technology can create profile information out of player screennames and geological information.
According to Activision, their intent is to create NPCs that blur the line between human and computer, allowing players to fight against and with bots without them ever realizing that there isn't another person on the other end. While some companies have been working on allowing players to sharpen their multiplayer skills on bots, Activision seems to be looking to fill in slots in multiplayer rosters. The result would be shorter wait times for multiplayer matchmaking, giving players a more fluid experience from one game to the next and making sure that no team winds up having more players than the others.
While the scope of the new technology is concerning, there is little to worry in the case of privacy violations since the patent doesn't claim to take any information that users haven't already given out willingly. Making character profiles out of player information does initially feel pretty negative, but aside from awkwardly finding a similar screenname in a multiplayer game with a familiar flag next to it, there isn't much for players to be concerned about when it comes to personal privacy. Additionally, adding advanced, lifelike AI-controlled players to multiplayer could make finding matches in upcoming Activision games easier regardless of a games popularity, as well as timezone and regional limitations.
How companies use player information, such as selling to advertisers, is a huge privacy concern, so some may find it unnerving to hear that Activision is planning on running their information through a complex technology like the one described in the patent. While the specifics of this patent might not be a huge cause for concern, it could be the beginning of a slippery slope.