ChatGPT isn’t perfect, but the popular AI chatbot’s access to large language models (LLM) means it can do a lot of things you might not expect, like give all of Tamriel’s NPC inhabitants the ability to hold natural conversations and answer questions about the iconic fantasy world. Uncanny, yes. But it’s a prescient look at how games might one day use AI to reach new heights in immersion.
YouTuber ‘Art from the Machine’ released a video showing off how they modded the much beloved VR version of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
The mod, which isn’t available yet, ostensibly lets you hold conversations with NPCs via ChatGPT and xVASynth, an AI tool for generating voice acting lines using voices from video games.
Check out the results in the most recent update below:
The latest version of the project introduces Skyrim scripting for the first time, which the developer says allows for lip syncing of voices and NPC awareness of in-game events. While still a little rigid, it feels like a pretty big step towards climbing out of the uncanny valley.
Here’s how ‘Art from the Machine’ describes the project in a recent Reddit post showcasing their work:
A few weeks ago I posted a video demonstrating a Python script I am working on which lets you talk to NPCs in Skyrim via ChatGPT and xVASynth. Since then I have been working to integrate this Python script with Skyrim’s own modding tools and I have reached a few exciting milestones:
NPCs are now aware of their current location and time of day. This opens up lots of possibilities for ChatGPT to react to the game world dynamically instead of waiting to be given context by the player. As an example, I no longer have issues with shopkeepers trying to barter with me in the Bannered Mare after work hours. NPCs are also aware of the items picked up by the player during conversation. This means that if you loot a chest, harvest an animal pelt, or pick a flower, NPCs will be able to comment on these actions.
NPCs are now lip synced with xVASynth. This is obviously much more natural than the floaty proof-of-concept voices I had before. I have also made some quality of life improvements such as getting response times down to ~15 seconds and adding a spell to start conversations.
When everything is in place, it is an incredibly surreal experience to be able to sit down and talk to these characters in VR. Nothing takes me out of the experience more than hearing the same repeated voice lines, and with this no two responses are ever the same. There is still a lot of work to go, but even in its current state I couldn’t go back to playing without this.
You might notice the actual voice prompting the NPCs is also fairly robotic too, although ‘Art from the Machine’ says they’re using speech-to-text to talk to the ChatGPT 3.5-driven system. The voice heard in the video is generated from xVASynth, and then plugged in during video editing to replace what they call their “radio-unfriendly voice.”
And when can you download and play for yourself? Well, the developer says publishing their project is still a bit of a sticky issue.
“I haven’t really thought about how to publish this, so I think I’ll have to dig into other ChatGPT projects to see how others have tackled the API key issue. I am hoping that it’s possible to alternatively connect to a locally-run LLM model for anyone who isn’t keen on paying the API fees.”
Serving up more natural NPC responses is also an area that needs to be addressed, the developer says.