Why video games are going to be the most popular social media and AI’s role in this transition.

Within the last decade, video games have become indicative of the rapid growth of mainstream technology. The advancements being made within game engines and internet connections and platforms have allowed a viral spread of multiplayer video games, connecting people from many different places.

Furthermore, game engines today are no longer exclusively related to games, they are used in a number of fields for various purposes. Examples of these external applications include simulating healthcare environments, creating self-driving vehicles, and building mobile applications.

As many other giant tech companies, video game and video game software’s companies aim to collect a large amount of data in order to improve the quality of their products. Because of this, some of the latest developments in gaming, including XR applications seem to be merging with AI technology and data collection.

Data collection and Artificial Intelligence algorithms together seem to become always more accurate and looking at this specific scenario, the main reason for this advancement is the persistent interaction of the audience within the platform.

1.0 AI as a BOT : AI as Automation vs AI as Prediction

For any novice video game maker, one of the fundamental concepts of game design is called NPC, which stands for Non-Player-Character. The Non-Player-Character performs tasks for the Main-Player-Character. For example, in Star Wars: The Old Republic, a game by Electronic Arts, the main player’s companion is an AI controlled NPC that collects resources for him.

The traditional concept of AI in video games is not to be confused with what the general research of AI is today or with the current investigation of it within the realm in video games. A good example moving towards this new direction is integrated in Super Mario Smash Bros Ultimate by Nintendo.

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Img. 1 “Super Mario Smash Bros Ultimate”Training Mode - Source : Nintendo

“In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, if you set the CPU to level 9 and set it to attack, rather than fighting aggressively, you can train the CPU (the CPU needs to be the same character as you or it will not understand.) to teach it tricks. (Such as short hopping into an aerial attack). It will then use these tricks in VS mode and will never forget them unless you delete the saved data. Training one character will not teach the other characters, you have to train all of them, unfortunately.” SuperSmashBros.Fandom [Online Community]

This model by Nintendo starts addressing the notion of more interactive game play and more developed skills in Non-Player-Characters, where they grow with you as a player within the game.

On the other hand, in the latest matchmaking system of Fortnite, and as your skill improves, you’ll face fewer AI Bots and start facing more real players.

2.0 AI as data manager : Data collections in social media and video games

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Img.3 Insight tabs. On the left insight tab of Instagram and on the right the insight tab of Unity Analytics. Sources: Unity

The reason why games and social media platforms are starting to be more in conversation with each other is summarized in the images shown above. They are representative of the data that a user collects throughout the time spent on a social media or gaming platform.

The more time spent on the platform, the more data is collected, and, therefore, better and more accurate predictions are made. This also comes with a greater chance to monetize the user’s actions.

Indeed, social media already structured a hierarchy both between and dependent on the users joining the platform. More followers means more power and allowances from the verification of the account and dictates the amount of reach said user has.

Social media companies deliberately employ their users by shaping them and reshaping the main algorithm of the platform accordingly.

Currently massive multiplayer games apply a similar model for their users, in addition to the spatial simulations already embedded in the game. A very good business tool that earned a lot of popularity in the last year is the so called Battle Pass, where the player has a period of time to accomplish specific missions and acquire rewards through in-game purchases and unlocks. That is to say, the focus in games has shifted toward a massive networking system where the main goal is to capture the attention and amount of usage by each player.

With 350 million registered accounts, Fortnite is the 9th most played game in history and is considered one of the most influential battle royale style games of all times. Fortnite made a large change in the world of video games by becoming a mainstream activity, making it so gaming is no longer something that people considered “gamers” do exclusively.

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Img.4 Travis Scott’s Astronomical Premier from epicgames.com

Travis Scott’s Astronomical Premier that was streamed from April 24 to April 27, 2020 on Fortnite is an example of a new type of event in the world of gaming.

The American rapper, impersonated by his own avatar, performed his most famous songs exclusively for all of the Fortnite players within the game. Since its creation by Epic Games, Fortnite’s strength has always been the wide merchandising and collaborations included in the game. As senior analyst , Kuldeep points out in the article Top 5 Fortnite collaborations Ever by SportsKeeda :

Epic Games have done a phenomenal job when it comes to branding and collaborations, keeping the game fun and relevant in the process.”

Fortnite collaborations include Nerff, Marshmallow, Marvel, NFL and more.

The expansion and collaborations of Fortnite have been strongly dictated by its audience, and without data collection it would have not been possible. The game is successful because of its desire to understand its players and evolve based on their wishes.

In Fortnite: How Artificial Intelligence And Analytics Make It More Fun Bernard Marr writes :

“Much of Epic’s infrastructure supporting Fortnite is built on Amazon’s AWS cloud service, and the company’s director of platform, Chris Dyl, told AWS Summit in New York ‘We use the data for everything, from ARPU (average revenue per user) to game analysis and improvements.’

At peak times, the Fortnite analytics pipeline ingests 40gb of data every minute into the Epic data lake, that as of last year was reported to stand at 14 petabytes in size, and to be growing by two petabytes a month.

The precise details of how data is used to improve game play and drive player engagement are kept under wraps. But tools and services related to data analytics that it is known to use include Amazon S3, the Apache Spark cluster computing framework, and the Tableau visualization software.

As with other GaaS (Game as a Service) operations, it is likely that Epic uses their data to balance game play within Fortnite’s “battle royale” tournaments — free-for-all skirmishes where 100 players compete to be the last man or woman standing in an ever-shrinking arena.

Additionally, design decisions such as the implementation of new gameplay modes will be based on what is learned about the types of battle that are popular with the user base.”

3.0 AI as a possibility to redefine interactivity : Predictions using Reinforced Learning in video games

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Img.5 A Unity Machine Learning Starter Project where some simple cubic bots are learning how to balance a sphere on top of their head

Unity is one of the first game companies that created a beta version accessible workflow to integrate AI into the activity of game making. Unity made templates and tools, and the company positioned itself as a pioneer of the first wave of the new generation using AI in games. The most used technique is the one of Reinforced Learning where bots can be trained through a series of rewards once a task is accomplished.

The ambition of Unity is enormous and even if AI and games seem to be beneficial to one another, we are still far from seeing AI bots acting like normal players.

If we allow ourselves to speculate, virtual environments are spaces where players are somehow “living”, and the data that can be gathered by players is endless. The 40 GB of data per minute that Chris Dyl, director of Epic Games, is an incredible amount of information that can be collected and shared through Amazon services.

350 million players collected 40 GB of data per minute since 2017.

Nevertheless, Reinforcement Learning is the new automation tool in video games and because of its dynamic nature, it’s very hard to understand how this could begin to be shaped into something different.

In What is reinforcement learning? The complete guide Konrad Budek writes.

“So, Is reinforcement learning the future of machine learning? Although reinforcement learning, deep learning, and machine learning are interconnected no one of them in particular is going to replace the others. Yann LeCun, the renowned French scientist and head of research at Facebook, jokes that reinforcement learning is the cherry on a great AI cake with machine learning the cake itself and deep learning the icing. Without the previous iterations, the cherry would top nothing.”

Through this reflection, we can see the current way to read video games as a simulated environment collecting data. It really seems like there is nothing left to do besides gather more and more data, and make it as accurate as possible. But how can we make it more accurate and more “human” ?

In order to understand the personality of a player, the virtual environment should be fitted to each player, just as regular environments are molded to people in their everyday lives.

Big tech companies such as Facebook, are already trying to gather the “next level of data”,getting further and further into the lives of individual users. Some of the most striking examples are:

Img.6 Real-time Human Pose Estimation in the Browser using TensorFlow.js by Tensorflow on medium.com

4.0 AI in XR

Since many major tech companies are consistently investing more and more in gaming and with it all the associated mediums, such as virtual reality, augmented reality, and more, it is clear that there is something worthwhile within this field. It seems that the possibilities right now are endless.

The level of detail within the data collected continues to increase, and as a result of that the building of AI bots will also become increasingly more accurate.

However, if we think of this in terms of technological development, research in terms of spatial player input is also needed in order to advance any work in XR mediums.

Reading References :

.X Reality (XR or Cross Reality) is defined as: a form of “mixed reality environment that comes from the fusion (union) of … ubiquitous sensor/actuator networks and shared online virtual worlds….”.[1] It encompasses a wide spectrum of hardware and software, including sensory interfaces, applications, and infrastructures, that enable content creation for virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR), cinematic reality (CR). With these tools, users generate new forms of reality by bringing digital objects into the physical world and bringing physical world objects into the digital world.

.NPC = Non Player Character. Any character in the game that is not controlled by a player.

.Star Wars: The Old Republic is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game based in the Star Wars universe. Developed by BioWare Austin and a supplemental team at BioWare Edmonton, the game was announced on October 21, 2008.Wikipedia

.Super Mario Smash Bros. Ultimate is a series of crossover fighting video games published by Nintendo, and primarily features characters from various Nintendo franchises. The series was created by Masahiro Sakurai, who has directed every game in the series. The game play objective differs from that of traditional fighters in that the aim is to knock opponents off the stage instead of depleting life bars. [Wikipedia]

.Fortnite is an online video game developed by Epic Games and released in 2017. It is available in three distinct game mode versions that otherwise share the same general gameplay and game engine: Fortnite: Save the World, a cooperative shooter-survival game for up to four players to fight off zombie-like creatures and defend objects with fortifications they can build; Fortnite Battle Royale, a free-to-play battle royale game where up to 100 players fight to be the last person standing; and Fortnite Creative, where players are given complete freedom to create worlds and battle arenas. [Wikipedia]

.A bot or “chatbot”, short for chat robot, is a computer program that simulates human conversation, or chat, through artificial intelligence. [Machine Learning and Bots, voxgroup.com]

.In the video game industry, a battle pass is a type of monetization approach that provides additional content for a game usually through a tiered system, rewarding the player with in-game items for playing the game and completing specific challenges. Inspired by the season pass ticketing system and originating with Dota 2 in 2013, the battle pass model gained more use as an alternative to subscription fees and loot boxes beginning in the late 2010s. [Wikipedia]

.The Sims is a series of life simulation video games developed by Maxis and published by Electronic Arts. The franchise has sold nearly 200 million copies worldwide, and it is one of the best-selling video game series of all time.Wikipedia

.Travis Scott’s Astronomical Premier.On April 23 2020, Travis Scott debuted his music in an event called the Astronomical experience in Fortnite. Scott used the game to create the psychedelic event inspired by Cactus Jack’s creations, which is the rapper’s nickname and the name of his record label. According to Epic, 12.3 million players participated in the April 23 concert and 27.7 million experienced it 45.8 million times across the five events. From “Fortnite: Travis Scott Astronomical experience seen by almost 28 million players” By Oscar Moralez. April 27th 2020 on cnet.com

.“Top 5 Fortnite collaborations ever” by Kuldeep, 31 October 2019, on SportsKeeda.com

.“Fortnite: How Artificial Intelligence And Analytics Make It More Fun“ by Bernard Mar on bernardmar.com

. Bernard Marr is an internationally bestselling author, futurist, keynote speaker, and strategic advisor to companies and governments.

.Unity is a cross-platform game engine developed by Unity Technologies, first announced and released in June 2005 at Apple Inc.’s Worldwide Developers Conference as a Mac OS X-exclusive game engine. As of 2018, the engine had been extended to support more than 25 platforms.[Unity.com]

.Reinforcement Learning (RL) is an area of machine learning concerned with how software agents ought to take actions in an environment in order to maximize the notion of cumulative reward. Reinforcement Learning is one of three basic machine learning paradigms, alongside supervised learning and unsupervised learning. [Wikipedia]

.“What is reinforcement learning? The complete guide#July 5, 2018/in , Deep learning, Machine learning, Reinforcement learning, Popular posts /by Błażej Osiński and Konrad Budek

.Facebook Portal refresh: 7 things you need to know in 2019By Dale Smith September 18, 2019 on cnet.com

.Oculus Quest is the first all-in-one gaming system for VR.

.(oculus.com)Facebook acquires the maker of popular ‘Beat Saber’ VR gameBy Salvador Rodriguez , November 26, 2019 on cnet.com

.Game retention is a measure of how many people are still playing your game after a certain period of time from their first login date. For example: if 10000 people download your game today and 5700 of them are still playing tomorrow, it means you have a retention of 57 percent on day [gameanalytics.com]

.Funnels are a way of visualizing and measuring how your players move through a sequence of events, or ‘steps’. A well-configured funnel gives insight into which of these steps lose the most players, whether your paths to conversion are optimized, and whether your players are progressing through your game as intended.[gameanalytics.com]

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Unity Developer and video games enthusiast

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