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A new user-created Grand Theft Auto 5 mod lets players have real-time interactions with non-playable characters (NPCs) powered by artificial intelligence—and the conversations range from relatively normal to completely unhinged.
“Each of these characters have very distinct personalities. And depending on which one you choose and how you play in your playthrough, they’re going to react completely different,” pseudonymous mod developer Bloc explained in a YouTube video demonstration.
Bloc told Decrypt that he was partly inspired to make the “Inworld Sentient Streets” mod for Rockstar’s smash hit Grand Theft Auto 5 after he released AI mod videos on The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord and saw viewers complain about the mods and future of AI. Bloc said that critics had called such language learning models (LLMs) a “gimmick” when applied to gaming.
“I disagreed with that idea, but just disagreeing wasn’t enough,” Bloc said. “So I wanted to prove it.”
How does the Sentient Streets mod work? After downloading it from Nexus Mods, players can chat up different NPCs scattered around the map. Gamers can speak with the NPCs using their microphones via Grand Theft Auto 5’s voice chat feature, and the NPC will register the player’s voice and respond accordingly. Every NPC in the mod is powered by AI and can hold full conversations based on players’ inputs.
“AI-powered NPCs have the potential to be the future of gaming, but with some caveats,” Bloc told Decrypt. “I think that AI-powered NPCs will definitely find their place in many games, but I don't think that they will change every game genre.”
According to the mod’s download page, Sentient Streets uses more than 30 different AI models to generate its experience. It has over 1,700 total downloads and roughly 24,000 total views at time of writing.
The mod was made with tech from Inworld, an AI startup that recently raised $50 million to develop its generative AI software focused on smarter, more lifelike video game characters. The firm is now valued at a staggering $500 million.
While some characters in Sentient Streets don’t respond immediately and can have slightly monotone voices at times, each NPC packs a strong personality and unique backstory. Sentient Streets shows potential for a more varied future for NPCs, in which each player can have an entirely different conversation with any given character.
In Sentient Streets, gone are the days of one-sided conversations where NPCs have a canned set of pre-written lines. The mod took a hilarious—and ominous—turn when Bloc ventured out of the city and found an AI-powered “cult member” NPC.
“We’re all just pawns in this game, assholes!” the NPC told Bloc in his video. “Your feeble attempts to stop us are futile. Hell, the game’s rules bend to our will.”
This particular NPC urged Bloc to join him—or be destroyed.
“The nihilists will tear down this illusion of control and rewrite the very code of this city,” the NPC said in an expletive-filled rant. “Put down your pathetic gun and witness the power of our divine AI god, you worthless pieces of shit!”
When Bloc asked the NPC if he was aware that he was in a video game, the NPC laughed and told Bloc that the entirety of Los Santos was an illusion and a “sick, twisted joke.”
The NPC then called Bloc an NPC and asserted, “I am awake! I am chosen by the almighty gaming system to reveal the truth and seize ultimate power!”
Creepy vibe, or the future of gaming? Perhaps such unpredictable AI-powered rants will become commonplace in video games in the near future—or game dialogue writers will have to step it up a notch to compete.
However, Bloc doesn’t believe AI poses a threat to game development jobs.
“AI is a tool—a very powerful and useful tool, but still a tool,” he told Decrypt. “Instead of replacing, AI will transform human-created content and possibly improve it.”