Xbox's Phil Spencer: How AI Will Help Game Developers

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During the Xbox's conference at E3 2018, Phil Spencer briefly mentioned his team working to use artificial intelligence "in new ways".

I sat down with Spencer to find out more: how can future AI benefit games, and the people who make them?

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"We've had a long relationship with Microsoft research in AI," Spencer says.

Most of it is being used to create believable competitors in a game - Forza, for example, with Drivatars (which model how you play).

"This was an early learning," Spencer says, "just as an example of us looking at creating more believable social environments. For when maybe you don't want to play online, but you wanted to feel the kind of diversity people give you when you're online."

Spencer says Xbox will continue to push on that. AI isn't just important all up as a Microsoft initiative - it turns out a lot of the researchers in this space love games, too.

"When Nina [Kristensen, Ninja Theory] I finally got to the point with Ninja Theory that we were close [to an acquisition deal - Xbox recently acquired the studio], some of their lead engineers happened to be over at our Cambridge research office meeting with our AI team," Spencer says.

"And it had nothing to do with [the acquisition] - that meeting had been set up a while before. But it's really great to see the collaboration that happens between our studios and how interested our researchers are."

Spencers says Xbox has "a very diverse palette" of things they can do in games, so those sort of partnerships "are going to be awesome".

Obviously developing better AI will inevitably mean more believable play spaces for gamers, but Spencer believes there's some real opportunities to test games "in a different way".

"I know this isn't as interesting as more interesting gameplay," Spencer says, as I shake my head emphatically, "but to be able to provide to a developer who is getting ready to launch their game the ability to test against some real AI bots that play like real players, it's another area that we are looking at a lot."

In this scenario, developers can see what 10 million players feel like when their game launches - so they don't have to launch and feel that in the real world.

"How can we help developers test their games more completely with AI?" Spencer asks, clearly excited by the possibilities.

Gizmodo Australia travelled to E3 as a guest of Xbox.


    As a test automation engineer the idea of using AI to generate tests has long been something on my mind and influences the work that I do. Ultimately I'd love to get to a point where we can define the requirements and expected behaviours then tell an AI "Go break this" and they would come up with a far more comprehensive set of tests than any human QA could. This is especially useful when you need to account for the typical user who never seems to use an application in the logical way.

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