Automatic dialogue generation demonstrated in an international conference on games

How does natural language generation relate to games? These two concepts that are seemingly far away from each other are surprisingly related. In the 14th International Conference on the Foundations of Digital Games (FDG 2019), two doctoral students of the University of Helsinki, Khalid Alnajjar from computer science and Mika Hämäläinen from language technology, presented their work on creative dialogue generation for the Fallout 4 role-playing game.

Alnajjar’s PhD topic focuses on computational linguistic creativity, where he researches computational methods for interpreting and generating figurative language. Computational creativity is a subfield of artificial intelligence that studies human-like creative tasks from a computational point of view. A vision of computational creativity is to produce systems that support our creativity and help us be more creative.

“In my previous work, I have usually worked with metaphors and short expressions such as slogans and headlines. Conducting and learning about natural language generation research in the field of digital games was not only new and interesting to me but it also enriched my knowledge about how natural language processing and natural language generation methods can be employed extensively in games – from teaching players a language to producing dialogues and analysing games for suggesting desired games, and more – to provide players with a better experience”, Alnajjar explains.

The demonstration of the automatic dialogue generation method caught the interest of many attendees. The generated dialogues were dynamically adapted to the game state, and while they often sparked laughter in the audience, most of the attendees were impressed by the modified version of the game. Usually the approach and the output are the most important aspects to consider in research on natural language processing and natural language generation. It appears that the practicality and agility of the method are as crucial in games.

Foundations of Digital Games is a major international conference that covers a broad range of topics, including artificial intelligence for games, modelling players, virtual reality, and theories on games and designs. In 2019, the conference was organized in San Luis Obispo, California, USA.

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Mika Hämäläinen (left) and Khalid Alnajjar in FDG 2019. Photo by Sara Ford.