Speaker Q&A: Prasert Prasertvithyakarn discusses character AI in Final Fantasy XV

Prasert Prasertvithyakarn is lead game designer at Square Enix Co. Ltd. and will be at GDC 2018 to present Walk Tall, My Friends: Giving Life to Ai-Buddies in ‘Final Fantasy XV’.

His Programming and Design talk will discuss the power of using characters in in-game storytelling and experience design and how to design AI structure that can support them. Here, Prasertvithyakarn gives us information about himself and what he does.

Don't miss out! The Game Developers Conference in San Francisco next March is going to be full of interesting and informative sessions like Prasert's. For more visit the show’s official website.

Tell us about yourself and what you do in the games industry.

Hi, the name is Prasert “Sun” Prasertvithyakarn. You can call me Sun. Originally from Thailand, now working in Business Division 2, SQUARE ENIX CO., LTD. I was the lead game designer for FINAL FANTASY XV and was in charge for the BUDDY-characters, the friends that will join along with you during your journey in FINAL FANTASY XV.

Since the game all is about the journey with your best buddies, my job is to ensure that the players feel that they are actually their friends. To achieve that, I designed their characteristic, their charm points, their AIs, how they walk, how they talk, what they say, what they do – yes, give lives to them!

I also created Prompto’s snapshot AI that automatically take photos (and selfies!) of you and the brotherhood along your journey. Games are getting more complicating each day and the needs for Artificial Intelligence has risen a lot these years.

My job is not just only to find the right AI to solve problems, but to find the possibilities of using AI to create something new! Especially an emotional experience! It requires engineering knowledge, artistic sense and the right design, that’s why it’s an unexplored area. To create an unseen emotional experience, made possible by AI; that’s my job and my goal in the industry.

What inspired you to pursue your career?

I believe crying (influenced by entertainment contents) is one of the most happiest things mankind could achieve. My dream is to make a game that make people cry. And the good news is I might be able to achieve that, by creating an emotional AI! (Plus, making game is fun.)

Without spoiling it too much, tell us what you’ll be talking about at GDC.

You’ve heard about UI and UX (user experience) now we will talk about CX (character experience). Tech evolves and the channels, the way that people can experience the characters we make in the game has been increasing. CX based design is about how to use these channels to accomplish the right experience you need.

And then we’ll talk about one of the newest approach to achieve that experience, that is, by using AI! We will spend the rest of the talk about how we can design AI to do the right storytelling for the CX we are aiming for! It’s fun for both experienced programmers or anyone without prior knowledge of AI.  So, come, please be my guest.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face in your work?

Making something new means taking risks that no one will understand except you. The concept of character experience based design and emotional AI were too new, for our team too. Since you could not describe how good the AIs would be without actually implementing it (Not to mention an emotional one), it took a lot of effort to get understanding and cooperation from other people in the team.

I had to sell things that no one could imagine without the product in my hands! So, for you who are planning to do something new, if you believe that it will be good then just do it. There are gonna be naysayers anyway so, be positive and just do it.

What are the most rewarding parts of your job?

My mom, 64 this year, never ever touch PlayStation before, played my game!  

Character storytelling by AI sounds like a really interesting concept. Because the approach is still pretty new, how are you paving the way for future designers interested in the approach as well?

You have to observe human. Know human. Know that all the little aspects sensed from one person tell a story of him. The way people stand, pose, the way they react to things, small things. Know that if you can control these little aspects, you can change the way people feel about him. The rest, is just to find the right technology.  

Be detailed. Be sentimental. Only the sentimental people see those little things. Sentimental people can create harsh things but harsh people cannot create emotional things.

How do the results of scripted scenarios differ from ones generated by AI?

Of course scripted scenarios tell a better story. The designers know exactly what will reach the audience! But that’s not a game! That’s a movie! AIs are there to make sure you get the same storytelling, regardless of your decisions in the game.

Of course we cannot 100% guarantee that the audience will get the right experience we designed from the ones generated by AI though. Nevertheless, experiences from AI feel more special, because you know, that that experience, is exclusively yours.

Do you have any advice for those aspiring to join your field someday?

To be a good game designer you don’t have to be a gamer. In fact, I suggest you to go outside and play, or travel, or eat or anything. Knowledge and inspirations are out there! All game designers play game, playing more games will not give you significant differences from others. You need secondary weapons, something no other game creators have!

It could be knowledge of economics, architecture, business, travels, foods, sculptures, fashions, cats or  anything. And they could be found outside! (or in books! Or in a school!) Be different! Make a difference! I write jazz, sing a cappella, conduct a choir, making AI, photo a lot, travel a lot, addict to learning new languages; those are my secondary weapons, what’s yours?

GDC 2018 will take place March 19-23rd at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. For more information, visit the show's official website, or subscribe to regular updates via FacebookTwitter, or RSS.

 

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