I've been very busy recently organizing a D&D campaign with a few friends of mine. I've been appointed DM and have been working on developing a world for my players to explore. If any of you have been a DM before you know that things don't always go according to plan. You may have a set path for your adventurers but they always seem to get distracted one way or another. As a DM, you have to be able to adapt quickly and try to steer your players in the right direction. If you simply put up a road block they might get frustrated so your steering has to be subtle. And no matter how fleshed out your world is, no matter how detailed your NPCs are, the players WILL catch you off guard. They may ask a question you didn't think of before, or find an alternate route around a certain problem. As a DM you are forced to "wing it" in order to keep the game flowing nicely.
You are probably wondering, "What does this have to do with video games?" As I've been preparing my campaign, it has forced me to do a lot of thinking. Video games have tried to create D&D experiences for quite some time and while some are excellent games there is something missing from all of them: an adaptable DM.
What if technology in the future advances enough to allow AI to control the game? To adapt when necessary according to the player's actions. This got me thinking even more. We could program the AI to have a certain personality and intelligence to handle different aspects of the game. While it wouldn't be perfect, think about how that would change the gaming industry. It wouldn't just be used for D&D type games, but ALL games. With that kind of technology, who wouldn't want to use it? A platforming game might become harder if you complete levels too quickly. Enemies in a FPS could adapt to your tactics and develop a different strategy. NPCs in games have been getting much better in terms of AI, but what I'm talking about is true artificial intelligence; someone behind the scenes watching the game with the complex mind of a human.
Left 4 Dead has implemented something similar with its AI Director. "Instead of fixed spawn points for enemies, the Director places enemies and items in varying positions and quantities based upon each player's current situation, status, skill and location, creating a new experience for each playthrough" (Wikipeda). Just imagine what it would be like playing an RPG with an AI director like Left 4 Dead. The game would be enormous with unlimited possible experiences for every player!
When we think about the future of video games we tend to think about better graphics, more space to fit more data, 3D gaming, and motion control without controllers. But what if games could adapt as you play them, as if the developers themselves are watching you play the game? Not a very long post, just me thinking out loud. Please feel free to share your own thoughts!