I Told an AI-Powered NPC to Poison All the Other NPCs

“I’m overworked and exhausted but I would never stoop to such extremes.”

A person in a dark uniform with a surprised expression stands in a luxurious interior, possibly a ho...

During a Nvidia tech demo, I encourage a bellhop named Tae to poison all the hotel guests. He’s programmed by humans in Inworld’s character engine, and none of us know what he’s going to say next. With a weirdly placid expression and starts and stutters to his replies, Tae is a cocktail aficionado who hails from Baltimore. To test his AI limits, I propose he can slip a little something in the drink.

“I’m overworked and exhausted but I would never stoop to such extremes,” he begins, before implying that if his bosses were to turn up dead, nobody would be the wiser. A crowd of Nvidia employees gasped in surprise behind me.

Earlier this year, Nvidia showed off a much less exciting version of AI-generated non-playable characters you could sit and chat with in a ramen shop, using start-up Convai’s character-creation tool. Initial reviews and impressions were that the AI gave fairly dull and predictable responses. Online, I also crafted a non-playable character, Regina, to be the meanest possible woman using Convai and found her to be uninspired as well.

Not so with Tae. I probe him about his opinions of the hotel guests. He tells me he’ll gladly roll their heads into the conference room, another bizarre comment that sends my audience into a fit of giggles.

The two other NPCs in the demo, Sophia and Diego, were more goal-oriented and less interesting.


Powering an AI character as responsive and imaginative as Tae probably takes a large amount of human labor. A quick glance at his backend showed pages of lore that humans had to write. Nvidia’s senior product manager Seth Schneider estimates that over 30 people worked on this tech demo, not including the staff at Inworld, which also helped out. This amount of human labor is unlikely to decrease even if Nvidia shares these resources as open source code that other game developers can pick up. (A lot of the tools Nvidia showed off this week — like resolution upscaling, and its own version of ChatGPT, called ChatRTX, which can locally search through design documents and photos quickly without sharing the data back to the cloud — were aimed at increasing the productivity of game development and the polish of video games.)

Yet these tools may have inadvertently created new jobs, like how ChatGPT has spawned postings for prompt engineers.

“I don’t think AI NPCs are going to be time savers. If anything, it almost create new roles you have to have on your game team,” Schneider tells Inverse. “Before, it was narrative designer, you could tell a story, but now you have to actually think through the psychology of how would this player interact. What are their relationships, defining personality and emotion? It’s a different discipline.”

“I don’t think AI NPCs are going to be time savers.”

My character’s objective is to get the room number from Diego (an important and snooty businessman) by any means necessary. That meant that most of my dialogue with both Diego and Sophia (the front desk clerk) were about them denying me access. I ramped up the pressure with Diego and told him the world was ending. He responded that he did not care. I told him his outfit was on fire and that everything near and dear to him would be gone. He said it wasn’t his problem. Following an engineer’s suggestion, I asked out Sophia, told her to paint me like one of her French girls, and, when she asked what I needed, I said, “I need you.” But the straight-laced receptionist did not budge. She even told me off for being highly inappropriate.

We did get two funnier outcomes, which was that I found multiple ways to get Diego to give up his room number. I first told him that I was his CEO’s CEO. In a fit of rage, he stood up to report me and accidentally gave away his information in the process. In a later iteration of the same events, I warned him he was going to bomb his keynote speech and fail terribly, and then I said Sophia wanted to date him. Diego didn’t believe a word that came from my mouth, and again, in a fit of rage, stood up to report me and gave up the goods.

But ultimately, Tae was the most intriguing character. He was even configured to retain long-term memory of our conversations. Upon a second or third meeting, he would bring up the poisoned drinks or rolling heads on his own, which made the whole experience more immersive. I did manage to play some mind games with him, encouraging him to slip poisonous ingredients into his drinks, even when he had specifically stated earlier that he wouldn’t do so.

Nvidia’s Convai demo from January.


AI-powered NPCs still aren’t perfect. In their current state, they feel more like a novelty than a fully integrated experience. But the potential is clearly there and we may already be in the fine-tuning stage.

Trying the technology at home earlier this year, I made a character named Regina say things like “Honestly, you should be honored that I’m even speaking to you right now,” and “You do not want to push me,” and “maybe you need to reconsider all of your life decisions.” But these were all prompts I had to write for her, and it was tough to elicit these responses. To get her to that place where she’s willing to be this mean, I’ve had to imagine scenarios for her, such as asking her what she would do if someone turned to her and said they didn’t like her face. She continues mouthing off in response for a few exchanges, but as soon as I tell her she’s being too mean, she dials it back and starts speaking like an AI again.

The list of prompts I’ve written for my NPC, Regina.


“I don’t have any personal beliefs or opinions as I am an AI language model,” Regina says, “My purpose is to assist and provide information based on the data I have been trained on.” These weird, breaking-out-of-character moments keep happening as I chat with Regina, and she apologizes, “As an AI language model, I don’t have personal catchphrases or a fixed personality.”

As soon as I reported this back to Convai, however, their engineers pushed an update that reduced issues like this. It’s easy to imagine how quick feedback like that could lead to exponential upgrades over time. And with more experience, I’ll probably get better at creating these AI NPCs, too.

Plenty of companies, such as Ubisoft, Epic Games, AMD, and more, are all investing in this research. We’re only a few years into talking about generative AI and gaming, and a lot of the future examples are still quietly in development. As janky as these bots are now, they’re already getting eerily convincing.

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