For the past few months, I've been working on developing a 'chatbot', which is semi-realistic artificial entity that you can talk to, either through text-chat or through speaking to it. A good example can be found here: http://cleverbot.com/.
Some of you may have heard of these in the news recently, where two bots talked to each other, and the conversation somehow managed to cover the existence of God and unicorns!
I have been developing a similar entity for a Japanese learning website (http://japanese.lingualift.com) that I have been working for part-time. The idea is to create a bot that users can practice their conversation and written Japanese with, and to create a more engaging user experience (the usual experience-enriching stuff!)
So far, my chat bot isn't particularly intelligent, as translating all the files into Japanese takes a lot of time and effort, so I've got nothing to show you as of yet
The reason I'm telling you all about this, is because I intend to create a plugin for Multiverse, that let's developers have their own chatbots in their worlds.
So, instead of having a boring, scripted NPC that just stands there and displays some quest text as a popup, you can give users theability to have an actual conversation with them. Using AIML (Artificial Intelligence Markup Language), which is incredibly similar to XML, I should be able to integrate a simple bot and create an engaging NPC from it.
Normally, if you are walking around a town, there are usually lots of characters just standing around doing nothing, perhaps following some pre-defined route to make them look like they're doing something.
Instead of that, you can attach the script, and when you 'target' them (in this case, more like a focus, as opposed to a combat target), a dialogue will open up, and you can talk directly to this NPC. This NPC would have an actual personality, and you could ask him what his name is, how old he is, his favourite sports, his preference of opera, absolutely anything! The bot will have a properties file, so that you can define personality traits like those, and create responses to a variety of questions.
As opposed to having a dialogue box, with the sort of multiple choice conversation you get in games like Fallout, Elder Scrolls and so on, you could type "Where were you born?", or "Where are you from?", or even "Which city were you born in?", and the bot will automatically realise that they are different ways of asking his place of birth, and will respond according to the entry in his properties file.
There are lots of ways to utilize these chatbots, and I think they would be great to have in any MMO, especially ones that do not have a lot of players online at any one time - the player would be less likely to become bored, as they'd have plenty of semi-realistic NPCs to chat to!
As I mentioned before, I'm working on integrating this into the Multiverse system, and will be available as a plugin at some point in the next few months (probably March).
Once it's complete, it will be available to purchase from the Multiverse Marketplace, an the money will go towards our hosting fees, and general development.
What do you all think? Would this be something you'd be interested in?