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‘Doki Doki AI Interrogation’-developer YAMADA explores the role of AI in games

Japanese indie game developer Yamada has used ChatGPT as a key design element for his latest project, Doki Doki AI Interrogation. He had to set up strict boundaries and even make the AI powered character ‘drunk and forgetful’ to pull it off, but, according to the developer, the experience has moved players to tears. 

At the beginning of 2023, Yamada was inspired by the widespread excitement surrounding ChatGPT. “Many game developers at that time were trying to replicate experiences like TRPGs, Werewolf, or lateral thinking puzzles with ChatGPT,” he explains. However, he found these attempts to be mere automations of existing experiences. Instead, he sought to explore what new gaming experiences could be uniquely offered by AI, leading him to the concept of interrogation—a familiar yet unexperienced scenario for many.

Yamada’s vision was to create a game that allows players to engage in free-text input interrogations using AI, providing an experience far beyond the limited choices and fixed response patterns of traditional games. “I thought that this would be a new and attractive game experience that could only be provided by ChatGPT,” he says. This approach allows players to flex their creativity in formulating interrogation questions, creating a non-linear gameplay experience. 

Yamada’s journey in game development began at an early age. “I discovered RPG Maker when I was 12 and became hooked on game development,” he shares. Over the past 25 years, he worked for major companies like Square Enix and DeNA, and even running his own mobile game company. A year and a half ago, Yamada decided to return to his indie roots, developing games for Steam on his own, occasionally receiving help from his wife, who also contributed her voice to the game. 

Deeper story

One of the standout features of Doki Doki AI Interrogation is its underlying narrative, which intertwines with the AI-driven interrogation mechanics. “I am proud that the game is not just about interrogating an AI but also includes a story, a narrative experience, and raises issues about the coexistence of AI and humans,” Yamada states. The game not only challenges players to succeed in their interrogations but also rewards them with a deeper story that unfolds as they progress. This thoughtful integration of technology and storytelling has resonated with players. “Some streamers have been moved to tears by the developments at the end of the game.”

Integrating ChatGPT into the game posed its own set of challenges. Yamada explains, “After providing ChatGPT with the initial conditions of the case, I send the player’s interrogation text input to ChatGPT and use the output for the game’s progression.” The AI’s role is twofold: generating response lines for the interrogation and evaluating the fear level of the interrogation. This evaluation is crucial for managing game progression and enhancing the player’s experience with dynamic changes, such as seamless music transitions and AI motion alterations. However, fine-tuning the prompts given to ChatGPT required extensive experimentation, particularly to manage ChatGPT’s tendency to reveal secrets too easily. Yamada overcame this by designing a scenario where the AI character was “drunk and can’t remember,” ensuring it would not so easily spill the beans.

Immense potential

Looking ahead, Yamada sees immense potential in the use of AI in game development. While many focus on cost reduction through AI-assisted asset and source code creation, he is more intrigued by the new game experiences that AI can enable. “I believe there are various possibilities for evaluating player actions and generating feedback beyond interrogation,” he says. As AI technology advances and current limitations are overcome, Yamada envisions even more innovative and unique gaming experiences emerging. “I look forward to games offering these new experiences and I will think of ways to create them myself.”

Doki Doki AI Interrogation is out now on Steam.

Eric Bartelson
Eric Bartelson
Editor-in-Chief of PreMortem.Games. Veteran game journalist for over 20 years. Started out in 1999 for game magazines (yes the ones made of paper) such as PC Zone Benelux, PlayNation and GameQuest, before co-founding Dutch industry paper Control Magazine.

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