Re: How could an NPC prove to a player they are sentient (in an mmo)

#1
Spoilers for 'Binary Progression' below...
The story takes place in a fantasy MMO...

In the newest (as of this moment unpublished) chapter, a group of players go to find a missing NPC kidnapped by a group of players, as they kill all of them they find an NPC on the ground, his leg is chained to the ground.
The NPC keeps repeating dialogue about how he wants to be left alone.
But one of the party members just picks up the NPC and tries to run in the opposite direction until either the chain or the NPC's leg gives out... it was the leg that gave out.
As expected the NPC starts screaming until the falls silent / passes out.

Once they leave, they joke about the game dev's sick sense of humour and weirdly specific dialogue.
Eventually, the NPC tries to make a run for it (as much of a run as you can make with one leg) but its other leg is not and soon the NPC just gives up.

The players agree that it'd be better to just kill the NPC so it can re-spawn and so they don't have to drag it back themselves.
Before doing anything - seemingly from just seeing the chat message the NPC starts pleading and offering to go with them but he instantly killed by one of the higher-level players in the party.

That was the first sentient NPC in the whole story, but not the last.

The players involved starts being suspicious after the even, but how would I really prove that an NPC is... y'know... sentient.
An NPC loses its sentience after death, but they do remember all their previous "lives" while sentient.
They can't magically hack the game or anything, and they can't do stuff a regular player couldn't - ie play special animations.

Re: How could an NPC prove to a player they are sentient (in an mmo)

#2
There is no way to do so.

While it's certainly possible to push any nonsapient (or sapient, for that matter) intellect past its breaking point by tossing enough random weirdness at it until you can feel fairly confident there's no possibility a machine could have navigated through the process... the most that can prove is that there's a human using the NPC to mess with the player, which is certainly possible and probably more likely than spontaneous sapience. That, or the numerous and ever more sophisticated chatbots... 

This is especially true if the being is isolated within the program and can't do things like, say, access the internet and operate with meta-knowledge. Its only true understanding of language would come from the players.

Now, it's hypothetically possible for one such AI to posit a complex theory on intelligence that goes into the highly philosophical and make an argument that sapience is too unique and precious to risk killing a being if there is any possibility that it's sapient. But, without access to higher order philosophy, how would this being even know to make such arguments (ones which took humanity over a million years of sapience to dream up), let alone be able to argue it at a sophisticated level?

Re: How could an NPC prove to a player they are sentient (in an mmo)

#3
This is a question that has been argued about by philosophers and computer AI folks for a while. Look up Turing Test, and then move on to the Chinese Room Argument

The short answer is that there is no answer. Which leaves you room to explore your own answer. Read a bit on what others have said, and then decide what you think is right for your world. Sometimes the questions, and the way people respond to those questions, are way more interesting parts of the fiction than the solution you end up with. Getting there is a lot of the fun, after all.

Re: How could an NPC prove to a player they are sentient (in an mmo)

#6
Quite a philosophical dilemma you've come up with. With computers capable of mimicking virtually every human response there's no real way to prove your NPC is sentient. However, maybe there's another way. Perhaps there's something about this NPC's behavior that's unlike the other NPC's the players have encountered. It may not prove sentience, but it might be enough to raise some doubts in the players' minds.

Re: How could an NPC prove to a player they are sentient (in an mmo)

#7

parkertallan Wrote: Quite a philosophical dilemma you've come up with. With computers capable of mimicking virtually every human response there's no real way to prove your NPC is sentient. However, maybe there's another way. Perhaps there's something about this NPC's behavior that's unlike the other NPC's the players have encountered. It may not prove sentience, but it might be enough to raise some doubts in the players' minds.


Ah, but you see - the players all assume its some hacker controlling the NPC.

I think it might actually be impossible to prove haha.

Re: How could an NPC prove to a player they are sentient (in an mmo)

#9

Quote:Ah, but can you prove to me you are real?
Nope. Which is why I suggest going the philosophy path.

People like to anthropomorphize things. There are literally soldiers holding funerals for their remote control bomb disposal robots because they got emotionally attached to them.

The NPCs don't need to convince the players they're completely real, just real enough that the difference doesn't matter.


Quote:the players all assume its some hacker controlling the NPC.
Unless that's a built-in game mechanic, then your characters sound like they're severely overestimating what hackers are capable of, and you'd have an easier time convincing me that the game devs accidentally created a sentient AI.

Most hacks are just people finding ways to exploit bugs and glitches in the client-side data. AI behavior would all be server-side, and hacking anything server-side would be a PR/security nightmare of apocalyptic proportions for any game company.

The possibility that there's only one hacker who knows the "NPC control" exploit, and that he's fucking with them specifically, sounds like strait up paranoia.

And if other players are noticing this phenomenon, they'd probably be talking about it on the forums and brewing up a shitstorm of epic proportions until the devs actually "fixed the bug." Just look at Fallout 76. Within days of hackers finding a way to spawn in NPCs, there were entire youtube videos dedicated to the topic.

Sentient, or even semi-sentient NPCs just doesn't seem like something that could fly under the radar for very long.

Edit:

Have you seen WestWorld? If not, give it a watch, because what you're talking about sounds a lot like the entire theme of the show.

Re: How could an NPC prove to a player they are sentient (in an mmo)

#10

Bizmatech Wrote:
Quote:Ah, but can you prove to me you are real?
Nope. Which is why I suggest going the philosophy path.

People like to anthropomorphize things. There are literally soldiers holding funerals for their remote control bomb disposal robots because they got emotionally attached to them.

The NPCs don't need to convince the players they're completely real, just real enough that the difference doesn't matter.


Quote:the players all assume its some hacker controlling the NPC.
Unless that's a built-in game mechanic, then your characters sound like they're severely overestimating what hackers are capable of, and you'd have an easier time convincing me that the game devs accidentally created a sentient AI.

Most hacks are just people finding ways to exploit bugs and glitches in the client-side data. AI behavior would all be server-side, and hacking anything server-side would be a PR/security nightmare of apocalyptic proportions for any game company.

The possibility that there's only one hacker who knows the "NPC control" exploit, and that he's fucking with them specifically, sounds like strait up paranoia.

And if other players are noticing this phenomenon, they'd probably be talking about it on the forums and brewing up a shitstorm of epic proportions until the devs actually "fixed the bug." Just look at Fallout 76. Within days of hackers finding a way to spawn in NPCs, there were entire youtube videos dedicated to the topic.

Sentient, or even semi-sentient NPCs just doesn't seem like something that could fly under the radar for very long.1


As of chapter 40 the party agrees to recognise the NPCs as sentient until prove otherwise, though they don't really believe they're real yet.

As for the hacking, mind control is a spell, change the range and make the NPC spam some emotes and say stuff.
You can do that on a WoW private server with commands, and this game is not only pretty unstable and broken, but also has absolutely 0 moderation, no admins or mods.

Re: How could an NPC prove to a player they are sentient (in an mmo)

#11
Proving an AI sentient.... thats pretty damn hard. No one can agree how you would do it in the real world.
However we have an exception inside a computer game.
Games are structured, scripted things. NPC, Monsters and game events are all structured and created using rules and scripting. If this happens then this.

In order for an NPC to begin showing sentience it would first have to show a player that it is capable of acting beyond the bounds of its pre-programmed behavior.
This would be easier for a speaking NPC which might normally not understand out of game terms such as various gamer speech, it could suddenly enter a conversation between players when normally they act like they can't hear you.

Basically, it just has to act beyond the bounds that an NPC is normally restricted by. That is enough for suspicion to set in. Now PROVING it without a doubt. that's hard. but players who spent enough time in the presence of an NPC which acts abnormally to other NPC of the same type, which interacts with them on the level of other players. could easily become anthropomorphized by the players who could come to see it as a sentient being.

You need your sentient NPC to be different to non sentient NPC in an obvious enough way that suspicions can form. Then you build on that by having it show emotions, show it capable of acting beyond what it should.

Players may suspect all kinds of things about a potentially sentient NPC, hacking, a bug, ect.  the way to prove it is one or the other is through consistency, a hacker cannot be in control of a hacked npc all the time. they have to sleep.  a bug, may only crop up in certain circumstances or be temporary.
A sentient NPC will likely have consistent behavior over a long period of time. it will also be more dynamically responsive than a hacked NPC or bug could possibly have.

least thats my opinion. If you're 40 chapters in, you may have wrote yourself into a corner if your NPC are too dynamically responsive and human like. Its super ez if they are more like a present day MMORPG