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Uncover the Smoking Gun has you solve a murder mystery by interrogating ChatGPT-speaking suspects

AI's habit of just making stuff up apparently adds to the mystery

The player converses with a ChatGPT-powered robot suspect in Uncover the Smoking Gun
Image credit: ReLU Games

Well, that didn’t take long. After tech demos from the likes of Nvidia inviting us to chat with NPCs whose entire conversations are generated by AI, it looks like the first game built wholly on that controversial idea is due to arrive this year. Uncover the Smoking Gun puts its ChatGPT-powered dialogue front and centre, as the player’s detective interviews robot suspects to solve a murder case.

The upcoming game is effectively a straightforward solve-the-murder mystery, as the player investigates the scene by picking up items to examine them, collects relevant evidence and interrogates NPCs to work out who’s to blame for the crime. Once you’ve worked out enough solutions, it’s a case of filling in a series of questions - both to identify the culprit and answer related mysteries, such as “Who deleted the data?” - to prove you’ve cracked it and earn a grade for your performance.

The thing that sets Uncover the Smoking Gun apart then - read that however positively or negatively as you like - is its central use of AI to generate the conversations that players have with the suspects in each case. Interacting with one of the game’s robot suspects - they’re all robots, presumably a handy cover for any distinctly unhuman responses - allows you to write freeform questions in a chat box, whether that’s “What were you doing last night?”, “When did you leave?” or even “What’s your favourite Steely Dan song?”

The robot suspects then use ChatGPT running behind the scenes to generate their dialogue on the fly. In practice, based on the first gameplay clips, that results in exactly the kind of perfunctory speech you’d expect from a game created by AI rather than actual human writers who understand how to give characters distinctive personalities and memorable quirks - despite developers ReLU Games saying they have apparently “imbue[d] each character with distinct features that align with the case”.

The player asks a robot what they know about a murder in AI-powered detective game Uncover the Smoking Gun
Image credit: ReLU Games

ReLU - who are owned by South Korean giant Krafton - are focused on experimenting with deep learning in games, with Uncover the Smoking Gun described as existing largely to see whether games with AI at their centre can work.

“Our main goal in development was to test if deep learning could significantly enhance the game’s design and playability,” said deep-learning engineer Gi-mun Lee, who worked with the team on the game. “And this game has proven the significant role of deep learning in creating an engaging experience. It’s more than a game with ChatGPT - it’s a game that embodies ChatGPT at its core.”

The developers generously propose that AI’s well-documented habit of just making up bullshit under the pretence of truth here works in the game’s favour, making the suspects prone to misleading the detective during their interviews.

“Choosing the detective genre didn’t make things easier right away,” producer Gyu-sun Han acknowledged. “But then, it struck me that inconsistent testimonies, shown as “system overloads” in the game, could be a good fit for our detective game. It seemed like this could really add to the game’s appeal.”

Even so, the team claim they have overcome the problem of AI ‘hallucinating’ fake information, with some robots being ‘hacked’ in the game’s narrative to explain their fragmented delivery of information.

“My greatest challenge was the “hallucination” phenomenon,” Han admitted. “This is when AI generates fake or distorted information. As you might know, ChatGPT constructs responses by combining the most relevant words, right? So, it sometimes creates nonsensical or even false answers, and addressing this issue for the game took a lot of time and hard work.”

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Despite the use of AI in dialogue and ReLU’s focus being on ways to integrate the tech into games, the studio seemingly didn’t use it for the game’s artwork or music - with clarinet player Han (who said there were some days last year where he only spoke to AI) recording the soundtrack himself in GarageBand due to the limited budget and tight development cycle.

For what it’s worth, the devs cite Quantic Dream’s android morality-play adventure Detroit: Become Human as one of the game’s key inspirations, alongside the likes of Blade Runner and I, Robot, both in terms of its visual style and setting - god help anyone who decides to ask one of these suspects about racism or civil rights.

Uncover the Smoking Gun will be out on Steam this June, having previously put out a demo on - an updated demo is due to arrive on Steam sometime before the full release, if you’re curious.

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