[MUD-Dev] Respecting NPCs

Travis Nixon tnixon at avalanchesoftware.com
Fri Oct 26 11:11:51 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001

From: "Michael Tresca" <talien at toast.net>

> Travis Nixon posted on Thursday, October 25, 2001 4:59 PM I
> wouldn't dismiss chatbots so quickly.  See:

>   http://aimovie.warnerbros.com/html/flash.html.

> That silly AI chatbot (actually ALICE) managed to fool many, many
> people merely because there COULD be a person occasionally
> inserting a real sentence in with the automated responses.

> Chatbots have more in common with magicians than parrots.  They
> create the illusion of something genuine that, under careful
> examination, could not feasibly exist.  Chatbots have just enough
> misdirection to allow the illusion of conversation.

Yes, the AI chatbot was an alicebot.  Have you looked at alicebots,
to see what they're made up of?

As I understand it, an alicebot is defined by a bunch of these
(somebody please correct me if I'm wrong):

    <pattern>WHAT IS SQUIRREL</pattern>
    <template>A rodent with a cute tail.</template>

Where every pattern is entered by hand (generally by people
attempting to talk to them), and every template is entered by hand
(generally by the people running the alicebot)

That is not conversation.  That is not a magician.  That is a
parrot, pure and simple.  It repeats what it has been told to
repeat.  That's all.  Every time anybody asks what a squirrel is,
it's going to say "A rodent with a cute tail."

Maybe the thought of writing a template for every conceivable
pattern in your world appeals to you.  It doesn't appeal to me.  Not
in the least.  :) And even if you do that, maybe you'd be happy with
the fact that it always gives the same response to the same pattern.
That is why I consider chatbots a dead end.

> This has a lot to do with the extremely poor grammar of lazy
> writers and readers than the linguistic capabilities of a chatbot.
> Chatbots have at times proved more eloquent and intelligent than
> other players I've communicated with in MMORPGs (d00d3s, for
> example).

Of course that's possible.  The responses are entered by a human.
If you ask a chatbot "What do you think about Shakespeare" and it
gives a particularly eloquent reply, that is because it has a
<pattern><template> entry that matches your question, and the PERSON
that wrote the response knew something about Shakespeare.

The fact that so many people are fooled by alicebots says a whole
lot more about people than it says about chatbots.


To be fair, an alicebot could be configured to answer the types of
questions players are most likely to ask.  Where can I buy a sword?
Where can I get something to eat?  Although, to be honest, an
alicebot would have trouble with even those, unless there is only
one place in the world to buy a sword, and one place in the world
that serves food.  But even for those types of things an alicebot
might be able to handle, it's...well, I want to say overkill here,
but that's not really right.  Underkill?  You could give it a lot of
responses, but it's not going to have any sort of depth to it at
all.  You could get a lot more depth a lot more efficiently by
simply parsing those sorts of questions and answering them based on
worldstate.  Same result, but I wouldn't even consider calling it
"conversation". :)

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