Square Enix uses "AI tech" in The Portopia Serial Murder Case

In what it is calling an "AI Tech Preview", Square Enix has announced the release of a PC remake of the legendary 1983 Japanese adventure game The Portopia Serial Murder Case. The new version of the game uses an "AI" technology called Natural Language Processing designed to parse language without the use of traditional dialog options or typed command syntaxes. The "tech preview" will launch on PC via Steam on April 23, 2023.

Check out a trailer for it below:

Square Enix is careful not to call the production a "game", using terms like "educational software demonstration". It's clearly intended as a tech demo as opposed to a commercial product or a statement of intent. Additionally, rather than being used on a new game, it's being used to essentially remake a classic adventure title: The original Portopia Serial Murder Case game originally launched in 1983 and was published by Enix long before its merger with Squaresoft to become Square Enix.

According to Square Enix's description of the tech preview, it used Natural Language Processing (NLP) combined with Natural Language Understanding (NLU) technologies drawing from current research into "AI" to improve the program's ability to understand what the human player is trying to tell it, without having to memorize static formats and commands. It also incorporates Speech to Text technology to allow players to use voice input. 

However, the new Portopia Serial Murder Case tech preview does not use Natural Language Generation (NLG), the text-synthesis technology that powers chatbots like ChatGPT, Google's Bard, and other headline-grabbing fields of "AI" research. In other words, it doesn't use the new tech to synthesize its replies. Square Enix cited the risk of "generating unethical replies" in its decision, but said that it will consider reintroducing the function if it can be made safer for players.

Told in the first-person perspective and using a combination of point-and-click interfaces and a verb-noun text parser that used keyboard commands typed in Japanese, the original game took the form of a murder mystery, where players explored various endings in their attempts to solve a series of killings. The game was quite influential, and was mentioned by such contemporary game design luminaries as Hideo Kojima at Eiji Aonuma as inspirational. It was also never launched officially outside Japan, though the Super Famicom version received a fan translation.