AI mod that let you have conversations with NPCs in GTA 5 is removed by Rockstar without warning

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The GTA 5 Sentient Streets mod used AI to generate speech – but Rockstar has ordered it to be taken down without explanation.


There was much excitement earlier this week around a mod for GTA 5 that generated speech for non-player characters (NPCs) using artificial intelligence. But now, suddenly and without warning or explanation, Rockstar has ordered for the mod to be removed, along with videos of it in action.

The Sentient Streets mod for GTA 5 was created by the well-known modder Bloc, who devised a scenario where a rookie cop investigates a conspiracy that involves AI. The exciting aspect of it was that around 30 of the NPCs where able to engage in open-ended, AI-powered conversations, generated using Inworld’s Character Engine.

There’s a lot of furore around using AI to generate speech in games at the moment. On the one hand, it’s a potentially groundbreaking development, making it possible to have NPCs that no longer have to stick to a set, repetitive script. Nvidia has even shown off a prototype where the player can converse with an AI-powered NPC using their actual voice.

On the other hand, voice actors are understandably worried that AI-generated speech will take away their livelihood. Plus the examples of AI-generated speech so far are generally a little stilted, and there’s also the concern of how on earth you can integrate such open-ended conversations within an actual story.

Regardless, Rockstar seems to have taken issue with Sentient Streets: as reported by Eurogamer, the company has issued a copyright claim against both the mod listing on NexusMods and Bloc’s YouTube video of the mod in action.

Read more: GTA 5 | Why does Microsoft want you to know it’s now on Game pass? 

Bloc responded with a statement on YouTube, saying: “No one from Take-Two Interactive contacted and ask me anything prior to this, they just took down the video out of nowhere.” He adds that his account on Netifly, where he hosted installation instructions for the mod, has also been suspended, which may or may not be related.

“I must say, as a person who grew up with the Grand Theft Auto series and enjoyed all the games throughout the years, this hostile attitude towards me and the mod is very disheartening,” he continues, before criticising Rockstar for taking a “a non-communicative approach”.

He goes on to point out that there are many, many videos showing footage of GTA 5 on YouTube that have not warranted a takedown notice, adding that the Sentient Streets mod itself “does not appear to be violating anything”.

Both modding and video footage of games occupy something of a grey legal area. Technically you’re not allowed to post footage of a video game without permission of the publisher, but in reality most games companies are quite permissive around this, and even encouraging.

Modding is slightly different, and different publishers have different guidelines. Rockstar’s guidelines are generally quite permissive, and the publisher says it “believes in reasonable fan creativity and wants creators to showcase their passion for our games”.

It’s not clear exactly what Rockstar took issue with regarding Sentient Streets, and the company has yet to make a statement. I can only surmise it might fall under the category of prohibiting “making new games, stories, missions, or maps”. But it does seem very unusual. What exactly sparked Rockstar’s ire regarding this particular mod?

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