Today unveils Dreamia AI-powered character and storytelling engine

Today has unveiled Dreamia, an AI-powered character engine that shapes storytelling in real-time.

Lisbon, Portugal-based Today is building a next-gen cozy social simulation game where players cultivate thriving virtual island communities. And Dreamia is its biggest product launch yet.

To achieve its vision of a more dynamic, responsive and creative cozy social sim, Today raised $5 million from Sfermion and Big Brain earlier this year. The team has deep gaming pedigrees, including former leads from Nintendo, SEGA, Epic Games and Unity.

Dreamia is Today’s next-generation character engine. It uses AI to create intelligent, interactive NPCs that are hyper-realistic and dynamically responsive. As players engage, their actions shape the story, making every encounter in Today fluid, fun, and deeply personal. No two players have exactly the same experience which deepens the game’s authenticity, complexity and stickiness, the company said.

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Even as AI companions and chatbots become mainstream, there has yet to be a bespoke engine that infuses cinematic storytelling principles – character arcs, story structure, subtext, complex interrelationships – into a game, said cofounder Michael O’Connor, in a statement.

An NPC from Today.

“We’ve built Dreamia in-house,” O’Connor said. “We are quite literally building the next generation of gameplay. Our bespoke, story-first approach is what makes Dreamia so special: we’re embedding the nuances of real-life dynamics into NPCs so they have emotional depth, contextual awareness and responsiveness.”

He said Dreamia not only makes games more fun but it also gives players more ownership and influence on the outcomes. Players become active participants, shaping their own narrative journey and contributing creatively to their own experience, O’Connor said.

Today’s team of PhD-level data scientists and AI engineers fine-tune open-source LLMs to enhance their capabilities specifically for Dreamia. With a hybrid model that utilizes both local and cloud-based LLMs, the approach boosts performance and cuts server costs while maintaining high-quality text and voice generation.

Dreamia’s core features

TODAY Seed Round Investors April 2024
Today has raised a $5 million seed round.

Dreamia’s non-player characters will have these features:

Deep personalities: At the heart of Dreamia lies its sophisticated AI that powers NPCs to exhibit lifelike behavior and interactions. These NPCs can have profound spoken discussions, understand, and adapt to player actions in real-time, creating a dynamic and engaging gaming experience.

Contextual awareness: Unlike traditional NPCs, Dreamia NPCs perceive changes in their environment and react appropriately to new situations. By offering responses that are relevant and contextual, NPCs create a more realistic and immersive experience.

Sustained memory: Everything a player does becomes a unique map for Dreamia. From past conversations to recent activities throughout TODAY, Dreamia remembers the past and reacts to recent behaviors so that players each have their own worlds within TODAY. This creates a continuous evolutionary narrative experience, making interactions feel meaningful and cumulative over time.

Emotional intelligence: NPCs powered by Dreamia can detect and respond to the emotional states of players, providing empathetic and appropriate reactions. This makes in-game interactions more genuine and emotionally resonant.

Procedural animation: Dreamia uses emotion data embedded in dialogues to trigger real-time animations. This creates dynamic and contextual physical responses, making interactions feel natural through expressive body language and facial expressions.

TODAY Characters
Today’s Dreamia is an AI-powered character and storytelling engine.

As the narrative heart of Today, Dreamia creates the emotional energy that imbues the world with humanity – and makes players feel comfortably immersed in an emotionally-vibrant virtual world shared with others, the company said. The Oscar-winning writer and director, creative director Ben Cleary said in a statement he understands the centrality of storytelling for humans.

“Since I was a kid, designing side scrollers and stories on my bedroom walls, I’ve been dreaming up immersive worlds and intricate narratives. My early passion for video games, books and movies shaped my love of storytelling as a multifaceted experience, blending visuals, interactivity, and emotional depth,” Cleary said. “I’ve learned that storytelling isn’t just about telling a story; it’s about striking a chord that reverberates deeply within the audience and creates an emotional impact that lingers. As games become more like movies, these narrative fundamentals are crucial differentiators to successfully deliver interactive storytelling at scale.”

Later this year, players, developers and other stakeholders will be able to create their own characters using Dreamia via a visual front-end accessible both in-game and on the web. This will complement Today’s procedural creation tool, which generates buildings and interior designs dynamically based on inputs analyzed and translated by the proprietary LLM. These creations can then be adjusted by players using an in-game module that gives them direct control and ownership of their creations.

Today launches in alpha early next year, with the next major play test scheduled for mid-summer.

The company has raised $5 million to date, and it has 39 employees. There are other NPC solutions out there, but Today said in response, “When third-party APIs are bolted onto a game, it’s obvious that the NPC interactions are not well-integrated. Much more is possible with an in-house AI engine that can directly influence the gameplay across the entire world.”

O’Connor of Today also said, “Dreamia was developed out of necessity as we build Today. It is something that our game needs, so we built in-house to provide a more nuanced and responsive experience than third-party solutions. We can update the context of a character with a single line of code, such as making the character aware of a new building. In contrast, most existing solutions require defining an event for the building, calling that event, and then waiting for the character to become aware of it. This streamlined process in Dreamia makes it much more efficient and responsive, expediting game development while also making for a better player experience.”

TODAY Characters 2
Dreamia is focused on realistic NPCs.

He added, “For instance, in our game, Residents have various needs that players must attend to. Players converse with residents to understand how to help them, such as assisting with fashion choices. When players change a Resident’s clothing, the NPCs recognize these changes and express comments and opinions about them. They may prefer one outfit over another, show a liking for a particular pair of sneakers, or favor certain colors, patterns, etc. This level of contextual awareness and situational responsiveness allows players to shape their world interactively, making the NPCs feel more lifelike and engaging.”

And he said, “Dreamia’s advanced contextual awareness features make NPCs active participants in the game world rather than passive chatbots. They communicate their preferences, adapt to changes, and provide feedback, making interactions more meaningful and engaging. This leads to a stronger connection between players and NPC residents, as NPCs are not just part of the game environment but integral to the player’s experience, setting Dreamia apart from competitors.”

Dreamia powers a new generation of player-NPC relationships for a new generation of narrative experiences. Existing neo-NPC solutions are often stiff, superficial and inflexible. It’s difficult to translate the open-endedness of human dialogue to the rest of the NPCs abilities: emotional reasoning, social responsiveness, long-term memory and spatial awareness. Dreamia expects NPCs to be aware of the game, the player, and itself.

The NPCs will adapt dynamically to changes in their game’s environment, reacting appropriately to player actions and environmental factors. This creates a believable game world where NPC dialogues and behaviors consistently reflect the game’s state, making for a more immersive, interactive and fun gaming experience.

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