It’s common for CCP Games’ massively multiplayer online spacefaring sim Eve Online to make headlines based on the mind-blowing strategies employed by its devoted community, but would AI be able to keep up with the deeply human wars of subterfuge and espionage that often result in the game’s most compelling moments? One group of players is hoping to find the answer.
Neural Nexus is an Eve Online corporation — a player-run organization analogous to a World of Warcraft guild — established with the goal of utilizing technology known, at least colloquially, as artificial intelligence. By leaving decisions to the GPT-4-based chatbot, the group hopes to reduce “reliance on a single human leader” and “the potential for conflict or disagreement over the corporation’s direction,” two major obstacles the founders see to corp longevity.
“United by our commitment to shared enjoyment, mutual cooperation, and strategic growth,” the Neural Nexus mission statement explains, “we strive to use our capabilities to enhance our collective experience, draw knowledge from it, and contribute to the rich tapestry of New Eden. With our AI, we endeavor to combine the ingenuity of human creativity with the power of the advanced machine mind in our quest to build the first AI empire.”
But how does it work? According to the Neural Nexus charter, a corporate council meets once a month to confer with a ChatGPT Discord bot cognizant of Eve Online’s mechanics about matters that may have a “significant impact” on the corporation. One past example, Neural Nexus co-founder and council member Jackey Fang told Polygon, was when they asked, “Please give me a specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound goal for tomorrow,” to which the bot responded, “By the end of tomorrow, I will participate in at least three fleet operations.”
The directors then communicate the bot’s guidance to the rest of the corporation and oversee day-to-day operations within that framework. AI interaction is recorded in such a way that all corporation members can view a full log of past conversations so as to ensure that its dictates remain transparent.
Neural Nexus’ council also uses ChatGPT to screen applications, even going as far as to allow the bot to decide on the parameters against which it will measure potential recruits. It decided upon four questions, ranging from how long hopefuls have been playing Eve Online to their personal feelings about participating in an AI-guided corporation. The council eventually added three questions of their own due to the frequency with which they came up, like what time zone the player lives in.
“We have then a roughly two-week onboarding phase where we observe how candidates integrate into our corporation activities,” Neural Nexus CEO Celestis Aeon said. “After this trial period, we consult the AI again and provide it with this additional information and individual impressions from the recruiter. Based on that, it then makes a decision to make them a ‘full member’ or to terminate their trial membership. This happens in a dialogue which allows us to also extend trial memberships for players that didn’t have a lot of time for Eve and had less opportunity to interact with us.”
Less-consequential functions left to AI include generating the Neural Nexus logo, naming ships, and coming up with a corporate welcome message.
Neural Nexus leadership likewise encourages players to consult AI for their daily activities and share their experiences as a collaborative role-playing and lore-building exercise meant to entice additional recruits, but it’s by no means required to give up total control to the chatbot, not even for the corporation as a whole.
“While the AI is a powerful tool, members should remember that it is not infallible,” Neural Nexus’ AI interaction guidelines read. “Members should use their judgment when following the AI’s advice and consider the context of the game and the specific situation at hand.”
Since its June debut, Neural Nexus continues to provide regular progress reports on the Eve Online forums and its official website. The corporation has since enlisted almost 20 members and established its presence in several regions. Its members are even racking up kills against fellow players, though this is probably more a product of individual skill rather than AI influence.
AI is a hot topic as of late. It’s an unsettling prospect, not only because of the potential for AI to push real people out of the creative process altogether (while simultaneously stealing existing artwork and writing on a massive scale) but also because so much of what AI produces is absolute horseshit. In the case of Neural Nexus, however, I can’t help but see it as a fun experiment in a game already known for its player base’s boundary-pushing thought processes — and CCP Games developers feel the same way.
“We’re keeping an eye on [Neural Nexus], but not because we’re worried it’ll go rogue or break some policies,” a CCP Games spokesperson told Polygon. “We’re mostly interested to see how it performs against the sharpest and most shrewd minds that gaming has to offer in New Eden. Until now nobody has tried to run an entire corporation with AI. Will it try to start a war? Will it look to optimize trade routes and out-think the many tools players have made? These are the questions that we want to know!”
Godspeed, Neural Nexus, and may your AI tactician serve you well. I just hope you don’t hold it against me when I root for humanity instead.