Game developers have been using some form of AI in video game development for ages. However, the recent spike and widespread adoption of AI in gaming is causing concern. Some people in the industry believe that the technology could replace human input and cost people their jobs. Others believe that AI will create more jobs and increase the number of titles released yearly. In the words of the TAIGA CEO, AI will “reduce the cost of making games and speed up the process.” Here is an analysis of the different arguments surrounding the use of AI in game development.
AI in Gaming: A Brief History
A basic form of AI is evident in many early games going as far back as the 80s. Pac-Man, which was first released in 1980, uses AI to direct the ghosts in the game on how to pursue the player. And while this is a highly toned-down version of the technology, AI’s influence on gaming has been growing over the decades.
AI algorithms are the basis for online gaming. Computers are trained to play popular games and make strategic decisions, replacing human beings and eliminating the need for an opponent in every game. The application can be pronounced such as with Deep Blue, IBM’s chess program. In 1997, the AI beat Garry Kasparov in a highly anticipated game of chess after running millions of chess simulations.
Sometimes, however, the application is toned down. This is evident in many video and online casino games, where players go up against AI programs. In King Johnnie, Fair Go, Wild Tornado, and other Australian casinos listed here https://www.casinoaus.net/, single and multi-player games like online poker, baccarat, and blackjack run on AI.
This is very tell-tale of Australia’s gaming industry, which has not been slow to adopt AI. In 2019, Replica Studios, the Australian software developer, launched an AI voice synthesizer. The tool is designed to help game developers produce in-game voices faster and for less. It was first used in Age of Darkness: Final Stand by Australian game developer PlaySide Studios.
AI in Game Development
But the function of AI causing the most waves is game development. Advancements in recent years have made it possible for developers to churn script pages in their hundreds, draw art images, produce storylines, and create voice and sound through algorithms within seconds or minutes. Many big names in the industry believe the development is a “game changer.” They believe AI will automate routine production activities and allow developers to focus on higher-level tasks.
Intelligent NPCs and Rich Storylines
A significant portion of the excitement around AI is attributed to its ability to produce intelligent NPCs and deeper storylines. NPCs, or non-player characters, are the computer-controlled characters within a game that the player cannot control. Previously, these elements have been programmed to respond the same way players and say the same things – something players are finding exceedingly tedious.
AI can help developers produce more intelligent NPCs. Through predictive analysis and machine learning, these characters can be programmed to ‘think’ and interact with the player based on their strategy, actions, environment, and more. NPCs could learn to use language to initiate conversations with gamers, enriching the storyline.
Sky, DreamWorks, and Warner and currently working with Charisma.ai on an intelligent NPC game. Charisma.ai boss explains, “We want players to … have natural conversations with characters.”
Replacing Human Input?
Unfortunately, the excitement around AI is not mutual. Some people in the industry maintain that the technology will replace human input in game development. While AI is thought to boost creativity, free up time, and create more jobs, automating game development processes could also make some jobs obsolete.
Entry-level game developers, for instance, enter the very crowded industry through bark creation. Barks are one-line statements that NPCs say over and over during a game. As Janine Hawkins explains, most new game writers “cut their teeth” on bark writing.
AI is already taking over this job. Ghostwriter, Ubisoft’s generative AI software, is designed to, among other things, writer barks. It is difficult to see why an executive would hire new writers to do something they could do with the press of a button. And if intelligent NPCs become a reality, barks could be thrown out of game development altogether.
A Need for Caution: Copyright Concerns
AI also raises copyright concerns. Contrary to what many people believe, generative AI software does not create unique images. It gathers data, images, and sounds already available on the internet and processes it depending on the operating prompt.
In recent years, developers and copyright holders have raised concerns over the rights of the resulting output. It is unclear who owns the copyright to such material. Dr Tommy Thompson, a YouTuber and prominent voice in the AI in gaming conversation, maintains that the industry needs to be cautious.
Dr. Thompson maintains that using open-access AI in game development is currently impractical. He draws his conclusions from the many ongoing copyright lawsuits over AI-generated content. Content creators want to know when their rights begin and end when a studio uses their art to produce images.
Studios face a similar dilemma. If they use open-access AI to create content, do they own the rights to it? What is stopping another studio from copying the images and sounds for use in their own game?
In-House AI: Solution or Redundant Move?
Some studios are turning to in-house AI tools to circumvent this problem. However, creating an AI platform is expensive and time-consuming. And if AI is supposed to make game creation faster and cheaper, isn’t this approach counterproductive? According to Dr. Thompson, the risks currently outweigh the benefits.
Wrapping Up: Conflicting Outlooks
As it stands, the game development community is divided on AI. One faction argues that using the technology to automate some processes will free up human talent for more creative tasks, make game production cheaper, and significantly reduce the time it takes to publish a game. Put this way, AI could increase the number of releases gamers enjoy every year and cut the wait time between releases. However, concerns over disappearing jobs and copyright continue to bog down this line of thinking.