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How AI Is About To Change Video Game Development Forever

AI is everywhere and the significance of its impact is impossible to ignore. It has slowly been creeping into modern society more and more over the last few years, with the first major uptake in public interest coming via AI art. Software like DALL.E garnered a fair amount of interest from the general public when it dropped in early 2021 and went on to spark a widespread online debate regarding the moral ethics of art generated by AI. And these concerns are valid. In the two short years since then, AI software has come leaps and bounds to the point where almost every industry is being affected by it in some form or another.

AI Will Change Everything

Everything from healthcare, to finance, to customer service, to education, to advertising, to journalism… ALL of it is changing. Analysts are predicting that it could be less than a decade before we see AI being used to diagnose patients and write prescriptions for those who aren’t able to reach a doctor. And CNN recently reported that MIT researchers have developed an AI program that is able to tell whether a person will develop breast cancer years before the disease materializes within the body. Which means as concerning as some of these developments are, the benefits are undeniable and far reaching.

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In a few generation’s time, it is entirely possible that the majority of education will be conducted by AI; due to the vast power of its constantly updating, collective knowledge bank, doing away with the need for human teachers or physical school buildings. Bloomberg recently released a paper detailing the development of BloombergGPT; a large language model that is tipped to turn the financial world on its head.

Wall Street trading could change completely with the rise of AI.
Wall Street trading could change completely with the rise of AI.

Certain top media outlets have even reportedly introduced their own software to counter the practice of writers abusing AI software in order to make a quick buck off of the company. Working similarly to a plagiarism checker, this anti-AI software can apparently deduce whether an article sent in by a freelancer was written by an AI or by an actual human being.

Even at the time of recording, the Writer’s Guild of America are currently debating whether or not to allow Hollywood screenwriters to utilize AI to assist them in writing scripts. The labor union for film and television writers initially proposed a plan to the WGA that would allow AI technology such as Chat-GPT to contribute to the writing of Hollywood scripts. The sticking point in the proposal is the stipulation that if a writer does use Chat-GPT to write a script, they will not have to share credit or residuals earned from the production. Similarly, if a studio uses an AI-generated script, a human writer who edits and re-writes the script will retain credit as the primary writer. The proposal also specifies that AI-generated text should not be considered as “source material”. All of this is even more relevant with the on-going writer’s strike. 

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This idea of writers utilizing AI in order to help them write has also spread into the gaming industry. Ubisoft has been one of the first video game development studios to come out and publicly announce that it is actively using AI software to assist in crafting its stories. Ubisoft Ghostwriter will essentially serve as a virtual screenwriting partner that Ubisoft’s narrative designers can bounce story ideas off of.

Using AI To Aid With Game Design

Aside from these more practical uses for artificial intelligence, there is also clear potential for AI software to be utilized within the artistic sphere. Looking at some of the more recent major advancements in the field, it looks as though script writing is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the impact that machine learning will have on video game development in the coming years.

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In February of 2023, the popular YouTube channel “Corridor Crew” uploaded a video showing how they were able to create a high quality anime-style animation from scratch, using a combination of AI software and video editing. The end result looked like something from a legitimate anime, and it was achieved by a very small crew filming two non-actors wearing cheap cosplay outfits in front of a green screen. The video, which has over 2.8 million views, created a ton of buzz within the animation community, with some even predicting that human animators may not be required at all in years to come.

Then, in March of 2023, a proof-of-concept video was shared by a Unity developer called Keijiro Takahashi, showing the integration of ChatGPT into Unity.

ChatGPT is a powerful language model developed by OpenAI that launched in November of 2022, based on the GPT-3.5 architecture, which was made available back in 2020. ChatGPT was another major game-changer in terms of AI progression. Through this software, the general public now have access to an open source AI program that is extremely powerful and robust. Not only that, ChatGPT has recently introduced the use of plugins, which can be created and used by the online community to expand ChatGPT even further, allowing it to churn out more specific data based on the plugin being used. On top of all of this, the release of GPT-4 is apparently just around the corner, and this upcoming iteration on the software is said to blow everything that has come before it out of the water.

For those unaware of Unity Engine, it is a major game development tool used to run many of your favourite games and it has been utilized by major developers across the gaming industry since it launched in 2005. It should be noted that at the time of recording, that ChatGPT has not been made natively available within Unity, with users who want to check out the tool still being required to download a plugin called AI Command from GitHub. As it is still in its embryonic proof-of-concept stage, the tool is still far from foolproof, with Takahashi-san himself having mentioned the several times that he entered a command which the plugin failed to implement correctly. However, in a couple of update’s time and with some refinement, it is likely that this ChatGPT feature will come baked into Unity Engine and it is at this point that video game development could change forever.

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Having the ChatGPT tool become a fully functioning default option within the Unity Engine theoretically does away with the need for 3D modelers, rigging artists, keyframe animators and even programmers. It could cut video game development cycles in half and make video game development so much more accessible to those who lack the technical skills required to create a game currently. Unity is not the only popular tech company to jump onboard with this specific AI program, with the recent announcement that a ChatGPT toolbar will be implemented into Opera going forwards. Not only that, but Opera isn’t the only internet browser to embrace AI either, with Mozilla launching their own open source AI.

AI Will Change How You Browse The Web

As you may expect, the world’s biggest search engine was not about to be left behind and the recent beta launch of Google’s answer to ChatGPT called Bard, has thrown even more fuel onto the fire that is the moral debate of AI usage, even prompting Laura Kuenssberg to write a lengthy article for BBC debating whether it should be shut down before it can grow any more. Disregarding the ethical debate for a second, it is theoretically plausible to make the prediction that someone with no technical or artistic talent whatsoever could craft their own interactive virtual experience based on nothing more than an idea.

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The notion becomes even more realistic when the concept of ChatGPT/Unity integration is combined with Adobe Firefly’s ability to generate beautiful concept art to work off of, Google Bard eventually introducing AI capability into the world’s biggest search engine as standard, the AI emotional detection technology being developed by Rondinelli Morais, and Opus AI’s ability to generate entire, vast, detailed virtual environments in which to set the project based on a few basic command prompts.

Add in the Unreal Editor for Fortnite (UEFN) that Epic showed off at the 2023 Game Developer’s Conference, which essentially turns Fortnite from a basic battle royale game for children into an insanely powerful game engine, and the potential increases yet again. The Unreal team also showed off the next variation of their Metahuman software at GDC, which now allows creators to easily animate the high-resolution models created within the program. Not only that, but it can automatically animate a model based on a mobile phone recording of an actor’s performance, capable of being rendered in real-time and seamlessly producing an extremely high quality animation from scratch in less than ten minutes. This is all achieved through AI.

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If the combination of these various pieces of software does indeed point to the idea of an individual with a surface level understanding of game development technology possessing the ability to build an entire game based on a single idea, the question then becomes; is it a good thing that anyone with an idea will be able to create their own video game from scratch in years to come?

AI Will Open The Floodgates

The technology is moving so quickly that the information within this video is likely already outdated, however if artificial intelligence does indeed transform the industry as much as analysts are currently predicting, then the markets will have to adapt as well. The stock prices of game companies will likely be affected depending on how much they choose to embrace or shun this new technology and the infrastructure that online stores use currently would likely not be able to handle this huge influx of games capacity-wise. If the idea of opening more server farms is not deemed to be an economically sound idea, then cloud storage could be an option that is looked at as a potential solution to the storage issue.

Aside from these potential practical concerns that may crop up, one also has to wonder how online store fronts will look in the wake of this AI-assisted creative boom. The last creative boom which took place in the gaming industry occurred in the mid-to-late 2000s, when indie games flooded the market. This era spawned a few standout titles which were extremely memorable, such as Limbo and Super Meat Boy. However, it was also responsible for A LOT of shovel-ware. The indie game landfill still plagues marketplaces such as Steam and is often held responsible for changing a carefully curated digital storefront into something resembling the mess that is the Google Play store. This meant that the indie games which actually did possess some value were often buried under the ever growing pile of trash that occupies the largest amount of space on digital stores.

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For the overall positive effect that the indie game boom had on video game development, it was also responsible for doing some harm. Namely, it brought about a prevailing mentality that within the game development community, with an unoriginal idea and a high-end PC could create something which would allow them to the next Notch. While inspiring others is often considered to be a good thing, and gatekeeping traditionally is not, there has to be some amount of curation and quality control in place, otherwise a collection of well-intentioned, but inexperienced amateurs could drag down the overall quality of the experiences that are available on the market.

This potential issue of games developed by artificial intelligence doesn’t only affect consumers either. In fact, it could also be a significant obstacle in the way of anyone looking to launch their own title. Even if the game being developed is of a high standard, if it is being worked on by a smaller company who lacks the means to afford a significant marketing push, then there is every chance that this worthwhile experience created by actual human beings could get buried beneath this theoretical landfill of AI generated content.

AI could lead to digital storefronts becoming even more overcrowded.
AI could lead to digital storefronts becoming even more overcrowded.

Perhaps Microsoft and Sony would be wise to save up some of that money that they are hoping to spend on their next company acquisition, and dedicate it to curating their online stores in anticipation of AI tools dominating the creative space. Whilst neither Sony nor even Microsoft have unlimited financial resources, they do have more than enough of a budget to justify having some sort of quality control team assigned to their respective E-stores.

Steam did away with their Greenlight initiative back in June of 2017 and replaced it with Steam Direct, which helped filter out a certain amount of the garbage available for purchase on the platform as a result of the indie boom. Steam Direct made it so that a team of curators would have to approve development studios before they were able to distribute any of their titles on the Steam platform. Perhaps the time has come for a new initiative to be introduced in order to deal with the huge influx of AI generated games which are inevitably on their way to online storefronts.

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Conceivably the answer could even come in the form of yet another iteration of artificial intelligence. In theory, it may not be too long before we’ve got robots deciding which games developed by other robots are being sold to us mere humans. Then again, by that time the singularity will likely be upon us, and we won’t be able to pay for games because the robots will have taken all of our jobs!

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Written by Daniel Boyd

Dan is one of FandomWire's Gaming Content Leads and Editors. Along with Luke Addison, he is one of the site's two Lead Video Game Critics and Content Co-ordinators. He is a 28-year-old writer from Glasgow. He graduated from university with an honours degree in 3D Animation, before pivoting to pursue his love for critical writing. He has also written freelance pieces for other sites such as Game Rant, and The Big Glasgow Comic Page. He loves movies, video games and comic books.