As artificial intelligence comes for artists, voice actors, coders and writers, how far are we from AI video games? In the future, will we be able to write a prompt into a computer, or console, and have a fully playable video game ready for us in a matter of minutes? Recent news suggests yes.
AI-made video games have been proposed as near-future tech already, that’s no secret. Last year, CEO of AI image generator Midjourney David Holz explained that AI art is the first step towards complete game generation. The CEO believes that this is not only the future of AI, but the future of the entire games industry.
“You’ll be able to buy a console with a giant AI chip and all the games will be dreams,” Holz said.
Preliminary moves are already being made to create games entirely with AI. In the past year, AI image generation has been used to create game textures and assets. For example, Mundfish’s popular, but not very good, Atomic Heart uses AI art in a number of instances, as does Justin Roiland’s comedy-FPS High on Life. At least for now, AI art is only being used for minor background details, but given the rate at which this technology has progressed, it’s not hard to imagine where we’ll be in a year or two.
AI tools have already been used extensively in the video game modding community. Fans have used AI image upscalers to give accurate HD backgrounds to classic PS1 JRPGs such as Final Fantasy 7, but AI art isn’t the only tool available in a modder’s toolbelt. Bethesda Game Studios’ Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind released way back in 2001 for PC and Xbox. A sprawling RPG with thousands of pages of NPC dialogue, the game mostly goes without voice acting outside of rare instances and the occasional bark.
Two decades of mods have added voice acting to some quests or NPCs. For example, Vivec and more have been given decent voice acting by a number of modders, but it’s often been seen as infeasible to dub the entire RPG.
Modder FurbyZone has taken it upon themselves to use AI in order to dub all of Morrowind’s lengthy dialogue sequences. Using ElevenAI, the modder created a natural dub for all of Dagon Ur’s dialogue in the RPG, and plans to do more.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of damage that can be done with AI voice acting. Within months of ElevenAI’s release, trolls online released dialogue of famous celebrities spouting horrifyingly racist and bigoted remarks. Combined with video deepfakes, one conservative media outlet used the technology to make President Joe Biden announce a national draft for the war in Ukraine.
Furthermore, many video game voice actors are worried that AI voice acting will be used to replace their performances outright. Instead of paying for performances, developers could pay for access to a person’s voice that they can feed into an AI to create masses of dialogue at a reduced cost. AI voices have already been used in massive productions such as Disney’s Obi-Wan Kenobi series.
For the moment, all of the pieces are there to start building AI video games - that is, all except the actual coding. Yes, AI coding tools exist — such as Microsoft’s controversial GitHub CoPilot — but they are years away from being able to code entire playable video games, especially ones without game breaking bugs.
There’s also the fact that an AI video game will lack the imagination and heart of a real creator. Death Stranding without Hideo Kojima wouldn’t be Death Stranding; Doom Eternal would’ve been completely different without Hugo Martin. You can design a game in the same vein as a creator’s idea, but it will always be an emulation. Would an AI ever make a Golden Girls JRPG in the style of Persona that actually had heart?
One day, AI video games will exist, but who will actually choose to play them?